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Ghosts Around the Fire

Chapter Text

A dead man floating amongst a black sea was the best way Kieran Duffy could describe how he felt. Yet, at the same time, his body felt hollow and heavy as he laid there. With a soft groan, he allowed his tired eyes to open only to find himself staring into the gaze of Sean Maguire. A loud yelp exited his mouth and the former member of Dutch’s Boys stared at him arms crossed over his chest, and no bullet hole protruding from his head. The two observed the other, before Maguire finally piped up.

“I’m sorry about what happened to ya. That’s no way fer a man to die.” Kieran rubbed the back of his neck nervously while warily watching Sean.

“I… how?” The shyer of the two Irish men questioned, and Sean simply tilted his head before grabbing Kieran’s arms and pulling.

“Over ‘ere.” Sean guided him to where a campfire and where seven seats stood. Nervously plopping down, Kieran glanced at the fire, and watched as the flames swirled into a new image. The gang was cleaning up the bodies at Shady Dawn; his included. A whimper broke from his mouth, and he turned to Sean.

“How long have you been watching? What is this place, and who told you about it?” Kieran questioned, unable to stop the questions from pouring out of his mouth.

“Since them Grays shot me down. Shame Dutch and them didn’t burn their manor down too, but I think I can deal with the Braithwaite’s burned since they stole little Jack.” Sean rested his arms on his legs, and entwined his hands together. “As for this place, some feller in a nice three piece suit and top hat told me it was the campfire, and that the powers-that-be decided I could, and apparently some others of the gang,” Sean gestured at the empty five chairs around them. “Will be able to watch until otherwise directed. I have no idea what the fuck that’s supposed to mean, but we can’t leave. I know that much, I’ve already tried.” Sean fell quiet as they watched the gang go about their business, not spending much time to mourn Kieran. Not that they knew him well.

“I… see.” Kieran mumbled. Tears well up in his eyes as he watches Arthur move over to Branwen. The man slowly runs his hands through the horses mane before attaching a halter to the horse. Sliding onto his own horse, Arthur heads off towards the entrance, leading Branwen, stopping to speak to Javier.

“If anyone asks, I went into Saint Denis to sell Branwen. Get the horse into a good home.” Javier nods and waves the other outlaw off. Arthur’s thoughtfulness for his horse gets a small smile from Kieran. Sean glances at him, before speaking up again.

“Well, guess we should get comfortable, eh?” Swallowing, Kieran nods, and the two fall silent as they watch Arthur ride to Saint Denis.

Chapter Text

It’s a few days after the camp has been attacked that Dutch finally tells Arthur to meet him by the trolley station. “Alright, just let me finish doing this, and I’ll head out.” He replies setting down one of two sacks he’s moving. With a nod, Dutch and Lenny ride to Saint Denis leaving the pair watching Arthur resume his chore.

“Do… do you think they’ll make it out?” Kieran inquires nervously while glancing at the five other chairs gathered around them. Sean follows his gaze with a frown.

“Judging by these chairs, ‘d have to say, not everyone will.” The other Irish man replied, his tone unusually softer than normal. Sean rubs his fingers together as they watch Arthur mount his stallion, and head off to Saint Denis. Kieran fidgets in the silence before speaking up again.

“I hope… hope Mary-Beth makes it.” He admitted softly, and Sean’s head snapped up. Feeling the stare of the other man, Kieran feels fear crept up his spine as a cat like grin appears on Sean’s face.

“Oho, like little Mary-Beth did ya?” Sean gleefully questioned, and Kieran found himself bolting out of his chair.

“No-no!” He squeaked while edging away from the fire. Seeing his reaction, Sean started roaring with laughter making a flush flare up Kieran’s cheeks.

“Sit down you.” Sean spoke between laughs. “I won’t tease ya too much.” The younger man waved Kieran after he hesitated. A reculent sigh left Kieran’s mouth before he moved back over to his chair. As Kieran settled, they watched Arthur join Lenny and Dutch.

“There you are.” Dutch’s voice sounded as he moved towards Arthur. “Come on, keep walking. You’re late.”

“Couple of days here, and you’ve turned into a clock watching city boy.” The other outlaw replied amusement in his voice. “What’s the urgency?”

“We need to leave.” Dutch’s tone is harsh but firm as he turns to face his son placing a hand on his chest. “Forever. We’ve been doing well, making money, but for all of us to leave together we need enough for a boat.” Dutch pauses, glances around, then goes on. “Now I found a friendly ship captain, he’s willing to take us to Australia, or Tahiti. We just need to pay for passage, and give him money for land when we get there. No questions asked. We will disappear. Be reborn.” He glances over his shoulder.

“Where the hell is Tahiti?”

“South Pacific. An untouched paradise.”

“Who lives there?”

“Tahitians, I guess.” Sean and Kieran glance at each other from across the fire.

“Do..does Mister Van der Linde even know what he's doing?” Kieran nervously asked playing with his fingers.

“I don’t know.” They turn back to watch when Arthur speaks up again.

“We made a bit of money on that riverboat job, but not enough for us to leave and live peacefully.” Arthur responds as the three move over to hide behind a cart. “Where’s the rest coming from?”

Dutch jerks with his thumb. “In there.”

“So, we are robbing that place.” Arthur leans over to glance at the station.

“Well, I didn’t think we were fixing the plumbing. I don’t know if you have noticed but we’re on the clock. I reckon we have a few days before the Pinkertons show and then, well, we’re done. Now we need money.” Sean snorted.

“You’ve said that a lot, Dutch.” The man grumbled even though he knew he couldn’t be heard.

“Bronte said this place has got money.” The trio start putting on their masks, and Dutch takes out his pistols. “Come on.” Kicking open the door, Dutch shouted, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is a robbery! Behave and do I as tell you, and none of you will die. Annoy me, and you all will.” Moving towards where the teller was, Dutch went on, “Now, remember, we just want money. Don’t make us kill you.”

Arthur swiftly robs the three passengers in the building, before Dutch calls out to him to join him. “’ve got a bad feeling about this.” Sean muttered, as Lenny spoke that there was nothing in the room.

“You’re sure?”

“Yes.”

“Then get out here, and get ready for company. All of you,” Dutch turned to the three terrified people, “behave! We don’t want to hurt any of you. Mr. M, check the safe.” Grunting in response, Arthur points his gun at the worker who shakily opens it.

“I don’t think they keep much cash in there, sir.”

“Open it!” Morgan growled in response, voice going low. Kieran shivered making Sean look at him.

“Not a pleasant tone ta hear from him, ain’t it?”

“N-no.” Arthur’s voice breaks them from their conversation.

“There’s almost nothing here!”

“There should be stacks of cash in there… he told us there was. Look again!”

“There’s no stacks. A few dollars and coins, that’s it.”

“Damn!”

“We got a problem.” Lenny speaks up. “There’s a ton of cops out there.” The trio gather before the doors as a cop shouts out order for them to surrender.

“That greasy son of a bitch!” spits out Dutch, anger lacing his voice. “He set us up.”
“You think?!” Morgan snaps.

“This seem like a good time for sarcasm to you, Arthur?” The older outlaw snaps back.

“What are we going to do, gentlemen?” Lenny inquires as he joins the other two by the other door.

“Something… the trolley… the trolley!” Bursting out of the doors, he shouts, “Follow me gentleman!” The two younger outlaws shrug, but follow trusting their leader to get them out of this. Slipping onto the trolley, Dutch pushes the conductor out, and they hear Morgan shout out.

“Does this trolley go to Tahiti?”

“I hope so!” As the trolley lumbers on, Dutch resumes, “Alright, shoot us some space, boys!” Bullets fly as the trolley follows the rails slowly making it ways through it’s usual course. The Saint Denis police drop like flies as Arthur and Dutch easily dispatch a majority of the police, and Kieran feels his mouth drop open.

“I’m glad I never angered those two!” He says making Sean start laughing.

“They certainly would have used ya fer target practice!”

“Outside the saloon. Oh damn, we are really moving here. Arthur, slow us down! Slow this thing down.”

“I’ll try.” Jerking the levers, Arthur can only watch helplessly as sparks begin to fly. “Thing’s broke… hold on!” Unable to slow down, the trolley comes off the rails, and crashes into a passing wagon and straight into the metal fence of someone’s home. The trio slowly get up from their places with groans.

“Dutch…” Lenny calls out softly as the mentioned man slowly grips his head getting up.

“Are you okay, Dutch?” Arthur questions from the pile of wreckage he’s hiding behind.

“Sure, just about.”

“He’s fine.”

“Aw, shit.” Slipping past Arthur, Lenny shouts out positions as Arthur covers him. “We’re going to get out of here, okay?” Three more cops go down blood dripping from their heads.

“This is our chance to move! Let’s go.” The trio of outlaws sprint to the building on their left with Lenny leading. Ducking into the building, the shootout continues with more cops dropping like flies. They hear Arthur ask about Dutch’s health never losing focus on his targets. “I won’t lie. I’ve been better, son.” Sean and Kieran exchange glances, they had a very brief look at Dutch’s face when he had been getting up. Even with their view, it didn't look good.

“Lenny, you keep an eye on him.”

“Of course.” Another cop appears from the alley only to be downed by a bullet fast as he appears. “Shit, they’re in here too.”

“We can’t let them follow us!”

“This way, onto the street!” They move onto the new street only to find more cops waiting for them.

“Jesus!” starts Sean, disbelief coloring his voice. “How many damn cops does this city have?” Between the three outlaws, the two can already tell there’s body county of at least fifty, and it seems like waves of blue aren’t stopping.

“First the O'Driscolls jump us in camp, and now this. We need to wake up.”

“We’ll wake up once we get the hell out of here!”

Sean snorts. “If they get out of there.” It seems the city of Saint Denis has pulled their entire police force out for this. Each street is crawling with cops slowing the progress of the escaping outlaws. However to the pleasure of the outlaws, there’s an abandoned cart sitting on the street.

“Head for that wagon!” They scramble up, and Lenny snaps the reins pushing the horses forward.

“You okay, Dutch?” Lenny voices his concern.

“Took a real bang on the head back there. I’m seeing three of everything.”

“That doesn’t sound good.” Kieran muttered, and Sean nodded his head in agreement.

“You just stay down, I’ll hold them off.” Dutch, of course, doesn’t listen to Arthur, and takes shots whenever he can. Turning up another street, Lenny comments on the fact that they don’t like they’re letting up. Citizens run in fright as they pass one of the smaller parks. More cops appear from corners and streets. Eventually, the group can see one of the exits to Saint Denis. “Head for the bridge!”

“Damn, they blocked the road.”

“Hold on, use this.” Dutch hands Lenny a stick of lit dynamite, who throws it at the blockade. With a steady aim, Arthur manages to shoot the stick of dynamite before any of the cops at the blockade can react. “We’re through!”

“You see any more?”

“Just keep going, kid.” mutters Dutch sounding exhausted.

“You okay back there?” Arthur questions again, and the other man waves him off.

“Don’t worry about me, just get us out of here.” Turning a corner, Lenny heads deeper into the swamp before finding a spot they can stop for a moment.

“Woo, I think we’re clear.”

“You know what, Dutch,” Arthur starts climbing off the wagon, “next time, let’s not damn discretion.”

“Seemed like a good lead.”

“I know, but…”

“Well, we made it thanks to you.” Dutch turns to Lenny.

“Don’t mention it.”

“You’re a good kid.”
“Damn right, he is, Dutch!” Sean shouts startling Kieran again. Sean apologizes before speaking again, “Lenny’s a good man.”

“Ye-yeah.” Kieran smiled remembering the few moments he had actually spoken to Lenny, and how kind he had been.

“And we each got fifteen dollars.” Arthur hands over some money. “Oh, and a quarter. Don’t forget the quarter.”

“Shut up, Arthur.” Handing Lenny his share, Dutch turns back to Arthur. “He set us up. Played me like a yokel. Put the law on us. What did we do to him? What did I do to him?” He rants slipping off the back to move towards the front of the wagon.

“I guess he thinks he’s the king around here. He don’t want the likes of you.” Arthur joins Dutch by the front. “So, what are we doing next, Dutch?”

“We need money. One more decent take, and we’re gone. The bank is our best bet. Hosea agrees.” Dutch moves to climb up.

“Even after that?”

“Especially after that.” Dutch pauses. “I don’t feel so good.” The duo watching shares a look, something settling in their stomachs.

“Ah, you just got a bash on the head.” Arthur points out.

“Come on, I’m taking you back to camp.”

“Hey, you did real good there, Lenny, just wished it turned out better.”

“Can’t win them all.” He replies before snapping the reins and moving the horses forward. Arthur nods, and the pair in the wagon move off.

“Kieran, that was yer name right?”

“Ye-yeah.”

“Why do I get a bad feelin’ about that bash to the head Dutch took?”

“I… don’t know, but I’m getting it too.”

Chapter Text

“That was the biggest gator ‘ve seen!” Sean exclaimed to Kieran eyes blown wide with shock. Kieran nodded furiously while slowly shrinking into himself. “Do ya think the others will encounter it on their way to Bronte’s mansion?”

“I ho-hope not. That would b-be a poor way to die.” With that said, they turned back to the fire when Bill spoke.

“So, Dutch… what’s Tahiti like anyhow?”

“I have no idea, but I heard it’s paradise.” Bill laughed.

“That’s what they said about the West, and look how that turned out.”

“It’s men…. like Mister Bronte… like Mister Cornwall… that ruined the West. That ruin everything.”

“So, there’s no folk like that in Tahiti?”

“There’s folk like that everywhere.But in Tahiti, to my understanding, folks feed them to sharks rather than make them kings.”

“That would be paradise.”

“Exactly.” Dutch turned when he heard the sound of footsteps. “Arthur, there you are. Come on.” He slipped into the skiff with the others following. “Thomas, let’s get going.” Said man pushed the boat away from the dock. Night descended as the skiff moved towards the mansion, and when they were a good distance away from Lakay’s dock, Dutch started laughing. “Hey, Bill, you were a sharpshooter in the cavalry weren’t you?”

“What?”

“When we get there, maybe you could help with the suppression fire.”

Offended, Bill turned around to face Dutch. “I never said I was no sharpshooter.”

“Oh, that’s right, w-what was it? The nation’s most loyal latrine digger wasn’t that it?” Arthur laughed from his spot behind Dutch.
“Yeah, well, I fought, and I fought well.”

“So, you always tell us.”

“Taught me something you could with learning. Them Indians were savages.”

“Watch your mouth there boy. Watch it.” Dutch’s tone lowered slightly. Pointing at Bill, the leader of the gang went on, “Only type of savages in these parts are moonshine swelling, pompous, inbred locals.”

“Dutch, I saw things out there.” Bill defended.

“I don’t doubt you saw things, Bill, but your tiny little mind was too small to comprehend what you saw. What you saw was people who lost everything to savagery. The savagery of peasants, failures coming from Europe to some awful vengeance on God’s last creation.” They were sure Dutch would have gone on if not from Arthur speaking up.

“Interesting way you boys have preparing for a killing.”

“I’m sorry I wasted my life trying to teach you boys love you though I do.”

Arthur cleared his throat. “Well, leaving love aside,” He paused to cough a bit. “You think we got this?”

“Don’t you never leave love aside, Arthur. It’s all we got.” Silence fell as the group made their way to the shore, and unloaded silently creeping out to the walls after telling Thomas where to pick them up. “Come on, quick. Stay quiet.” The group climbed the walls silently entering the backyard.

“Lenny, Bill, you’re with me. Arthur, John you take the left side. If you see a shot, you take it. Okay? Good luck, gentlemen.”

“Arthur, let’s go.” The two brothers snuck over to the left side. “You see those two? Stay out of sight.” They crouched behind some stone structures, and Arthur raised his gun downing the two in quick succession. The others charged firing after hearing Arthur’s bullets fly through the air.

“We’re coming for you, Bronte! Send out everyone you got!” taunted Dutch as he fired his twin pistols. Both sides traded gun shots, but the Italians could not match the speed of Arthur and the others. Their numbers quickly dwindled as only a partial amount of the Dutch Van der Linde gang’s guns killed them. Kieran shifted in his seat still amazed by the skill of only five men over took a larger group — although most of the work was done by Dutch, Arthur, and John, the best guns in the group of outlaws. “You crossed the wrong man, Bronte!” A few more of the other side went down as Dutch ordered the others, “This is not over yet! Head to the house!”

“Shoot that lock, Arthur.” They gathered to the sides of the door as Arthur kicked the door open after shooting. His movements were swift as he easily shot the ambrushing men.

“Alright, let’s spread out. He’s hiding out somewhere.” Splitting up, the dead pair watched Arthur jog up the stairs dispatching the man attempting to kill him.

“Lenny, keep that door covered.” Arthur order without stopping. John followed his older brother up.

“Bronte must be up there. Let’s go.” Busting down doors, the two brothers quickly searched through each room before they found themselves at the last room they hadn’t checked yet.

“John! In here.” Popping out of the bathtub, Bronte attempted fire at Arthur only to find his gun had jammed. Swearing in Italian, the man threw the pistol hitting John square in the face. Seeing this, Sean started roaring with laughter.

“I could watch that all day!” He giggled.

“Okay, okay, I’m sorry friend. I, no, name your price! Name your price, every man have a price.” Bronte attempted to bargain, but when neither brother answered, the man surrendered quickly via John punching him in the face in retaliation.

“Should we kill him?” The younger brother inquired glancing at his older.

“Nah, let’s take him to Dutch.”

“You can carry him. I’m ain't touching that piece of shit.” John muttered as Arthur wandered over to the unconscious man. Easily sling Bronte over his shoulder, Arthur and John headed out of the room to join the others. Whistles sounded while the outlaws regrouped. The Saint Denis police had started to flood the building.
“Come on, Morgan. We’re getting the hell out of here!” yelled Bill passing by the two. A reverse scene played out as the outlaws slaughtered the police with the same precision they had with Bronte’s men.

“Sorry, boys, no one’s going to jail today!” Two of Dutch’s bullets embedded themselves into two officers. Blood collected on the stone pathways with each body shot, and was trekked through the grassed with outlaw’s step.

“I kinda wish I could be there.” grumbled Sean from his stool folding his arms over his chest. Pouting, Sean was the perfect picture of an upset child that had been taken from the fun. “Damn Grays.” Kieran disagreed, but he didn’t dare to say anything in fear of angering the other man. Sean fell silent when the group arrived safely at Thomas’ skiff.

“Put him in the front.” Dutch ordered. “Bill, you help.” Bronte was dragged to the front of the skiff while Arthur and Dutch waited for Lenny to rejoin them. After Bronte had been placed in the front, everyone else boarded quickly. Thomas pushed off the dock, and the group was off with their hostage. Dutch patted Bronte awake after the skiff had been rowed some distance away. “Hey, big man.” He called. “We gonna ransom you, or what?”

“You’re pathetic.”

“Oh, I am?” Dutch adjusted himself a bit. “‘Cause from where I’m sitting, you’re the one deserving of pity my friend. All your men, all your money, it weren’t no match for a group of bumpkins.”

“You are nothing. You do nothing...” Bronte went on while they, alive and dead, watched as Dutch grew increasingly angry. “..And when the law catch up to you, you will die like nothing. I am this country. You... you... you are what people are running from.”

“I possess things you will never understand.” Bronte scoffed.

“You don’t even possess your own men.” Turning to the others, Bronte offered a thousand dollars to whoever killed Dutch, and set him free. There was a scoff from Sean who shook his head at the Italian. He, and Kieran, both knew it wasn’t going to happen. The people in this group were far too loyal to Dutch to consider it. Dean leaned towards Bronte with a dark smile when no one moved.

“What are you going to say now?”

“They are even bigger fools than you.”

“No doubt.”

“The law will find you. The dogs are already on their way!”

“Oh yeah. Oh, you’re right. You are so right.” Dutch crawled forward and gripped Bronte by the neck causing the other outlaws to glance at each other. “They are good at smelling filth, huh? So filth has got to be disposed of!” Dutch shouted shoving Bronte’s head into the water. Kieran inhaled sharply while staring at Sean who stared back. “Your friends the Pinkertons gonna come and rescue you? You repulsive little maggot!” The group in the boat watched in horror as Dutch Drowned Bronte before throwing the man’s body into the water, and towards a gator nearby. Blood trickled up moments later.

“Jesus!” John and Sean choursed, but John went on, “What part of your philosophy books cover feeding a feller to a goddamn alligator, Dutch?”

“The part that covers weakness,” breathed Dutch turning to John. “That part.”

“I don’t know.”

“Well I do!” Dutch snapped as he climbed onto the dock. “It ain’t nice, I know it, but it is us, or him. I figured it might as well be him.” As Dutch walked off, Arthur and John shared a look before staring back at water.

“Jesus!” Sean breathed as John walked off. “That… that was somethin’ else.” He turned to Kieran opposite of the fire. “I knew Dutch had his moments, but that… that…” Sean trailed off unable to finish.

“Ye-yeah. He sounded…. different, even to me.” Kieran shivered, and Sean agreed with a silent nod. There was something in the air, and the two could feel it

Chapter Text

It’s another few days before the gang decides to start the Saint Denis bank robbery. Sean and Kieran are both nervous as they watch Arthur head into the mansion of Shady Belle. Hosea’s voice is loud and clear as he and Dutch are huddled over map of Saint Denis. “I’m telling you, Dutch, this is the way to do this job. The distraction will buy you all the time you need.” Arthur hovers in the door away waiting for his fathers to notice him.

There’s an inhale of breath before Dutch speaks. “I… don’t like it.”

“It’s the right plan. We’ve done the work. I’ve been in town looking, watching, and waiting. I’ve, I’ve, I’ve tested it as well as I can. It’s the right plan.”

“I know. I just…. Well between you and me, I’m nervous, I suppose, I suppose that’s it.” Sean’s brow furrows trying to remember the last knew Dutch had been nervous about a job. Hosea jerks back a little from the table.

“You’ve never been nervous, that’s been my job all these years.”

“I know.” A pause. “You’re sure?”

“Certain. Well, not certain it will be done, but certain it can be done. And certain this the only way I can see we can do it. I’ve time it out more than once.”

“Well, you’re the expert.” The conversation ends, and Arthur finally walks in after not being noticed.

“Gentlemen.” He greets the two as they glance up.

“Look, the bank,” Hosea points at it on the map, “Karen, Tilly, Abigail, I’ve sent them all. They all say the same thing. There’s no more than one armed guard. And the police, it’s a city, there are police, but as far as we can tell all the patrols will be going this way when Abigail and I cause the diversion,” He points to another section on the map, “and that’s the opportunity.” Dutch leans back as Hosea finishes.

“What do you think, Arthur?”

“Well, I don’t see we have a lot of choices. We linger around here, and we know we’re dead.”

“But the plan?”

“We got a decent bunch. We know how to fight.” Pointing at the map, Arthur observes that the city cops don’t seem all too tough. “As long as we move fast. I reckon doing it during the day, with a distraction. If that’s what Hosea is saying?” He gestures to the man. “It’s good as a plan as any.”

“I suppose it is.” Sean mutters head in hand. “But I have to agree with Dutch, I’m nervous. What about you, Kieran?”

Rubbing the back of his neck, he shrugs. “I don’t know too much about planning these sort of things, but I agree with you on feeling nervous about this.” Dutch’s voice breaks them from their conversation.

“I, I think I agree.”

“And we do it at night, and there’s the drama of just getting into the bank. Can’t do that silently. They’ll pick us off far easier.”

“I know, I’m just making sure.”

“Every plan is a good plan if we execute it properly. Every problem we had was because we did not execute properly. Even Blackwater from my understanding.”

“You’re right.” Standing up, he glances at Hosea then to Arthur. “Let’s rob this bastard. Everyone get some rest. We ride out in the morning. Look smart. Travel light.” Morning comes, and both Kieran and Sean feel nervous but hopeful as well.

“Do you think they’ll lose anyone in this?” Kieran gives the empty chairs a pointed stare.

“Possible. A large job like this could go wrong.” Sean mutters while they watch Arthur walk out in his finery.

“You go everything, Arthur?”

“Sure.”

“So, we rob ourselves a bank, and within six weeks we’re living life anew in a tropical idyll spending the last of our days as banana farmers?” Hosea comments climbing up the wagon he and Abigail are riding in with. “Let’s get out of this god forsaken place, and go rob ourselves a bank!” Cheers sound as the group heads out from Shady Belle.

Dutch proclaims this is the last robbery that the gang ever has to do. There’s a mutter from John about them hearing that before, and Dutch snaps back about him having lost heart. There’s an argument between son and father about John’s outlook and the word ‘real’, and is only cut off by Micah asking when they were shipping out.

“As soon as we get a passage organized. Boat down to Argentina and another around the cape.”

“What about the money Blackwater? We’re just going to leave that behind?”

“Forget that. It’s gone. You all talk like it’s the only goddamn money in the world. We’re going to take that and more, take it from the people who take it from us. This isn’t some hick town, hundred dollar operation. This is a big city bank!”

“Right.” John chimes back in. “With security, guards, police.”

“Hosea has done his reconnaissance, we’ve been over this. The plan. One last time. Hosea and Abigail draw out the police, we go in calm and fast. John and Lenny, secure the front doors. Javier takes the side exit. Bill, Micah and Charles, control the crowd. Me and Arthur will deal with the bank manager and the vault. Got it?” There’s a chorus of yesses, and Dutch nods to himself. “Good. Alright, that’s enough talk. Let’s get this done.” Hosea shouts to let them go ahead, and Dutch does after asking how long they need. The group falls silent while riding after the rest of the group splits off.

Kieran shakes his head furiously. “There’s no way all of them are going to make it.” He mutters, something telling him that. Sean simply nods in agreement. Descending back into their own silence, they watch as the Lemoyne National Bank comes into view. Kieran shivers visibly. He can feel it in his bones that this isn’t going to end well, and he doesn’t know why. He can tell Sean still agrees with him on that front by the other Irish man’s expression.

The four riders gather in front of the bank while they wait for Hosea’s distaction. It’s not long until they hear a loud boom in the distance, and Dutch exclaims, “I love that Hosea!” Something about the way Dutch says the other man’s name causes Kieran’s brows to furrow, but he’s not sure why. The group surges forward before he can ask Sean, and within seconds they enter the bank. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is a hold up. Don’t do nothing stupid.” The terrified crowd is herded into the back room while Arthur and Dutch work on the vault. Arthur easily breaks through the first vault when John cries out.

“We’ve got trouble. Looks like the law!”

“Come on, let’s go.” The two rush from the back to one of the windows. The scene in front of them makes almost everyone’s heart stop.

“Come out, it’s over!” Milton shouts holding a gun to Hosea’s head. “Dutch, get out here! Get out here now!”

“No, no, no…” Sean mutters, and Kieran pulls his arms to his chest.

“Someone must have squealed.” Dutch growled.

“We should have never gone after Bronte, Dutch.”

“John is right on that one.” mutters Sean.

“Mr. Milton, let my friend go, or folks they are gonna get shot unnecessarily.”

“Your friend? Ha, why I do that?” They can see Arthur close his eyes a bit, while Dutch shouts back.

“Come on, Milton.” Dutch pleads.

“It’s over. No more bargains. No more deals.”

“Mr. Milton, this is America. You can always cut a deal.”

“I’ve given you enough chances.” The agent pushes Hosea who stumbles forward taking small steps. Sean and Kieran watch as Hosea’s expression changes as he turns to face Milton. A gunshot fires and Hosea crumbles to the ground.

“God damn it!” Arthur and Sean shout in unison.

“There’s your deal, Dutch.”

“Hosea…” The man whispers hurt flashing across his face. “Hosea! Goddamnit, kill those bastards!” Gunfire sounds while the dead outlaws turn to see Hosea lying not to far from the fire. Slowly the two rise, and make their way over. Kieran hovers back while Sean gently shakes Hosea’s shoulder.

“Ho..hosea?” He quietly asks watching the man’s brown eyes slowly blink open.
“Sean?” The older outlaw turns to see Kieran hovering the back. “Kieran?” Sean helps the man stand while he glances around. “Where are we?” His gaze lands on the campfire showing the gunfight between the law and the gang. “What… how…?”

Sean gently leads him to the seats. “Some fella in a nice three piece suit told me when I got here we could watch the events unfold until otherwise.” Sean lets it sink in.

“You’ve been watching us since you died.” Hosea said brows furrowing while taking a seat. The gang has blasted a hole in the wall of the bank, and is climbing up a ladder to the roof tops. “And these other four seats are where four more will join us?” Sean confirms with a nod, and Hosea finds himself running a hand down his face, a sigh following. Another silence descends as Dutch informs Arthur that John has been arrested, and he couldn’t help.

“What you think?” inquires Dutch while Arthur glances around.

“I reckon me and Lenny try to find a way across the roofs so if you’ll cover us.”

“Sure, sure, go on!” Dutch waves the two off.

Barely a minute passes when Lenny goes down. “We can get across here!” He shouts not seeing the cops behind him. Blood spills from the younger man’s body.

“No, Lenny!” Arthur, Sean, and Hosea shout simultaneously. Quickly, Sean’s and Kieran’s head snap to where Lenny will appear while Hosea stares at the fire in shock. He had hoped and thought that Lenny would go far, but it was quickly dashed not long after he himself had been killed. He only turns to see Lenny on the ground after Sean calls his name.

“Sean? Where… where am I?” Lenny gets up confused. His eyes land on Hosea whose grimly sitting by the fire still. “Hosea!” The man breathes quickly moving over to the older outlaw.

“Lenny.” Hosea softly says. “I’m sorry.” He pats the seat next to him which Lenny takes. “We’re in an afterlife of sorts. We’ll explain once the gunfire calms down.”

“Alright.” Another bout of silence descends as they watch the surviving group hide in a warehouse.

“I don’t believe it.” Dutch grumbles as each gang member hops through the window.

“They knew we were coming, just like your ferry job in Blackwater.” Arthur points at Micah.

“Ain’t nothing like that.” Micah spat back as the group heads into the warehouse. They find an empty room to hide in, and Bill questions what they’re going to do next.

“I don’t know, I don’t.” replies Dutch shutting a door. “This whole town is filled with cops.”

“Well, how long we going to stay here? A-a few hours?”

“We go back to camp they’re going to get everyone of us. I know they’re going to be watching the roads.” Dutch paces before stopping suddenly. “I got it, a boat.”

“What you mean?”

“We stay here till nightfall, then we sneak on down to the docks we get ourselves out of here.” Dutch pats Charles shoulder to move him off the chair as Micah questions where they’ll go. Hosea frowns watching the interaction, but says nothing. “Any place will do. That’s all I got. We leave, we lie low, we come back for the rest in a few weeks.”

“I’m guessing it’s that or we die out there right now.”

“Exactly! Now everybody,” Dutch stares at everyone, “calm down. I mean, look at us.”

Night falls while they tell Lenny where they are. Rubbing the back of his neck, Lenny sighs while the group starts to move. “It seems…” He waves his hand in the air unsure of what to say.

“Don’t worry, we understand.” Sean replies from his seat. With that said, they return to stare at the fire while the rest of the gang is crouched behind a train. Dutch and Arthur are trying to figure out what to do before Dutch slips into the train, Arthur following with the rest wait for their turn. It’s a slow crawl through the train as they doge Pinkerton patrols, but luck seems to favor the gang as no one is caught.

Eventually they find a group of three Pinkertons together, and they’re forced to stop. Neither Dutch nor Arthur are sure how to dodge this patrol, and Charles volunteers to lead them off.

“What are you talking about?”

“You heard what I said.” Charles moves from his spot and swiftly walks by the patrol who chase after him when he doesn’t answer their questions.

“That is one of the most beautiful acts I ever saw. Come on.” With patrol out of the way, the group moves to silently board a boat.

They’re crouched behind boxes when Arthur finally asks, “What now?”

“Well, at least we got some gold.”

“Sure. This boat ain’t going to Tahiti by any chance?”

“I don’t know. John, Lenny, Hosea… that wasn’t good.”

“I know. So, what we going to do now?” A cough startles the two before Dutch can answer. They watch as a crewman stares over the open sea.

“I guess I’m going to introduce myself to the Captain. Give him some of this gold to secure his silence, and find out where we’re heading. How do I look?”

“Like a shifty, no good killer on the run from the law.”

“Ain’t that the truth.” Dutch gets up, clears his throat. “Excuse me, sir!”

“Hey, who are you?”

“Forgive me, a stowaway. Can I see the Captain please? I come in peace.” Arthur shifts against the boxes, and sleeps.

“God, how can he do that?” Sean exclaims.

“Do what?” questions Lenny, one hand holding his head.

“Sleep anywhere. The man’s got a talent!” He gestured to Arthur sleeping.

“He’s always been that way.” Hosea answers, tone fond as he looks at his son. “He had to growing up on the streets before Dutch and I found him.” Rubbing his hands together, Hosea glances down a sense of sadness filling him. Lenny leans over and puts his hand on Hosea’s leg. “Thank you, Lenny. I… miss him, and Dutch.”

“I know how you feel.” The conversation would have continued had Dutch not appeared near Arthur.

“Well, it’s going to take a little more gold, but I think we’re gonna be okay.” Dutch moves to the railing, Arthur following. “This Captain, he is a fine feller. A New Englander from the Cape, the rest of the ship is Frenchmen. They’re headed down to the islands taking some Pennsylvania coal. Now, apparently we’re going to be able to slip ashore in Northern Cuba in a few days.”

“That so?”

“Apparently.”

“What are we gonna to do in Cuba, Dutch?”

“Hold up for a while, then hurry back gather up the rest of our family. At least we got some money now. Money, and loyalty. With that you can do whatever you please.”

“So, you reckon they’ll follow us to Cuba?”

“Like Colonel Waxman on a jolly? I highly doubt it. I reckon we hold ourselves to our ourselves and this is done and dusted.”

“Let’s hope so.”

Suddenly Micah speaks up, “I ain’t no sailor, but uh, that cloud look like good news to you?” He jerks his chin over the darkening clouds in the distance. The group, both alive and dead, stares.

“We’ll be fine. Captain said we’ll be going around it.”

“Storms like that can come in quick.” Kieran pipes up, and the other three stare. “Well, I, I mean, did you see some of the storms in the Heartlands? They came on real quick.” He squeaked making Hosea nod.

“He’s right on that one, but we’ll just have to see.”

Chapter Text

When Arthur rides to Lakay rejoining the gang, the four dead breathe a sigh of relief. It had been hell watching the events of Guarma: Arthur captured and tortured, Javier captured and tortured, Dutch strangling that old woman for seemingly no apparent reason, and Sean and Kieran telling them how Dutch had strangled Bronte seemingly enjoying it. Pearson calls out Arthur’s name, and Abigail runs to him to give him a hug as they watch on. “Who’s gotten back, I wonder. We’ve only been following Arthur most of this time.” Lenny comments watching Arthur head into the shack; another cough following the man. “He’s coughing again.”

“Well, we’ll know here in a second.” Hosea replies twisting his hands together again. “Yeah, yeah.”

Sean pipes up, “He did that a couple times before they were stranded on Guarma.” Hosea and Lenny share a frown. It was worrisome for Arthur to be coughing seemingly out of nowhere as well. The conversation pauses however as Arthur greets everyone in the shack who is happy to see him. Micah hovers in the background they note, but no Bill, Javier or Dutch yet.

“Hey, Arthur, they got John.” Everyone leans forward hearing that.

“Yeah, he’s got arrested.” Sadie confirms.

“He ain’t hung yet?”

“Not yet, they moved him to Sisika. He’s been working on chain gang.” Arthur nods as Uncle hands him a plate, and time passes from day to night. The door opens to reveal Dutch who has a small smile on his face when he sees them all.

“Dutch. Dutch! They got John.”

“Okay, okay.” He moves to squeeze Abigail’s shoulder as he moves closer to the group. There’s a cry of ‘he’s back, he’s back’ while Dutch turns from Abigail to the gang. “How’d you folks find each other? What happened? Can… can someone get me a cup of coffee or something?”

“It was Mrs. Adler who saved us, Dutch.” Strauss says gesturing at the woman as he does. “After the robbery in Saint Denis, she got us away from camp before the Pinkertons turned up. Then Mrs. Adler and Mr. Smith drove away the degenerates that were living here.”

“Mrs. Adler, we owe you.” Dutch praises her, and there’s cheer from the people alive and dead.

“Mrs. Adler really stepped up, didn’t she?” Lenny questioned Hosea who nodded in agreement.

“That she did, that she did.” The cheers slowly fade, and Tilly finally speaks up.

“It’s been real hard, Dutch. We… we’ve been surviving, but only just. What we gonna do?”

“Things have been tough, there ain’t no doubt that.” Dutch agrees. “Trust me, I am gonna get us outta here. This ain’t over.” The moment Dutch finishes Micah speaks up about nothing of them wanting to hear about their adventures. Abigail snaps about being more escaping the hangman on their tail. There’s a brief argument between the two before she turns to Dutch.

“We buried Hosea, Dutch. Charlies and I stole his body from the law one night. Same with Lenny. We gave them a proper burial together.” Hosea’s features soften hearing that, and he and Lenny share a sad smile. The oldest outlaw’s heart twists with the pain of not being there for Dutch, but there’s nothing he can do now. The moment is quickly ruined by Bill suddenly barging through the door.

“Well, here you is. Well I asked everyone I could find and eventually someone knew.” He moves forward. “Said you fools were out here. Shit.. get me a drink or something.”

“Get your own damn drink!” Sadie snaps back, and Dutch inched forward.

“In our absence, Mrs. Adler here has been looking after things.” He hands Bill his coffee. “Now, sit down.” Just as Bill does, another voice calls out.

“This is Agent Milton with the Pinkerton Detective Agency.”

“Already?” Dutch, Hosea, Lenny, and Sean exclaim together.

“On behalf of Cornwall Kerosene and Tar, the United States government, and the Commonwealth of West Elizabeth we are here to arrest you.” Slowly the gang takes positions near the door and windows. The scene flickers to Milton speaking to another agent. “Give them to a count of five, then give them everything. Actually, let them have it.” Gunfire erupts striking the hut. Anger fills the four watching.

“They’re firing on the shack with Jack in there!” Kieran shouts shocked that Milton would do that. “He knows Jack is with him, right?”

“I think so.” Lenny frowns, before turning to Hosea. “Didn’t they see Jack with Arthur on that fishing trip near Horseshoe?”

“They did.” Hosea confirms while watching Sadie and Arthur crawl through the shack. Arthur shouts for everyone to stay down as he follows Sadie to another shack where they can flank the Pinkertons. Taking cover by the door, Arthur and Sadie listen to Milton screaming how he’d follow them, kill them, and enjoy doing it.

“This idiot is really starting to irritate me.” Arthur growls grabbing the repeater Sadie throws to him. Kicking the door open, the outlaw easily takes down a few Pinkertons. A firefight starts with Arthur and Sadie leading then the others joining. They push the first wave back, then Arthur jumps on the maxim gun to finish the rest. Bodies falls while the rest retreat from the use of the maxim gun on them.

Dutch walks out with Micah as another coughing fit overtakes Arthur. “There it is again. That coughing.” Lenny murmurs concerned.

“You saved us, Arthur.”

“Well, me and Bill and Sadie.” He gets through another coughing fit.

“You okay, son?”

“Sure.” It’s wheezed out a bit, and not as strong as it should be. Lenny shakes his head.

“I don’t like this. No offense, Hosea, but his coughing sounds far worse than yours did.”

“None taken, Lenny. You’re right. I… don’t like it either.”

“What… what do we do, Dutch?” Arthur breathes out still sounding winded and wheezy.

“Clearly we need to leave. It’ll take them some time to regroup. Mr. Pearson, Miss Grimshaw, start packing up.” He turns to Javier. “You and Bill get outta here. Go scare off any scum still loitering about. We need a couple of days. Now! Please, gentlemen.”

“What next, Dutch?” Arthur asks again but now sounding a bit stronger.

“We just need some time, I just, I, I need some time. Now we can’t go east because then we’ll be in the ocean, so we’re gonna have to go north, I guess? I just need someone to buy me,” Dutch pounds his hand against the wood, “goddamn time, one of you.”

“He sounds lost.” Sean comments glancing at Hosea.

“He does.” Running his hands through his silver locks, Hosea sighs as Micah speaks up about Dutch figuring it out.

“What are you gonna do about John, Dutch?”

“John?”

“He’s in jail.”

“W-w-we’ll get him, Abigail. Just not, not yet.” Dutch tries to soothe Abigail but it doesn’t work.

“There’s talk of hanging of him.” Dutch scoffs and waves her off saying it’s not going to come to it.

“Didn’t, uh, didn’t Mister Van der Linde try and push Arthur into getting Micah as soon as possible when he was jailed in Strawberry?” Kieran meekly questions.

“He did.” Hosea’s tone is flat as he says it. Tension fills the watching dead as Abigail asks for Arthur and Sadie to get him. Sadie agrees, and rides off while Arthur stays behind to gather his stuff and rest. He’ll join her soon.

“Now what?” Sean asks.

“Now we wait.”

Chapter Text

The next day they watch as Arthur slips into the saddle. He’s going to meet with Sadie first before heading up North with Charlies to scout out a new location. They have a couple of days at best before the gang needs to move again. The silent crowd shifts as Arthur leads his horse past the hitching posts.

Nodding at Bill, Arthur kicks his horse into a trot crossing through the swamps. It feels like there’s something in his chest clawing at him, and he doesn’t know what. Perhaps it’s something he picked up at Guarma, but he can’t follow through with it right now. He’s gotta get everyone moved, settled, and find out if John’s still alive in Sisika. Houses and businesses pass him, and people stroll down the sidewalks. Saint Denis is awake, and so is the hidden monster in his chest. Another cough racks his body forcing him to stop his horse.

“Again.” Lenny mumbles, and worry passes through the group watching. That worry turns into fear as Arthur slips from his horse into a coughing fit that ends with him collapsing onto the ground. “Arthur!”

“What is wrong with him?” Sean exclaimed leaning forward. Fear paints the expression of each dead outlaw, and more so on Hosea. People stay away from the collapsed Arthur save for a lone soul who urges him to get up. Pulls at Arthur’s arm trying to slide him off the street.

“Mister!” It sounds distant to their ears, and they all glance at each when they realize they’re hearing it from Arthur’s view. The view fades to black before appearing as a hazy mess. “Mister, are you okay?” A hand waves in front of Arthur’s face. “Mister, are you okay?” The stranger tries again. “Are you okay, mister?” The scene blinks in and out again; another cough following. “Mister, you don’t look so good. Let’s get you to a doctor.” The stranger pulls Arthur up, and Hosea twists his hands together. Worry is coming off him in waves because there’s nothing he can do to help his son. Lenny’s hand moves over to his shoulder, and squeezes. The other man doesn’t say anything which Hosea is glad for.

The scene flickers between darkness and Arthur stumbling towards the stranger. The stranger urges Arthur forward who has to pause to cough again. “Give me a minute, give me a minute.” He rasps out before coughing, and this time blood comes out.

“Oh, no.” Lenny breathes, and everyone goes tense. “That’s, that’s not good.” Sorrow fills Hosea’s chest as he sees his son cough up more blood. Pressing a hand to his mouth, Hosea breathes in and out. Arthur stumbles through the door.

“Doctor, I need a doctor.” He speaks to the secretary who rings for the doctor. His breathing is coming in wheezing as he leans against the wall. The doctor exits his exam room, and urges Arthur through the door.

“Mister, I need some help.”

“So, it seems, and that’s Dr. Mister to you.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I was joking.” Arthur collapses into the chair; he looks utterly horrible. “Look, friend, I don’t mean nothing, you got money?” Arthur just looks at him. “I mean before I start treating you ‘cause I got a family.”

“Yeah, I understand.” Arthur groans grabbing some cash from his pocket. “Here, will that do you?”

“Sure, thank you.” Pocketing the cash, the doctor drags a stool over to Arthur. “Now, what’s wrong. I mean, what appears to be the symptoms?”

“Well, I think you’ve heard them. I’m, I’m coughing.”

“Is there any blood?”

“Sometimes.”

“Okay, now here.” The doctor places a stethoscope against Arthur’s chest. “Breathe. Again.” Setting the stethoscope on the table, he reaches for something else. “Let me see your tongue. Now say ‘ah.’” Arthur opens his mouth letting the doctor inspect it. The doctor pulls away after a second, and heads over to the sink.

Leaning forward, which the four dead do as well, Arthur questions, “What is it?”

“It’s not good news.”

“Well, I guessed that.”

“You got tuberculosis.” The doctor announced as he finished cleaning his hands. Shock fell over Arthur, and the four dead. “I’m really sorry for you, son, it’s a hell of a thing.

“No, no, no.” Hosea whispers fear curling up his spine. Panic fills his chest as he watches the expression fall on his son’s face. Arthur’s going to die by TB, and there’s nothing he, or Arthur, can do about it. Hosea feels his breathing grow quicker.

“Well, what you mean?”

“You’re real sick, you… it’s a progressive disease. You’ll be…” The doctor pauses and then starts over. “The best thing is rest and getting somewhere warm and dry, and taking it easy. Now, is that possible?”

“Sure, I can just take my winters in my country club in California. No, it’s not possible!” Another cough shivers its way from Arthur’s chest making Hosea flinch.

“Well, like I said, I’m real sorry.”

“Yeah, well.” Arthur mutters as he slowly sits up from the chair. The doctor waves his hand.

“Now w-wait, wait.” He gently sits Arthur back into the chair before moving over to a cabinet. Pulling out a syringe, he flicked it as he came back to Arthur. “Let me get you a little more energy today.” He injects Arthur with it, and allows him to move off.

A yellow glow surrounds the edges of the scene when Arthur exits the office. No one seems to be in sight as Arthur stumbles out. There’s a choked sob from Hosea, and the others don’t bring it up even though they look at him in worry.

Ethereal voices sound out as Arthur walks directionless. “We can’t change what’s done, we can only move on.” Arthur’s voice echoes first.

Another man’s voice echoes seconds later. “You have it in you, I can tell.”

“He didn’t have a choice. He was good and he did good.” A woman’s voice spat out in the echoes.

As Arthur stops at the end of a street, they watch a buck trot by, stop, look at Arthur, and then sprint off. Arthur merely followed it with his gaze standing there at the end of the street. Color begins to come back, and Hosea can no longer hold back the sobs. Arthur is dying. The fact of it hits him harder than the gunshot that ended his life. Hosea had hoped that Arthur would get out the fading gang, and live as best of a life as he could, but that was taken from him in the form of tuberculous. Hosea’s hands move to his face as more sobs rack his own body. Arthur would be one of the last three to join them; it was only a matter of when.

Chapter Text

When Arthur returns to Lakay, they find Dutch muttering chess moves to himself. The three with him turn their gazes to him, and all he can do is a halfhearted shrug. He wants to be down there, to be with Dutch, their sons, and the rest of the gang, but Milton had stopped that. And now Hosea couldn’t be with them, to soothe Dutch’s more wild side. Arthur stops behind Dutch before quietly asking if he’s alright.

“Working it all out. Once and for all, Arthur.” Dutch spits out. Leaning against the railing, Arthur tilts his head before asking what they were doing next. “We’re back, and I’m sitting here and I contemplating the great journey of the sun and considering a famous chess move. Those oily enactors of a mediocre justice the Pinkertons and their benefactor the depressing millionaire Leviticus Cornwall they want us, Arthur. They want us, and they are going to have us.”

“Well maybe they ain’t the problem.”

“Meaning?”

“I don’t know, it’s just, well, I can’t help but feel like we would’ve been running some place else.” There’s a bark of laughter from Dutch.

“But the, the game ain’t over, Arthur.”

“What the hell is he talking about?” Sean mutters to Lenny. He doesn’t want to turn the question to Hosea as they all can see the man is still deeply upset from the tuberculous diagnosis. Lenny looks to him before shrugging unable to answer.

“I mean I ain’t, I ain’t played my final move, but…” He would have continued if not for Arthur interrupting.

“I guess I’m more interested in saving lives than winning at chess.”

“Then maybe life ain’t such a thing to cling onto so tightly.”

“No doubt. What about the women?” Arthur asks.

“You sound like,” Dutch pauses before shuddering out, “Hosea. I miss… him.” A pain shoots through Hosea’s heart hearing Dutch; he deeply misses the other man as well. Arthur shrugs off what Dutch says, and Hosea knows it’s Arthur’s way of dealing with the loss.

“I asked you a question.”

“What do you think?”

“We can’t stay here. That much is obvious. Where we going to run off too? I mean they chased us from the west, they chased us over the mountains, they ran us into the sea.”

“Arthur, do you have my back?” Dutch suddenly asks making Hosea frown.

“Always, Dutch, but there’s more than your back to worry about. We need more money.” Pointing at Dutch, he goes on, “We’ve been on the run for months now, and I seen you,” He gets closer to Dutch, poking a sleeping bear. “Killing folk in cold blood like you always told me not to.” The man gets up from the chair and moves to the railing. “And I’m sorry but I can’t help but think that if we--”

“There is country in Roanoke Ridge, past Butcher’s Creek, I believe we could hold. You and Charles could take folks up that way. Micah and I need to do some reconnaissance. I ain’t got a final plan yet. Arthur, I ain’t got…” Dutch pauses, scratches the thought, “I just need time. I need time, and no traitors.” The conversation ends with Arthur backing away from Dutch who returns to his seat. They watch Arthur stalk off to Charles to ask the man if he’ll ride with him, Charles agrees following Arthur to the horses.

“Where we headed?”

“Up past Butcher’s Creek.”

“That’s Murfree Brood Country.” Charles notes.

“That’s why I’m asking you to ride with me.”

“I understand. What are we doing there?”

“We’re looking for a place to hole up… even the law won’t follow us up there too willingly.”

“Yeah. I did some scouting up there while you boys were away.”

“And?”

“You’ll see.” Charles pushes Taima forward. “I know the way. Follow me.”

“We need to get this done fast. The Pinkertons will have reinforced in another day or two.” Riding out from Lakay, they hear Charles hum his agreement before he inquires.

“It’s quite a ride up there. I saw some canoes near the bridge up river which would take us right up to Butcher’s Creek. Might be quicker.” Arthur takes a quiet shuddering breath.

“I’d… prefer to ride this time, Charles.” Hosea lets out a breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding. At the very lest, Arthur was saving some of his energy, even if it wasn’t a lot. The conversation continues, but Hosea can’t bring himself to listen to hard, and he trusts to the others to repeat had been said. The ride to Butcher’s Creek is long, but they watch regardless. Arthur and Charles converse about Charles helping the Indians at the reservation, and some caves that the locals say the Murfree Brood hides in. But Charles mentions it’s a good place for them to hide as the law won’t even come near; warns Arthur to be ready for the sight, it won’t be pretty.

The ride to the cave seems long and short at the same time. The pair slow their horses when they see light up ahead. Two Murfrees are heading up a small road. Slowly Arthur takes the bow from his back, knocks an arrow, and fires hitting one of them in the head while a tomahawk from Charles gets the other. Making their way up a small hill, Arthur pulls out his binoculars to scout out the cave.

“Jesus.” Arthur mutters when he sees the grisly sight scattered before the caves. The dead shudder at the sight as well.

“That’s… I don’t even have words for that.” Lenny grumbles shaking his head. No more words are spoken, and they watch Arthur and Charles decide to sneak through the caves and take out the Brood through stealth. Slowly the pair of killers descend through the cave killing silently as best as they can. Halfway through the cave, a woman’s scream echoes causing Charles and Arthur to share a look before throwing away all stealth. Swiftly they kill the group surrounding a dead man’s body, and Arthur holsters his guns while trying to calm down the caged woman.

“It’s okay, miss. We ain’t gonna hurt you.” Arthur taking out his knife to cut the ropes causes the woman to start into a screaming fit. The blade slashes through the rope, and Arthur holds out his hands. “It’s okay, it’s okay. Shh. Shh.” Pulling the woman into a hug, Arthur tells her she’s safe, and gently urges her from the cage. They lead the woman outside while discussing where to take her, and Arthur gestures to his horse. “Miss, you okay to ride on my horse a little? I’ll keep you safe.” The woman agrees, and Arthur helps her up before heading to Annesburg, trying to soothe the woman. She calms down when they arrive at the small mining town.

When the two arrive at her home, Arthur turns away the money her mother offers him. “You just keep her warm and safe.” He knows, and the dead knows, there’s no reason for him to keep the money. Arthur will have no use for it eventually. Climbing down the steps, surprise comes over his face seeing the woman before him, and he inquires, “Mrs. Downes?”

“Oh no. You leave me alone.” She hisses before heading into the building cutting the man she was taking off. Glaring at Arthur, the man spits out a thanks before stomping off. Sighing, Arthur shakes his head before heading out.

“Who was that?” Sean pipes up.

“I think I overheard Arthur and Strauss talk about a Mister Downes near Valentine. A debtor. Arthur said he was almost dead when he got there.” Lenny pauses, his face twists. “Wait, Strauss said he died sometime after we moved to Clemonts Point. Do… do you think it’s possible that Mr. Downes had… you know.. Tuberculosis?” Shyly, Lenny glances over to Hosea.

“It’s… possible, but we won’t know till… till Arthur gets here.” Hosea breathes out the last part. He still can’t believe his son is dying from such an illness, but neither can he deny the evidence so clearly in front of him. Rubbing his face, silence descends over them when Arthur arrives at the cave heading straight for Dutch.

“How you get on?”

“Found a girl, took her home. You and Micah find anything?”

"Maybe... I think maybe, I found our old friend Mister Cornwall.”

“You did?”

“Yeah, he’s buying a stake in the mine in Annesburg.”

“Relentlessly ambitious fellow, isn’t he?”

“Micah and I will sniff about, see if he knows we’re here, and exactly what his plans are.” Dutch opened his mouth only to be cut off by a familiar feminine voice.

“So, Dutch did you miss me?” Molly O’Shea storms through the camp, Uncle following behind her. The woman stumbles forward while Uncle explains where he found her.

“You’re back. How jolly, Miss O’Shea.”

“It’s Molly, you sack of shit!”

“Back and drunk.” Dutch observed as Molly went on. She’s pointing at the gang and angrily yelling at Dutch as she does.

“What is she doing?” Lenny exclaimed. “I know she’s drunk, but…” His words are cut off by the next words that come from Molly.

“I told them!” Shock trembles through the dead, and the gang as a whole.

“I’m sorry?” Dutch growled. “You told who what?”

“Mr. Milton and Mr. Ross about the bank robbery, and I wanted them to kill you!” Tension takes place of the shock in a matter of seconds.

“You did what?” Dutch exclaims pulling his gun from his holster just as Sean and Lenny shout out, “She did what?” Hosea can feel anger rising in his chest at the woman.

“I loved you, you goddamn bastard!” Arthur tries to calm Dutch down, and the dead are surprised he’s trying. Dutch reminds Arthur of the rules. Before anyone can speak again, a shotgun blast rings and the scene pans from Molly to Miss Grimshaw holding her gun. Molly stares before collapsing to the ground, and the dead know she’ll join them soon.

“Da-damn.” Lenny stutters.

“She knew the rules, Arthur!” Susan snapped. “What the hell is wrong with you? Mister Pearson, Mister Williamson, get this body out of here and get it burnt.” The group slowly dispurses away from Molly’s corpse while the two men shuffle over. “Now get back to work, all of ya!”

Slowly, the four turn to where Molly has now shown up. None of them know how to approach her, not after seeing what had happened. Finally, Kieran rises from his seat and walks over to her. Awkwardly patting her shoulder, he asks, “Miss O’Shea?” Her eyes snap open.

“Kieran?”

“Yeah.” He shuffles unable to say anything. Kieran can only glance to the side at Lenny and Sean who stare at Molly in horror. Hosea has returned his gaze to the campfire, unable to look at her. She follows his gaze, and seems to pale.

“Why… why are you staring at me like that?”

“We saw what you said, Miss O’Shea.” Lenny confesses. “Did you… did you really sell us out on the bank robbery to get… to get back at Dutch?”

“I loved him!” She snapped.

“He was never going to love you back.” Hosea finally speaks shoulders tense before he turns to her.

“What… what do you mean, Mr. Matthews?” She quietly asks from where she hasn’t moved.

“He never loved you back.” Hosea repeats, and despite his anger towards the woman, he keeps his tone soft. “He… I… We were involved, Miss O’Shea. This whole entire time, since both my wife Bessie, and his former lover Annabelle, had passed. You were nothing more than shield to hide our involvement from anyone who wasn’t in the early years of the gang.” Panic builds in his chest when he finishes, but it’s too late to take the confession back now. The other four know now. He can see Lenny and Kieran with their mouths open, Sean staring in disbelief, and Molly with shock and horror on hers. “But that doesn’t matter now. We’re dead, and Dutch is not. There is no reason to fight about what has passed. It will get us nowhere, and we have awhile to watch I believe.” Lenny breaks the silence that follows.

“Hosea’s right. We can’t change what’s happened, Miss O’Shea.” Lenny stays seated next to Hosea when he finishes, and Kieran returns to his own while Sean is oddly quiet. Gathering herself, Molly stands slowly, and makes her way to the fire.

“So, all of you’ve been watching… since you died?” She inquires fearfully.

“Yes.” Sean confirms, his tone oddly subdued for a normally boisterous man. Silence reigns once more as night falls on the camp at Beaver Hollow.

Chapter Text

When Arthur meets Sadie at Copperhead landing, the dead see her arguing with Abigail. “The thing is Sadie I really can’t… I must come, he’s my husband!” The dark haired woman pleaded.

“I know he’s your husband but it’s gonna be, well, it’s going to be violent.” Sadie replied cleaning her revolver.

“I can handle myself just fine… I’m coming.” She argued to her blonde counterpart.

“Like I said, ain’t happening. You got a boy.” Sadie deflected never stopping her movements.

“I insist!”

“Insist all you like, ain’t happening.” She turned at the sound of Arthur’s footsteps on the pier. “Arthur, tell her.” The women move to him.

“Tell her what?”

“She ain’t coming with us to collect her husband.”

“Abigail you ain’t coming.” Arthur affirms moving towards the boat. “That’s the end of the matter.”

“See, there, you heard him. Let’s go.” Sadie begins to untie the boat while Arthur climbs in.

“But-”

“But nothing. It’ll be quicker and easier with just the two of us.” Boarding the boat, and ignoring Arthur’s offered hand, Sadie turned to Abigail again. “Plus, John will be calmer without worrying about you. Ain’t complicated.”

“Well, I ain’t the crying sort, but I’m real grateful.”

“Yeah, we know you are. We’ll bring him back to ya.” The two push the boat off while Abigail calls out her thanks.

Slowly Arthur begins to row the boat, his body not quite what it was. “Alright. Here goes nothing.” The boat moves with each paddle, and Arthur mentions the marshes the prison is surrounded by.

“This is crazy.” Lenny muttered. “Are they really going to break him out there without dying? I mean, we got two seats left!”

“We won’t know till they get there, I suppose.” Hosea replied voice soft, and filled with concern. The boat hits the sand, Sadie and Arthur pop out seconds later. Hiding behind a large bush, the two peek around the branches.

“We good?” When Arthur nods, Sadie gestures to the watchtower. “Let’s head over there.” Low and steady, the pair make their way from the shore to underneath the ladder. Arthur silently crawls up the ladder, moves behind the guard, and chokes him before twisting his neck. So far, no one has noticed the duo on the tower. Picking up the sniper, they watch Arthur glance down the scope searching for John in the chain gang. Sirens sound out moments later after Arthur takes down both guards. They quickly descend the ladder, and make their way over to where the guards were. One of the guards is still alive, and Sadie quickly questions him where John is.

“He… he ain’t working today.” A chill goes through the group of the dead. How were Sadie and Arthur going to rescue him now? Another guard appears aiming his shotgun at Sadie only to have Arthur place his pistol against his back. Arthur wraps his arm around the man’s neck.

“Where’s John Marston?”

“He ain’t in the work detail today.”

“Okay, well I guess we’ll go and get him together.” Arthur responds aiming the pistol to the guard’s head. Pushing the guard forward with the weight of his body, Arthur went on, “Try anything and I’ll blow your damn head off, you clear on that?” With a shaky ‘yes’, Arthur and the guard make their way to the prison gate slowly while Sadie disarms and knocks out the others.

“Really? That’s all it took?” Sean exclaimed. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Folding his arms across his chest, Sean, and the others, watch the standoff begin. Calling out for the warden, Arthur leveled his gun to the back of the guard's head. There’s a brief back and forth calls before Arthur forces Miliken to count while he speaks about killing the guard over nothing.

“Hurry up and bring that asshole out here you bastards!” The guard cries after the older outlaw reminds him to count louder. Patting the back of Miliken, Arthur attempts to soothe the man before noticing John being led out. Sadie moves forward to meet John.

As Sadie shoots the chain off, Sean speaks, “They’re really gonna pull this off, aren’t they?”

“Looks like it!” Lenny replied leaning forward.

“You’ve really got to be kidding me!” Sean exclaims watching Arthur push the guard off of him when Sadie and John run past. Bullets are exchanged by both sides, but because of Arthur’s skill, the police are easily pushed back enough to give the three a chance to run down the bridge.

“What took you so long?” John questions gunning down several more police.

“I’ll explain later.” Arthur mutters in response killing a few more. Sprinting from the barrels they hid by and into the field, John questions Arthur had been the one in the balloon. Arthur confirms only to be cut off by John shouting, and pointing at the barn where several mounted police have come out of. Arthur easily mows them down, and the group has to take cover behind boxes.

“We gotta move, how we getting out of here?”

“We got a boat. This way, follow me!” They dashed from barrels and to the boat trading shots with the cops following them. The group watches tense hoping they make it out of the onslaught of police. That tension relieve itself when the three make to the boat, and push off.

“You always need to seem rescuing, Martson.” Arthur playfully chides, but the dead can hear him slightly out of breath.

“Nice to see you, Arthur.” John breathes.

“Come on, boys, let’s move.” Sadie shouts taking ahold of the oars while Arthur pushes the boat off and boards. “I’ll row, you shoot.” The woman turns hearing Arthur coughing. Each small cough makes the pains in Hosea’s chest worse. His son, his poor son.

“Seriously?” Arthur sounded offended.

“Let me, you... You’re a better shot.”

“Right, fine,” grumbles Arthur unslinging his repeater from his back. “You just relax and enjoy yourself, John. Leave the real work to them as who can handle it.” John laughs out a thanks while Arthur aims.

“They actually did it.” Sean breaths out in wonderment when the three make it back to Copperhead landing. Playful banter occurs between Arthur and John only stopped when Sadie tells them to hurry. They need to get out of there before law catches up. “They actually did it…” Sean repeats watching the group ride off with John, and not a cop in sight.

“Did you really doubt Arthur, sick as he is?” Lenny commented amused.

“N-no?” Sean half muttered, half questioned.

When they’re a couple paces away, John finally asks, “So, what the hell happened in Saint Denis? Is Abigail alright?”

“She’s fine, Jack is too. She managed to get escape when they got Hosea.” A small smile appears on Hosea’s face hearing the sadness in Sadie’s voice when she says her name. Even though their interactions where brief, he always made sure to check on her, especially when they had been at Horseshoe.

“Hosea. That still don’t seem real, somehow. All them years, Arthur… he was like… like family.” His heart clenched at John’s words; he missed John as equally as he missed Arthur.

“Yeah... we lost young Lenny too.” Arthur sighed.

“No… what a goddamn mess. And did we… what about… th-the money?”

“Lost somewhere at the bottom of the ocean.”

“What. How the hell did that happen?” The older brother retells the start of the story of Guarma. “Wait, you’re gonna have to tell me all this again.” With a sigh, Arthur goes on, tells John where they’re at, and Sadie finally pipes up.

“Yeah, seems Molly ratted us out, the bitch, so she’s dead too.” The woman shrinks back at Sadie’s words, and glances down. She could clear her name now, but she doubts the group of dead would believe her.

“Jesus. Maybe you should have just left me to hang.”

“And… I should warn you... Dutch didn’t want us breaking you out. Said it wasn’t the right time, so it might not be the hero’s welcome you’re imagining.”

“So much for no man left behind.” John spits out. “I can’t stop thinking about this… in the bank… when they grabbed me, he saw it… felt like he had a… a moment to do something, and he didn’t.” Hosea swallows and tenses. If Dutch really left John behind…

When they arrive at Beaver’s Hollow, Abigail happily comes over to John hugging him tight. But the happy moment is quickly broken by Dutch’s loud shout of John’s name. “What are you doing here?” The gang leader sounds angry marching up to him with Micah in tow.

“Good to see you too, partner.”

“I meant I hadn’t sent you yet.”

“I went.” Arthur strolls up to them.

“But I said that…”

“Yeah, I know what you said. I felt different.”

“Arthur’s breaking away from Dutch’s word in front of him?” Lenny sounds shocking glancing at Hosea. “Has he ever done that before?”

“Not… not since he was younger.” Hosea’s brows furrow as he watches the scene twisting his hands together.

“Is that so?” Watching Arthur walk closer to Dutch, they can hear the venom in the older man’s voice.

“Yes.”

“And when springing John brings the law down on all of us, what then Arthur?” growls Dutch.

“Well, then I guess we’ll have another fight on our hands.” Arthur spits back.

“Loyalty, Arthur, it ain’t… I had a goddamn plan. John,” He turns to John. “John, you are my brother, you are my son. I was coming for you.”

“They… they was talking about hanging me, Dutch.” A hand holds back Abigail from pouncing on Dutch.

“They was talking. They was talking.” Dutch moved backwards hands outward. “And now they may come and hang us all.” When Dutch leaves, Abigail pulls John to his tent, and a small coughing fit breaks from Arthur’s chest making Hosea wince.

“Dutch…. Dutch sounded like he wasn’t all too happy to see John, Hosea.” Concern filters through Lenny’s voice who turns to him as imagery of a deer walking in the forest flashes in the flames.

“No, he… he didn’t.” The oldest man breathes hands twisted together.

“Do you think Dutch was going to after John at all?” Kieran finally asks. Lenny turns his head and shakes it.

“I don’t think so. He was pretty adamant about Arthur getting Micah out of prison when we were at Horseshoe, and the way he sounded… He was really gonna leave John to hang wasn’t he?” All eyes are on Hosea who runs his hands through his hair.

“No…” Hosea speaks voice cracking. “I don’t… I don’t think he was.”

Chapter Text

Arthur arrives at the house he’s expecting to meet Dutch, and Micah, at. The moment he steps onto the top stair a blur attacks him pinning him to the wall. “Was you followed?” Micah growled out in an accusing tone. He’s pushing Arthur into the wall, and making a scene if anyone in the surrounding area even cared, although the chances of that were slim. Lenny shakes his head at Micah, whose was repeating himself even though Arthur already had said no.

“I’ve never liked Micah.”

“Neither do I.” Hosea agrees watching his son descend into another coughing fit. Each cough feels like an ice spike stabbing his heart. How could Dutch not see what was going on with their son?

“Okay.” Micah laughed watching Arthur’s coughing fit.

“What is your problem?”

“What is your problem, partner?” Micah watches Arthur like a hawk. “You don’t, uh, you don’t look so good.”

“What is wrong with you?” Arthur growled.

“Nothing wrong with me. I’m fit as a fiddle.” Flexing his arms, Micah seemed to mocking Arthur’s health.

“Has he already figured out what’s wrong with Arthur?” Kieran nervously pipes up. Heads turn to stare at the man who ducks his head in embarrassment.

“It’s… possible.” Hosea breathed. “I hope not.” The sound of heavy footsteps cuts off Hosea’s next sentence with Dutch stepping into view.

“Micah reckons there’s rat.”

“Oh, does he? On what evidence?” Gesturing with his hand, Arthur turns to Dutch.

“We’s only back a minute, Pinkertons show up.” Shaking his head, Arthur scoffs staring at Dutch.

“We’ve been on the run since you fools went crazy in Blackwater. We barely escaped with our lives in Saint Denis, now we got a rat?”

“Well, Molly clearly talked.” No one glances at the woman, nor do they comment at the flinch she makes at Dutch’s words. “But, who else.”

“Maybe,” Arthur started moving closer to Dutch, “we pushed things too hard? Maybe time for folks like us is passed.” Ignoring the fasle snore and groan from Micah, the sick outlaw pushes more, “We don’t need a rat. We got sloppier than the town drunk, and they know who we are, and where we are, and what we’re doing.”

“He’s right.” Sean muttered from his seat. “We did get sloppy. Tried playing two families for nothing, but getting me killed. Made a mess in Saint Denis with the trolley station, Bronte, and then the bank, which ended both of your lives.” Sean’s gaze lands on Hosea and Lenny. No one dares to argue with Sean for once, knowing him, and Arthur, are correct. They turn to the fire to see Dutch glaring down Micah for touching his shoulder.

“Well, something’s gotta happen, and fast. Otherwise, Cornwall, them Pinkertons, they got us pinned in here, and ain’t none of them stopping.”

“Well, Cornwall’s why we’re here. Shall we, Dutch?” The man throws up his arms, and agrees with Micah.

“Yeah, it’s time to go.” Spinning on his heal, Dutch gestures for the two follow.

“Ah, leave Cornwall alone. He ain’t… look we need money, but revenge? Now?” Both Micah and Dutch urge Arthur to join them, both acting as if the other man was a complete idiot. “This better not be no stupid revenge mission. It ain’t worth it.” The dying outlaw growls to his partners. Laughing, Dutch comments that it was just a simple social call, but there’s something in his movement that seems off to Hosea. Furrowing his brow, he silently watches the argument that plays out before him.

“... He is the reason Hosea was killed…” The oldest man’s head snaps up at the words. Anger flares in his chest, and he’s not quite sure why. Something the way Dutch had said his name, along with the rest of his rant, has him on edge. A hand hesitantly reaches out for him, and when he turns to see the owner, he finds himself pleasantly surprised. Molly’s expression is soft as her grip on his hand. Giving her a polite smile, he places his other hand on hers.

“I’ll be fine, thank you.” He whispered before turning his gaze back to the fire where the unlikely trio are hiding near the boxes. Low rumbling heralds the approach of a long small ship. Pinkertons begin to walk the small dock while two men on the small boat are grabbing a gangplank. The voice that speaks fills Hosea, and the others, with icy cold fear. A phantom hand lands on his back sending a soft shiver down his spine. Two seats left, and three possible gang members that could be killed. Arthur was the obvious pick that no one said.

“I want to thank you for your hospitality, Mr. Cornwall.”

“This was a business meeting, Mr. Milton. We are not friends.” Agent Milton walks into view with Cornwall right behind him. A few agents undock while the businessman goes on, “I have spent a considerable fortune with your agency and still, nothing. This Van der Linde robs me, and laughs at me. I asked for the best, I paid for the best.”

“We are very close, Mr. Cornwall. I know you’ve heard this before…” The agent is cut off by Cornwall ordering one of his men to send a telegram to New York. The detectives shared a look barely phased by Cornwall’s actions, or at least outwardly.

“Sorry, no. I have heard it before, and get that army man to pay his portage charge.” He shouts after the men that’s disappeared.

“We are doing all we can within the confines of the law.” Milton replied, a slight hint of annoyance in his tone.

“The law?” Cornwall mocked.

“He’s arrogant.” Sean observes leaning back slightly.

“You can say that again.” Lenny agrees sneaking a glance at Hosea. Since Milton had started speaking, the younger of the outlaw couldn’t help be concerned on Hosea’s reaction to seeing, and hearing, the agent again. Before Hosea can reply he’ll be fine, Sean snickers out.

“He’s arrogant.” Placing his hands into his face with a groan, Lenny simply shuts up wishing he hadn’t spoken at all. Kieran pats Lenny’s shoulder in a poor attempt to console him. Micah moving away from the group catches everyone’s attention again. “What’s he doing?” questions Lenny with Cornwall yelling at a manager of some kind.

“I don’t know.” Kieran replied. “I saw Dutch make a hand gesture at him, but I didn’t see what for.” Before anyone speaks, Dutch’s voice rings out clear and powerful. Hearing Dutch’s voice, it was now Hosea’s turn to place his head into his hands, letting go of Molly’s.

“Perhaps there is a plague on your house already, Mr. Cornwall.” The scene flickers to Dutch backing up, and Arthur in the background gesturing at Dutch in a ‘what are you doing?’ movement. Raising his hand at Arthur, Dutch walks closer the man who questions what Dutch is doing. “I’m not quite sure, just yet.”

“Does Dutch even have a plan?” Lenny questioned with everyone staring at Hosea, the one who would most likely know.

“No, I don’t think he does.” The truth hurts his chest, his heart, but Hosea knows he should be honest. “I don’t… I don’t think he’s had since before Blackwater. Thinking on it, the Tahiti plan seems… far too out there, even for him.” The one thing Hosea can’t bring himself to stay is how far the gang may go down with Dutch at the helm seemingly unhinged since Hosea’s death, and the time spent on Guarma.

“He has seemed a little more unhinged since…” Kieran starts.

“Since the bank robbery, and Guarma?” Lenny pipes up.

“No, since he hit his head on the trolley.”

“You’re right… I did notice some slight changes after that, but I thought it was temporary.” Several emotions flash across Lenny’s face. “The alligator… with Bronte…” He breathes glancing between Sean and Kieran. “You saw that didn’t you? I thought he might have been pissed off with Bronte after the whole kidnapping debacle with Jack, but… I mean… I’ve heard of it happening to people. They get hit in the head hard enough their entire personality changes, but… would that cause it enough to… to feed a man to an alligator?”

“I’m sorry, Lenny, but he did what?” Hosea growled out.

“He… he didn’t tell you?”

“No. He didn’t.” Anger is pouring off him now. “Dutch told me he dealt with Bronte, but he didn’t say how he fed the damn man to a god damned alligator!” Clenching his jaw, Hosea glares at the image of Dutch in the fire still speaking to Cornwall. The other four exchanged tense glances at each other not daring to anger Hosea.

“I’ll tell you what. You give me this ship, ten thousand dollars, and safe passage out of here, and I’ll let you live.” Turning to his men, Cornwall lets out a wheezing laugh.

“I’ll do no such thing.”

“You sure? Good, I prefer it this way.” Unslinging his gun, Dutch fires at Cornwall whose chest erupts in a splatter of blood. A gun fight breaks out with the group of dead staring in shock at the action Dutch had just made. Flashes of Dutch, Arthur, and Micah running flicker with the flames. However, none of them can truly pay attention to the firefight still far too shunned, nor to the conversation spoken freeing horses from a carriage, and not even when the three had made it out safely. Dutch had killed Cornwall bringing down more heat on the gang, which didn’t need any more heat than it already had.

Chapter Text

The few days passed in a blur with each member of the dead’s in varying states of shock at the gang’s position. Dutch was involving himself into the affairs of the local tribe in hopes it would make a big enough distraction to allow the gang to escape, where as Arthur was trying to stop it in hopes that it wouldn’t escalate and drag the gang down into something it truly didn’t belong in. But his efforts were failing with Eagles Flies involving himself, and stealing back the tribe’s horses, and there was no doubt Dutch, in his seemingly downward spiral, would involve himself even more.

“Josiah.” Arthur greets the man sitting down suitcase next to him. It’s obvious what Trewlany is planning to do, and none of the dead can blame him for wanting to get out.

“I was, uh…” Josiah trailed off unable to completely look Arthur in the eyes.

“Leaving again?” Arthur finishes sitting down.

“Yes, just leaving. I’ll see you soon.” A cough breaks from Arthur’s chest.

“Perhaps.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, if I was you, I’d disappear too. This all pretty much over.”

“Well, I’ll be back.” Josiah insisted softly, a fake laugh on his lips. Arthur laughed shaking his head.

“No you won’t, let’s not pretend no more. Get outta here.”

“I’ll miss you, Arthur. You’ve been a fine friend to me.” They both get up from the table.

“No, let’s not get over sentimental.” Tapping Josiah’s shoulder, Arthur takes a quick peak around the camp. “Go on, the place is quiet, get outta here, you go with my blessing.”

“Thank you, Arthur.” Josiah softly mutters before walking off. Watching the man scurry off, Arthur sits back down with a sigh. He looks exhausted slowly being consumed by tuberculosis, and no one in the gang seemingly caring for the man that’s worked so hard for them all. It pains Hosea’s heart, and he wished he had taken his son out for more relaxing work, or even more hunting trips to give the workhorse of the gang a break. The quick peace Arthur is allowed is quickly dashed by the sound of another voice.

“Found a friend looking for you.” Charles appears around a tree followed by Rains Fall.

“Mr. Morgan.” The old chief greets.

“Sir.” Rains Fall gently asks how well Arthur is doing, and seems pleased when the slowly dying man admits he’s feeling better. Muted excitement hugs the dead when Rains Falls states he may have made some progress with Colonel Favours by getting the man to agree to a meeting to discuss, and maybe, solve alleged grievances between the U.S. Army, and the Wapiti tribe. The chief asks if Arthur and Charles could join them in the talks as his men are not allowed to carry arms. At first, Arthur is reluctant to go, but after somewhat non-gentling pushing from Charles, he finally agrees, and the three mount up to ride out to the meeting point.

“Thank you for doing this, both of you. You have already done so much.”

“Ain’t a problem. Just hope no one recognizes me. I’ve had a few run ins with the Army lately.”

“I wish we could have done more to control the situation.” Charles spits out. “Dutch shouldn’t have gotten involved. All the dead glance at each other, and nod. They’re all in agreement with Charles. Dutch is aggravating a situation he doesn’t quite understand.

“I hope they can calm both parties.” Lenny says focused on the image of Rains Fall, Charles, and Arthur. “This is a powder keg waiting to go off, and I know there’s only two chairs left, but nothing says that more can’t be added.”

“Lenny’s right.” Hosea speaks chin in his hand. The idea of the gang being dragged into such an explosive situation scares him. Between Dutch’s downward spiral, and Arthur dying of a disease, a part of him isn’t sure he could handle watching several members gunned down in something they didn’t belong in. “This could escalate, and we could have several more people joining us. But we don’t know for sure. All we can do is wait and see how this plays out.”

Tents are scattered throughout a small clearing between the reservation, and the gang’s camp. Uneasy looks pass through the dead, none of them like how close the talks are to the gang’s camp. But there’s nothing they can do except watch the trio walk up to a table covered by a tent. Two people are already sitting down, they recognize Monroe, and can easily assume the other man is Colonel Favors. Coughs rattled Arthur’s chest with brief greetings exchanged by both parties with Colonel Favours being unable to call Rains Fall chief. The man goes on calling everyone gathered Americans while calling Rains Fall’s people criminals ignoring the Army’s own misgivings against the Indians. Another coughing rattles Arthur’s chest, and they grow increasingly concerned whether Arthur will just drop dead in front of everyone.

The coughing fit continues, and Colonel Favours snaps at someone to take Arthur to a tent and let him have a moment to rest. Begrudgingly, Arthur lets the soldier take him over to a tent where he sits down to breathe. The soldier comments on Arthur’s cough and turns to grab him water before Arthur can decline. Voices filter from the other side of the canvas, and Arthur kneels to listen in as long as he can. The men are talking about what Favours will to Monroe the first chance he can get. About how Favours is trying to get rid of Monroe in an attempt to save his career. The conversation ends forcing Arthur to sit back on the cot, although just in time for the soldier to come back and take Arthur back over the negotiations. They try to ignore the small coughing fit Arthur has when he stands up.

When the pair return to the table, they can hear Colonel Favours asking Rains Fall what he found so confusing. Suddenly, Rains Fall stands up. “Good day, Colonel Favours.” He almost bites out before walking away to mount his horse, and ride back to his men. An argument breaks out between Favours and Monroe.

“Charles.” Arthur greeted coming to stand next to the man. The two glance at each while Favours and Monroe argue. A silent conversation passes between the two.

“Arrest this man!” Favours yelled springing Arthur into action by grabbing the nearest soldier and putting his gun to the man’s head. Tension fills the group of the dead. Was this how Arthur was going to die? In a standoff with the Army?

“Let him go.” Arthur growls. “Captain Monroe, let’s get out of here.” He glances at Favours while Monroe inches his way to Arthur. “If I were you I’d keep my mouth shut amigo.” Monroe walks past Charles who gently pushes him towards the horses. A tense standoff starts with Arthur saying, “I don’t want to kill this man but shall!” He orders the other two to mount up dragging the soldier with him. The soldier spits out at Arthur who says nothing but pushes him forward when there’s enough room between him and the other soldiers. The three are quick to mount up and ride out gunshots ringing out behind them.

Spurring their horses, they head south followed by soldiers. Charles shouts out something, and Arthur is quick to down the soldier that comes near him. The pursuit continues into the forest until Monroe’s horse is shot from underneath him. Crashing to the ground, Monroe cries out while the two outlaws fire at a group of soldiers that have ambushed them. The men seem to pour from the trees forcing Arthur and the group to hold until they have a chance to escape. When they do, Arthur is quick to pull Monroe on his horse and spur as hard as he can out of the area, Charles hot on his trail. As they grow closer to Emerald Ranch, the soldiers taper off giving them a chance to breathe.

“I think we’re finally in the clear. Everybody okay?” Arthur inquires.

“Not really… what do we do now?” Monroe mutters back.

“You get out of here... fast. We’ll take you to the station.” Monroe complains about what had just happened. “I heard them talking. They was gonna have you hanged for treason. You can’t die for those fools.”

“And what about the chief?”

“We’ll do what we can.” Pain taps Hosea’s chest at Arthur’s promise. His son knows he can do very little for the tribe, and more so with the state he’s in. How can he promise such a thing to the Captain? They arrive at Emerald Ranch without pursuers save for the tuberculous that’s slowly consuming Arthur. Coughing, Arthur dismount his horse to escort Monroe onto the train. Brief goodbyes are exchanged along with Arthur handing over some of his personal money. Another bout of pain pools in Hosea’s chest to see Arthur handing out money knowing that his time is coming, and that he doesn’t need it.

“Meet you back at camp.” Charles softly mutters tapping Arthur’s back who starts into another coughing fit. They’re starting to come more often, and the dead wonder how long before Arthur joins them. The work he’s been given is straining Arthur, slicing away parts of his energy. And with Dutch seemingly not caring about his son, Arthur will have no rest.

“Mr. Morgan!” A woman’s voice cries out while Arthur coughs. “Are you okay?” Surprise filters through the dead seeing the nun. When did he meet her?

“Never better.” He greets the nun. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, I’m on my way down to Mexico, they’re finally sending me down on a mission. Brother Dorkins is very jealous.” Arthur opens his mouth to respond, but another coughing fit steals any words he has. The nun guides him down to the bench.

“What’s wrong?” Her voice filled with concern at the state of the man before her.

“I’m, uh, I’m dying sister.” It’s the first time Arthur has ever said it aloud to anyone.

“Okay.”

“Yeah. I got TB. I got it beating a man to death for a few bucks.” The confession has everyone, save for Molly’s confused expression, staring at Lenny who seemed to have guessed how Arthur had gotten tuberculous. “I lived a bad life, sister.”

“We’ve all lived bad lives, Mr. Morgan, we all sin, but I know you.” Her hand gently rests on Arthur’s forearm. Arthur laughs and waves her off.

“You don’t know me.”

“Forgive me, that’s the problem. You don’t know you.”

“What you mean?”

“I don’t know, but whenever we happen to meet, you’re always helping people and smiling.”

“I had a son, he passed away.” Another pang of pain tapped Hosea at the mention of Issac. “I had a girl who loved me I threw that away. My momma died when I was a kid, and my daddy, well I watched him die and it weren’t soon enough.” The openness Arthur is displaying towards the nun is shocking to everyone save for Hosea. He knows how vulnerable Arthur can truly be, but it’s locked behind several walls protecting Arthur.

“My husband died a long time ago. Life is full of pain, but there is also love and beauty.”

“What am I gonna do now?”

“Be grateful for the first time you see your life so clearly.”

“Sure.” Arthur rubs his chin.

“Perhaps you could help somebody.” The nun suggested. “Helping makes you really happy.” No one dares reply with a smart ass comment about Arthur’s way of helping people.

“But I still don’t believe in nothing.” There’s a soft laugh from the nun.

“Often neither do I,” Arthur turns to stare at her, “but then, I meet someone like you and everything makes sense.” It’s Arthur turn to laugh.

“You’re too smart for me, Sister. I guess I… I’m afraid.” Arthur sounds as if he’s on the verge of tears. Swallowing, Hosea has to bite down a cry at the emotion displayed clearly on Arthur’s face for all to see. The confession that Arthur’s afraid to die has the dead in various saddened expressions that not even Arthur is spared from the fear of death.

“There is nothing to be afraid of, Mr. Morgan. Take a gamble that loves exists and do a loving act.” Something in Arthur’s brain is turning hearing the sister’s words. He’s making up his mind on something, and they don’t know what.

“All abroad!” A conductor cries in the distance.

“I shall try.” He says standing up to take her bags.

“I know you will.” She replied taking his hand as he guides them to the train and helps her board. Handing over the bags to her, they watch call out her goodbyes as the train rumbles forward. Arthur waves her off watching the train leave before turning and mounting his horse to head back to camp.

“God,” Lenny starts after silence had fallen on the group, “he did get from the Downes man.” Placing his head in his hands, Hosea forces himself to take several calming breaths. He should have objected strongly to Strauss’s work. Perhaps if he did, Arthur wouldn’t be dying from TB.

“Is that what Arthur’s dying from?” Molly breaths out in a fearful tone. “Tuberculous?”

“Yes. Before the gang came to Beaver Hollow, Arthur collapsed in the streets of Saint Denis. Someone took him to a doctor, and well…” Hosea can’t bring himself to finish. He’s on the verge of panic from Arthur’s conversation with the nun, and he so desperately wishes he could be there for his son.

“I’m sorry, Hosea.” Molly whispers back.

“I am too.” He agrees.

Chapter Text

Days after since Arthur’s conversation with the mysterious sister, there’s been no real rest for Arthur whose growing sicker by the day. Only a few members of the gang are truly worried about him, but even then, they rarely ask him how he’s doing. And they’ve watched Colm swing, watched Sadie finish off the O’Driscolls, watched Arthur and Dutch further along the U.S Army-Wapiti tribe conflict which ended with Eagle Flies being captured, which ended with Arthur and Charles rescuing the man. Now, Arthur is headed near Bacchus Bridge to blow it up with John under some plan of Dutch’s that seems to make no sense, if there is even a plan at all beyond creating absolute chaos.

“Arthur.” John says turning from the wagon holding a bunch a dynamite.

“How you doing?”

“Nervous, but I've been nervous for a while.” Swinging his hands up and down a bit, John glances down then back to the man he sees as his older brother. “I had a lot of time to think in that jail, and,” He hands Arthur a cigarette who takes it, both seemingly ignoring the fact they’re standing right next to a wagon full of dynamite, “I feel like I just don’t know Dutch no more.”

“You ain’t the only one.” Arthur responds placing the cigarette in his mouth.

“And this plan to get us out, it just feels, I don’t know.”

“Like he’s stringing us along, I know.” John goes to light both cigarettes before stopping and finally glancing to his right which makes Arthur pause and look. The siblings share a look before quickly tossing the unused cigarettes. The sight makes a sad smile appear on Hosea’s face; it reminds him of when the two had been younger, and such a sight was often seen.

“Killing in cold blood, revenge, we all do bad things, but he seems to enjoy it now.” John voices the thing none of the dead have been wanting to say since watching Dutch murdered Cornwall. “It’s like he just wants to create more enemies. More chaos.” Nodding in agreement with John, Arthur helps his little brother move a crate off of the wagon. “I mean… I love Dutch. He saved me a long time ago.” Placing the crate onto the small cart with his older brother, John goes on, “I feel like in Saint Denis, when I got arrested maybe he could have done something.”

Arthur points at John with his finger. “I feel like you should take your woman and child and get lost.” If Arthur had suggested that a long time ago, the dead would laughed at him, and even been highly surprised considering how Arthur felt about John’s year away from them. But in the face of what seems to be coming, it’s good advice to give to John, and the dead can’t blame Arthur for telling him to go.

“Do you?”

“You can… you could give something to Jack. It’s that or… well I don’t see no way outta this.” Arthur gestures around with his arm, before moving away from the cart.

“But what about loyalty?”

“Be loyal to what matters.”

“What are you gonna do?” John asks just as another coughing fit breaks from Arthur’s chest.

Arthur waves him off, and lies. “I-I’ll be okay… but do it for me. And it would make me feel good, if that makes any sense.” There’s a shy rub of his chin when it dawns on the dead what Arthur had made up his mind during the conversation with the nun. He’s going to try and get John and his family out at the very least, perhaps the others as well.

“A little, but…”

“Listen to me when the time comes you gotta run, and don’t look back. This is over.”

“And now?”

“Now, we gotta help Dutch give the army one final tweak on its nose.” He gestures to the bridge they’re planning on blowing to shreds.

“Yeah, come on.” John takes another crate of the wagon. “Help me with the rest of this.” They drag the next crate to the cart before jumping on.

“Well, it looks like we finally found our calling in life.” Arthur joked before helping John push the cart over the bridge. The siblings move it to the middle where the younger has already set up detonator.

“You hear about Dutch and Cornwall?” Arthur mutters slowing the cart when they’ve come to place John spoke about.

“Yeah, this is what I’m talking about. More enemies, more chaos.” The younger brother slides off the cart, and heads toward the ladder. He instructs the older to slowly bring down the crates via rope. Slowly, both crates are brought down, opened, and ready for the two start placing dynamite. Gathering the bundled sticks, both men start placing them on pillars before John needs to head back up to make sure the hand cart is ready.

Just as Arthur is placing the last batch, John suddenly stands up, glancing around. “Shit… I think I hear something coming, Arthur.” A loud noise rumbles from the other side signaling the coming of a train. The dead go still fear circling the group. They have two chairs left. “Train!” John yells. “Arthur, get up here, quick!” The pair pump as hard they can, and it’s by pure luck the two manage to escape before they can get hit, the chart easily pushed away by the hunking beast of metal. Hosea lets out the breath he didn’t know he had been holding.

“Thank you.” John breathed getting up and staring at the passing train with Arthur. They pretend to not notice the latest coughing fit.

“No problem.”

Gesturing to the tracks, John turns to the other man. “That just ain’t how I want to die. Come on.” The two move to the detonator. “Let’s go blow this thing up. I think the line held. You want the honors?”

“Sure.” Arthur pushes down exploding the middle of the bridge. Several parts fall into the river below. “Well, I guess old Dutch got all the smoke he wants.”

“Well, let’s hope so.”

“You really think that’ll draw attention away from us?”

“I guess we’ll see.” And that’s all the dead, and perhaps the living, can do. They can watch and hope it gets the gang away from the mess they’ve made, and the mess Dutch is creating. “To tell the truth, I ain’t even sure I fully understand Dutch’s plan with all this.” John says heading back towards the wagon with Arthur.

“Like I said, John, when the time comes, you go.”

“But what about loyalty to… to everything?”

“You been loyal. I been loyal. Look what that caused. You know, all that mattered to me was loyalty. It was all I knew.” They stop at the wagon. “It was all I ever believed in, but not any more, John. Soon, you gotta go. Go, and don’t look back.” The fact that Arthur is repeating himself tells the dead how serious he is about John leaving, and cutting ties with the dying gang.

“I’ll think about it.” Climbing onto the driver’s seat, John stares down at Arthur.

“I’ve done a lot of thinking. Look at us, out here risking our necks, and for what exactly?”

“For a…” John tries.

“For an idea that don’t work no more.”

“How you mean?”

“You know just what I mean.” A heavy sense of seriousness is embedded into Arthur’s voice. “You got a family. You need cash, you need to start building a life for yourself. Me? Well, I need a vacation, and Dutch has all the money. For safekeeping.” The words shock the dead to their core, it’s not something they expected to hear. The concept of Arthur robbing Dutch is almost foreign to them, but yet, they can’t blame him for saying it. Dutch has seemed to have lost his mind.

“You know something… Abigail… thinks she might know where some of that money is.”

“Well, you tell her she better make sure and them come talk to me and we’ll find out just who and what we should be loyal to.”

“I-I don’t know, Arthur.” John shifts uncomfortably still clearly nervous about the subject at hand.

“Nor do I, but I’m seeing things a lot more clearly now. I wish things were different, but it weren’t us who changed.” He reminds John who slowly nods before driving the wagon off. Arthur moves off just as another coughing fit descends on him forcing him to sit on the stack of barrels nearby. Moving his hand from his mouth, they watch Arthur stare at the blood in it before wiping his hand on his jacket. Soft exhales and gasps exit his mouth as his lungs clawed for some of the air they can’t have. Getting up, a soft groan exits Arthur’s mouth, and they can’t help but wonder how long Arthur has. They’ve noticed he’s breathing harder, and his reactions are a bit more sluggish.

“God,” Lenny breathes watching Arthur ride off no doubt to the next job whatever it might be, and whether it kills him or not. “He’s… he’s getting worse. How much longer can Arthur go?”

“I don’t know. He’s strong willed, that’s for sure, but…” Hosea waves his hand unable to say anything more.

“Do you think he’ll be able to get anyone else out, or just John and his family?” Kieran inquires from his chair.

“I don’t know. Some of the others are smart enough to figure out when it’s time to leave, but I don’t know.” Running his hands through his hair, Hosea speaks again. “God, I want to kill Dutch.” Heads turn to him. “He’s working our son to the bone. Arthur’s dying faster, he doesn’t seem to notice, and, and God knows what will happen to John if Arthur passes before he can get out. He’s not the man I knew and loved.”

“No, he isn’t, is he?” Lenny mumbles.

Chapter Text

Morning comes, and they see Arthur slowly sit from his cot with a wheeze. His movements are sluggish standing up, and they watch him have to take a moment to steady himself. Glancing over to his right, Arthur frowns seeing Micah’s pals sitting not to far from Dutch’s tent. Grabbing his hat, Arthur marches over to the group. The dead notes Micah is standing next to Dutch seemingly taking the spot Hosea, and to a certain extent Arthur, once held.

“So why are these two still here?”

“Old pal’s of Micah.”

“They’re getting real comfortable.”

“We need guns for what’s coming. Cleet and Joe know how to fight. It’s lucky I bumped into them.”

“What is going on Dutch, what is happening to us? What is happening to you?”

“You show him some respect.” Micah growled moving closer to Arthur.

“Excuse me?” Arthur growled back with the sound of thundering hooves in the background.

“Mister Van der Linde!” Eagle Flies shouts breaking the possible fight that would have happened. “Mister Morgan! Charles!” Everyone turns see Eagle Flies astride his horse followed by several of his tribe mates. “They tried to kill my people for oil. For oil! Today we ride once more. Ride with me, ride with us. Ride with us against the factory.” Dutch strides over to Eagle Flies and there’s something in his step that makes Hosea’s gut twist. A predator's walk.

“I love your courage, son.” Dutch says opening his arms to Eagle Flies. “It is a thing a great beauty.” Another rider comes up when Dutch finishes.

“Stop!” Rains Fall shouts. “Everyone stop!” He dismounts wobbling over to Eagle Flies. “My son, my last son, don’t. When I was your age, I fought. I saw death. I have killed. The men I knew were slain. My first born, your brother had his head smashed by a drunken soldier. My wife had her throat slit. We made peace. I knew not to trust, yet I had no choice. Maybe you were right, maybe the slow death is worse than a fast one. Maybe none of these men are good. Maybe in a world in which they came to us is a world we cannot endure. But endure we must.”

“Father, you are tired.”

“Do not die for pride, my son. We have suffered too much in this trick.” Rains Fall pleaded. “The earth, the water, they have no pride. They endure, and we must endure. My only boy, my precious boy, do not take my strength for weakness. As your chief, I implore you.”

“Your words mean nothing to me, Father.”

“Don’t.”

“Ride with me! Now!” They watch Eagle Flies ride off, the pleas of his father seemingly bouncing off the man’s ears. Rains Fall watches in hopelessness before turning to Arthur. Sorrow descends on the group at the sight of a father begging his son not to ride to war.

“Please, Mister Morgan.” Rains Fall shuffled over. “After you helped me, after we spoke this is just a trap. My son, my people, will all die.” Dutch creeps up glancing between Arthur and the chief. There’s something in his expression none of the dead like.

“You helped this feller, Arthur.” He gestures to Rains Fall.

“What of it?”

“What else have you been doing behind Dutch’s back?” Micah accused.

“What?” Before the conversation can escalate again, Rains Fall speaks up.

“The wars are over… we have lost. These young men will be annihilated. Please.”

“I’ll see what I can do. Charles?” The other man nods, and Arthur shouts, “Who else will come with me?”

“Oh, I’ll ride, Arthur.” Dutch says. “Who knows what other secrets I’ll learn about.” The man hissed. “Who else?” Several voices call out, and the gang mounts up. “Alright, let’s ride out.” The dead look amongst each other unsure of what to say. None of them know what’s going on anymore. All they can do is watch Dutch snap at Arthur wondering what the man has been doing been his back. Arthur defends himself saying he was trying to stop the mess from getting worse, which clearly didn’t work.

Hosea places his head in his hands listening to the conversation as the gang rides. The family he and Dutch built is falling apart before his eyes, and he can do nothing to stop it. Some rat is tearing them apart, and Dutch is too blind to see who it is, and too blind see Arthur is dying in front of him. What happened to Dutch, to the man he so loved, to make him this way? Had his death affected Dutch more than they could tell? Glancing up, he can see various emotions on his fellow dead. There’s hints of disgust on Lenny’s face, worry in Molly’s and Kieran’s, and Sean seems defeated. Glancing back to the fire, he sees the group has arrived at the factory where a massacre is happening.

“Can anyone see Eagle Flies?” Arthur inquired searching the battlefield.

“There, going across the walkway.” Charles points out.

“You got what you wanted, Dutch.”

“You coming, Arthur?”

“I’m going to try and save him. This fight is unwinnable if you go and distract them and let me get to him.”

“Have it your way.” Dutch says cooly. “The rest of you, ride with me. Let’s meet up at the factory. Let’s ride!” He kicks the Count forward, and they notice Sadie, Charles, and few of the Wapiti stay with Arthur.

“Go with him, try and help there. I’m better off alone.”

“We’re riding with you.” Charles declares pulling out his sawed off shotgun.

“Come on then.” Arthur pushes his horse forward with the others following. The thundering sound of hooves surging down the hill announce the arrival Arthur’s group towards the factory. Several of the Wapiti go down as they charge leaving only Arthur, Charles, and Sadie. Gunfire and arrows are traded between the soldiers and Arthur’s group. It’s not long before the soldiers fall to Arthur’s aim, the skills of a killer honed through years of fighting.

One bullet ends the life of the man who nearly kills Eagle Flies when Arthur draws near. Eagle Flies breathes out a thanks before wondering where his men are. Pointing to the factory, Charles comments that he thought he saw some fighting there. Seeing men cross a walkway above them, Arthur urges them towards the factory. The soldiers that attempt to fight have no chance against the group that inches their way to the factory. Blood, oil, flames, and bodies highlight the way.

They regroup with Dutch and the others exactly where the man says they’ll be. No one in the dead can explain why, but they’re surprised Dutch is still there.

“So good of you to join us.” Dutch says when Arthur joins him. “Hello, son.” He greets Eagle Flies.

“Hey.”

“Saved your life?”

“He did.”

“You’re quite the hero, Arthur. Ain’t you?”

“Just a regular good guy. Same as always.”

“What is it with you, Arthur? What is it?” Arthur double takes at Dutch’s question.

“I don’t get you… I don’t get you no more.”

“Ah, the doubting. The doubting.” It wasn’t purely doubt Arthur held towards Dutch, it was the fact that the older man seemed to be slipping into insanity. “Come on, get him out of here. All of you.” He stands looking down on Arthur. “Come on, let’s go finish things.”

“Finish what?”

“Ah, the doubts. You know why I wanted to them attack this place?”

“I have no idea.”

“Javier, you get them and you go.”

“Until I find all my men, I’m not leaving.”

 

“As you wish, the rest of you get outta here.” Charles comes to Eagles Flies’ side stating he’s staying. Aiming his gun, Dutch shoots the lock of one of the doors. “We’re getting our ticket outta here.” He says to Arthur who follows. The two head up to the office where Cornwall was apparently hiding state bonds. Arthur searches cabinets while Dutch searches the desk. The dying outlaw finds small items to fence, but not much. It seems hopeless until Dutch says, “I got them.” Turning around, Arthur watches Dutch hold up several papers; state bonds. “This is it. It’s state bonds.” Joy seems to be filling Dutch’s tone as he speaks glancing between the papers and Arthur.

“How much?”

“It’s a few thousand dollars worth, maybe more. We are nearly there. Arthur, we’re nearly there.” Dutch tucks the bonds into his vest. “Mister Morgan, let’s go home.” The pair of outlaws walk out of the office, and as Arthur follows behind, they hear him cough and spit out something. And they watch as Dutch seems to say nothing. When they hit the bottom of the stairs, a voice calls out that they’re here from the two. Settling into place, both men start firing at the new group of soldiers slowly making their way back to where they entered. And just when Arthur steps under an archway, a spray of steam shoots into Arthur’s eyes forcing him to stumble and fall. Three soldiers appear, and one calls out that they have one. The soldier crawls on top of Arthur with a knife who manages to hold him off.

“Dutch… I need help!” Arthur cries struggling to keep the knife from going into his chest. The dead hold their breath expecting Dutch to shoot the man on top of Arthur. The scene flickers to show them that Dutch turns away leaving the man he called a son behind, and causing an uproar.

“Are you serious?” Lenny and Sean cry out at the same time, shock coloring their faces. Placing her hands against her mouth, Molly looks on in shock at Dutch’s actions where Kieran lets his mouth drop. A wave of fury engulfs Hosea’s chest, and he has to grit his teeth, and tighten his hands into balls to keep from storming away from the fire. The only thing that keeps Hosea from blowing up on the spot is the sound of three gunshots and the sight of Eagle Flies rescuing his son. But another gunshot rings out, and they see Colonel Favours standing there cattleman pistol in hand slowly turning his sights onto Arthur, but Arthur’s the quicker draw and kills Favours before he can fire at Arthur.

Getting up, Arthur rushes over to Eagle Flies whose clutching his stomach. “Ah, you, you silly fool.” He pulls Eagle Flies up by the arm, and helps him out of the factory.

“You saved my life more than once to give mine for yours it’s as it should be.”

“Come on.” It’s the only thing Arthur says kicking the door open, and seeing Dutch and Charles there.

“We need to go.” Dutch mutters seemingly ignoring the fact he left Arthur to die, but Arthur doesn’t. Anger flares at Dutch, and if looks from the dead could kill, the man would be face forward in the dirt.

“You… you ran away.” Charles climbs up the stairs to take ahold of Eagle Flies.

“I did no such thing. Don’t be a fool. They could be back here any minute.” Something flashes on Arthur’s face hearing Dutch’s words. “We did it gentlemen. We got some money, and with the train job, well, we got a whole lot of money.” Arthur glances between Eagle Flies and Dutch a silent war going on within him. “Come on, everything is coming together. Exactly as I planned.”

“I’ve got to take the boy to his father.”

“As you wish, usually is, nowadays.”

“Sure.”

“Come on, we gotta get back to camp and prepare. Let’s ride.”

“I’ll be back when I can.” Charles mounts his horse, and chooses to stay with Arthur. Sadie would have done the same thing if not for Arthur saying, “No, get out of here, please, this ain’t gonna be nothing nice.” The tone in Arthur’s voice nearly breaks Hosea’s heart completely. His son sounds so tired, and so hurt. The three ride out of the factory, and towards the reservation.

“I can’t believe it.” Lenny breathes while the group rides. “He left him. Dutch. Left. Arthur.” The man stands up and begins to pace. “All this time, Sean, Hosea, all this time he said Arthur was his son, and he just leaves him to die?”

“I know.” Sean agrees glancing at Hosea who still has his jaw, and fists clenched. “He told us that loyalty matter, he had Arthur go back and get me, get Micah, and yet when Arthur needed him, he just stood there before leaving him. God, what has happened to him?”

“I don’t know.” Hosea manages to get out squeezing his hands together. “I don’t know.” He wishes he could descend into the living world and punch, kick, and yell at Dutch for what he just did. But he can’t, not unless Dutch dies and is brought here. He feels helpless sitting here watching. Watching Arthur die, watching the gang fall apart, watching Dutch slip deeper into whatever pit he’s fallen into. Hopeless claws him watching Arthur bring Eagle Flies into the chief’s tent, watches the man who dies for nothing save for being a tool for Dutch to use. Nearly cries when Arthur passes out, found by a family then stumbles out of their home and into the street and straight into another coughing fit. Nearly cries seeing blood coughed up and spit into the street. And tries to pretend he doesn’t see the wobbling in Arthur’s steps as he grows weaker.

Chapter Text

The words Dutch says to Arthur the next day nearly sends the dead into another angry fit. “Well, at least you ain’t run off.” Dutch growls pretending as if he hadn’t left Arthur to die not two days ago.

“What you talking about?”

“Pearson left, old Uncle… the traitors. Both gone at dawn. They said to young Tilly they were running to save themselves. I think Mary-Beth left too.” Kieran sighs in relief, and it’s loud enough to have Sean snickering, and the other man become flustered.

“So it goes.”

“They are goddamn cowards. Arthur. Cowards.” Dutch gets up and stalks towards the other man. “Of all the time we spent, to run off…”

“Well, I guess they don’t wanna die, Dutch.”

“Ain’t nobody gonna…” Dutch pauses and drags Arthur to the other side of the tent, closer to the cave. Another coughing fit breaks from Arthur’s chest. “This is a tough time, and you ain’t, you ain’t doing too well, but we, our community we will survive.” Doubt rumbles through the dead, because there’s two chairs left, and one belongs to Arthur. “They will not crush us.”

“I hope so, but, if we let Jack, and the women free, well maybe then we can---” Duch glances around throwing up his hands as he does.

“There ain’t no freedom for no one in this country no more, Arthur. One more big score, we got enough money to leave. All this turmoil has the army and the Pinkertons spinning. We take a boat, and we slip away.”

“I don’t know what you’re saying, Dutch, but it seems like I’ve heard it all before.”

“Just one more train.”

“And there’s always a goddamn train.” Arthur half yelled breaking into another fit.

“Arthur. This is different.” Dutch attempted to soothe. “We know this is full of cash. Army payroll. Money and supplies to repair the bridge that you blew. This is all going to plan. We rob Uncle Sam, and we leave. The poetry of it all. What do you think?”

“It sounds wonderful. Hell, yeah, I ain’t got much to lose,” Arthur gestures to some of the camp members, “but you know the women and the children, a-and John a-a-and his family I’m afraid I have to insist. We gotta let them go. ‘Cause if the Pinkertons come through again they will kill everyone.”

“John?” Dutch whispered. “Insist?”

“Yeah.” Arthur spoke taking in a breath before repeating, “Insist.”

“Of course pal, whatever you think is best. I will see to it. Now, we gonna go rob a train?”

“Sure.”

“We will survive. We will flourish.” The two headed over to the group around a dying fire. “We have work to do my friends, let’s go. Come on, we are gonna borrow a little money from old Uncle Sam and be out of his hair, once and for all.” Everyone follows Dutch to the horses, the dead hear Dutch mutter angrily, “He insists upon it. Insists…”

Lenny shook his head watching the group ride out. “He didn’t like Arthur questioning him at all.” Glancing to Hosea, he can’t help but ask, “Did Dutch ever like Arthur questioning him? I mean, Arthur’s always been loyal.”

“He did, but,” Hosea swallowed before letting his shoulders drop with the sigh, “I think over the years not quite as much. And,” Hosea gestures to the fire, “it’s obvious now he loathes the idea.” Nervously, everyone’s gaze returns to the sight of the gang riding down towards Saint Denis. After some conversation about the plan to rob the train, Dutch orders John to grab the dynamite, and Arthur says something about going with John. Arthur ignores Dutch’s biting remark to him.

The brothers stop near the wagon, and another coughing fit breaks free from Arthur’s chest. The question ‘how much longer’ is on the tip of everyone’s tongue, yet no one dares to breathe it out. John starts to say he’ll grab the dynamite, but Arthur’s quick to do it himself. Grabbing a couple of sticks, the brothers take off talking Abigail knowing where Dutch keeps the gang’s money.

“They’re really thinking about it.” Lenny murmurs yet he can’t blame the two. Dutch’s descent into utter madness has caused a rift in the gang. More coughing from Arthur as he speaks about how he’s going to try and get everyone out that can be saved. The thought saddens everyone, but there’s nothing they can do. All they can do is wait for when Arthur, and whoever the last chair is, joins them.

For now, Arthur and John meet up with the gang, and the party rides back into Saint Denis. Dutch wonders if they have any objections to the plan, but neither brother says that they actually do. A small argument breaks out between Micah and John before Dutch barks at them to keep quiet.

Arriving at the train tracks, Dutch goes through another round of orders and plans, and it’s not long before the train appears, but never pausing to stop.

“Should I just… sneak on?” Arthur sarcastically questioned leading Dutch to turn around and order everyone to mount up. With a growl, Arthur mounts his horse chasing the train with the others.

“Jump!” John yells before jumping from his horse to the train. They watch as Arthur manages to make the jump, but he’s slower to move to cover, a soft groan leaving his lips. The brothers make their way through the train cars bullets heeding their arrival towards the front where John says the money is. They can see Sadie and the other man on the roof of one of the train cars helping mow down the soldiers.

Arthur comments on how it doesn’t feel like the old days prompting John to ask if he feels like ditching now. Arthur grunts out a no before taking out another soldier. The brothers push up again with more soldiers falling dead. The army stands no chance against the team John and Arthur make. The two overpower another soldier who falls to ground firing at a lamp which starts a blaze. Just as the flames start to overwhelm the car, and force John and Arthur to stop, Dutch and the others finally arrive on horseback. Some of the dead let out breaths they didn’t know they had been holding. Even with Dutch going crazy, the dead knew he wouldn’t abandon anyone in front of those left.

“We can’t get through the smoke!” John cried before Bill calls for John to jump onto the back of Brown Jack. Arthur jumps onto the back of the Count seconds later. They spur their horses faster allowing to Arthur and John to jump back to the next car. Arthur orders John to uncouple the carriage on fire before it kills them all. John moves to do so only for the group to hear a soldier call out that the train is being robbed. The brothers see a disassembled maxim gun, and as John moves to uncouple the flaming car, he calls for Arthur to man the gun. Quick to assemble the gun, Arthur towards John. “Well done!” The group watches the detached carriage fly off the railing and explode.

“Now get on!” John calls just as a gun is fired and a bullet hits John in the right shoulder.

“John!” Arthur, Hosea, and Lenny cry together. Arthur is quick to spin on his heel and shot the soldier that surprised him.

“I’ll get John!” Dutch yells letting the Count fall back and the others still riding hot on the Count’s tail. Lenny chews his bottom lip in worry.

“Do you think he’s going to get John, leave John, or is John going to join us by the time Dutch gets to him?”

“I don’t know,” Hosea responds back, his tone and body language void of all emotion. He doesn’t know his lover anymore. Doesn’t know what the man is thinking.

“If he leaves John behind, I’m going to find a way to give Old Dutch a fist from the grave,” Sean growled. Returning their gaze to the fire, they see Arthur has taken ahold of the gun, and fire into the soldiers still chasing the train. The gun makes short work of them, and clearing the way for the group on the train to get the money. With no more resistance, the three make their way easily to the carriage holding the money. Arthur is quick to pace dynamite onto the door, light it, and move back. And when he finally enters, he glances around.

“We got something,” He whispers before turning around and yelling again, “We got something!” Sadie and the other man joins him at the door. “Catch,” Arthur called throwing a bag at the guy who lifts it up with a laugh. Arthur comments there’s more, and throws another bag at the guy who catches the new bag as well. They collect as much as they can before Bill appears announcing the driver’s death.

“Okay, let’s go,” Sadie says beginning to toss the bags over the side, the others following. Once the bags hit the group, the four quickly jump off the train which falls into the river from the hole John and Arthur had blown earlier. The group watches the train fall before heading back down the tracks, and joined by the others. They don’t see John, but John hasn’t joined the dead leading the dead to wonder, where’s John?

“Where’s John?” Arthur asks seeing Dutch ride up to him.

“I tried… I tried,” Dutch replied.

“He didn’t make it,” Micah finished. “That patrol killed him, we had to run.”

“No,” Hosea breathed panic filling his chest, “No that’s a lie. John’s not here. He can't be dead.”

“It’s gotta be a lie!” Lenny hissed watching Arthur mount up with soft pants. “It’s gotta be a lie!” They don’t know if John is truly dead, or what to believe. All they know is that John’s not with them.

Chapter Text

Despite the gang’s successful heist, the dead grow ever more worried. John hasn’t appeared either in the land of the living, or land of the dead. They don’t know where he’s at, the only one who might know is Dutch and Micah, and as far as the dead can tell the two are lying. But as the gang reaches closer to Beaver Hollow, the voice they hear sends another round of shivers down their spines.

“They came and took Abigail!” Tilly cried riding up to the group with Jack in front of her. “I saved Jack, we hid, but they took Abigail.”

“Who did?” Arthur questioned.

“Agent Milton and his men took her to Van Horn to be put on a boat and tried for murder.”

“I am sorry to hear that,” Dutch says shaking his head.

“We gotta let her go,” Micah chimes in, and the dead lean forward almost unbelieving the words they’re hearing. “John’s a… well… sorry, son. Without John, she’s just bait, got a bunch of money, Dutch. She’s just a girl, they won’t do nothing to her. But, me and the boys know we need to keep riding on this one, Dutch, you know it, every man here knows it.” Hosea can feel his anger rising once more for the woman he considers a daughter-in-law.

“So we just gonna let the boy be made an orphan?” Arthur hissed.

“It-It ain’t like that!” Dutch deflected.

“What is it like?”

“I wanna live, cowpoke, I still got the choice. Dutch, it’s just a girl.” They can see the shock on Arthur’s face looking between Dutch and Tilly.

“You’re right,” Dutch agreed, and Hosea wants to kill Dutch right then and there.

“Dutch!” Arthur called dismounting from his horse.

“Micah…” Dutch starts, but stops when Arthur stands next to the Count. “It pains me to say it, Arthur, but he is right.”

“Dutch!”

“Come on boys.” They watched in pure disbelief as everyone but Tilly and Sadie ride off.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Sean hissed. “You guys burned down the Braithwaite Manor for Jack, but Dutch refuses to go get Abigail?” No one knows how to answer Sean about Dutch’s odd decisions anymore as he kicks his chair away from the group. All they can do is watch the dust start another coughing fit for Arthur.

Spitting, Arthur hoarsely says, “Well I guess that's that then... all them goddamn years.”

“Come on Arthur, let’s go get her,” Sadie speaks up. “You and me is all we need.”

Nodding, Arthur walking over to his horse calls out, “Miss Tilly, here.” He takes the bag from his horse and puts it on the back of hers. “Take this. You take this money too. Take Jack and you wait at Copperhead Landing for Abigail and Missus Adler.”

“Thank you, Arthur,” Tilly responds pocketing the money Arthur has given her.

“You’re a good girl,” Arthur speaks give two nods of his head, “you live a good life now, you hear?”

“Alright, Arthur. I’ll… I’ll miss…”

“Me too, sweetheart, me too.” He glances at Jack before coming closer to the horse. “Jack, come here, be brave son. I’m gonna go get your momma,” Arthur promises softly before stepping back. “Missus Adler, ride with me!” The two take off planning as they ride hard to Van Horn. Arthur starts to curse the gang, but Sadie quickly interrupts him reminding him to just follow her, and it’ll be okay.

“Sadie has turned out to be quite the woman,” Lenny says glancing over to Hosea. “When we first picked her up, she was pretty depressed and scared after everything that happened. Now look at her.” But before Hosea could respond, they heard Arthur speak up again.

“Now he don’t care if he orphans his friend’s child so long as he gets rich? All his goddamn talk all them years. Seems like it was always a lie. Or he went crazy… what a mess.”

“Sure… guess he began to believe he was God, or something.”

“I don’t know. I’m sorry you got dragged into this… into… us.”

“Listen, if you hadn’t shown up at my house that night, I’d be dead. And even this bullshit beats dead.”

“I don’t know about that,” Kieran muttered from his spot.

“I thought I could find a way to get John, Abigail, and Jack out of this mess. To give them… a life. Seems I left it too late.”

“If we could still get Abigail… maybe her and Jack will be okay.”

“John, Hosea, Mac, Davey, Jenny, Sean, Lenny, Kieran,” Arthur starts growing angier as he lists names, “we have to put an end to this.” Arthur pauses his speech to cough and wheeze. “And Eagle Flies. Another angry fool he used, just like he did with the rest of us.”

“Like I said, Arthur, we don’t need them. We’re going to make this right, me and you together, what’s left of it. Now come on.” The two ride harder to the south exit of Van Horn. The dead are silent as they watch the two draw closer. “Okay, here we are. Let’s ditch the horses and come up with a plan.” They watch Arthur shoo his horse away as Sadie takes a rifle of her saddle. There’s another round of coughing from Arthur and they watch him spit out something, most likely blood. “How you feeling?”

“I’m okay.”

“I think you should cover me and I’ll go in there and get her,” Sadie spoke holding a rifle towards Arthur. They watch Arthur look offended and Sadie quickly corrects herself, “‘Cause you’re the better shot, I mean.”

“That ain’t what you mean. I can still fight!”

“I know, Arthur. But, just…” She thrusted the rifle at Arthur, “do it my way, honey. It’s for the best. Get up some place high, like the lighthouse or something... and cover me. Please.” Arthur takes the rifle from her.

“Okay,” He says moving towards the lighthouse, and they watch Sadie take another gun off her horse, before sending him away.

“How many guns does that woman have?” Sean exclaimed as they watch Arthur climb up the stairs, and aim down the scope.

“Enough to kill you if you were still there to annoy her,” Lenny shot back making Kieran giggle. Arthur reaches the top of the lighthouse and starts muttering to himself trying to find Milton preventing Sean from snapping back. And they all watch Milton roughly push Abigail into a building. Shaking his head, Arthur turns the scope to see where Sadie is, and that’s when the gun fire starts with Arthur firing a round into an agent’s head.

It’s messy, and it’s quick between Arthur covering Sadie in the lighthouse, and Sadie charging down the street guns blazing. But their hearts stop briefly when they see Sadie reach the building, open the door, and get knocked down.

“Okay, Mister Milton, I guess we’re gonna have to talk this out like gentlemen,” Arthur spits dropping the rifle on the ground and heading back down. More agents pour out the buildings, and they wince hearing Arthur’s breathing as he runs towards the town. And on his own, with how sick he is, Arthur still proves he can mow down an entire force by himself as each agent drops like flies.

Reaching the building, Arthur kicks open the door, the world goes red, and both agents in the room are gunned down. “Holy hell, what was that?” Sean shouts unable to believe what he’s seen.

“Okay, ladies, let’s get out of here,” Arthur says hostlering his gun, and taking out his knife to get Abigail free from the ropes. The sound of a gun clicking stops Arthur from doing so.

“Calm down, Mister Morgan,” Agent Milton speaks coming out of the shadows. Coughing comes from Arthur while he raises his hands. “That’s quite a cough,” Milton observes.

“Sure,” Arthur agreed turning to face him. “Tuberculosis,” He confirms softly, and the reminder makes Hosea’s heart hurt. “I’ll be dead soon and you with me, Mister Milton.”

“You’ll be dead, sure,” Milton replied watching Arthur cough, “but I’m going to be just fine. We offered you a deal, Mister Morgan, you should have taken it.” While Milton is distracted by Arthur, he doesn’t see Abigail trying to free herself from the ropes.

“I’m a fool, Mister Milton.”

“Not all you boys have quite so many scruples. Old Micah Bell…”

“Micah?” Several people shouted along with Arthur’s soft voice. “You mean Molly?”

“Molly O’Shea? We sweated her a couple of times, never talked a word, so we had to let her go.” Heads turn to the quiet woman each face holding several emotions. “Micah Bell,” Milton continues unaware of the dead watching, “we picked him up when you boys came back from the Carribean, and he’s been a good boy ever since.”

“Okay, okay,” Arthur wheezes seemingly bracing on his knees for support. It’s a farce however, because Arthur lunges at Milton seconds later turning the fight into a scuffle for the cattleman in Milton’s hand. Milton laughs while they struggle.

“You’re losing your strength, Mister Morgan,” He taunts while the gun slowly drops toward Arthur.

“You’re still a yapping dog, Mister Milton,” Arthur says even as the gun inches closer to his face. And just when the gun is leveled at his face, a gunshot rings out and Milton falls to the side. Abigail stands there gun in hand having gotten free of the ropes.

“Horrible man,” Abigail says while Arthur goes through another coughing fit. She moves to untie Sadie, and Arthur slides down the door frame. “Now come on, both of you.” Abigail hands Arthur back his knife before helping him stand up.

“Find the horses, we need to get the hell out of here,” Arthur orders gunshot breaking out.

“What happened to Jack? Where is he?”

“He’s fine… Tilly’s got him.”

“Oh, thank God.” The horses appear at the end of the walkway.

“Abigail, you ride mine,” Sadie orders mounting Arthur’s horse. “Get on, Arthur, get on.” After Arthur gets on wheezing, the group turns out of Van Horn and towards the forest. Pinkertons chase them but their attempts to catch them fail with each round of Arthur’s gun. And it’s not long before the Pinkertons taper off leaving the group to ride further without interruption.

“The bastards grabbed me outside camp… I was with Tilly and Jack, it happened so fast I couldn’t do anything.”

“It’s alright… Jack and Tilly are fine.”

“Ladies,” Arthur’s starts sounding utterly exhausted, “La… Ladies I-I’m fine. Hold up a moment.” They stop and Arthur struggles to get off the horse making the dead wonder how much longer he has left.

“Arthur, there’s no time.”

“There’s time,” He pants moving to get Abigail off his horse.

“What happened to John?” Abigail asks noticing he’s not come to meet them. “Where’s John?” Arthur’s hands drop.

“I-I don’t… I think…” Arthur starts, stops, before raising his hands and getting Abigail off his horse.

“Arthur…”

“He…” Arthur begins again, a waver in his voice as he does.

“What?”

“He got killed, or he got captured.”

“No.”

“I’m really sorry, Abigail, I’m… I was on the train and I didn’t see it.” Their hearts lurch hearing Abigail cry out as Sadie rushes to wrap her in her arms. “Listen, we got Jack, he’s safe. Missus Adler will take you to him, but John, I want you to know this, he loved you. He loved you and Jack, he did. He wasn’t perfect but he did. Now you gotta go get that boy. Go on, get outta here.” Pushing the two away, they watch Sadie mount her horse.

“Arthur, what are you doing?”

“I gotta go have a little chat before I get much sicker,” He replies moving to help Abigail onto Sadie’s horse.

“Oh, Arthur…”

“Don’t you ‘oh, Arthur’ me. Neither of you two, not now. You both know.” Grunting with effort, he places Abigail onto the back of Sadie’s horse. “You’re good women, good people. The best. You go get that boy, there’ll be time for sorrow later.”

“If you’re headed back there, Arthur,” Abigail starts grabbing a key from her neck. “Take this, I don’t need it anymore.” She reaches out with the key.

“What’s that?”

“There’s a chest in them caves. In the back to the left. Hidden under a wagon. Dutch’s chest. With all our money. I know John told you I knew where it was.”

“Abigail Roberts,” Arthur breathed taking the key before grabbing her hands.

“I always was a good thief.”

“That you was. Go on, get outta here.” Arthur turns to mount his horse as Sadie and Abigail leave. With a loud grunt, Arthur mounts soft wheezing leaving his chest while he takes the reins. Reaching into his saddlebag, he takes out a familiar hat sending Hosea into a small fit of panic while the other dead slowly start to realize that they’re about to what Arthur’s last ride. Placing his hat on his head, Arthur kicks his into a lope towards Beaver Hollow.

A female voice whispers out as Arthur travels down the road, “Why, you’re a good man. I just wish you’d done it before he worked hisself into the grave.”

The doctor’s voice. “I’m really sorry for you, son, it’s a hell of a thing.”

Another woman’s voice. “And now all you can do now is decide the man you wanna be for the time you have left.”

Another man’s voice. “You saved my life, you’re a good man.”

And another. “Thank you, feller. You know, there ain’t enough kindness in this world, that’s for sure.”

And another woman’s. “Maybe it’s a sign, Arthur… try… try to do the good thing.”

Their breaths caught in their throats, the dead watch Arthur complete his final ride to Beaver’s Hollow where the camp is being packed up and a voice reignites their rage.

“Get them bags packed up quick, Miss Grimshaw. Come on, all of you!”

“Well we’re doing our best!”

“We ain’t got long, hurry!”

“We just got plenty of time, Micah,” Arthur growls making everyone turn to him. “We all need to have a little chat.”

“Black Lung, you’re back. Hooray.”

“I just saw Agent Milton, Dutch,” Arthur says after dismounting and heading towards the outlaw leader. “Abigail shot him. She’s okay, not that you care too much about that. You rats,” Arthur spits looking Micah and his pals,”all of you. Seems old Micah was pretty close with Milton.”

“What the hell are you talking about, cowpoke?”

“You talked.”

“That’s a goddamn lie.”

“Dutch…” Arthur starts but Micah interjects.

“Dutch… think of the future.”

“Milton told me.” Rage seems to form on Dutch’s face.

“And you believe him, Black Lung?” Micah asks chuckling. “You believe him?”

“It all makes sense now.”

“No, it damn well doesn’t.” Arthur and Micah pull their guns out, and they can see Micah’s friends, and Bill have too. No sign of Javier in this mess.

“Dutch, think!” Arthur pleads.

“Dutch, be practical now.” Glancing between the two, Dutch seems unsure of who to believe. And all tension is broken by the sound of a familiar raspy voice.

“Dutch!”

“John?” Bill questioned as John staggers in clutching the arm he had been shot in.

“You left me… you left me to die!” He hissed bringing an uproar to the dead.

“He lied!” Lenny and Sean shouted while Hosea gritted his teeth, and shock took over the expression of Kieran’s and Molly’s faces.

“My boy,” Dutch began coming out of his tent, “I didn’t have a choice. John, I didn’t… I didn’t have a choice...”

“Bullshit!” Hosea spat spooking the others. “You had a choice Dutch!”

“You. Left me!” John repeated.

“All of you,” Arthur speaks up, “You pick your side now, because this is over. All them years, Dutch, for this snake?”

“Oh, be quiet, cowpoke. Be quiet, you live in the clouds.”

“No. You be quiet, Mister Bell, and put down your gun,” Susan snaps walking up with her shotgun in hand. They see Javier run in drawing everyone’s attention to him.

“There’s Pinkertons coming, fast.” Susan looks at Javier, and a gunshot from Micah sounds out followed by Susan’s scream of pain. They knew now who would be joining them as the seventh seat, and no doubt Arthur would join soon after. Dutch pulls out his gun as Susan goes down.

“Now!” They hear him shout with Susan wailing in pain. Walking down the middle between the group, Dutch has both of his guns pointed at each group, and they hear Susan’s cries of pain stop, and they know she’ll join them soon. “Who amongst you is with me, and who is betraying me.” His gaze focuses on Arthur and John.

“Bill, Javier,” Arthur pleads as he and his brother stand before the caves, “think, think for yourselves!” But the two men stay on Dutch’s side along with the others.

“He’s lying, he’s lying!” Micah says.

“Put your guns down!” A voice shouts followed by a gunshot breaking the group from its incoming fight. The Pinkertons had arrived.

“Goddamn it! Move!” Dutch curses while the group scatters to the side and John and Arthur hunker down.

“You ready, John?”

“Yeah.”

“Everyone get down!”

“This is Agent Ross with the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Put your guns down.” Micah shouts at Dutch they need to leave before adding the agents are all Arthur’s.

“Come on, Arthur! Into the caves. Quick!” John shouts over the gunfire, and the brothers depart into the caves. Glancing over his shoulder, Hosea sees Susan has finally joined them.

Standing up, he kneels next to her to gently shake her shoulder. “Susan,” He says soft watching her eyes fly open.

“Hosea,” She greets him while he helps her stand up. Pulling him into a hug, she whispers, “It’s good to see. The gang… Dutch…”

“I know,” He replied returning the hug before bringing her over to the campfire where John and Arthur have slipped deeper into the caves, and the others sit. Molly warily glances over to Susan. “We’ve been watching for a while. We’ve seen everything. Sean’s been watching since he died.”

“I see,” Susan replied shakily eyes half on the scene of Arthur and John climbing up a ladder, and half on Molly. “Miss O’Shea, I’m… sorry.”

“It’s okay, Miss Grimshaw, I’m not angry anymore. You did what you thought was right.” Molly’s gaze returns to the fire signalling the conversation has ended. Sitting next to Hosea’s other side, the group quiets to watch John and Arthur, who’s coughing more.

“Hosea, what sickness does Arthur have?” Susan asked nervously.

“Tuberculosis,” He informs her solemnly. “We suspect he’ll be joining us soon.”

“Oh no,” Susan whispered bringing one hand to her mouth, the other gipping Hosea’s for comfort. Hosea can only squeeze her hand back in response as the two brothers have climbed out of the caves.

Whistling for their horses, Arthur coughs before speaking, “Abigail… Abigail’s safe, so’s Jack.”

“Where are they?”

“They’re with Sadie at Copperhead Landing.” John reaches to shake Arthur’s hand.

“Thank you, brother.” John attempts to pull away from Arthur, but the man pulls him back.

“I want you to not look back, like I said,” Arthur said before pulling away, and jogging to the horses with John, another cough following. Just as they mount, they see the sight of Micah and Dutch firing at John and Arthur. The brothers take off with their former father figure and ex-gang members chasing them through the fog and the dribbling rain. They can hear shouting from the group, and John urging Arthur to ride, but no one can bring themselves to speak.

The brothers dodge the group, the Pinkertons and ride up a hill only for their horses to be shot from underneath them. The dead tense watching Arthur quickly kill the agents firing at them. Once the agents fall, Arthur falls to his knees at his horse’s side.

“Come on, brother, let’s go,” John urges.

“Gimme a second,” Arthur replies placing his hand on the horse’s nose.

“Come on, push Arthur!”

“Yeah,” Arthur whispers petting the horse, “Whoa… thank you.” Once the horse’s last breath is taken, Arthur stumbles after John, and up the small hill.

“Come on, Arthur, let’s go.”

“Well, what about the money?” Arthur gestures with his hat. “Abigail gave me the key.”

“I head down there, I’m dead in five minutes. I’ve got a family, that’s more important.” Despite the fact he’s watching his family rip apart, and one of his sons is dying, it pleases Hosea to hear those words from John’s mouth.

“Ah, maybe you right, but…”

“You want the money? You head down. I gotta go to my family.” They watch Arthur place his hat on his again.

“I’m coming with you. I’m going to get you out of this bullshit if it’s the last goddamn thing I do.” The two start to run up the hill now.

“Thank you.” Gun fire sounds to the left of the brother. “Aw shit, let’s go, we need to find higher ground. Don’t worry about them, they’ll just be going back for the money. We need to get the hell out of here. Shit.” A group of riders passes by the rocks. “Let’s get up this cliff.”

“You go…”

“Come on, Arthur… keep pushing.” As they climb up the cliff side, a group of Pinkertons notice them and begin firing on the two brothers forcing them to take cover and return fire. The two manage to take a few out before deciding to keep pushing, however once they climb over a small bit, Arthur stops hands on knees. “Alright, Arthur, come on,” John urged.

“You go…”

“Keep pushing, Arthur.”

“No…” Arthur coughs spitting out more blood. “No… I think I’ve pushed all I can,” He announces rubbing something off his face and looking at John. Susan’s hand squeezes tighter around Hosea’s, and the others tense. Arthur will be joining them soon.

“Come on,” John breathed.

“You go.”

“We ain’t got time for this, not now.” Arthur removes his hat.

“We ain’t both gonna make it. Go… now.” Arthur takes a step closer to John. “I’ll hold them off.” Reaching up, the group watches Arthur place his hat, his beloved hat, onto John’s head. “It would mean a lot to me, please.” And they watch as Arthur takes his satchel off and give it to John. “There ain’t no more time for talk.” Hosea can feel his throat close involuntary as he watches Arthur pull out his pistol. “Go.”

“Arthur…” John pleads.

“Go to your family.”

“Arthur!”

“Get the hell out of here and be a goddamn man!” Arthur shouts before starting to climb up the cliff.

“You’re my brother,” John repeats.

“I know, I know,” Arthur replies crawling up the cliff more forcing John to leave Arthur. “God damn you bastards!” Arthur cries firing at the Pinkertons and providing John time to escape. Several agents go down, and the dead watch Micah slam into Arthur.

“I got you now, Black Lung,” Micah cried gleefully turning Arthur over and getting ready to punch.

“You rat! You rat!” Arthur shouts back.

“I’m a,” Micah begins punching Arthur in the face, “survivor, Black Lung, a survivor.” The watch helplessly as Micah punches Arthur repeatedly. “That’s all there is, living and dying.” Arthur manages to reach up and grab Micah’s neck allowing him to push the two of them over the side, and onto the lower cliff. They watch the two rise from their fall a loud wheeze escaping Arthur before Micah and Arthur engage into a fist fight, snide comments traded.

The fist fights lasts for several minutes until Micah has Arthur pinned, however the dying the outlaw manges to block several hits before slamming his fist into Micah’s face forcing the man off. Arthur crawls onto his hands and knees crawling towards the fallen gun as Micah goes on about losing and winning. Just as Arthur is about to reach the gun, Micah grabs him from behind and slams him into the rock. Arthur slams his hand into Micah’s face, and both men fall to the ground again, sending the gun flying away. With a wheeze, Arthur again crawls onto his hands and knees towards the gun.

“Oh, Black Lung, you ain’t gonna reach that gun. You ain’t. You lost, my sick friend. You lost.”

“In the end, Micah,”Arthur wheezed still crawling, “despite my efforts to the contrary, it turns out I’ve won.” He manages to crawl to the gun, Micah slowly following behind like a shadow. “Goddamn you,” He wheezes hand gripping the gun only for a boot to step on his hand.

“It is over now, Arthur,” Dutch speaks foot on the man he called his son’s hand. “It’s over.”

“Oh, Dutch,” Arthur replies voice weak and hoarse, “he’s a rat. You know it and I know it.”

“He’s sick,” Micah speaks stepping closer, “he’s dying, he’s talking crazy.”

“There! Up there on the ridge!” A detective’s voice calls out.

“I gave you all I had, I did.” Dutch tilts his head to the side.

“I…” He stares down at Arthur’s battered body before stepping off his hand. “I…” Dutch tries again watching the dying outlaw turn onto his back, another wheeze escaping his throat.

“Come on.” The dead watch Micah inch forward while Dutch continues to stare at Arthur. “Dutch, let’s go buddy. We made it. We won. Come on!” Dutch stares at Micah for a second, before glancing back down at Arthur.

“John made it. He’s the only one. The rest of us, no. But, I tried. In the end, I did.” More wheezing slips from Arthur’s chest.

“Come on,” Micah starts again grabbing Dutch’s attention, “let’s go. We can make it.” But Dutch doesn’t move, his attention is on Arthur who’s wheezing softly, then back at Micah before Dutch steps back and walks away Micah pleading with him to come on.

“Again?” Sean and Lenny yelled. Once Dutch has disappeared from view, they watch Micah yell and walk off.

“He can't even stay there with Arthur?” Sean asked gesturing at the fire with his hands.

“No, he can’t,” Lenny spat. “Called Arthur his son for years, and leaves him to die by himself.” But to their surprise, slowly Arthur rolls onto his hands and knees crawling forward with effort. Arthur makes it a couple inches laying against the rock spending his last breaths watching the sunrise, and their hearts drop. They had a slight amount of hope he would crawl away.

Standing, Hosea moves to the spot where everyone has appeared once dead. He knows Arthur will be here soon, and he wants to greet his son. And sure enough, Arthur fades into the land of the dead the moment Hosea steps near. Kneeling, he places his hand on Arthur’s chest. “Arthur, my son,” Hosea said softly watching as Arthur’s eyes fly open.

“Ho-Hosea, pa, I…” Arthur chokes out his hand flying to grab Hosea’s.

“I know, son. I know. You did well.” Helping Arthur up, he turns to face the group who are watching the two with smiles. “You did so well, and I’m proud of you.” The hug is sudden, but Hosea can’t help but smile as Arthur’s arms wrap around his waist. Returning the hug, he sends Susan a soft smile. “Come on, everyone’s waiting for you.”

“Everyone…?” Arthur turns to look where Hosea is staring, and when he sees the group, his heart stops. “Susan, Lenny, Sean, Kieran, Molly…” He breathed stepping closer. “Everyone, I’m sorry. I couldn’t…” Susans gets up and places her hand over his mouth.

“You did good, Arthur. We all know it. It’s okay.” A cough interrupts them, and they turn to see a stranger in a three piece suit, a finely trimmed mustache, and a top heart.

“As I said, Mister Macguire, you would be watching for a while. And now you have.” He turns to Arthur, “And you, Mister Morgan, have redeemed yourself. Not by a lot, but you have. Congratulations.” The stranger tapped his cane twice, and the fire disappeared and the void turned into a bar. “For now, you will wait. There's more to the story that unfolds, but time in the land of the living must pass. Enjoy.” The man faded leaving the dead to gather and catch up.

Chapter Text

Sean shivered a bit once the strange man had faded. “Creepy bastard,” He muttered moving the bar. “Now!” He grinned over his shoulder while staring at Arthur. “Let’s drink and interrogate Arthur. I’ve got things burning in my mind, and you’ve got the answers.”

“Oh God,” Arthur sighed from his spot next to Hosea while glancing up and wondering aloud if he could die a second time. His Pa chuckles (although Arthur notes it’s pain laced, and that he probably shouldn’t have said that considering he had just died), pats his shoulder before gently guiding his son towards the bar.

“Come on, least the beer is free, son.” Nudging his son forward with his questions burning in his mind, Hosea let out a silent sigh trying to stop the slight shaking of his hands. Head racing, he decides he’ll pull Arthur aside later when his son’s death isn’t so recent, and when the others have decided to stop pestering his beloved son with questions.

Taking a seat next to Arthur, and Susan on his left, everyone watches as beer appears in front of them. “Oh, I could get used to this!” Sean grinned giddily before taking a swig of beer without hesitating making several people chuckle softly. Letting out a small burp, which makes Susan scoff at his poor manners, Sean lets his boisterous personality fade away into something more serious. “It’s good to see you, Arthur. It is.”

“It’s good to see you again, Sean. The camp wasn’t the same without your antics, to be honest,” Arthur confessed, allowing himself to be seen vulnerable around his fellow dead. They had seen him at his lowest, and his highest before dying. There wasn’t any need to hide away from something they had already seen. “I’m sorry I was able to spare you from being killed.” Sean waved him off.

“It’s the past now, Arthur.” Several people nodded their heads in agreement. “You did good, Arthur. Getting John, Abigail, and Jack out. Getting Tilly out. It’s not your fault things happened the way they did.” Lenny clapped Sean on the back.

“He’s right, Arthur. What happened, we all had a part in it. Maybe more than others, but we all did, and I don’t regret spending my time with the gang. Well, maybe that night at Valentine, but other than that, it was a good time, with all of you,” Lenny said raising his drink to clink it with the other’s glasses.

“Hear, hear,” Several people agreed.

“Aye, it was. Could have used another manor burning down before you left Rhodes, but as I told Kieran, I’m alright with the Braithwathe’s manor being burned down after they took Jack.” Placing his drink down, Sean let his hands splay out in front of him while he leaned forward. “But now? We’ve got questions, and you’ve got answers. Like, how the hell did you meet a nun?” Sean asked eyes wide making Arthur smile and the others softly chuckle.

“Well, while we were in Saint Denis, I ran across this brother who was taking donations for the poor. Turned out there were some poor bastards locked in the fence’s basement. For a slave trade if you can believe it. Helped get those people out, and under the care of the brother, I donated to. Brother Dorkins, I think his name was.”

“Of course there was a slave trade in Saint Denis,” Lenny quietly mutters behind his hand. “Almost surprised there wasn’t one in Rhodes, but then again, Saint Denis is easy to get lost in.”

“Well,” Arthur scratched his chin. “There was this one guy in Rhodes, but let me finish answering Sean’s question. Anyways, a few days later, I met with the brother in the slums by a church. He and Sister Cauldron were teaching some people to read, a bunch of kids. While she came to greet me, one of the kids took off with her crucifix, and I went and got it back for her. Meet her a few more times after that till… till I saw at Emerald Ranch’s station.”

“Is that some of the stuff you were up to when you were out and about?” Miss Grimshaw asked eyebrows raised. Arthur nodded with a shy smile, and feeling heat crawl up his cheeks and the back of his neck. Susan returned his smile, and he could see amusement dancing in Hosea’s eyes.

“And what about this Rhodes man?” Kieran asked resting his chin on his arms.

“One of the weirdest things I have ever seen,” Arthur replied making a face. “Almost as weird as the incest siblings I meet that drugged and robbed me, or the man dressed up a woman animal wrangler. Those were pretty weird.”

“I’m starting to think I should have gone out more with you, Arthur,” Sean piped up. “You’ve got stories I’d like to hear.”

“Well, we’ve got plenty of time. Back to the Rhodes man.” Arthur took a sip of the beer in his hand. “I was walking by the gunsmith when I heard this voice call out from below me. Glanced down to see this twenty-something-year-old man dressed in a sailor suit that you’d expect on Jack, or kid his age, and chained to the wall no less. Stopped, asked questions, turned out the gunsmith had kidnapped him. Begged me to get him out of there. So, I put on my bandana, forced the gunsmith to bring me down to his basement. The gunsmith insisted his son was sleeping down there, but I kept urging him forward. Turns out, the gunsmith kidnapped because the man looked like the son the gunsmith lost out by the river trying to teach his son how to hold the rifle properly.” Pausing, Arthur took another sip and watched the various expressions on his fellow dead. Most shook their heads in disbelief.

“It’s quite something what grief can do to a person,” Hosea spoke, and several agreed with bobs of their heads.
“Yeah,” Lenny agreed before turning to Arthur and asking, “So you met a pair of siblings involved with each other that proceeded to drug and rob you?” Arthur nodded.

“Don’t worry, I got my money back of course. But you could imagine my surprise when I woke up hours with a corpse lying on top of me.” Several people shivered visibly.

“I don’t think I want to know,” Lenny replied shaking his head.

“And what about that woman? Miss Downes, you said when you saw her in Annesburg?” Molly hesitantly asked bringing all eyes on Arthur. Arthur sighed heavily, pain in his eyes as he ran his hand through his hair.

“She… Oh, where do I begin with her?” Glancing down at the table, Arthur swallowed trying to organize his thoughts. His fellow dead waited quietly for him to begin speaking. “So, back when we were in Horseshoe, Strauss had me doing debts. One of them was Thomas Downes, and the person I caught TB from. Miss Downes was his wife. When Downes died, she was left to figure out how to earn money to keep her and their son afloat. And they were already poor before I got the rest of the debt.” Arthur shook his head. “Anyways, met her once in Saint Denis while getting that crucifix for Sister Cauldron. The last few times I met her was in Annesburg, helping to get her and her son out of there with the money I wasn’t going to need anymore.”

“I see,” Molly whispered a thoughtful expression on her face.

Hosea waited sometime after Arthur was finished telling stories to pull him, and Susan, to a room away from the others. The other dead understood. The three of them were closer to Dutch in several ways and needed a moment to mourn the man they had loved in their own ways.

Sighing, Arthur paused in the doorway glanced between his Pa and a woman he considered in some ways to be a mother to him. Neither one spoke knowing that whatever was on Arthur’s mind, he would say it when ready. With one more glance and a hard swallow, Arthur brought the two into a hug a sob breaking from his chest. Susan and Hosea shared tearful smiles hugging the man considered their son.

“God, Pa, Ma, Da-Dutch, he…” Arthur trailed off breaking into another round of sobs.

“We know, son, we know,” Susan soothed along with Hosea. “There’s nothing we could have done to change Dutch from the path he’s gone down now.”

“I don’t know, Ma, I don’t know,” Arthur spoke against her shoulder, a free hand wrapped with both of Hosea’s. “I thought I could speak to him. I thought I was his most beloved son, and yet… and yet he left me behind twice. Left John behind twice.” The hurt he felt in his chest he wasn’t sure he could describe to the other two, but he knew they would understand.

“So did we, son,” Hosea murmured bringing one of his hands to rub at the back of Arthur’s neck. “When we saw him leave you behind everyone present grew angry. And I, hah, I wanted to kill him, son. Haven’t felt that way in a long time.” Arthur smiles weakly and tearfully at him.

“No doubt he’ll be getting an earful from you if he ever comes here soon.”

“Oh yes,” Hosea rumbled darkly. “He will. I can forgive him for a lot of things, Arthur, but leaving you behind, leaving John behind? I’m not sure I can. But, let’s not think about that for now.” He moved to the table that appeared in the room. “Let us mourn the man he once was, the man he loved as a lover,” He gestured with a hand towards Susan, “as a father,” Hosea looked to Arthur, “and as a husband.” He finished referring to himself.

“Yeah,” His son sniffed pulling away from Susan and wiping the tears from his face. “Let’s do that.”

Chapter Text

They didn’t know how much time had passed in the land of the living just that Strauss and Karen had joined them one day. Neither one wished to speak about their deaths at first, but then opened eventually. Strauss caught and tortured, and Karen drank herself to death. The reunions were bittersweet, but the dead welcomed Karen and Strauss all the same.

The only hint they were given that time had passed because the bar transformed into the campfire with their nine seats, and the strange man had returned. “Enough time has passed, another chapter begins. Enjoy,” He spoke before fading and leaving the occupants shivering slightly.

The fire roared to life when they sat down, and they saw the words ‘Several years later…’ fade into a picture of a valley and a river. “Big Valley,” Arthur murmured. The picture flickered to a road where they saw a wagon rumbling across. Who were they following? John?

“That was close,” A woman’s voice, Abigail, spoke while the picture focused on the boy, no, Jack all grown up. The sight of a grown Jack, about ten, makes all of them sad. They hadn’t been able to see Jack grow up. But hopefully, Jack wouldn’t be pulled into anything like gun slinging or criminal activity. That was something they had all hoped for.

And they could see the backs of Abigail, and maybe John, while Jack seemed to be taking in the view. “Too close. We brought that trouble on ourselves.” The picture focused on John, and several breathed sighs of relief. John was still alive, and no new chairs had been added, but it was clear they were following John for a reason.

“By we, you mean me.”

“It wasn’t me who went and shot him.” Abigail’s words make everyone pause. What has John been doing all these years? Arthur glances at his Pa who shrugged his shoulders. Neither one knew what to say.

“It seemed like he deserved shooting.”

“I’m sure he did but I been thinking ain’t it about time you stopped being the man making them decisions.”

“I’m trying.”

“Are you?”

“I think so.”

“We gotta find some place to lie low. Keep quiet.” John sighed.

“Maybe Dutch was right, maybe we should have gone to Tahiti.” Several people groaned.

“Pa, I swear if he does something stupid, and gets himself killed and brought, I’m going to kill him myself somehow,” Arthur groaned face in hands. Hosea softly patted his son’s shoulder with a smile.

“Is that it with you? Tahiti or killing? Come on John, try.”

“Try what?”

“We gotta live somewhere for more than just a few weeks.”

“Okay, let’s see what we can find in… in Strawberry.” John turns the wagon down the road.

“I know they like good, honest, hard working men...” Sean couldn’t keep the snort to himself, but said nothing. “... a whole lot more than angry killers. So make yourself good and honest.”

“I am always honest, maybe not always good, but always honest.”

“My whole life I’ve been surrounded by fools with moral codes. Here’s a moral code, look out for folks. Stop trying to act like some hero in a book.”

“What do you know about heroes in books?”

“My reading’s getting pretty good.”

“Well read different books then.”

“The book is Jack’s… and, well… maybe he’s doing most of the reading, but still.” The dead grin at this. Jack is teaching Abigail to read, and it makes their hearts soar.

“You’re a bad influence on your mother, boy. Boy?” John calls to Jack, and several people facepalm.

“He can’t call Jack by Jack, or son?” Lenny muttered.

“Guess not,” Arthur said.

“Sorry, sir. What was that?”

“I said you’re a bad influence… on your mother… with your books.”

“Which books was that?”

“You know, that dime novel, Boy Calloway and the Men from the Moon, or whatever it is.” Hosea and Lenny groan at the title, both men not enjoying it. Susan and Arthur share a glance while the others chuckle softly. The conversation turns to Jack’s love of the Wild West, or his fading enjoyment, and the fact he’s enjoying the Knights of the Round Table more now.

“The king… what’s his name?” John asks eyes never leaving the road.

“There’s King Arthur, and there’s Sir Lancelot, and the Lady Guinevere, and a whole lot of others.”

“Those names…”

“I kind of like ‘em,” Jack confessed.

“You know what, so do I.” Silence reigns over the family the rest of the way to Strawberry. Until Abigail says the sign probably says Strawberry and she’s got a good feeling about the place. John parks in front of the general store, and they split off to find work with John heading into the general store.

“Help you, son?” The shopkeeper asks as John heads inside.

“I’m hoping I can help you. I saw the help wanted sign outside.”

“Sure, but, uh, you’re a bit old to be stacking groceries, and running errands ain’t you, son?”

“Well… uh… I ain’t too proud to do nothing. As long as it’s honest, and it pays.”

“Times hard, Mister…?”

“Milton. Jim Milton. Yeah, my wife and I, and our boy, we was robbed a few days ago. Lucky to get out with our lives we was.” It was Arthur and Hosea’s turn to groan aloud.

“Jim Milton?” Arthur turned to his Pa who shook his head.

“I failed him. I completely failed him,” Hosea muttered darkly seemingly unimpressed with John. “I knew I should have pounded the importance of good aliases into his head!”

“Well, uh, we need money.” John tried to follow the shopkeeper, but the two workers stare at him like he’s crazy, and John backs off.

“There’s bad folk out there.”

“Yeah, tell me about it.”

“Got a wagon by any chance?”

“Sure.”

“Well, then maybe you could run some goods up to Pronghorn Ranch for me. You know head west past Owanjila, then follow the road north. Lead you right there.”

“I… I don’t know where that is, but I’m sure I can find it. I could leave right now, if you like.”

“It’s the Geddes’ place. Fine feller. Where’s the wagon?”

“It’s just outside.” John pointed. “You know, I should I go tell my wife and then, I can come back and get loaded.”

“My boys can load you up while you find your wife.”

“Okay.” The dead watch John head across the bridge, and towards a building. The two speak about the work they’ve found, and Abigail is excited about what they’ll be doing. She suggests John go deliver the goods to the ranch then collect her after John asks what now. With a soft okay, John heads back to the wagon that’s finished being loaded.

After instructions to drive slow, John flicks the reins and heads towards the ranch. They watch him drive slowly down the road muttering the directions to himself. Eventually after some time, John, and they, see a ranch in the distance.

“Huh, that wasn’t there when I went through. A good amount of years must have passed,” Arthur spoke eyes steadily watching John. “I wonder how many.”

“Definitely more than four,” Lenny spoke seeing the size of the ranch. “A big ranch like that takes time I bet.”

“They usually do,” Hosea agreed watching John stop the wagon before a man chopping firewood.

“You Mister Geddes?” John called slipping from the wagon seat.

“No, sir. I’m Mister Dickens, his overseer.”

“Jim Milton. I’m delivering some supplies from the store in Strawberry.”

“Okay.” John glances around the ranch.

“This is quite the place.”

“Yes, it’s beautiful.” Dickens jumps onto the wagon to inspect the goods.

“They send everything?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“So, partner, your boss, he looking for hands?” Dickens turns to look at John, gaze sharp.

“Why? You looking for work?”

“Yeah. My wife, we was in business with her family, and turned sour. It’s a long story.”

“Oh Jesus Christ,” Arthur bemoaned. “That is the worst cover story I’ve ever seen, and I’m sure Dickens can see right through it.” Hosea places his head in hands again trying to not think about John’s ‘story’.

“Yeah, I don’t know. Married hands, it’s a lot of trouble.”

“I’m a good worker. My wife Agatha. Even our boy Lancelot…” Hosea made a noise no one knew how to describe while Arthur seemed as if he had seen everything and was done with the world as a whole. Even Kieran and Molly were shaking their heads at the name. “... we’ll all work.” Dickens picks a toolbox, and starts to speak, but another voice interrupts him.

“Big man around, boy?” Two figured walk cockily towards John’s wagon.

“Get the hell outta here.” The man laughs and places his arm on the back wagon while the other one climbs up.

“Now, that ain’t very neighborly.”

“And threatening us is?” Dickens asks putting the toolbox down while John inches closer to the pair. The other man picks up an apple in bites into it after asking if he could enjoy one. Thugs. They know thugs went they see them, and they know this could get ugly fast.

“When’s the boss man gonna sell this place, boy?”

“I don’t think there’s any plans for that.” The man takes a drink from the wagon and offer it Dickens and John. Dickens tells them to put it down, but the men just mock him and climb up to the seat. The dead don’t like where this is going. And sure enough, the two, after some more words, drive off with John’s wagon sending Dickens tumbling into the dirt.

John calls for them to come back, and uses a horse at Dickens' direction to chase them down. They’re worried John will kill the men and blow any cover he, Abigail, and Jack will have. But, John merely stops in front of the wagon forcing the two off, and allowing him to take back both wagon and horse. And that relieves the dead of some of their worries for John and his family.

“Thank you,” Dicken starts coming off the porch. “Milton isn’t it? Those boys are out of Laramie, work for Mister Abel. Thank you.”

“Don’t mention. Listen, I ain’t looking for no charity or nothing, but I was serious. You got work, we’ll work. I can do anything.” John takes one of the crates. “We got robbed ourselves a few days back.”

“We ain’t got married hands here, you’re married.”

“We’ll work harder than any one of them,” John promised. “I’m real honest, and my wife, even though she’s got fancy thoughts, she’ll work.”

“You seem kinda desperate.” The words set the dead on edge. Dickens saw through some of the words John was saying. “What trouble you in?”

“No trouble, sir, aside from her brother. He tricked us, and robbed her of her inheritance. We’re good people. We’ll work, even Lancelot.” Dickens snorts.

“What does Mister Geddes need with a boy? Just another mouth to feed.”

“Just please give us a chance. I can handle myself okay, you know that already.”

“Yeah, makes me wonder just who would have robbed you.”

“He doesn't believe John at all,” Sean spoke.

“Well, John’s never been one for acting fancy and everything,” Hosea replied. “Where did I go wrong with that boy?”

“Didn’t go wrong with me at least,” Arthur grinned from his spot making Hosea roll his eyes.

“No, you’re worse, Mister Cornwall Leviticus being held by a soldier in Guarma,” Hosea reminded him teasingly, and Arthur raised his hands in response.

“But,” Dickens voice calls them back to the scene being played out, “We’ll give you a chance.” There’s a collective sigh of relief. “I’ll let Mister Geddes’ know when him and his wife return tomorrow.” John reaches out to shake Dicken’s hand.

“Thank you, Mister Dickens. I’ll go get my wife.”

“Nah, no, you stay here. It’s getting late. We’ll go get her in Strawberry and we’ll bring here tomorrow. We need you around incase any more of them Laramie boys show up. There’s a little cabin out yonder past the ranch house. Things work out, ya’ll can stay there.”

“Thank you. You’ll not regret this.”

“Yep. Go get yourself settled. We’ll have work for you tomorrow when Mister Geddes returns tomorrow.” John heads to the cabin, and the scene fades out allowing the dead to discuss what happened.

“Oh, I’m glad he’s giving John a chance,” Lenny said. “Even though he can see right through his cover story.”

“Yes, but I wonder why we’re watching John, and not after…” Hosea pauses quickly glances at Arthur unable to say what everyone knows he wants too.

“Well, it doesn’t seem like we’re allowed to leave,” Arthur said after Hosea’s pause. He ignores it knowing that his death still hurts his Pa. “So, we’ll find out eventually.”

“Yeah, and God, Jack has grown. He was four, now he’s, what, about ten? So what, six years just about?” Sean spoke up. “Makes me sad I wasn’t able to see him grow up.”

“Hear, hear,” Everyone agreed.

“I know I wasn’t exactly the kindest to her, but it pleases me to see Abigail doing alright, even if John is a chore and a half to deal with,” Susan said brushing off invisible dirt from her skirt.

“Yeah,” Arthur spoke fondness in his eyes. “I’m glad too, and I hope Jack does well. And John provided he doesn’t screw this up. I swear to God if he does…” Arthur shakes his head. He’ll kick his little brother’s ass if John makes Arthur have to watch him die.

Chapter Text

Weeks have passed on the ranch, and they have watched the family work hard earning their place amongst the ranch. Watched John and Jack race, pick up shit, and milk cows. But John stayed out of trouble for the most part, save for the issue with the gang nearby, and the dead wonder why they’re following John after all this time. But for now, they stay silent, unless adding smart ass comments, and watch John head in the cabin the family is staying in.

“How you getting on?” Abigail asks seeing John come in. They can see Jack reading a book on his bed.

“Surviving… I think.”

“Here, I’ll get you some coffee.”

“Only thing I know how to do is, well, you know. Undertakes like me. Cattle? Not so much.”

“That ain’t true.” Abigail comes to stand next to John after pouring him some coffee.

“I ain’t no rancher. Rustled horses, not raised ‘em. Stole cattle, not birthed ‘em.” Abigail gives him a look before sitting down.

“I was… I was reading the newspaper. I was reading about an old ranch, Beecher’s Hope, down by Blackwater.”

“Was you?”

“Well, Jack read it to me but I thought maybe we could raise some money, bank could lend us the rest.” Abigail sounds excited talking about the future, and Arthur, Hosea, and Susan smile at her excitement.

“Bank loans?” John huffed. “I got a goddamned price on my head, woman.”

“I know. I know all about that,” Abigail yelled back, all excitement gone from her voice, and the smiles drop from faces. “Every time we about get somewhere, make something, you go and show the entire world you ain’t Jimmy Milton. Every place we’ve been, it’s been the same. We start doing okay, and then boom, you act like the big man with the gun. I’m tired John, and I guess I was dreaming a little. At least give me that.” Arthur groans loudly, hands on his face again.

“I’m going to kill him. I’m going to kill him from the dead, Pa.” Hosea gives his son a tight lipped smile while lightly patting his back.

“He’s trying, not a lot, but a little. And Abigail has a point just as John does. For now, let’s just continue to watch. Perhaps John might grow up a little.”

“Just feels hopeless,” John admits glancing down at the table.

“You’re… you’re doing better.” Knocking on the door prevents the conversation from going on, and they hear Mister Dickens call out before entering.

“Milton, ma’am. Mister Geddes needs you to head over to Strawberry in the wagon, and collect some mail from him at the post office.”

“Sure.” John turns to Abigail. “I’ll take the boy with me, he’s getting soft. Lancelot.” Jack turns at his ‘name.’

“Come on,” Abigail urges before returning her gaze to John. “Jim, if you’re heading that way, can you pick up a parcel for me? A dress I order. Think it’s in your name?” Jack stands by Mister Dickens.

“My name?”

“I think so. One’s in your name and the other’s in mine, only one should have come in by now.” They see Dickens and Jack head outside.

“How much shopping you done?”

“Oh yes, a real keen purchaser of goods me. Look at me.” John makes a sound that sounds like he’s laughing. Which makes Abigail shove him out the door towards Jack. They watch the two climb onto the wagon and head off, John commenting about showing Jack how to drive the wagon, and he’ll save Jack the real exciting realities of adulthood for another day.

With a crack of the reins, John guides the wagon to the road striking up a conversation with Jack about getting out of the house. Jack comments he prefers being in the house. John responds with life being not doing the things you like. Which makes Jack reply he can with John making it clear he’s not being happy with the two. Several of the dead can’t help their palms meeting their face. Even to Jack, John is obvious.

And it’s not long before John gives the reins over to Jack. With gentle instructions, John teaches Jack the ropes of wagon driving as they drive to Strawberry. And it’s not until Strawberry when Jack hands the reins back over to John. There’s a brief conversation about being back in Strawberry, and it being the longest John has seen Jack without a book in hand before John says, “Look, I got some business to attend to with the clerk. I leave you with the wagon, can I trust you not to drive off with it?”

“Oh, I think I can be trusted with that.”

“Very good.” John laughs pulling up to the post office. “Alright, here we are. You alright, son?”

“Sure.”

“Well, cheer up a little. You wait here. I won’t be long.”

 

“Okay.” They watch John head inside while telling Jack if he behaves, he’ll let him drive them home. Jack doesn’t sound very enthused by the idea.

“Hi, I’m here to…”

“Name?”

“M… my name? Uh, Jim Milton.” They see the clerk take a look before shaking his head. “Maybe try Marston, John Marston. It’s a long story.” The clerk takes a long look at John before searching for a package to no avail. A man looks up at the name, and the dead begin to worry. Has a bounty hunter found John already? “Try Abigail Roberts.” The clerk gives him an even longer look before finally finding the package. He places it on the counter, and John adds, “And also I’m here to pick up the deliveries for Pronghorn Ranch. David Geddes sent me.” Another stop to stare before the clerk nods and starts getting the packages helping John load them into the wagon.

“Thank you very much, Mister.” John waves before climbing into the wagon. There’s a fluctuation in his tone making the dead tense. John must have seen the man slowly look up in the post office. “Okay, let’s get out of here.”

“Everything okay, Pa?”

“Sure, I hope so, at least. Here, you take the reins a little.”

“I ain’t sure.”

“Come on, son. You’ll enjoy it if try a little harder.” Jack sighs taking the reins.

“Okay… okay, Pa.”

“We’re going back to Pronghorn, okay?”

“So, wait, we’ve come all this way out here and we just gonna turn around and go back?”

“That’s what we’re doing. Turns out I… I miss the seclusion of the ranch more than I figured for.” Jack asks about going to the saloon, or the store, and John cuts him off saying they’re going back. Protesting, Jack tries again only to be cut off harsher with John saying he doesn’t have to explain himself, and to speed up or slow down at his direction. And with that, it becomes clear that John knows he’s being followed. The dead can hope he gets out of it without harm coming down on Jack.

Sure enough as they drive on the rough road, the pair are followed by a group of men slowly. Tensing, the dead watch John instruct Jack to not look around, and when they get to the fallen tree, to jump down and hide.

“Here now!” John yells, and the two quickly stop the wagon and dismount with John and Jack jumping over the fallen log seconds later. “Okay. Son, you wait here. You don’t move or say nothing until I speak to you, you hear?”

“Yes, sir,” Jack replied sounding nervous.

“Head down,” John replies before jumping back over the log. “Okay, gentlemen,” They see John take a bolt action rifle from under the wagon’s seat, Arthur’s rifle, “Let’s see what you’ve come calling about. What do you boys want with us?”

“Oh, we just wanna have a friendly chat,” One says dismounting. The dead have the feeling this will be no friendly chat.

“God, I hope Jack doesn’t see this. Any of it. He’ll hear, but hopefully he won’t see,” Lenny muttered softly, voicing what the others thought.

“Are you John Marston? You sure look like him?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m just... here with my son.” The man spits at John’s attempts to defuse the situation.

“Did you kill a feller out in Roanoke a few months back?” The man accuses softly.

“No, wasn’t me.”

“That was my brother.”

“I’m real sorry, friend, but… he was trying to rob me,” John deflected.

“You’re talking bullshit, mister, kill him!”

“That’s what started this,” Hosea spoke softly eyes focused on the flickering image.

“God damn it, Marston,” Arthur growled softly, one hand reaching to rest itself on his Pa’s leg. And they watch the image flickered into the same red and yellow Arthur once used with his fight in Van Horn. “So, he’s got dead eye too,” Arthur mumbled watching the men fall quicker than they can react. “Supposed I shouldn't be surprised. John’s always been a pretty good shot.”

John jumps the log again, and pulls Jack into a hug who’s sounding even more panicked than before. “It’s okay, it’s okay.”

“Poor Jack,” Molly whispered saddened that the boy even had to hear the shooting. The rest weren’t sure what to say as John guides Jack back to the wagon, and tells him not to look. Naturally, Jack looks at the dead and begins to panic.

John takes the reins and snaps hard pushing the horses forward down the road. “I told you not to look, boy.”

“Are they… dead?”

“I didn’t have much of a choice. You saw that. Now compose yourself.”

“You killed them, Pa.” There’s terror in Jack’s voice, and all the dead wish he hadn’t been forced to even hear the shots.

“Son, I need you to hold it together,” John instructs as everyone watching Jack begin to hyperventilate. “You were real brave back there. Real brave. Did exactly what I said.”

“Really?”

“Yep. If you hadn’t listened things could have gone real wrong for us.” Jack whimpers and John tries to soothe him and distract him by talking about the family getting a ranch. They’re not sure sure if it’s working, but John’s trying. And it’s not long before they come back to the house, Abigail opening the door to greet them, but Jack pushes pass her a soft sob following him.

“What happened?”

“Ah... it’s… I don’t… We got shot at.”

“Shot at? What happened?”

“Well, we got followed, and then we…”

“Followed by who?”

“Probably someone who knew me. We didn’t get to them particulars, I’m sorry.”

“My son. Our son. I…” Abigail pauses before spinning on her heel, and stomping back inside.

“Was your dress that caused all the problem!” John spat after her.

“Weren’t even a dress… it was a gift for you,” She revealed before shutting the door leaving John in the rain.

“Jesus Christ,” Arthur bemoaned. Other shook their heads as the picture flicked to John placing down a sack followed by Arthur’s voice. They all jumped hearing his voice.

“Look, just do one thing or another, not be two people at once. That’s all I’m saying.”

Smiling ruefully, Arthur answered the unspoken question, “When we were riding out to rustle sheep before that massacre in Valentine, I said that to him. I wonder if he’ll listen to it. Certainly thinking about it.”

“We can hope,” Hosea agreed softly watching John complete more of his chores.

“Hope is all we can do,” Karen finally spoke. “Poor Jack, I hope he’ll be okay.”

“Me too. Me too.”

Chapter Text

A few days later, and they heard Mister Geddes call out to John. “Mister Geddes?” John questioned softly joining him and his wife in front of a barn.

“Hey, I heard we had another incident with the Laramie boys?”

“Yeah, there was an incident.”

“Well, they mean to scare me.”

“And are you scared?”

“A little,” Geddes confused as they began to walk. “I’ve got a lot invested in this place, and-and not just the land, but, but my family. It’s, uh, it’s hard to explain.”

“I understand. I’ll do my best to keep you safe, sir.”

“I know you will. So, how’s your family?”

“Just fine. I should probably head back.” Geddes laughs.

“I know how it is,” The ranch owner agrees watching John head towards the cabin.

“How’d you get on?” Abigail questions when John walks in. The dead’s gaze hover over Jack wondering how he’s doing since the incident on the road.

“Okay I guess,” John replied taking a seat while Abigail places plated in front of them.

“Better?”

“Sure, I’m just tired.”

“I know.” Silence takes root as the family eats in silence for awhile. Or, it does until John blurts out he misses Mister Pearson making Abigail laugh and call him a pig. The couple break out into laughter, and for now it seems the two have reached peace even for a little bit.

“I wonder how Mister Pearson is doing,” Susan wondered.

Day turns to night, and Abigail heards everyone to bed. And for a little bit, the family, and the ranch, sleep peacefully until a gunshot breaks the night’s silence. John bolts from the bed. “The hell was that?”

“What are… what are you doing?” Abigail sleepy questions as John starts putting on his boots.

“My job, Abigail.” He moves to the door while glancing back at Abigail. “Lock this door behind me, don’t open it unless you know it’s me.” With that said, the dead watch John sprint out of the door, and towards the gunfire. It’s chaos, and they can see several fires as John sprints pass a horse and rider. Another farmhand runs up to him.

“Jim, you got to do something. Two of them. By the stalls. They got Tom.” The man quickly runs somewhere else while John intervenes to save Mister Dickens. It’s a quick bloody fight as John downs the two men before helping Dickens up.

“They’ve killed Mister Tolbert,” Geddes announces coming up to the two, “and they’ve stolen my god damn cattle. You men okay?”

“Jim Milton saved my life, it’s Mister Abel.”

“Of course it’s Mister Abel. I can’t believe he thinks he can scare me out of here.”

“Then I guess we’re getting your cattle back, sir,” John says.

“I guess we are. Can you go too, Tom?”

“Of course, sir.”

Geddes points to John. “Alright, Jim, I know you can handle yourself…”

“A little…”

“Go get your guns and head out.”

“Guns?”

“Oh, don’t play coy with me, son, we need your help. I don’t care what you used to do, or what you... your name is.” Shared glances go around the campfire. Geddes may not know who John exactly is, but he knows John has experience in gun fights, and doesn’t care about John’s history. Although they wonder what he would think if he knew what gang John used to run with. “This is the land of second chances.” Bobbing his head, John says he understands before running to get the guns he’s kept hidden for so long.

“Land of seconds chances, eh?” Sean questioned. “I don’t think everyone would agree with that when it comes to outlaws like us.”

“No, I don’t think they would,” Lenny agreed. The watched John knock on the cabin door shouting for Abigail to let him in.

“What was it?”

“Mister Geddes’ cattle was taken.”

“God, I’m sorry to hear that.” They watch John pull a case from under the bed, making Abigail exclaim, “What’re you doing in that thing?”

“Mister Geddes’ been real good to us. We… I…” They watch John pull out another one of Arthur’s old guns.

“When did he get those?” Sean questions and the only thing Arthur can do is shrug.

“What are you doing?”

“My job, Abigail,” John sighs loading the cattleman revolver. “My goddamn job.” John bursts out of the cabin door moments later in pants, and guns hanging on his hip and back. And an oh so familiar hat on his head.

“Still has it,” Arthur murmured amazed. His chest feels tight, and he’s surprised by a tear running down his face. Hosea’s hand closes around his, and Arthur sends him a smile albeit slightly pained.

The three men take off the ranch where the Laramie boys stay. A plan is quickly made, and they watch John head straight in. Tensing, the dead watch him carefully, hoping, he won’t get himself killed. There may be only nine chairs, but there’s still nothing saying a tenth couldn’t be added. Quick conversation passes between John and the guards, and seconds after, John pulls out both revolvers firing quickly and accurately into the bodies of the men. It’s a massacre as John kills most of the men while his companions get one or two men.

And when the massacre ends, they hear someone calling out Jim Milton, and calling him a son of a bitch from the barn. Without much thought into, John heads inside before being jumped by the man. Another fistfight breaks out, but the rancher is nothing compared to John’s years living as an outlaw allowing the former outlaw to overpower the rancher quickly keeping him from the sawed off shotgun.

The man spits out curses and insults at Abigail, and the dead watch a ripple of complete rage cross over John’s face with each step closer. And the trigger of the gun pointed at the rancher is pulled moments later with any rage on John’s face disappearing. With a soft curse, John grabs Arthur’s hat and heads back out to his horse and to the ranch.

“He really didn’t like anyone insulting Abigail. Strange to see after all that time they spent arguing in camp,” Karen notes as John passes the fences marking the border of the ranch.

“Yeah,” Arthur agreed unable to respond with anything else. Time had changed John certainly. Not by much, but it had changed him.

Praises were hurled onto to John when he stops by the corral holding the now retrieved cattle. And it’s not long before Mister Geddes appears. “You… you saved my…”

“No need to say nothing, sir. Just doing my job.” John glances to where he came from. “Now, I don’t think they’ll come back tonight, but how about, Abe, just in case, you stay up. See anything or hear anything you fire that rifle three times. We’ll all come running.” Abe agrees, and John, Geddes, and Dickens heads towards their respective places of living.

“Well said, and thank you, Mister Milton. Truly.”

“Glad to be of service, sir.”

“I understand. You get some rest.”

“Thank you Mister Geddes,” John replied with a wave of his hand while heading back to Abigail. And when he walks in, she levels a glare at him. “What? What?” Abigail can only stare at him in anger, and the peace that had existed between the couple goes up in flame making several people groan. “What choice did I have?” John growled taking off his boots while Abigail rises from the chair with a sigh. “Just answer me that.” She says nothing crawling back into bed, and John says, “What was I supposed to do?” Jack glances at John before crawling back into bed leaving John huffing out an angry sigh with a shake of his head.

“I mean, he’s not wrong, but I know Abigail would rather he not go off and be some hero,” Lenny started after some silence. “And, Mister Geddes has been good to them even though their past is definitely shaded.”

“That he has,” Arthur rumbled in agreement scratching his chin.

“Hard rock, hard place,” Hosea whispered softly patting his son’s leg. “But I can’t help but feel glad John helped Mister Geddes out. He could have stayed low, but he, and you Lenny, are right, Mister Geddes has been good to them. Although, I wonder how much longer of this Abigail can take. Even she has her limits with John.”

“Yeah,” Arthur agrees watching John finally crawl into bed next to her. “What else is coming, I wonder.”

Chapter Text

The next day, John is brushing a horse when Abe calls to him. “Hey, Mister Jim? Mister Jim.”

“Abe.” The hand comes closer to the fence.

“There’s a telegram messenger for you over there, near the house,” Abe points out after climbing onto the fence.

“There is?” John questions stepping away from the horse, and heading towards Geddes’ house with Abe. A quick conversation ensures before Abe breaks off to return to his chores while John heads closer to the messenger.

“Wonder who it is,” Lenny voices hand on chin.

“Find out in a second,” Arthur responds watching John finally reach the messenger.

“‘Scuse me, mister… I’m Jim Milton. Heard you had a telegram for me.”

“Yes, here,” The man replies handing John a note and a book, “sign here.”

“Thank you.” John turns to read the telegram while the messenger rides of. “Jim, stop. If you’re the J.M I know, stop. It’s Sadie Alder,” The name has the dead glancing over at each other, questions burning in their minds, “I’ve got something to discuss, pay good, meet me in saloon in Valentine, I’m there most days, stop.” With a soft noise, John bobs his head with a murmur of Sadie’s name.

“Wonder how she’s been doing, and the others for that matter,” Arthur says as they watch John head into his cabin calling out Abigail’s name. Only the cabin is devoid of her and Jack when he enters. “Oh, god damn it, Marston,” Arthur groaned. No one else speaks, and John picks up a letter.

“Darling John, a kind lady in the village helped me write this. She had men problems of her, but that’s a different story. Listen, I’ve begged you, but it don’t seem to make much difference. I’ve tried everything I know to make you group up. And you know I love you, but loving you means I can’t watch you do this. Time after time we’ve had to run because of your behaviour and your decisions. We got a son. I got a son. And I love our son enough that I can’t have him around you while you’re like this. I had so many dreams, John. I hoped you would change. We all saw what happened to them that didn’t, but you… part of you is hell bent on ending up the same way. And I love you too much to watch that no more. Abigail.” They watch John sigh, set down the letter on bed that used to be Jack’s, and rub his face with his hands.

“Well, sounds like John hasn’t changed much,” Hosea observed, disapproval threaded through his tone.

“I’m going to kill him,” Arthur groaned from between his hands. “I’m going to absolutely kill him. I died saving him, and he keeps throwing away the opportunity I gave him, I’m going to figure out a way to go down there and haunt him for the rest of his life.” Hosea patted his son’s back with a slightly amused expression.

“I’m not sure that strange man will let you,” Sean commented.

“If I gotta beat him into the ground to be given the chance to haunt John’s sorry ass, I will,” Arthur huffed turning his gaze back to the fire where John has found a box under the bed. He opens it to reveal some clothing, Abigail’s present to him, before reboxing it just as Dickens comes back in.

“Where’s the wife, Milton?”

“Erm, she’s out.”

“I saw her leaving with the boy, and the bags. What’s going on?”

“You married, Mister Dickens?”

“No.”

“That don’t surprise me.”

“What she do, catch you with a show girl? Or hear about you shooting more fellers over by Strawberry?” John gets up with the letter in hand. “Just who are you, Jim Milton?” Dickens asks while John puts the letter in a cabinet.

“I’m a family man. I can handle a gun, sure. Them men shot at me.” Dickens shakes his head.

“Just interested, that’s all.”

“Ain’t nothing interesting unless you find gossip about a man’s marriage worthy of your time.”

“Guess not.” Dickens moves to head out of the cabin. “There’s work to be done unless you’re running off, too.”

“I ain’t going nowhere. I’m here to work. Gotta save money, and get her what she wants.”

“What does she want?”

“She wants a place of her own, said she found a plot up at Beecher’s Hope.”

“You? A rancher?” Laughing, Dickens shakes his head a bit. “You’ll starve.”

“Probably,” John agrees with his own laugh.

“Keep yourself busy, take your mind off it,” Dickson says before heading off, and leaving John to resume his chores.

“So,” Sean begins, the flames flickering with different pictures of John doing chores. “He’s just going to stay here and work? Not go see Sadie?”

“Maybe, it’s possible he will. Let’s keep watching,” Hosea replied sharing a glance with Arthur when the words ‘A few months later’ appear. The image swirls into John loading hay onto a wagon with Abe.

“Well, that’s her full,” He comments before moving away from John. And John goes to follow until Dickens calls out.

“Hey. I was wrong about you. You’ve turned into a fine worker, Jim Milton.”

“Ah, thank you. Means a lot. Hey, you think I could speak with Mister Geddes? See if maybe he’s open to offering me some guidance?” John asks.

“I’m sure he’d be happy to hear you speak at least.”

“Thank you, Mister Dickens,” comes John’s reply before marching up the house. Inhaling sharply, John knocks on the door, which opens to reveal one of Geddes’ sons. “Hey, son, how’s that bull?”

“Fine, Mister Milton.”

“Your father in? Could I have a word?”

“Sure… I’ll just get him. Pa!”

“Yeah, I’m right, right here.” Geddes steps out from his house gaze trained on John. “What the problem Milton?”

“I’m sorry for the disturbance, sir.”

“Oh, no problem.” Geddes waves him off. “My wife, she just began her morning discourse on the subject of my faults. An experience I think every man can relate too.” The pair start to walk around the porch.

John chuckles. “In some ways. My wife, my wife also has issues with some of the decisions I’ve made.” Arthur mutters something about that being an understatement, and several people laugh. “Real issues. Do you believe a man can change, sir?”

“Where is this heading?”

“I guess I don’t know.” John clears his throat. “I’ve tried to be a good hand. I’ve worked hard to secure your property.”

“And for that we are grateful.”

“And you’ve paid me well, besides. The thing is, I suppose, I need to get a place of my own, so I can prove to my wife I’ve changed.”

“I understand.”

“But I ain’t got much money. I ain’t asking to borrow none but maybe you could go to the bank and put in a good word so they can give me a loan?”

“So, he’s actually going to do it?” Arthur murmured brows furrowed.

“That will take a lifetime to pay off,” Strauss commented for the first time. “Bank loans can be harsh to a living that can change quickly with one accident such as a ranch.”

“Yes, but perhaps John will do it. Perhaps, he’ll be able to whether the storm,” Hosea replied sharing a glance between him, Arthur and Susan. “Let’s see what happens, and if he’ll meet with Sadie.”

“A loan, huh?”

“So I can buy that place, Beecher’s Hope?”

“Yes I know it.” Geddes pauses, looks at John, looks away, then looks again at him. “Yes of course, sure. It’d be, be my pleasure but take my advice, Milton, take your money, and go buy passage on a boat. Go to Brazil, and forget all about family. I’m just joking, son.” Geddes pats John on the arm. “Just make sure you deal with Ansel Atherton at the bank. He’s a distant cousin. Use my name, tell him to ask me direct himself. You’ll get what you need.”

“Thank you, sir,” John breathed.

“Yeah, I was young and dumb once too, you’ll get her back.” They watch Geddes head back into the house. Clapping his hands, John walks down the stairs, and towards the cabin he’s been staying. He brings out a chest holding clothing, and slowly takes it out.
The scene flickers again, and John is stepping out in his new clothes that Abigail bought him.

“Huh, he looks like a rough riding cowboy, alright,” Hosea commented.

“He does look pretty good like that,” Lenny agrees watching Susan wrinkle her nose a bit.

“I’m pretty sure I see a rip in there,” She mutters, eyes squinting at the image. Arthur and Hosea start laughing, both men shaking their heads as they do.

“Of course, you’d notice that, Susan,” Arthur grinned at her making her scoff.

“Well, I was cleaning up for you ruffians,” She teases Arthur, a grin on her face. They quieten watching the determined expression on John’s face after he places his hat on his head. It’s not long before he mounts his horse, and heads off.

“Wonder where he’s going first. The bank, or Valentine?” Karen asks. Their question is half answered watching John head down the roads leading to Valentine.

“Think we’ll see Sadie there?” Lenny asks. “It’d be nice to see what she’s been up to.”

“That it would,” Arthur agreed seeing John inching closer to Valentine. “We’ll find out soon.” And they do watching John tie his horse outside the saloon, and head inside. A hoarse female voice sounds out the gang recognize all too well. Sadie.

“I thought I told you to leave it, Bubba.” John pauses walking in, and they see Sadie leaning against the bar drinking. She’s geared to the brim, and they wonder exactly what she’s been doing.

“And I thought to myself ‘who this little girl think she tellin’ anything to’,” He spat back.

“Well, enjoy your drink peace,” Sadie spat. “I ain’t got no business with you right now.”

“What that mean?” The man’s voice is dark, yet no one worries too much. Sadie can handle herself.

“For the last time, leave me alone!” She growls, hand on knife. And they watch the man leave his hand on the counter.

“Or what?” He challenges. Sadie quickly unsheathes her knife and stabs the man’s palm on the counter. The man lets out a yell while Saide punches the other.

“Or that!” She yells.

“Jesus Christ!” Sean said. “Has she gotten worse over time?” Several people are staring at the flames unsure of what to say. John quickly walks forward and takes the knife from the man’s hand.

“Get the hell outta here before she kills us all,” John shouts at the retreating men. “Get out of here!”

Sadie takes one long look at John before her face lights up. “John Marston!” She greets him.

“It is good to see you,” John replies handing her back her knife. The two hug.

“I thought I heard a rumor you was alive. Jim Milton, is that you?”

“Guess I didn’t do a real good job of hiding my identity.”

“Now where’d you get that idea, John?” Arthur sarcastically mutters bring several smiles on people’s faces. “We didn’t hear nothing about you.”

“You… you kill a feller, up by Roanake?” The bartender casually pours a drink.

“Sure did.” John takes the drink offered to him.

“I thought that sounded like you and Abigail and Jack. She…”

“She’s fine,” John lies, and they wonder how long he can keep it up.

“She was always so kind to me.”

“I’m looking to buy us some property. Beecher’s Hope, west of Blackwater. I’m kind of a farmer now. And you?”

“Oh, you know how it is, bounties mostly, and some other stuff good and bad. Hey, you any interest in bounties?”

“Nah, I’ve gone straight sort of.”

“Well, it’s legal usually,” Sadie comments moving away from the bar, John following.

“Then… maybe.”

“Come on then.”

“What? Where we heading?”

“Strawberry,” Sadie answers mounting the horse tied next to John’s. “GUy on the run from New York good price for him.”

“What he do?”

“Rob a bank.”

“With a gun?”

Sadie laughs. “Nope, with a pen. He’s an accountant, I think.” The pair start to ride towards Strawberry.

“Your telegram. You said you had something to discuss. I didn’t think we’d be chasing down an outlaw.”

“There’s something else…”

“What?”

“Micah.” The name sends shivers down the dead’s back. Why was Sadie bringing up Micah?

“Micah?”

“I think so. I heard of someone who sounded like him... about a year back.”

“Okay.”

“We always said… if we found him.” John sighs, and the dead start to glance at each other worry coming off each other them. Is this why they were watching John? To see him and Sadie kill Micah for what he did? To get revenge?

“I know what we said we’d do. That ain’t changed.” If their hearts were still beating, they would have stopped hearing the words from John’s mouth. Arthur runs his hands down his face as the pair riders towards Strawberry, while both Susan and Hosea frown, their hands joining together concerned for one of their sons.

“Sadie… I mean… they won’t track him down won’t they?” Lenny asked eyes landing on Arthur and Hosea. “I mean, didn’t John hear that one saying Dutch liked, that revenge was a fool’s game.”

“He’s heard it,” Hosea confirmed watching the two finally ride into Strawberry on the hunt for a bank robber whose weapon was a pen. “Whether he’ll listen or not… well… somehow I get the feeling he won’t. He’s always been a brash man. Always.”

The dead fall silent to watch John and Sadie chase after the man. Arthur can feel his insides turning at the thought of John going after Micah. He thought John would start to truly change after Abigail had finally left him. It seemed he hadn’t if he was already entertaining the idea of going after Micah. And Arthur didn’t want John to go. He didn’t need his death, or the other’s deaths, avenged. But the low sinking feeling in his gut said otherwise. A hand reaches out for his, and he sees Hosea and Susan smiling softly at him. Squeezing his father’s hand back, he rests his head against Hosea’s shoulder watching his little brother with worry.

John and Sadie part after agreeing where to send the money, and that John will help her out with other bounties. But Micah’s name hovers around the dead, and no one is able to voice questions they want to ask. All they do is watch John head to the one place that started the gang’s downfall.

Blackwater.

Chapter Text

The dead weren’t sure if they were surprised or happy when John rode in Blackwater, and no one seemed to recognize him as one of Dutch’s Boys. Walking into the bank, John asked the teller where he could find Mister Artheron. The teller quickly instructs him down the hall where John finds said man working at a desk. Knocking on the door way, John waits for the man to notice him.

“Can I help you?”

“I hope so,” John replies stepping into the office and sitting in the empty chair. “I want a loan, sir. A line of credit... so I can buy some property.”

“What property?”

“An old ranch, Beecher’s Hope.” The banker laughs.

“That old dump?”

“I-I know it ain’t much but I ain’t much of a farmer either. But I will get there.” The banker gestures with his hand.

“That is a very unusual way of asking for a loan, Mister?”

“M… Martson.” There’s group wide groan from the group as the banker repeats John’s last name. “Only folk around here call me Milton, it’s kind of a joke I guess.” Another groan leaves Hosea’s chest, and he has to get up from the fire to move and stare into the empty vastness around the fire. No one dares move him.

“A joke, huh? Which folk?”

“Mister Geddes. I work for him. He said you could help me out I mean, if you can.”

“So old David Geddes told you I’m the kind of man to loan a man with two names money so he can buy a run-down farm on account of his lack of farming skills, huh?” The banker chuckled.

“Don’t sound too promising when you put it like that.”

“Of course it doesn’t, John,” Hosea bemoans from his spot away from the fire.

“Well how would you put it?” John sits silent for a few seconds.

“Sorry to waste your time, sir.”

John goes to sit up, but the banker speaks again. “Oh, sit down, I’m sure we can figure something out. Now of course, we’ll be expecting you to make regular payments, and given a lack of much evidence that you got any means of repaying the terms won’t be too great, but, if my cousin vouches for you, it’ll be okay with the bank.”

“Really?”

“Absolutely.”

Rising from the chair, John reaches out to shake the other man’s hand. “Thank you.” He sounds relieved, and so do they.

“Now of course we’ll be expecting our money back regular as clockwork until the debt’s settled. Otherwise the farm reverts to the bank no matter how much you paid.”

“Not a… bad deal,” Strauss muttered from his stool. “Not the worse John could get considering his lack of a history to the bank.”

“I understand.”

“Well, why don’t you go check out the land while I fix the contracts and talk to Mister Geddes. Oh, I heard there’s squatters up there. We’ve been having so many problems recently they’ll need clearing on.” Jon nods, and the banker tells him to come back when he’s done and they’ll fix up the paperwork.

As John heads out the bank, Lenny comments, “So, it looks like no one recongizes him, and he’ll be getting a ranch? Do you think he’ll still chase after Micah?”

“Who knows. I hope he doesn’t,” Hosea replies as the flame shows John riding to the ranch.

“He does, and I’m coming down there to kill him myself,” Arthur growled, placing his chin in his palm. Hosea places his hand against Arthur’s nape rubbing to soothe his older son. Arthur sends him a tight smile making Hosea shake his head.

When John arrives to the ‘ranch’, Strauss comments, “Calling that a run-down ranch seems insulting. I hope whatever rates John actually got will be worth it.” Several people nod in agreement while watching John chase of the squatters by giving them money.

“Oh, good, he’s keeping temper in check for once,” Susan says as John mounts on his horse, and ride back to Blackwater.

“Maybe he is changing after all,” Karen muttered from her spot. “But will it be enough to get Abigail and Jack back?”

“We’ll have to see,” Lenny replied watching John head back into the bank, and into Miser Artheron’s office where the man looks from writing.

“Ah, it’s you. The man with two names and no past, come on in. How’d you make out?”

“Well let’s just say there are no more squatters.” Sitting down in the chair, John watches the banker bring out paperwork.

“Okay, well, I got your paperwork ready. Now, you sure about buying this place? It’s really run down and the price isn’t too great.”

Exhaling, John adjusts him in the chair. “I think it would mean a lot for my wife, at least mean I was listening to her.”

“Okay. Well, sign here and here.” The banker points with the pen before handing it over allowing John to sign it with his name. Once finished, the banker takes both copies and starts signing and stamping the papers. John watches the man work. And with a sigh, the banker holds up a copy. “Now we own you, Mister Marston and we own Mister Milton too, and we own your property. But you can buy your freedom each week, eventually you will be a homeowner.” Atheron hands John the paper.

“I understand.”

“Congratulations, you are now a real American indebted and owned by the bank.” Several people muttered something that sounded like, ‘Ain’t that the truth?’ John stands with the paper in his hands as Atheron continues, “I’m joking, they own me but they just own your property. Now, you can also use this line of credit for any home improvements you need to make of course?”

John looks up. “I can?”

“Sure, be good Mister Marston. Welcome to home ownership, it’s a beautiful thing.” As John walks out of the office, they hear Atheron call out to let Abigail to complain about. John glances at him before heading out into the street, letting out a breathe, and walking straight into a voice no one expected to hear.

“Well, it is you.” Uncle stands a few away from John much to the shock of the dead. How’d the man get to Blackwater? “Well, I never, I… I thought you was dead, boy. Dead!”

“Uncle?”

“The very same. Come here.” The two embrace before Uncle pulls away. “I saw you going into the bank and by the looks of things you ain’t robbed it.”

“I’ve gone straight.”

“Oh, bullcrap.”

“No, for real. Well, I’m trying…”

“All these years you ain’t changed a bit. Well, maybe a little bit. I thought you was dead.”

“Not yet.” Heading to his horse, John goes on, “Well I got some things to take care…” Uncle interrupts.

“Oh, not a problem, I’ll come too.” Loud groans are heard around the fire.

“Of course the camp rat is going to hitch up to John,” Arthur groaned covering his face with his hands. Around the fire, Susan and Hosea are rubbing their temples, Lenny looks as if he’s about to start drinking, Molly and Kieran are glancing back and forth between each other and the fire, Strauss looks ready to give up on life, and Karen and Sean have started drinking.

“Nah, you don’t have too.”

“I’m real sick, John. Lumbago.” Arthur removes himself and lays on the floor while muttering something about ‘lumbago and camp rats.’ Hosea simply pats his back. And when John lets Uncle come with him, Arthur lets out a noise that the group can’t describe.

They watch the two head out of Blackwater and to the ranch, John’s ranch. A conversation starts up between the two about where they’re going until they’re there, and John dismount with his arms out in front of the run-down shack. “What do you think?”

“Why exactly did you buy this dump?” Uncle questions on first look of John’s ‘home.’

“For Abigail.”

“Why? Is she an idiot? No. What were you thinking?”

“I don’t know. She said she wanted it.”

“She ever seen it? What are we going to farm here? Rocks?” Uncle questions picking up one.

“We?”

“You don’t have a hope here, without a wise hand at the tiller.”

“Enough of that,” John snaps gesturing with his arm. “Get out of here, on your way.”

“No, you’re stuck with me, seems I’m stuck with you.” Uncle tosses the rock into the air, and John catches it. “John, the rock farmer.”

“So, you think I’m an idiot?”

“No, I know you’re an idiot.” From his position on the floor, they can hear Arthur mutter something about him not believing he’s agreeing with Uncle on something. Patting his son’s back again, Hosea helps him back into his seat as they watch John move rocks over the next couple of hours.

“I think if I had to choose between being dead, and having Uncle live with me, I’d stay dead,” Lenny commented behind the hand covering his face.

“Hear, hear,” Susan replies rubbing her temples again.

“He’s got a point however,” Strauss says scratching the back of his neck. “If Abigail were to come and see the state of the farm as it is, I’m not sure if she would stay. After all, she still has Jack to consider.” Lenny simply groans into his hands.

Chapter Text

The next day, John walked into the cabin to see Uncle laying down sleeping. Not one person was surprised to see Uncle asleep. Susan muttered something about camp rats, and several people shared smiles amongst themselves. “Working hard?” John asked startling Uncle from his sleep.

“I-it’s the lumbago.” Arthur rolled his eyes and heaved a dramatic sigh. “If I over do it, I’ll get a relapse. It’s very serious.”

“Get up, or get out,” John hissed.

“Oh, you can be so testy. What is it, constipation?”

“Guess you’re my proof I’ll never quite outrun my sins.” John walks over to where Uncle lays.

“You got so sanctimonious in your old age, it’s no wonder she left you.” Uncle turns onto his side. “It’s like rooming the King James Bible.”

“Get up,” John repeats giving Uncle a sharp kick to the back. Arthur let out a cheer and raised his hands into the hair.

“That’s my little brother! Give the old man a good kick in the back.” Hosea shook his head from his seat while Susan, Karen, andMolly muffled their laughs, and Sean, Lenny, and Kieran smiled. Even Strauss’ lips were trying not to twitch into a smile Uncle got up with a cry and was driven out of the cabin when he suddenly exclaimed.

“Oh, shit! Well, We gotta go. We gotta go to Saint Denis. Charles! Charles Smith is alive, I reckon.” The name has several people leaning forward, hopefully. Charles is not with them, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t doing too well in the land of living.

“Charles Smith alive? Really?” John sounds as if he doesn’t quite believe Uncle.

“I-I reckon. Unless I dreamed it all, and by the sound of it not doing to good, neither.” The two headed off to catch a train to Saint Denis. John muttered something about not liking the place when he got off the train, and no one could blame him. Not after everything that happened. “Alright, let’s go find that big sour bastard.” John agrees and suggests they split up, and that’ll he take the saloons. And with that said, John heads towards the slums, and towards a saloon.

It’s not long before John gets the information he needs, and heads through the streets to where Charles is supposed to be. And where Uncle is, who playfully taunts John about his speed. John shoots back he was just beginning to enjoy the quiet. The two head into a small backyard. And when they turn another corner, the see one man speaking to a shirtless man, one that seems to have the same skin color and shape of Charles.

“He don’t know the half of it,” John says making the shirtless man turn around. It’s Charles and those who saw Charles help Arthur during his last days, smile. Arthur smiles widely seeing his friend is still alive.

“John?” Charles’ voice is confused as he gets one look at John. Then excitement and relief flows through his tone, “You’re… you’re…” He claps one hand on John’s shoulder, and the other shakes John’s hand.

“I’m alive… so are you.” John turns his head in the direction of Uncle. “So is he.”

“That’s Uncle?”

“What are you doing?”

“I don’t know… I’m alive.”

“Uncle thought maybe you was in some sort of trouble.”

“K-kind of,” Charles admits. “Just… I don’t know… I... I’m throwing fights for a few dollars.”

“Throwing fights?”

“Sure.”

“And you like that?”

“Of course not.”

“So…”

“So… let me go place a bet.” Charles heads to the book keeper, John following. There’s a brief conversation, before Charles and John both place bets on Charles. Money exchanged, John hovers on the edge of the crowd while Charles takes his place next to the other fighter. There's special introductions for both fighters, and the dead sit on the edge of their seats waiting for Charles to beat the shit out of the other man.
And kick his ass, Charles does. It takes a matter of minutes before Charles knocks the other fighter unconscious. Both the dead and John cheered equally for Charles, and were glad to see he wasn’t severely injured by the other fighter. John is quickly on Charles’ heels as they move to leave after Charles grbas his discarded shirt. The book keeper stops them to hand both men their money commenting that while he’s made the keeper’s night, several men will be unhappy.

“So,” John looks around as he leads Charles away. “You keen on saying around here, or heading off with me and Uncle?”

“But John, I haven’t seen you two in years.”

“I know, but right now, my sense is you just need to lie low.”

“Where?”

“We got a little place up past Blackwater in the high country.” Charles agrees but comments he needs to grab his luggage. He was going to go up river after the fight. Uncle breaks off to run errands, and John tells him to hurry up after agreeing to meet them at the bridge outside Saint Denis.

“So, what happened?” Charles asks softly.

“You mean, back then?” John sighs. “Arthur helped me get out, gave me a chance to… live, I guess. You-You know that Arthur…” John trailed off.

“Sure.” Charles’ voice turns softer again. “Word got to me up North. So I went back and buried him and Miss Grimshaw.” Arthur and Susan share a sad smile, but both are grateful to know they were properly buried. Hosea gives Arthur’s leg a squeeze, while the rest remained quiet, but pleased to know Charles didn’t leave their bodies to rot.

“I had to run… if any of us had been found we’d have…”

“Of course. I understand. He’s where we would have wanted to be, a pretty hillside facing the evening sun.” Arthur has to place his mouth in his hand, overcome with emotion knowing that Charles went that far to bury his body the way he wanted. Hosea’s hand squeezes his leg again.

“He gave me his satchel. With some of his things in it. Remember that journal he always drew in? I got it. I’m a bit of a draftsman myself nowadays.” Arthur let out a soft snort, but didn’t remove his hand.

“He was a good man as much as any of us could be.”

“Getting sick like that has to rattle a feller.”

“Rattle him, or give him some kind of understanding what he’s life was really all about.”

“Yeah that makes sense.”

“Anyways, I heard you were all dead, or I might have come looking.”

“And me the same about you.”

“Dutch?”

“Who knows? Dead, maybe. I’m not sure. I heard all kind of things, but one thing I know, he ain’t around here. I ain’t heard nothing real in years, since... well... that time.”

“Nor me. Micah?”

“I hope that bastard is dead. You know he was the one speaking to them agents,” John spat still clearly disgruntled from past events, and Micah’s role in them.

“What?”

“Putting them on us the whole time… or since before I got off Siska.”

“They picked up Struass. The agents. Made a real mess of him. Heard he died in custody. Never said a word.” To hear that Pinkertons had gotten him, and possibly tortured him until he died had Arthur looked up from his spot, eyes glinting with some regret of his actions of kicking out Strauss. The loaner never said how he’d died when he came to them. And as the two men shared a look, Strauss simply shook his head. A clear message that nothing could change what happened. Both men were dead now.

“I guess some folk is strong in ways you can’t see.”

“Everything that happened… all those deaths… Micah?”

“None of us is innocent in that… Dutch least of all.” They watched the two finally get the docks where a group of men in black suits were sitting by some railing. Charles mutters something bring John’s attention to him.

“Careful.”

“Why?”

“Those are Guido Martelli’s men.”

“Who?”

“He, err, used to work for Angelo Bronte.” Several people winced at Bronte’s name.

“I’ve only been here an hour.”

“Hey, come over here.”

“What now?” Charles questioned.

“Well, you go left, I go right on three. Three!” Both men skidded to the left and right respectively, bullets flying from their guns. Two men went down, blood from their chest. And on the docks of Saint Denis, John and Charles made a scene easily killing the men. Whistles sounded as Charles moved to get his luggage and get to a wagon nearby that John was already settling into the seat.

Swiftly, Charles put his luggage in the back, and grabbed a hold of the reins saying he would drive. With a snap of the reins, the horse surged forward as the pair looked around for police. Lucky, none came before Charles and John could leave the area. There was a brief talk about the Saint Denis police force, and how if they were put in an interrogation room, the two would never get out. Commenting that he didn’t want want into a shoot out, John followed up with hating Saint Denis, and reminding him that he hated the town if he ever wanted to go back. Charles told him that Martelli will happily remind him of that.

A massacre and a bounty later, John was finally ready to set up his new home. Lumber in wagons and on the ground were scattered about as John strolled up to Uncle, a page of paper in his hands. “Those plans make any sense?”

“Oh, sure. Seems easy enough, I think. How hard can it be?” The watch John grab the paper to look at it. “But I’ll tell you what I think, just to be safe.” Uncle picks up the toolbox and hands it to John. “I’ll do the reading and planning, and you’ll do the building.” Another round of groans came from the dead.

“I don’t know if I want to hug Uncle, or punch him,” Sean muttered as John and Uncle continued speaking, oblivious to the dead watching them.

“I know what you mean,” Lenny agree setting his chin on his hand. “He’s had several good points, and yet…” Raising his free hand, Lenny squeezed it as if he was going to choke someone. That someone being Uncle. Charles eventually joined the two.

“Least we haven’t been stuck with yet. I mean, think about all his comments if he was here with us,” Karen piped up making Lenny and Sean shiver. The flame flicked showing the two building the foundation. The image slowly moved forward while the position of Charles and John changed, and the foundation took shape.

“How about we don’t think of Uncle being here,” Lenny grumbled with Sean vigorously nodding. The rest of the dead couldn’t disagree with the two. Slowly, but surely, the image showed some of the instances of the house building. No one missed how Uncle would be sitting down, or even asleep on tables throughout the flickering.

“It’s like watching one of those moving picture shows in a theatre,” Molly breathed as they watch time to seem to jump forward, more and more of the house being built before them.

“It is, isn’t it?” Susan agreed. Hosea, Susan and Arthur shared a smile with each other when they saw more of the house’s frame being put up. “He’s really doing it, isn’t he?”

“Yes, he’s doing what… Dutch...” Hosea breathed, and everyone pretended to ignore how his voice seemed to crack a little, “promised what we were going to do.”

“Yeah,” Arthur agreed sadly, a part of him wishing he could make his father happier. However, one final bang of John’s hammer brought them back to the fire.

Standing, John took a quick glance around him. “And I think that’s everything,” he announced.

“John Marston, you have a home,” Uncle grinned coming closer.

“So do you.”

“I know.”

“And you, Charles. As long as you’ll stay with us.”

“Thank you.”

Grabbing a beer, Uncle raised it. “Gentlemen, to this happy home!” He passed the beer over to John who took a swig. “At least till this fool gets his woman back.” A little while later, they watched John sit down and begin a letter to send to Abigail. A letter of hope she’ll be willing to come back.

Chapter Text

After watching another bounty, and Uncle almost joining them, something they were half-glad didn’t happen, Abigail and Jack returned to Beecher’s Hope, to John. And the household was peaceful, however the dead expected John hadn’t told Abigail about the Micah situation. But something told them it would come to a head eventually, and now they watched John stroll up to Jack, reading under a tree.

“How you getting on, son?”

“Uh, fine sir.”

“What’re you doing?”

“Reading.” Jack waves his hand. “And playing with the dog.”

“Wanna go fishing, or something?”

“Not particularly. I don’t really like fishing.”

“You do like eating though, right? ‘Cause we gotta find some food,” John states moving off to grab a bucket and rod leaning against the wall. They see Jack sigh. “Come on,” John says handing Jack the bucket. “Let’s head this way to the stream.”

“Okay, sir.”

“Why you gotta be like that?” Hosea rubs his temples hearing the tone in John’s voice. It’s Arthur’s turn to pat his father’s leg instead of Hosea patting his.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

“Do you wish I was more like you?” The question has the dead shaking their heads. They loved John, but hoped Jack wouldn’t turn out like him.

“Like me? No. But… let’s keep going.” Jack shyly asks if Rufus can come, and John agrees after a pause. Jack comments on whether they’ll actually catch any fish, and John starts to say yes, before changing and saying he’s not very good at talking with Jack. The conversation continues up to the river. “This is a real good fishing spot.”

“Folk always say that, then hours later, they’ve caught nothing.”

“Ain’t you just the leading authority on everything,” John comments handing Jack a rod.

“Well, ain’t it so?”

“Well, maybe. In this case, it’s true. I hear there’s some real big fish in here.” John takes his fishing rod out. “Big old steelheads. Hard to catch, but good eating.”

“Hard to catch… get your excuses in early.”

“That dog of yours know he’s owned by a complaining, know it all? Come on, son…”

“I’m sorry.”

“No you ain’t. It’s alright, come one, let’s fish.” Flinging out their baits, father and son sit awhile in silence before Jack says something that fills their hearts with longing.

“Grandpa Hosea, he was the fisherman, wasn’t he?” Hosea’s expression softens watching Jack. What he would give to have watched Jack grow up. Susan and Arthur place their hands on his, and he smiles at both of them.

“That’s right.” John’s voice is softer.

“I remember Uncle Arthur taking me, though.” It’s Arthur’s turn to smile a little. And it makes the dead wonder how much Jack remembers of them.

“Arthur taught you how to fish, did he?”

“Huh, I suppose he did.”

“That’s nice,” John states almost wistfully.

The peace that descends is quickly broken by Jack’s exclamation he’s caught a bite. John tells him to reel in. And after some struggle, Jack reels in a small fish. Laughing, Jack drops the fish into the bucket while John asks him how he feels. The young teen isn’t sure, but he thanks John, calling him dad. Playfully, John comments he told Jack it was a good fishing spot.

“You did. Hey, my trip with Arthur, I remember now.” Arthur straightens a bit. “I picked some flowers, and a couple of men showed up… dressed like they were from the city.” Sighing into his hands, Arthur mutters something like he was hoping Jack wouldn’t remember those two.

“No one like that’s going to show up here, thank the Lord.” They hoped no one would too, but if John went after Micah, and the Pinkertons still had him as an agent, then it was very possible John would lead them right to him.

“Where’s Rufus?”

“I don’t know. Relax, he’s a dog.”

Looking away from the river, Jack asks, “Where is he though?”

“I don’t know.”

“I’mma go find him.” They watch Jack set down his rod. “Rufus, come on boy!”

“I hope he doesn’t lose Rufus,” Arthur murmurs. “I’m pretty sure that bastard Micah killed Cain. Heard him bragging about getting rid of Cain.”

“That bastard,” Sean hissed watching John and Jack search for the dog. At one point the two split up to search. Jack goes to the right, and John to the left. However the cry of ‘Snake!’ brings John running to Jack, and to Rufus laying by a tree. The dead hope John can suck out the poison in Rufus’s leg.

“Calm down, boy,” John soothes petting Rufus. He turns to Jack. “And, Jack, you calm down too.” Leaning down, John beings to suck out the poison before spitting it out. When he finishes, Jack grabs his arm saying Rufus is going to die. John calms him by telling him they need to get him somewhere warm and calm, before telling Jack to get the fish and fishing rods while heading back to the ranch.

“Abigail, can I get a hand?” John calls heading to living room.

“W-what’s going on?”

“Dog got bitten by a snake. Let’s look after him... and the boy.” Pushing the table away with his foot, John goes on, “Grab his rug.” Jack comes barreling in seconds later.

“Is he gonna be okay?”

“Jack, the dog is gonna be just fine.”

“We never should have gone fishing!” Jack exclaimed.

“Sometimes,” John starts, before stopping, then starting again, “sometimes, you just don’t know how things are gonna turn out, but, but the dog…” John is struggling to find the right words for Jack, trying to be the father he is. Something that brings smiles to the dead.

“The dog’s gonna be fine,” Abigail says softly trying to soothe their boy.

“It’s okay, son,” John tries to soothe as well. Placing his hand on Jack’s back as the boy cries into his hand, he presses Jack against him while the family, and the dead, waits. Hoping Rufus will be just fine, and that Jack won’t lose another dog.

Chapter Text

Rufus is going to be okay, thankfully. Uncle on the other hand, they’re not so sure about it. They can hear him and Abigail arguing as John walks into his home. And when John enters, Abigail is sweeping the floor as Uncle, in his usual sense of self, is sitting by the fire and drinking. John slowly inches forward wary of what might happen.

“I got lumbago!” Uncle said pointing at himself. Abigail raised the broom at him forcing Uncle from his chair, and making several of the dead laugh, especially Susan who muttered something about teaching her well.

“You’ll have more than that in a minute!” She hissed.

“John!” Uncle pleaded looking at John. “Tell her about my health.”

“Do as the lady says.”

“I worked my fingers to the bone building this place, Abigail Roberts!”

“Bullshit!” Arthur, Sean, Lenny, and Karen said at the same time.

“Marston! Abigail Marston! Miss Marston to you!” Abigail hissed leaving the room to Uncle’s mocking tone, and John at his heels. “Why you let him stay?” Abigail asked when John joined her outside.

“He’s actually been pretty useful in a useless sort of way.” Abigail shakes her head before looking up at the sound of a wagon.

“Who’s that?”

“No idea.”

“Friend or foe?”

“We’ll soon find out.” The wagon passes the two to show them a young man and a young boy. “It’s the Geddes’ boys.” And the boys have a wagon full of furniture. The two jump off the wagon and shake John’s hands while saying their ma had found some old furniture in the attic. And their pa thought the Marstons might need it. Abigail thanks them as they set the furniture to the side. And when they’re finished, the two set off back to their father’s ranch. John comments they still need more.

“That was sweet of the Geddes,” Susan says with a smile on her face, and the others nod in agreement.

“How about we take a ride into town? It’s been ages since we spent any time together.”

“It has. Let’s go get the wagon.”

“Okay, let’s go. I feel like we ain’t done nothing together like this since… since...”

“Since forever?”

“Maybe not forever, but a long time.”

“We ain’t had the time, you know. We’ve both been working… hard.” John climbs up the wagon.

“And now we have something to show for it.” They watch John hold his hand out for Abigail. They all lean forward knowing this isn’t something John normally does. “May I help, my lady?”

“Oh John,” Abigail giggles as she takes John’s hand. There’s a soft laugh from John as he snapped the reins to drive them to Blackwater. The two chat about what they need from town, and John suggests they buy it form the catalogue, and have some fun like decent folk do. Abigail comments about needing to be back home by dinner, which John responds that Jack, Charles and uncle can take care of themselves. And if they starve, maybe they’ll get lucky and Jack and Charles will eat Uncle. Abigail and the dead laugh, and she comments not to get her hopes up. They stop the wagon by the photographer.

“Let me help you down.”

“Why you being so courteous?”

“I don’t know,” John comments while helping her down. Abigail stares at John with a questioning look as John gestures for her to walk ahead of him.

“Imma head to the drapers for a minute. Won’t take long, but I need to get some materials. You wanna come with me, or wait here?”

“And after that we can go get our photo taken?”

“Yeah, after that we can get our photo taken.” Abigail walks off while John waits. A woman walks by, but John pays her no attention as he pulls out a photo from his satchel. And the photo he holds, plus a ring, has Arthur making a choked noise while Susan and Hosea look at each other, before both place a hand on Arthur’s back. The others are confused by the emotion on Arthur’s face.

“Me and Mary. I thought I was gonna marry her one day. That’s a photo we took, and the ring I gave her,” Arthur said before swallowing back the emotion he felt. “Is he gonna…” Arthur gazed up at Hosea, a torrent of emotions on his face.

“I think so, son. I think so.”

“Alright, let’s get that picture taken if it means that much to you.”

“It does,” John breathes. “Today it does.” As they walk to the studio, Abigail comments that this isn’t like John. he responds back that maybe he’s a changed man, but he’s not sure.

Entering the studio, the couple speak to the photographer. He shows them one of the backgrounds they can choose from, and there’s more. He gestures for them to go through them all. Both Abigail and John do until they settle on one they like, before settling into a pose they like. Afterwards while the photographer develops the photo, Abigail relentlessly teases John for posing, and John shakes his head with a smile. Comments that she’s not being very nice to him, amusement coloring his tone. She replies that she’s being nicer than he deserves which John agrees.

Eventually, the man comes out with their photo showing them how it came out. John and Abigail are pleased, and she even teases him a little more. John tells her to be quiet with a smile before asking for the man’s fee. Five dollars are handed over, and the two part from the studio laughing all the way.

When they come out, John asks what they should do now, and Abigail admits that she’s never been to a moving picture show before. John gestures to the theatre with a wave of his hand, a comment for the both of them to go in. He holds the door open for her furthering the dead’s suspicions that John will propose to Abigail. And they hope his does.

Paying for two tickets, John leads Abigail into the theatre where they sit down to watch a show. As the show goes on, John and Abigail comment on the pictures they’re watching. A couple of times they’re sushed, but they ignore the shusher. And when the show ends, they two head out.

“Alright, we better get home.”

“Aw, we never get out… the farm will be fine.”

“The farm, I love hearing that.”

He leads her towards Flat Iron Lake. “Let’s go down the lake for a minute.”

“The lake?”

“Sure.”

“Why? You finally gonna drown yourself?”

John chuckles. “In a manner of speaking, I guess, I am. Happily so.”

“He’s going to do it!” Sean spoke up leaning forward.

“Finally,” Arthur groaned, although he had several emotions brimming to the surface. He shared smiles with everyone.

“You’re acting real strange…”

“No, I’m not, come on.”

“You’re a silly man, John Marston.”

“What about Jim Milton?”

“Oh, he’s even worse.” John climbs into a boat that’s sitting on the lake.

“Let me help you in.”

“Like I said, mighty strange.”

“I like to row.”

“Since when? You can hardly swim.”

“I don’t plan on capsizing.”

“I wonder whose boat this is?”

“It don’t matter. We’ll have it back.”

“I hope they don’t think we’re…”

“They won’t think anything. They’ll think we borrowing.”

“I hope it don’t got leaks or nothing.”

“She’s seaworthy, okay?” John laughs. “Relax, look around. Here’s good,” he says slowing the boat to a stop. “Ain’t it pretty?”

Abigail looks around. “If you’re asking something, ask it.”

“Will you…” John starts before sliding off the bench to kneel before Abigail. Excitement courses through the dead. John takes her hands with an exhale. “Will you marry me?” Sean lets out a quick whoop before Susan’s glare shuts him down.

“Get up, I am married to you.”

“No, I mean, proper in front of God.”

“You serious?” John pulls out the ring, and Arthur lets out a soft choked sound. John’s going to give it Abigail, where Arthur knows it’ll stay, and Arthur feels several emotions bubbled up his chest. He feels Susan’s and Hosea’s hand on him.

“I got this ring. I’ve had it for a long time. Take it.” John slips the ring onto Abigail’s finger. Abigail glances down at the ring.

“You serious?” Her voice wavers between nervousness and excitement.

“It would make me very happy if you would…”

“We’ve lived a lot of lives.”

“Let’s just live this one from now on. You and me, Jack, a family, by law.”

“John, I never… I didn’t know it mattered to you.”

“It didn’t,” John admits. “But now it does.” John gets up to sit next to her. “If you think this is dumb, I’m… I’m sorry.” Abigail laughs holding John’s arm.

“Shut you silly man, and kiss me!” The dead let up a cheer as the couple kiss.

“That’s my brother!” Arthur cheered, a tear slipping down his cheek. He turned to Hosea. “He finally did it, Pa. He finally did it.”

“That he did,” Hosea agreed before wrapping his arm Arthur’s shoulder as the two watch John with pride, and hoping John doesn’t screw it up.

Chapter Text

After finishing some of his early evening chores, John walks into the house for a quick break. Inside, Jack was reading to Abigail and Uncle, and once finished, they heard Uncle speak. “I love it, I truly love it.” John takes his place next to where Abigail is sitting. “Abigail, dear, what’s for dinner?”

Abigail laughs. “What’s for dinner? Away with you, you no good parasite, you cook!”

“Actually, that’s not a bad idea,” John comments making Uncle laugh. But before the conversation continues, Charles’s voice shouts out.

“John, come out here!” John moves away, and they see Abigail look extremely concerned before following him outside.

“Hey, John. Abigail,” Sadie greets dismounting.

“Sadie.”

“Charles,” Sadie also greets him as she walks up to the porch. She looks extremely proud of herself, and the next words that come out of her mouth send cold shivers down the dead’s spines. “I found him, I found Micah.”

“No,” Abigail says.

“I got a lead. One of his boys wanted for murdering a woman been seen drinking in Strawberry. If we can get to him, he’ll lead us to Micah, but I gotta go now, you coming?”

“Don’t. Don’t you dare, John,” Arthur growled from his spot. “Don’t chase after that bastard!” Hosea lays his hand on Arthur’s. He, too, hopes John won’t chase after Micah.

“No, he’s not coming.”

“I will,” Charles says from his spot next to Sadie.

“That’s your business. His business is here.” Several of the dead hope John will not follow, that he’ll stay at the ranch he’s built. But his words dash all hopes.

“Yeah,” he breathed. “I’ll ride with you.” John walks back into the house with Abigail on his tail. They watch John gather his weapons as Abigail chases him inside. She’s begging him to stay, but John insists he has to do it. That the farm wouldn’t exist it weren’t for Arthur, and all those who fell. His words have many of the dead shaking their heads, and Arthur’s body hums with rage, just barely soothed by Hosea sitting beside him.

“Let’s go kill this son of a bitch then,” John announces after leaving a sobbing Abigail behind. The three ride towards Strawberry talking about which man they’re going to find. And how the one they’ll find will talk. Sadie says they owe this to Arthur, but Charles wonders if Arthur cared about revenge, especially at the end. Sadie retorts that he cared about stopping Micah, and that’s what they were doing. And yes, they were stopping Micah in a way, but the dead, and especially Arthur, knew it also revenge motivated as well. The conversation drops into other matters as they ride to Strawberry.

Once at Strawberry, they leave their horses by the bridge and fan out to search for Cleet. Which doesn’t take too long. John finds him in a matter of seconds leaving the post office. Cleet sees him, and high tails it. “Stop that man! He’s wanted for murder!” John shouts giving chase. The chase lasts two minutes at best before Sadie tackles him into the ground. She punches him once.

“Hello, Cleet, remember us?” Sadie asks standing up. John walks over, and Sadie asks if he wants a turn.

“Hey, hey, hey. We’re old buddies, ain’t we?”

“Sure, Sadie. With pleasure.” With a swift quick to the face, John questions him, “Now, where’s Micah?” Cleet swears he hasn’t seen Micah, but none of the trio believes as John pummels him to the ground. A small crowd watches. And eventually Sadie grows bored and tells John to drag him to the gallows.

“Dear God,” Lenny spoke watching John herd Cleet to the gallows. “Are they really going to do this so publicly?”

“So it would seem,” Hosea replied, tone short. He’s angry, along with Arthur, that John would do this, and risk everything he’s worked so hard for. Sadie pushes him in the middle allowing John to wrap a noose around his neck.

“Let’s try this again,” John hissed walking to lever. “Where’s Micah?” Cleet pleads for his life, but that only serves for John to slowly pull the lever instead. After some more begging, Cleet finally breaks.

“H-he’s up in the mountains. I think, he… he’s up at Mount Hagen.” John’s hand leaves the lever. “He’s got a whole gang now. Bad men doing bad things. I-I tried to stop him from murdering that little girl. We fell out. Honest... Please… I’m… I’m one of the good guys.”

Sadie sighs. “Hang him.” But John can’t do it, and the dead let out a group sigh of relief. However, Sadie doesn’t agree, and simply shoots Cleet in the face. “Piece of shit. Let’s move on.” They drop from the platform. “Come on. The little rat said Mount Hagen.” Arthur shoves his face into Hosea’s shoulder.

“I’m going to kill him, Pa.” The living ride to Mount Hagen with the dead helpless to watch. Several feel as if it’s a stupid mistake they’re making. They can only hope it’s not. And as the flames flickered with the images of the three riding and camping, they heard Charles speak as the trio ride, John with Arthur’s hat on his head.

“We all ready? This pass will take us up onto the high mountains.”

“Led the way!”

“There’s an old watchtower up there they might be using for a camp.” The group rides up, and a single gun shot stops them as Charles slips from his horse. The dead hold their breath hoping Charles will not join them.

“There must be a sniper! Get in cover, quick!”

“You alive, Charles?” John asks slipping from his saddle.

“Just about.”

“John, be careful!” Sadie and John move form cover to cover dodging the sniper’s bullets as best as they can. And as they grow closer, John can finally take the shot. The sniper’s body falls from the rock seconds later. “You got him. Okay. Let’s go back to Charles.” The pair run back down to check on Charles who tells them go on without him. He’ll be okay, but Micah’s gang knows they’re here. He tells them to go before they all come down that mountain and kill them.

Reluctantly, John and Sadie leave bounding up the mountain. Several of Micah’s men fall to their guns.

“Damn, it’s like he’s got an army,” Sean breathed watching the two head up further into the mountain.

“How’d he get so many people to follow him?” Lenny questioned next to Sean.

“I don’t know,” Hosea admits. “Guess people were drawn to his violence.” As the two move around a corner, Sadie is jump from above by one of Micah’s men. John moves to shoot the guy, but someone else jumps on him as well. The distraction gives the first guy enough time stab Sadie in the stomach. A tenseness settles around the dead only broken by the sight of Charles shooting the first. John beats the other to either unconsciousness or to death. Helping Sadie up, John comments on how she doesn’t look to well. Sadie retorts she’s fine, but lets herself be led to a rock face to lean against. With a comment for Charles, John leaves them just as another group shows up led by the other man of Micah’s.

“Look who it is, ain’t you got a habit of just showing up.”

“When I got something to take care of, sure.”

“Just you left, is it?”

“Yeah, just me. I was kinda hoping I could kill you.”

“Likewise.” But John is quicker, and Joe goes down seconds after he finishes. The two men next to him fall before they can shoot at John. Rushing forward, John fights several men while screaming for Micah to come out. Men after men fall to John’s bullets as he works his way through Micah’s camp. The path leads him to the tower Charles spoke about.

“Micah, if you’re here, come out.” John glances around when a voice they rather have not heard speaks.

“Hello, Scarface,” Micah greets, the tower’s door closing behind him. Micah raises his hands. “Did you miss me?”

“Not much.”

“Been a few years.” They nervously watch John step closer, and Micah follow him from the other side of the fire. Laughter follows Micah. “How’s that… whore of yours?”

“She’s good. Didn’t reckon I should waste my time killing ya, but I felt different.” John paces back to where he was.

“So, it seems. Well, maybe after all this is over I’ll go pay her a call, and the boy.” The words have the dead almost snarling.

“He better not touch her!” Susan snarled from her spot. “I’ll kill him from the dead!”

“Whatever you say.” The tension breaks with Micah drawing his guns and shooting at John. Somehow he manages to miss every shot which makes Arthur snort. Snide remarks and bullets are traded until Sadie pops up and holds her pistol at Micah.

“Come on out, Micah. At least die like a man.” Pausing, Micah glances at Sadie before laughing.

“Oh Hellfire, it’s just like old times.” Micah raises his hands while Sadie struggles to walk towards him. To their surprise, Micah follows her orders as she grows near.

“Just like old times, hm?” Micah mused, holstering his guns. “All manner of folk paying social calls.” The statement has the dead looking at each other. Who did Micah mean? Was there Pinkerton Agents with him? The silent question is answered when the door is kicked opened, and a voice they didn’t expect to hear calls out.

“Hello, son,” Dutch greets holding both his pistols at Sadie and John. “Missus Alder. Been quite a while.” A different kind of tension runs through the dead. None of them had been expecting to see Dutch, and no one knows what to say. Hosea and Arthur glance wide eyed at each other. They really hadn’t expected to see Dutch, and neither one of them knew what to say, or how to feel after everything Dutch had done. And the others shared similar expressions.

The distraction of Dutch appearing allows Micah to push Sadie to the ground. John takes a step forward, but pauses seeing Dutch’s gun aimed at him still. The situation has gotten worse, and no one knows what Dutch will do. “Now, John,” Micah addresses him with a gun pointed towards Sadie. “Now… what were you saying?”

With two guns pointed at him, John turns to Dutch. “What are you doing here, Dutch?”

“Same as you, I suppose.” The cryptic answer has the dead furrowing their brows and looking at each other in confusion. Was Dutch here to kill Micah for the same reason John was?

“Dutch and I are teaming up once more. We got money. We got dreams. Join us, John, join us.”

“Let her go.”

“Now I can’t do that, John.”

“Dutch… Dutch come on now!” John pleaded, although no one was sure it would be any use.

“You shot at me, son.”

“You started it.”

“You betrayed me.”

“I could say the same as you.”

“I was trying to do my best. You… you just cared for yourself.”

“I think differently.”

“Join us, join us John!” Micah tried from his spot.

“Let her go, she ain’t well!”

“I don’t want to kill you, John.” Sean snorted loudly, but said nothing.

“Arthur saved my life, more than once.” More confused looks shared. Why was John bringing up Arthur?

“Arthur’s been dead for a long time. This is a new century.” John turned to Dutch again.

“Dutch… Dutch… we all did our best for you… ain’t our fault things turned out the way they did.”

“He’s still pleading with Dutch?” Sean questioned glancing at Lenny who shrugged.

“Dutch… killing me won’t solve nothing!”

“Put down your gun, Marston!” Micah yelled.

“Say something, Dutch, say something!”

“I ain’t got too much to say no more…” Lowering his first gun, they watch Dutch shoot Micah in the stomach with the other. Micah stumbles back letting go of Sadie who falls to the floor. The image flickers to show Dutch putting his guns back into their hostlers. It’s an action that confuses the dead just as much it brings possible relief to them as well. Perhaps Dutch won’t kill Sadie or John.

“You shot me,” Micah grunted holding his hand to his stomach. “You shot me pretty good.” Raising his guns, Micah attempts to shoot both of them, only for John to fire at him first. Dropping his guns, Micah walks closer to the tower, while looking around before shrugging and falling to the ground dead. The dead relax, but only slightly. Dutch still stands there, the dead stay tense in fear of what he’ll do. The last time they saw him, he wasn’t in the best of states.

John turns to Dutch. “Thank you… I… I…” While John struggles with his words, Dutch simply walks past him with a hate filled glare on his face. But to the relief of the dead, Dutch doesn’t do anything, and only keeps walking. When Dutch has left, John turns to Sadie. “You okay?”

“Fine,” she gritted out.

“You’re crazy.”

“I hope so.” Sadie raises her hand. “Help me up.”

“Let’s go get Charles,” he says after helping her up. Sadie glances at the tower.

“There’s money… lots of money in the cabin. Blackwater.” Arthur lets out a loud groan.

“Don’t you take that money, John! I told you getting it will come with a noose around your neck.” But without Arthur there, John simply walks into the cabin and towards a large chest. Opening the chest reveals the money the gang once sought. But dread fills them seeing John’s reaction to it. The dread grows seeing him take it in a saddlebag before gathering Sadie. “You moron Marston,” Arthur growled letting his head fall into his palms. Hosea pats his back again, but says nothing.

The scene flickers on the fire to show the group arriving to Beecher’s Hope. Sadie and Charles are still alive despite the injuries the sustained. “Jack, Uncle, come out here!” Abigail cries upon seeing the group. John stops his horse in front of the hitching post.

“It’s over, Abigail,” he announces slipping from saddle. “It’s all over.” Abigail rushes towards him with a cry. Wrapping her arms around him, she gives John a long hug before moving to Sadie. Jack gives John a one armed hug, and they all move to the inside of the house. It’s the last scene they see before the flame dies.

“God,” Lenny breathed unable to say anything else.

“I wasn’t… I wasn’t expecting see old Dutch again,” Sean spoke after several minutes of silence. “He looked…” Sean stopped and waved his hand in the air unsure of what to say. Hosea gives Sean a tight lipped smile as his hand rubs the back of Arthur’s neck. Said man still has his head in his palms, and he’s not looking at anyone. Strauss seems as if he has a headache, while Molly and Susan are looking at Arthur in concern. And Kieran dares to voice what they fear.

“Do… do you think Micah was still working for the Pinkertons?”

“I hope not,” Karen replied. “But who knows. And I don’t think we’ll find out.”

The sound of a cane tapping the floor startles them. “Oh, you’ll find out.” The strange man stands before them again. “There is still more to this story, but more time needs to pass in the land of the living before you can see it.” Another tap, and the fire turns into a bar once more. “Enjoy. I will collect you when it is time.” And as quick as he appeared, the man disappears leaving the group in a state of worry.

Chapter Text

The fire roared to life when they were seated. A picture overlooking Beecher’s Hope from Blackwater swirled into the flames, and as they watched, the picture moved down accompanied by Abigail’s voice, “Alright, John Marston, since you bought this millstone around our necks, we better try and keep this place going.” The scene showed John and Abigail overlooking their corral.

“I paid our debts with that money I uhh…”

“I don’t wanna talk about that money. And no more of that…” John exhaled.

“It’s over, Abigail.”

“I’m sure. Then get to work, on this ranch you own and raising your boy.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Are you being sarcastic, John Marston?”

“Me?” John chuckled. “Never.”

“Good,” Abigail grinned walking down the hill.

“Anyway,” John started while following her down. “I thought you liked this place?” Abigail turned to him.

“No, John, I don’t like it… I love it. It’s home.”

“I’m glad.” He smiled at her as they walked before stopping in place. A sad expression came over his face, and Abigail paused when she noticed he wasn’t following her.

“John?” Abigail questioned walking closer. She placed a hand over his chest, which he grabbed with his. “Are you alright?”

“I… no,” he admitted with a glance towards the Grizzlies. “Something feels unfinished. I want… if you don’t mind… to visit all their graves. His grave. To say one final goodbye. Charles gave me the locations of everyone.” John ducked his head while a look of sorrow appeared on Abigail’s face. Sadness wrapped around the dead while Abigail seemed thoughtful after a few seconds.

“I see.” She glanced at the mountains, still thoughtful. “Well, let’s get you some provisions and clothing.” Taking his hand, Abigail led him to the house. With an expression of wonderment on his face, John let himself be led. “And… will… you give them my hellos as well?” Abigail spoke softly as they entered a door into their house. “I’d come with you, but someone’s gotta make Uncle doesn’t eat us out of house and home.”

“I heard that!” Uncle bellowed from the living room, which made everyone laugh.

“I can do that,” John agreed, heading into their room to gather clothes. And Abigail moved to gather some canned food from the kitchen. Rejoining in the hallway, and John ducked his head to press a kiss on her cheek. “Thank you, Abigail. Means a lot to me.”

“I know.”

“So, John’s gonna visit us, huh?” Sean said. “How many of us have graves I wonder?”

“Probably any of us that died in the area. So not Karen or Strauss,” Lenny replied watching as they packed John’s horse.

“Come back safe, John.”

“I will,” John promised before leaning forward to kiss Abigail once. “I’ll be back in a couple of weeks I’d imagine. Going to be a long trip. I’ll give everyone your hellos.” He glanced up at Jack. “Take care of your mom while I’m gone, and make sure Uncle does some work.”

“I will, Pa.”

“Good.” With one final look, John smiled before kicking his horse into a slow lope. His destination; their graves.

John rode in the frosty mountains of the Grizzles towards two graves of two members that had fallen, Jenny and Davey. And when he had arrived, Colter hadn't changed since they had camped there years ago. And as John’s mare slowed to a walk, John glanced around at the run-down buildings. He looked somber.

But he didn’t stop at Davey’s grave. Simply kicked his horse forward and headed to where Jenny’s was. They knew Tilly had mentioned that she had gone back up there to bury her. And they figured she must have told Charles or Charles had helped her dig it.

Jenny’s grave was nestled in some trees and near to the trail they had been on that cold night. John stilled his horse a few feet away and dismounted. With flowers in hand, he knelt before the grave and tucked them into the snow. “Hey, Jenny,” he spoke softly. “Wish I had been able to get to know you better, but it seems things didn’t turn out that way.” John paused and looked at the ground before standing. He wasn’t sure what else to say. With one final look, he stepped away and headed back down to Colter.

Davey’s grave stood amongst some of the residents that had long died before they had come seeking shelter. More flowers were placed, and John bowed his head. “Davey, you were a bastard, but we could always count on you. Wonder where you would have stood in the end. With Arthur and I, or Dutch and Micah?” Shaking his head, John stood. “Rest well, Davey, where ever you are.”

It was near Clemon’s Point where Sean rested. Hidden by trees, and overlooking Flat Iron Lake, Sean had to admit to himself it wasn’t a bad spot. He liked it even as John brought flowers to his grave. “Hey, Sean.” John grinned. “Been a while, buddy. Had a hell of a ride together, and in a lot of ways, I’ve missed you more than I thought. Wish you could have made it out, but perhaps it was for the best. I hope, and I guess in many ways wish, you would have stood by me and Arthur in the end. But who knows. Rest well, old friend.” John placed his hand against the cross before riding away.

“I would have sided with you and John, Arthur,” Sean said making Arthur smile.

“I know.”

In a meadow near Shady Belle stood Kieran’s grave. Simple, and inelegant, yet Kieran couldn’t blame them for it. He had hardly known the gang, and they had hardly known him, but he was happy for a grave site nonetheless. More flowers were placed by his grave. “Kieran,” John started, voice sounded a little raw. “Of all of the people who should have made it out… you should have. You were given a bad hand by life, and did the best you could with it. You shouldn’t have had to die the way you did. If anything you should be working on a ranch somewhere.” John glanced around the meadow. “I wonder who you have sided with, but I have feeling it would have been Arthur and me. Either way, in the end, you should have been able to get away. Rest well, Kieran. I hope you’re where you wanted to be.”

Kieran puffed out his chest slightly, and glanced at Arthur. He would have stood by Arthur in the end.

North of Saint Denis, and under the shade of a large tree stood both Lenny’s and Hosea’s graves. Buried together just like Abigail said they had been. Sharing a sad smile with Lenny, Hosea watched his living son walk to both, and kneel before Lenny’s first. Another set of flowers laid down. “Lenny, been a long time, buddy. A shame you didn’t get out of that bank robbery alive, but well, it didn’t go too well for the gang afterward. Dutch went crazy after Hosea died, and well, Arthur died sometime after too.” A bitter chuckle left his mouth. “You would have stood with us at the end. You didn’t believe completely into Dutch’s bullshit. You’d be proud of Jack though, he’s reading as much as you did. Rest well, Lenny.”

John knelt in front of Hosea’s, placing a flower down. “Pa… I… miss you, and I wish you were here. Could have used all the wisdom you seemed to have in the past few months, but it worked out in the end. And I finally understand what you meant all those years ago in Horseshoe. About how I have the chance to live for love and to be a man.” A smile slowly formed on Hosea’s face. “Well, it took her leaving me for a bit to figure it out, but I did, Pa. Got a ranch and everything. Married her proper, as you did with Bessie. And Jack, heh, Jack’s turned out to be quite the reader. Might want to be a writer when he grows up. We’ll see. But even still,” John placed a hand on the grave, “I miss you Pa. It hurt seeing you go the way you did. I wish you had been able to live with me, Abigail, and Jack at the ranch. You’d have a room for certain.” John’s hand trembled. “Would you have sided with us, Pa? Over Da-Dutch? You saw the writing on the wall before me and Arthur, and some of the others even.” A tear slipped down his face. “I miss you, Pa,” John choked out shoulders shaking, and Hosea found some tears down his face. He wiped them away and held on to the hand Arthur offered. “Rest… rest wonderfully, Pa. You deserve it.”

Before he could open his mouth, Arthur answered Hosea’s statement. “I know, Pa. I know.”

It was another long ride past Elysian Pool before John came across the next grave, Susan’s. Also nestled into trees, and looking over water, Susan’s grave had one noticeable difference to Sean’s. Her necklace hung from the cross swaying slightly in the wind. Placing a hand on the wood, John smiled sadly placing a flower before her grave. “Ma, it’s been a while. I miss ya a lot. I hope you’d be proud of me and Abigail. We’ve got a ranch now, and she’s the lady of the house. And Jack’s grown up to be quite the young boy. And we’ve got Uncle being the house rat instead of the camp rat now.” John let out a slightly choked sob. “We’re… we’re doing good. And I never… never got to thank you for standing with us, and not with Da-Dutch in the end. So thank you, Ma. Thank you so much for being there in the end when Pa couldn’t be. Rest well, Ma.” John bowed his head, and Susan smiled sadly at him. She placed a hand on Hosea’s leg and looked at him and Arthur. Both men smiled back.

Near Wapiti stood a long red cloth hanging off a lone stick in the ground. John placed a flower at this grave as he knelt beside. “Eagle Flies, Charles told me where you were buried. I wanted to thank you for saving Arthur’s life when you did even though you shouldn’t have been brought into Dutch’s crazy scheme.” John paused unsure of what else to say before standing. “Thank you again, Eagle Flies. Rest well, you deserved it.”

And when John rode, he went past the Wapiti lands to the east, across a bridge, and towards a mountain that Arthur had once ridden on with Rains Fall all those years ago. As he climbed the slope facing the bridge, another cross stood nestled by rocks, and orange and red flowers. It was a little more elaborate than the others. The dead had a feeling why. Charles said he had buried both Susan and Arthur, and he had known Arthur better than any of the other gang members. John stopped a few away staring at the cross with pain splattered across his face. “Hey brother,” John said leaving another flower with the others. They could see writing on the cross, but couldn’t make it out. “’Blessed are those who thirst and hunger for righteousness. Arthur Morgan.’,” John read aloud. “Heh.” He bobbed his head with a swallow. “You did want to make things right in the end, brother. You really did.” Looking out at the open sky and the land underneath it, John had to swallow the raw pain he was feeling. A part of him swore he could still hear Arthur’s wheezing breaths. “I got a ranch now, married Abigail with the ring you had, and, hah, did some pretty stupid things before that. She left me for a bit, but I was able to convince her to come back.”

Sitting down, he pulled out an old weathered journal, Arthur’s journal. “I read it. Read about what you had, and how you got it. Hell of thing, brother. Hell of a thing.” One of John’s hand fell against the ground form his lap and made idle circles in the sand. “I saw them. Da-Dutch and Micah again. Killed the rat bastard with the help of Dutch. Saved me and Sadie’s life when we was hunting him. He looked… Dutch… he looked old, Arthur. Real old, and tired. Like he didn’t care much about life anymore. Didn’t even have something to say after he shot Micah. Just started at me angrily, like he couldn’t let go of what happened. Like he still saw me at fault for something.”

With a sigh, John stared at the sky. “I don’t know… I just don’t.” His gaze turned back to Arthur’s grave. “But, thank you again, brother. For saving me, for giving me the chance to live, for standing beside me at the end when no one else may have. I’ve made some real stupid mistakes over the past few years, but I think I righted them all. Or I hope I have.” John opened the journal and started drawing while looking occasionally at Arthur’s grave. Eventually, he stopped, and over John’s shoulder, they could see a picture of Arthur’s grave. “Guess we’re just about done, my friend. It’s been quite a journey.” He placed the journal back into his satchel, before kneeling to rest his hand against the grave, and the saw tears now freely falling from John. “Rest well, my brother. Thank you for everything.”

With those final words, John mounted his house, gave one last look at Arthur’s grave before riding off, and the flames dying. The campfire swirled into a bar once more, and again, the strange man stood before them. “There’s another chapter in this story to be told, but years must pass once again in the land of the living. I will come back when it’s time.” He faded seconds later leaving the dead by themselves.

Chapter Text

Fire roaring to life brought the dead back to their seats. They didn’t know how long had pasted again in the land of the living, nor did they know who they were watching. It wasn’t until they saw a ferry near semi familiar building that they had a feeling about who they were watching. And when they saw an old scared face amongst those waiting to get off the ferry they knew it is was John.

He followed the crowd while a crane brought another machine off the ferry. They wondered what it was, and how many years had passed. But those thoughts were dashed after the sight showed John next to a face that was equally familiar. Edgar Ross.

“That’s…” Arthur started leaning forward. “That’s Ross. They ain’t killed him?”

“No, they haven’t. Yet,” Hosea replied also equally curious. And when they watched Ross push away the newspaper boy away, another name they knew was shouted.

“Read all about it, Bill Williamson’s gang…”

“Bill? Our Bill?” Lenny asked looking at everyone. However, their question couldn’t be answered as the scene flickered to John being walked through the streets of Blackwater. He looked older and slightly angry. But he didn’t lash out at the agents. Simply walked with them, even as Ross pushed him forward towards the Blackwater station.

John stopped and glanced at Ross before the man jerked his head towards the train. Without an angry shout, the former outlaw boarded the train only serving to add more questions to the dead’s already long list. With one last look at Ross, John entered the cab and the scene flickered to show the train moving.

It didn’t go into focus until they had a good look at John in the seats. He gazed out the windows while conversations about the Indians, that had several of them shaking their heads at, and about men, angels, and religion played out behind and before him. Then the conversation behind switched to politics and it seemed corruption hadn’t changed in the few words the dead could hear.

“Well, here we are, Missus Bush. Armadillo,” One of the older ladies announced. John leaned forward in his seat before getting off. He glanced around before heading through the station, and towards the saloon. His stride was purposeful, and so was his expression when he came in.

“Mister Marston!” Someone called out, and John glanced in the direction of the voice. They saw an older man waving John to him with a working lady beside him. “Mister Marston! Over here!” The man pushed away the woman when John came closer. “You must be John Marston.”

“Sometimes,” John replied sounding no different than he had when they had been alive.

“I’m Jake. Your friends from Blackwater hired me to guide you.” John friends with Edgar Ross? They doubted that.

“They ain’t my friends but pleased to meet you, Jake,” John replied.

“I got the horses saddle up and ready up front,” Jake said with a wave his hand. The pair walked outside where two horses were hitched to posts. Mounting, John followed Jake out of town to wherever John was headed.

“So, it’s Fort Mercer you wanna visit?” Jake started when the train had left the station allowing the two to ride again. Why was John heading to Fort Mercer?

“That’s right.”

“Ain’t taken nobody up to the Fort in a long time. Strange place for a decent fella to wanna visit, if you don’t mind me saying.”

“Who said I was decent fella?”

“It’s been abandoned for years now. Folks say it was built during the Mexican War. All kind of soldiers around back then.”

“Why’d they leave?”

“I ain’t entirely sure. I heard they had to go up North to fight Indians. Or maybe they got tired of being soldiers and went looking for gold, you know how things is. So what are you doing up at the Fort?”

“I’m looking for an old friend,” John announced making the dead glance at each other. Who was the old friend, and why was John looking for him? Why wasn’t he at his farm with Abigail and Jack? And what happened to them?

“Well, like I says, you ain’t gonna find many folk round these parts these days. And those you do find are ‘bout as sociable as an ulcerated back tooth,” Jake cackled. “I mean, I ain’t one to judge a man by the company he keeps, but…”

“Well, he ain’t been friends for a long time,” John cut Jake off, and the two rode in silence before Jake piped up again.

“Are you planning on spending any time in Armadillo, Mister Marston?”

“I doubt it. I ain’t planning on staying very long.”

“Well, if you’re fixing for some female company, you could do a lot worse than Armadillo. Fine as cream gravy, they are. Not like Thieves’ Landing. Dang, those girls ain’t fit for a drinking man to hole with.”

“I’m a married man, I’m afraid.” The dead shifted wondering, but no one voiced anything.

“Ain’t we all?” Jake cackled again as he led John up a hilly slope. “Yeah, so it was the Marshal who hired me. Leigh Johnson, do you know him?”

“I think I heard his name.”

“Says he got a telegram from some Blackwater big bugs asking for a guide. I guess it’s none of my business.”

“That’s right.”

“You ain’t very talkative, are ya?”

“No.”

“I’m just chewing the dog, mister. It’s how I am. I don’t mean nothing by it.”

“Trust me. There’s things you’re better off not knowing.” Arthur and Hosea glanced at each other while the two living passed by coyotes feasting.

“Not far now, Mister Marston. The Fort’s just over this hill.” The two stopped on the road overlooking the decaying fort. “Listen, mister. This here is what’s left of Fort Mercer. Some gang rode in and took the place over.” The hairs on the back of everyone’s neck stood up. They had a bad feeling about this, but they couldn’t stop John here no more than they could when he killed Micah with Sadie and Charles.

“So I understand.”

“This is where we part ways, friend. You have yourself a good time.” Laughter followed Jake as he rode off while John stayed. When the other man finally left the area, John rode forward and dismounted before the two pillars in front of the fort. Dismounting, he walked the rest of the way, and the heighten anxiety amongst the dead grew.

With a quick glance around, John shouted, “Bill! Bill, I’ve come for you!” The anxiety hovering only grew stronger with John’s statement. And even stronger with what he said next. “Bill Williamson. Come out here right now.”

“What is he doing?” Lenny asked knowing no one could answer him. Any chance of any one answering Lenny was dashed when they heard the next voice. A voice they hadn’t heard in years, Bill’s.

“Go away now, John. Don’t make me kill you.”

“No one needs to kill anyone, Bill.”

“You mus think I was born yesterday,” Bills pat coming from behind a pillar. “You always did think I was an idiot.”

“That ain’t fair, Bill. You were as my brother. I’ve come to try and save you.” The dead glanced around at each other. Why was John trying to save Bill? But Bill laughed at John as men appeared at the walls.

“Do I look like I need saving?”

“Bill, please. They want to kill us all. I can help you.”

“Well, you never tried to save me before. You only seemed to save yourself.”

“Bill, I implore you, think about this,” John tried again making Bill laugh again.

“You implore me? You implore me? You were always one for fancy words.” Finally the fire flickered fully onto Bill’s face giving the dead a chance to really look at Bill. And he certainly looked older and harder with the gray staining his hair. “Well, things are different now, John. Now, I’m in charge!” he yelled. “No more Dutch, no more Hosea, no more Arthur, and no more you. Implores. I, I implores you to go back and tell them to send someone just a little bit more impressive next time.”

John sighed. “Well,” he muttered reaching for his gun only to be shot. His body hit the ground with Bill’s accompanying laugh. Arthur put his head in his palms and let out a loud hiss prompting Hosea to rest his hand against his older son’s back. The others glanced at each other with worry. Had they just gathered just to see John’s death?

“Poor John,” Bill grinned before moving away. The scene flickered to show them John’s body laying further away from the door. Seconds later, it flickered again to show two people and a cart nearby. A woman checked John for breathing before she gestured to the man with a gun to pick him up. John was dragged to the cart before put in and the mysterious strangers drove off.

It seemed John wasn’t dead just yet.

Chapter Text

The scene soon changed to John laying a bed in an unknown cabin. They cold see John’s head and arm move indicating he was still alive despite the bandages around his stomach. As he looked at his hands, the door opened to show the female stranger that had found him by Fort Mercer. “Well, you’re alive,” she stated.

John raised his hands again and flexed his fingers. “So it would seem,” he replied.

“So, how do you feel?” she asked leaning against the door.

“I don’t know the polite word for it.”

“I do. ‘Stupid’ is the word we use here.” Arthur couldn’t help the snort from his chest. He had to agree with her on that even though he was still angry at John for nearly getting himself killed. “What were you doing?” A question spoken the dead had.

“I was,” John groaned getting up, “I was doing something stupid.”

“Well, you’ll be okay. Once you didn’t die, the doctor said you’d be fine. He got the bullets out a couple of days ago.”

“Good.”

“It costs us fifteen dollars.”

“I’m sorry, madam. Ya should have left me there to die.” Such a simple sentence from John, and it made them wonder how much John changed, and what had happened for him to be hunting Bill down.

“He’s changed,” Susan said softly next to Hosea. “Seems less hot head than when we last saw him.”

“Yeah, he does,” Hosea replied with a slight nod. John had changed that much they could tell.

“Did you want to die? I mean, was that it? Was that why you went straight out to Fort Mercer and picked a fight with the worst bandit in the county? To die, Mister… er?” She gestured with a wave of her hand.

“Mister Marston. John Marston,” he grunted standing up before sitting.

“Bonnie MacFarlane. Miss, Bonnie MacFarlane,” Bonnie introduced herself stepping into the room.

“Well, you may be right, Miss MacFarlane. I don’t know.”

“So, what were you doing?”

“Was trying to give Mister Williamson a chance. For old times sake.” Bonnie’s eyebrows raised a bit.

“You know Bill Williamson?”

“Knew him, long time ago.”

“Well, what was he like?” She almost sounded like she was really interested in what Bill used to be.

“Dumb.”

“Just like you.” John stood again.

“Thank you, miss,” he said going to tip his hand, but noticing it wasn’t there as he did. “Seen my hat?”

“I have,” she said with a laugh. Raising her hand, she pointed to the stove where it lay. John strode over to place it on his head. “And, uh,” Bonnie went on dusting off her hands, “what will you do now?”

“Now I’m going to take my time and go after him the less kind way.” Striding back to the bed, John sat down to pull on his boots.

“Well, that sounds very fun, Mister Marston. Quite heroic, just like in those penny dreadfuls my brother used to read.” They watch John stretch out a little as he listens. “Meanwhile, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a ranch to run.” She moved to turn out the door only to turn back to John. “Of course, if you’re feeling better why not take a ride with me later and patrol the perimeter? You can earn back some of that money we wasted on doctor’s bills.”

“Of course,” John said picking up his gun belt and strapping it to his waist. “And thank you, for saving my life I mean.”

“Next time, Mister Marston, I strongly recommend you don’t try to lose it quite so earnestly.” She walked off as John muttered something about bearing it in mind.

Seconds later, they watched John walk out of the cabin. He took a moment to give the ranch a sweeping look. There was something in his eyes the dead swore was a kinda of hopefulness. As if John was imaging something although they couldn’t tell what it was. While John strode towards the house, he looked around the ranch as he did. Arthur spoke up when John inched closer to the house. “Huh, this is that ranch we saw a long time ago. Still going strong too. Must be a hell of a family running it if they’ve managed to survive despite the issues around.”

“They’d have to be. Too much money has definitely been put into that place,” Strauss replied, his eyes focused on the flames. “And from the few amount of people we’ve seen so far, it’s probably bigger than Pronghorn, if that’s one is still around. Or Beecher’s Hope for that matter.” They fell silent when John stood at the base of the stairs to the MacFarlane house.

“Mister Marston! Back in the land of the living, I see.”

“Figured it’s about time I started paying back that fifteen dollars.”

“Well, no time to waste. The horses are saddled up over there.” The two walk towards the animals while Bonnie starts giving John, and the dead, a tour of the ranch. It surprised John and the dead for there to not only be a foreman’s office, but a general store on the ranch as well.

“Yes, a lot of money has been poured into this place,” Strauss said firmly with a nod. “A foreman’s office and a general store? Very, very few ranches have that set up.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty big, isn’t it?” Arthur said rubbing his chin. “I did happen to go into New Austin when we was near Blackwater. Those buildings weren’t there at the time.” John and Bonnie rode past a large barn. “That wasn’t there either. In fact, I don’t think it was there when Sadie and John rode by for that one bounty.”

“No, it wasn’t,” Hosea agreed. “Some years have passed, that’s for sure, but how many I wonder?”

“Who knows?” Lenny muttered as the two returned to the house. Bonnie offered John a chance to rest and get something to drink before the night patrol. After they went inside, the scene changed to show John asleep in a chair. He jerked awake when Bonnie called his name.

“Remember me telling you about the trouble we’ve been having with rustlers and other desirables?” she asked walking up with gun in hand.

“I do.”

She held the gun out to him. “Will you help me keep watch on the property line this evening?” John took with gun.

“Sure.”

“I want to see who’s trespassing on our land.”

“Oh, I like her.” Karen grinned from her seat. “She’s a spitfire. I can tell already. Taking up arms and not waiting for the men to do it for her.” Chuckles sounded around the group as the other dead shook their head at Karen. Some things never change even in death.

Examining the gun, John commented it was a fine weapon while Bonnie headed towards the door. She responded saying the country was quite beautiful around this time, and when they both walked out, the dead were inclined to believe her. The surrounding area was beautiful under the moonlight with the light shining on it in all the right ways.

Once again mounting horses at the foreman’s office, Bonnie told him to follow her and keep his eyes out for any suspicious activity. The two talked as they rode past a small bridge and around the house. When they passed a small garden behind the ranch, Bonnie cursed at the rabbits digging for food. Dismounting at the hitching post, John quickly took care of the rabbits in rapid succession clearly proving he was still good with a gun as ever. Bonnie noticed and complimented him before mounting and continue the patrol.

Another conversation started but was quickly stopped at the sight of coyotes. Bonnie yelled at John to fire off shots and keep them away from the livestock. Spurring his horse forward, John fired two shots, one landing the neck of one coyote, and the other in the head of another. The rest darted away at the sound of gunfire making the two chase them through the horse pasture and out of the chicken coops. Once again, like the rabbits, John’s shots landed where they were meant too. Coyotes chased off with only a couple of dead chickens, Bonnie and John rode back to John’s shack on the ranch where they parted for the night so John could get more rest.

“Yep. I like her even more now,” Karen declared with a grin.

“Reminds me of you,” Sean flirted only to get a palm pressed to his face.

“Behave before Arthur slams you into something,” she reprimand making Arthur and the others laugh.

“Actually, Karen, I was gonna let you do the throwing,” Arthur grinned back with amusement in his eyes.

“Hm, I like that idea actually.” Throwing his hands into the air, Sean let out a groan sending another wave of laughter around the fire.

Chapter Text

After catching horses, and helping with cattle, a day passed before John walked to the MacFarlane house. “Ah, Mister Marston, how are you?” Bonnie greeted walking up to John.

“Good, Miss MacFarlane, how are you?”

“I’m well. Would mind riding with me to Armadillo? I’ve got to get some supplies, and I could do with the company.”

“Of course,” John agreed following her to the wagon. Playfully, Bonnie said he should take the reins as a terrifying bounty hunter like him to be seen driven around by a woman. Laughter rumbled from John’s chest, and the chuckles from the dead.

With snap of the reins, the two talk about how John is doing, whether he’s risked his life since, and having hope. “A peculiar outlook,” Bonnie says as the wagon moves past the landscape that has barely changed except for a few new houses near the MacFarlane ranch. “I can’t really say I understand you.”

“I can’t always say I do either.”

“Oh don’t be so deliberately enigmatic,” she chided.

“I’m not, miss.”

“Yes you are. You are being deliberately obscure as a substitute for having a personality.” Laughter roared form the dead after hearing Bonnie’s reply. Arthur looked as if he was about to die from laughing.

“She’s right,” Arthur said between bouts of laughter. But their laughter dies down at John’s next words.

“I just know there are two theories to arguing with women. And neither one works.”

“After all these years…” Arthur shook his head. His father’s hand squeezing his arm stills him from saying any more.

“It can hard to let go of someone you knew no matter how badly they hurt you.”

“I know.” Silence descends on the dead and the living before Bonnie speaks up.

“I think it’s kind of funny I found you dying on the side of the road and now you’re driving me into town.”

“You,” John laughed,” have a strange sense of humor.”

“Well, you must admit, it’s an unusual start to a friendship.”

“I didn’t realize we were friends, Miss MacFarlane?”

“Oh, please. Now who’s being funny? Listen, I know that business with Williamson is your business, but,” The dead leaned forward wanting to know. “I don’t know. You’ve been good to us, and I don’t think you’re a bad man. A little stupid perhaps, but not rotten. I just worry about you gallivanting around these parts like you’re some kind of deranged bounty hunter. Like Pa, always says, don’t go waking snakes.”

“I appreciate your concern for us lesser mortals, Miss MacFarlane, I really do. And, if there was any other way out, I’d take it. I can assure you of that.”

“So that confirms it. I don’t think he was with Ross willingly,” Lenny said.

“Willingly?” Sean asked with an eyebrow raised. “I don’t think John would even work with him willingly. Or Ross would even let him work willingly with him.”

“Well, there’s always a chance he was,” Lenny replied rubbing his hands together warily. The conversation with the living sparked up, the conversation with the dead ceased.

“You never did tell me were you live.”

“I have a small holding up in Great Plains.”

“A farmer? Yeah, and I’m the Queen of England. And at what point during your day of hunting down outlaws do you find the time to raise chickens?”

“Only been at it three years or so. I guess I’m kinda new to it.”

“You’re telling me! So, who’s looking after this farm of yours right now?”

“Uncle.” The answer makes the dead groan slightly. Just slightly. They knew if he wasn’t with John, he’d probably be with them, and they weren’t quite sure they wanted to deal him just yet. “Well, he’s not my uncle as far as I know. Just an old dog who’s as lazy as a lizard on a hot day. The kinda fella laboring under the delusion that age brings wisdom.”

“Urgh, sounds like the perfect person to leave in charge of your entire livelihood.”

“We go way back. And I didn’t have much of a choice.”

“No you didn’t, John,” Arthur muttered into his hand. “Or at least without out right killing him.”

“I’ll drink to that,” Susan replied pretending to raise a bottle in hand making the others chuckle.

“I’d be getting back there if I was you.”

“That’s what I’m trying to do, miss.” Entering the town, John parked outside the general store. Once the wagon fully stopped, he turned to Bonnie who started speaking.

“So, this is Armadillo. Manhattan it is not, but it does okay for us.” The two got off from the wagon and meet by the backside. “Most important thing for you right now is getting yourself into Doctor Johnston’s office to purchase some medicine.” John rubbed his side as she pointed to the office. “The first one’s on me.”

“Thank you, miss. I’ll pay you back.”

“I’m sure you shall. The Doc’s a good fellow, he saved your life, so be polite to him.” She pushed John forward a bit, and walks towards the store while calling out. “Meet me in front of the general store when you’re done.”

With one final glance to Bonnie, John turned his gaze back to the office before walking towards it. He was quick to purchase and use the tonic, and headed outside back towards the general store. Bonnie stood against the railing with her wagon now full. A quick conversation between them goes on before Bonnie gets back on the wagon and heads off.

Raising his hand, John gives her a salute before his gaze settles on the sheriff’s office. It was time to meet the Marshall.

Chapter Text

Snoring is heard as John strolls into the sheriff’s office, and they can see a prisoner on stool staring at John. “Excuse me,” he says glancing around.

“Hey! Hey! You got a visitor,” the prisoner shouts to the sleeping sheriff who startles awake with coughing and snorting. John stares on as the man spits on the floor as well. And the dead aren’t sure of what to make of the man.

“Shut up you!” He points at the prisoner. “And do you want?”

“My name is John Marston. You wanted to speak to me.”

“I did?”

“Is this guy even the Marshal?” Lenny questioned. “He doesn’t sound like it to me.”

“Yeah, don’t sound like any Marshal I’ve ever spoken too,” Arthur agreed watching John speak to the man. The man stood up and stretched as he walked over to John. He leaned on the jail cell before asking Johna question.

“You that fella from the train company?”

“No, I’m from Fort Mercer.”

The man stood up from his relaxed position. “Fort Mercer? You them… one of them Williamson boys?” There was snorts and half-laughs from the dead before stopping as the man drew his gun at John. John was, of course, faster than the man, and his pistol out in seconds.

“Calm down,” John replied while the prisoner told John to shoot him.

“Go on what… you getting cute with me, boy?” The comment made them laugh a little as the dead could tell John was much older than the man before him. But any reply John had was interrupted with another voice.

“What’s going on here?” Another voice sighed out, and they an older gentleman walked in. He was neatly dressed, and had a larger badge on his vest. The dead could tell from his looks alone, he was probably Marshal Johnson.

“I got me one of them Williamson boys,” the man announced.

“I got me one of them idiots who give marshals a bad name,” John replied.

“Jonah, put your gun down,” the older man said putting a cigar in his mouth. Jonah put his gun down, although he didn’t look too happy about it. John followed suit. “You must be the man from Blackwater.”

“Yes, sir. Listen, that dog ain’t too bright, but he seems loyal.”

“Jonah, get out of here for a minute,” Johnson orders Jonah who has his arms crossed. The man looks annoyed by the idea, but he obeys. He points at John while walking by.

“And you. Oh, I done seen enough of your hide around here, friend.”

John lets out a small laugh. “I think there are some school children down the way you can go and frighten.” The deputy lets out a mocking laugh before calling John a dick head, and leaving. Arthur can’t help but laugh at comment. Hosea rolls his eyes, while Susan playfully smacks his arm and scolds him making the others laugh.

The marshal moves away from his desk while asking, “What are you doing here, Mister Marston?” He closes the door to the cell the deputy was sleeping in. “Apart from frightening my deputies?”

“I’m here to capture or kill Bill Williamson,” John answers. There’s no emotion in his voice, neither good nor bad. A simple fact, as if he was taking about the weather, and not the death of a man he used to ride with.

“He really is,” Lenny mutters the obvious, but no one stops him either. Johnson pauses before laughing.

“Okay.”

“Can you help me?”

“He’s outside my jurisdiction, he’s in the next country.” They watch him move back to lean against his desk again. “Of course, Bill Williamson and his boys have tended to keep themselves away from my town.” John looks mildly shocked that the Marshal doesn’t seem all to interested in chasing after Bill. And in some ways, the dead are too. Even in the next county, there was nothing stopping Bill from deciding he wanted to rob Armadillo after all.

“So you’re happy to have him out there?”

“Well, I ain’t happy, but I also ain’t suicidal.”

“I can respect that,” Arthur muttered. “Especially after seeing John’s dumb ass try to get himself killed when he went up there.”

“Hear, hear,” Susan said.

Johnson points to himself. “My job is to keep this town safe, not clean up all of these three counties. It’s hard enough around here.”

“Ya know,” John starts glancing at the ground before glancing back at Johnson. “I hear you speak and suddenly I’m reminded of how some of the people I respected most in my life had a problem with authority. What’s wrong with you?” John’s words cause the dead to look around at each other. In many ways, John hadn’t changed, yet there’s something about him now that says he’s gotten more mature, and more into living a normal life. And to the dead, in a lot of ways, that seems strange for him. It seems like only yesterday to them, John was still struggling to cope with idea of living a normal life. They wondered how many years had passed.

Johnson sighed as he turned around to pull the cork off a bottle. “Well, I’m sure you and your fine friends have enjoyed spending your time running around pursing noble causes.” He pours two shots. “My cause is keep this town from turning into a living hell for the folks who live here.” He hands John a shot glass as he goes on saying he’s doing what he can in Armadillo despite the world having so many problems.

The marshal describes some of his issues as John listens, and they watch him swallow the shot before speaking. “Alright, tell you what, let’s go deal with them hoods, in the saloon, then we’ll discuss Williamson.” Johnson stares before smiling and holding out his hand for the shot glass.

“Okay, boy.” He stands up after placing the glass on the table. “You’re a persistent little cuss ain’t ya?”

“Only when things matter.”

The two walk out of the office, and towards the saloon. As the two walk, Johnson tells John about the people who are in the saloon. Stage coach robbers. Not the most high risk, high reward job, but easy to do once you had a certain pattern down. Something a small gang could make a living off of.

As the pair drew closer, a man stumbled drunkenly out of the saloon. Johnson made a comment about the man being a rat bastard, and told John they were gonna follow him. Calling for the horses, John asks why the older man doesn’t want to get him now while they have a chance. The older man replies that’s not how the law works, and he could get more information out of him if he’s alive.

Riding hard after the man, there’s conversation about the outlaw’s gang, and how well they get along. But it’s brief as they draw closer to a house. Slowing their horses, John and Johnson move closer to the house until a guard sees them, and calls out to the others. A gun fight breaks out, but like many people who faced John, they were quickly gunned down before they had a chance to really fight back.

The quick gun fight allows the two to catch the leader alive. And after hog tying him, and putting him on the marshal’s horse’s back, they hear the man comment, “You’re not a bad shot, Mister Marston. Why don’t you check in with me time you’re in town?”

John shakes his head. “I don’t want to be no policeman, Marshal.”

“Nor did I, my friend,” the other man said chuckling. “I can promise you that. I’ll see you soon, Mister Marston.” With mutual two finger salutes, John, and the dead, watch the marshal ride off with his quarry leaving John alone.

“Well, Johnny boy is working with the law now,” Sean said. “Not like how he was working with Sadie.”

“Yeah. Quite the turn of events, huh?” Lenny agreed placing his arms on his knees. “I do like this marshal though. He seems pretty level headed with his job. Not chasing dreams of glory.”

“Yes, he’s certainly a man I can respect,” Hosea replied with a quick nod. “I have feeling he’ll be a good ally for John in taking Bill down.”

Arthur shook his head. “Such an odd thought that.” He scratched the side of his jaw. “John going after Bill like that after everything he’s got.”

“Yeah,” Karen spoke up. “Wonder what’s going on with Jack, Abigail, and Uncle. The way he keeps wording it, it’s like he doesn’t have a choice. Do you think… Ross took Abigail and Jack to hold them against John?”

“It’s possible. Ross seems ruthless enough to do that,” Arthur replied with a frown. “Milton certainly wasn’t above it. But I guess we’ll find out.”

Chapter Text

It’s right after the blood bath in Pike’s Basin that John swings onto his horse quickly instead of stopping for a break. He’s agreed to go find a Mister Nigel West Dickens for the marshal. Another job in the hopes of getting to Bill. And another day of them wondering what John was doing.

“Excuse me,” John says to the body laying in the middle of nowhere. “Excuse me, sir, you need help?” Walking up to the man, John asks again, “Mister, you alive?”

“Bugger fuck! Goddammit! Good heavens!” the man shouts as John kneels next to him.

“Excuse me?”

“I said, no, I’m not okay. Do I look like I’m okay?”

“You look pretty good for a corpse,” John said with a laugh.

“Praise be,” the man replied sarcastically.

“Move up, mister.” John stood up again. “Time to get you to a doctor, or an undertaker, whichever you need once we get to town.”

“Saint Peter, open up them pearly gates… I’m coming home!” the old man shouts lifting his hands to the sky.

“Why does that sound familiar?” Arthur asked, side eying Hosea as he did. His father merely smiled and winked. The others chuckled at their exchange.

John laughed again the man’s theatrics. “Come on, mister. Come on.” He helped the man up, who groaned in pain.

“Hurry, sir. I’m bleeding like a badly butchered hog,” he groaned as John led him to the carriage nearby.

“You’ll be fine. Just focus.” Slowly, John helps the man up into the carriage passenger seat.

“You better take the reins. I don’t think I’m strong enough. I’m finished! Done for!”

“Just sit up straight, will you?” With that said, John quickly climbs the carriage to his spot, and flicks the reins forward as the other man yells out about getting to Armadillo.

But to their misfortune, a group of outlaws descend on the two. The appearance of the men has the man accusing John of being an outlaw, which isn’t untrue. He’s a retired outlaw, or as close to retired as someone can be.

The men do not last long to John’s skills letting the two drive to Armadillo easily. And John is able to stop at the doctor while the man screams dramatically about dying. Even when the carriage halts in front of the doctor’s office.

“Oh, yeah,” Arthur muttered watching John help the man off. “Something about this seems really familiar.” He side eyes Hosea who pretends to look away as if he’d done nothing. Giggles sound around from the girls and Lenny, while Sean laughs louder, Strauss smirks, and even Kieran smiles shyly.

The figure of John walking towards the marshal office brings their attention back to their brother, and his mission to hunt down Bill for some unknown reason. He opens the door just as Johnson is handing his deputies repeaters.

“Ah,” Johnson says noticing John. “Since you’re here, you want to make yourself useful?”

“Not particularly.”

“Listen, son, I know you got a mission, but right now, I need another gun.” The older man walks up to John.

“Why, what’s happening?”

“We’ve had this problem for months to with this group of bandits who are getting drunk and murdering settlers. Last night, they went to a big place up near Ridgewood.” Another deputy, Jonah, they think his name is, or maybe that’s the other one, starts speaking.

“They burnt the place down, killed the men, burning most of them alive, and raped the women.” The deputy mimed getting his throat slit. “The women folk then got their throats slit.One of them survived and walked in here this morning.”

Johnson held up his hand. “Anyway. We got a posse gathering up near Ridgewood. Will your ride with us?”

“I’ll ride,” John agreed with a nod.

“Thank you, John Marston. It’s going to be a bloody job.” A short laugh left John’s chest.

“I don’t think I know any other kind, sir,” John replied following behind. He mounted with the others as they rode hard through Armadillo, and towards Ridgewood. There’s talk about West Dickens, and his role as a scientist, and his medicine. If it’s medicine at all.

John doesn’t mention how he knew a far better con man than West Dickens. It makes the dead wonder amongst themselves if Hosea’s death still hurts John after all these years. Probably does, but they won’t get an answer from him any time soon.

Vultures are spotted, and John and Eli, the one deputy from before, check it out. They come across a camp site littered with dead people and animals alike. John picks up a repeater as he notes someone was too busy killing that they had dropped the gun. He’s quick to remount and rejoin the group with the marshal.

Conversation on what makes a man do something occurs, and Jonah makes a comment saying some men were just born plain evil. John replies it’s probably the land that shapes men, just as much the other way around. Born, and then formed. They tune out the rest of the conversation watching John ride hard with the law men.

“Still a strange sight to be seeing John running with a bunch of tin stars,” Sean commented. “And even weirder when you was playing one, Arthur.”

“That it is.” Arthur scratched the side of his jaw. “Still wanna know why John’s doing this. Doesn’t seem like something he’d do willingly. Even after Micah.”

“Yeah,” Hosea joins in rubbing his chin. “But I have a feeling we’ll find out eventually.”

“Sons-of-bitches!” John curses as they ride by another group of dead.

“Didn’t you once run in a gang of outlaws, Marston?” Jonah sneers.

“Yeah, but not like that. It wasn’t our way. At least, it wasn’t my way,” John shot back.

“Killing and thieving’s never right, boy, no matter how you dress it up,” Johnson chides as they ride into the ranch.

“Unless it’s ordered by a court of law, you mean?”

Johnson ignores his comment in exchange for saying, “This is too quiet. I got a bad feeling about this. Split up and search the area! John, you check the buildings and the barn.”

Dismounting without a word, John searches his areas while calling out that each area is clear. When done, he rushes back to the group in front of the barn. A barn with its doors boarded it up. A fact Johnson comment son.

“Come on, John. Shoot that door open.” With four bullets, the wood planks are shot from the wood, and when the deputies open the door, a gruesome sight greets them. There’s a mutilated body hanging from the rafters, and corpses underneath it.

“Jesus!” Several of them shouted at the same time just as a young woman appeared.

“Please! Please, don’t shoot me!” she begged as the group of four raised their guns. “Some bandits came by and took us hostage. They’re holed up in the farm house. Some of my family is being kept hostage inside.”

“This has gone far enough,” Johnson growls low as the men sprint to the building. “Get into that house and smoke those sons-a-bitches!”

Now aware that the posse was aware of them, the bandits trickled out of the house firing. John and the others responded with bullets of their own. And with each encounter, John shot faster than the bandits possibly could. The only other person from his group that seemed to be able to catch up to him was Johnson.

After quickly dispatching those outside, John rushed into fire at the bandits still holed up inside. Quick and deadly, it didn’t take long for those to fall as well, leaving the top floor open. Taking the steps two at a time, John quickly finds two more people in the house threatening to rape two different women. They fall as quick as the others.

With the building clear, the group checks up on the farmers. A woman starts up telling them how some folk tried escaping to the south, and robbers chased them down like dogs. She yells about how the marshal was supposed to protect people. Yells about what type of men the group is, and wonders what is wrong with this country.

Johnson tells the group about how the person to kill the leader gets fifty dollars, but that only angers the lady more. She yells about how it’s not about the money. It’s about people’s lives, and their homes. There’s a sigh from Johnson, before they move to mount up trying to stay hot on the bandits’s trail.

Riding hard, the group rides towards Fort Mercer, and Eli wonders if it’s Williamson’s men. Johnson agree it does like their work they just saw, and that serves to make the group ride harder.

“What’s your beef with Williamson anyways, Marston?” Jonah asks.

“Let’s just say he’s the currency in a complicated transaction,” John replied. His answer made them sit up a little straighter. A shared glance went around the campfire, and unspoken idea passed along with it. Maybe John’s family was being held prisoner by Ross. Why else would he leave Beecher’s Hope after everything Arthur gave, and John worked for?

“What the hell you talking about?”

“Some people I have the displeasure of knowing want him dead.”

“Why does that involve you?”

“We used to run in a gang together. He was once like family.” The conversation is stopped when the marshal sees someone.

“Wait, who’s that up there?” Speak of the devil, Bill walked forward from the group.

“You just walk away now, John. I didn’t kill you before, but I sure as shit will now!” he yelled.

“Get yourself down here, Bill,” John yelled right back. “You know you ain’t man enough to stop me. You know I don’t want to kill you, but I will.”

“You always did have a high opinion of yourself, John. Dutch always said you were an arrogant son of bitch.”

Suddenly, a full beer bottle popped into Arthur’s hand. “Oh god damn it, he’s right on that one,” he muttered before drinking it all in one go. No one commented on Arthur’s actions.

“I guess he was about right. Get ‘em boys!” Gun shots rang out, and the group was quick to dismount their horses and run to a shed where they wouldn’t be in open area. The group hunkered down in the shed taking shots as they could. Bill’s men seemed to pour out of the cracks. The sight made the dead wonder how many people were following Bill for him to have such a high amount of men with him.

But infinite numbers is Bill lacks, and he has no one near the skill John always has had. Much like the men at the ranch, the new men fell like wheat to a scythe. And they fell until a man was left alive. Jonah casually walked over the bleeding man urging him on like a horse.

“Man, they don’t hire law men like they used too, do they?” Lenny commented.

“No, they don’t,” Sean agreed.

“Norman Deek,” Johnson said looking down at the man in the dirt before kicking casually. Deek curses. “Nice to see you again, buddy. Thanks for your help, John.” He turned back to Norman. “Norman here’s gonna help us get to Bill. Ain’t you, Norman?”

“Thank you, Mister Deek. Mighty kind.” John walked towards his horse as Norman cursed at them again.

“Hogtie him, let’s get him to jail,” Johnson ordered before mounting his horse. And once Norman was loaded onto the back of a horse, the three took of leaving John behind.

Chapter Text

John arrives back in Armadillo a few days later. He looks a bit tired as he glances up at the sky with a sigh. He seemed intent at staring upwards until a voice broke him from his thoughts.

“And I can tell you, with no uncertainty, that miracle cures are no laughing matter!” John turns his head to see the man he recuse In the door way to the doctor’s office, and is yelling at him. “I bid you good day, sir!”

Walking up, John smiles and laughs as he slams the door. “Ah!” the man says upon seeing John right behind him. “Mister Marston, good to see you. How have you been keeping?”

“I’m well, Mister?”

“Mister West Dickens. Nigel West Dickens of East Cheap, London, New Waverly, New York, and Armadillo, New Austin. At your service.”

“At my service?”

“At everyone’s service. At the service of science. Of knowledge. Of life!” John chuckles.

“How are your wounds?”

“Oh. Much, much better!” Dickens points at John with a knowing smile. “But then, they would be.”

“Would be?” John questions and the two descend into a conversation about Dickens’ tonics. And how John could probably live forever if he drank them at two dollars an ounce. The other man agreed and said he’d give a bulk discount if John ordered a hundred onces.

“Oh, dear god,” Arthur said rubbing his temples with his fingers. “Dickens is like the child between you and Trelawny, Pa. If that was even possible.” John casually threatens Dickens making the man move himself off the platform.

“Please never say that again, Arthur,” Hosea replied. They watch Dickens give a spiel about needing a healthy young man, and how John could help. “If Trelawny was here to hear that, he’d never shut up about.” Hosea made a face. “Actually, somehow it wouldn’t surprise me if he somehow knew we were talking about him.”

They watch John climb up the driver’s seat of the carriage, this time without Dickens near death. As John drives towards Ridgewood, there’s talk about what Dickens does. And how his tonics work, but John states the men trying to kill him didn’t look at too happy about it. Dickens replies about how he’s in good shape, and that wouldn’t happen if the tonics were a sham.

The ex outlaw tells him he can thank the doctor for that. That Dickens is nothing more than a fine act, which the other man agrees. He gleefully speaks of the showmanship he displays, and how in a competive market his product must stand out.

“Oh dear God, he really sounds like Trelawny more than Hosea,” Lenny groaned before suddenly stilling with a look of horror. “Oh God,” he glanced at Arthur. “Imagine the three of them together! West Dickens, Hosea, and Trelawny. No one would win but them!” Arthur glances at Hosea who’s smiling coyly. He feels a wave of terror wash down his spine making him scoot his chair away from his father. A sight that makes everyone else burst into giggles, even if the thought of the three of them terrified them.

Glancing back down, they see John slip off the carriage. They’re just before Ridgewood, and Dickens says it’s better they aren’t seen together before riding into the farm.

The farm seems to have a new family, and is being repaired already. They can see men working, although many have stopped to crowd around Dickens’ carriage. John slips into the crowd forming. Behind a small table, they can see Dickens.

“Friends!” he calls out spreading his arms. “Hard working souls of… Cholla Springs. Gather round, gather round.” Dickens moves from behind the table. “Do you suffer from Rheumatism? Lumbago?” Groans sound from several members of the fire hearing that word. No one speaks, but they all know who they’re thinking of.

“Acute, chronic, sciatic, neurological, or inflammatory pain? Well, I represent the only company that makes the genuine article that cures headaches…”

“He’s really seeing it, ain’t he?” Sean said watching Dickens list off everything.

“He certainly is.” Arthur frowned. “Why am I getting flashbacks to that inn in Rhodes?” Muffled snickers could be heard from Hosea, and Arthur shook his head watching Dickens call John over as a volunteer.

“That’s the spirit. Ladies and gentleman, pay close attention. This poor, wretched volunteer, entirely unknown to me…” Hosea made a noise at that. “…will demonstrate the effects of Doctor West Dickens’ Own Patent Tonic.” John takes a swig only to choke ad cough for a couple seconds afterward. “Be you a cowpoke or athlete, this miraculous elixir, developed with the wisdom of the East, keeps the muscles supple and relaxes the chords. It loosens the joints and gives a feeling of youth and vigor to the whole system!” He tugs John forward parting the crowd.

“Not possible I hear you say. Well, doubt no longer. Faith can move mountains, but I ask not for faith. I am a man of science and today science will be vindicated. Your eyesight is greatly improved, is that no so, friend?”

“If you say so,” John replied.

“That’s right, it is. You heard him. What a good sport you are, sir. Now gaze over yonder at that porch. If you squint, you may just be able to make out the skull that’s hanging there.” Everyone looked. “Go ahead friend. Shoot that skull and demonstrate the miraculous eyesight you now posses.”

With a soft sigh, John pulls out his gun, aims, and easily shoots the skull on the porch with no trouble. Something they knew John could do, no miracle tonic at all. Of course, the living didn’t except maybe Dickens.

The crowd cheers seeing the skull break, and Dickens acts if it’s something his tonic has helped with. However, a member of the crowd speaks out. “Anybody could make that shot. This man is a fraud!” He points at John. “If your eye is so damn sharp, why don’t you try shooting my hat out of the air?”

“My friends, our test case has been challenged to shoot a gentleman’s hat out of the sky above our heads!” The crowd moves back.

“You can fool these people, but you ain’t fooling me,” he growled backing away from John who doesn’t twitch. “Right!” He takes off his hat. “Let’s just see how sharp you is with a moving target!” He throws up the hat after a few seconds, and they see John’s vision turn red, a sign he hasn’t lost his ability after all these years.

A gun shot breaks out, and a hole forms in the middle of the hat. The hole makes the crowd go wild, and John acts up as if he’s done something very impressive.

“Have you ever seen such an eye?” Dickens cried as the crowd moved forward. John’s challenger sits on the sideline with his hands on his hips while glancing at the ground.

“Hey! Hey! What, you think you can put a hole in a man’s hat and just walk away? Do ya?” he shouted walking up to John. “Well, it don’t work like that around here, mister. Come on, are you a man or not?” He pushes John back with a shove. A clear challenge.

John says nothing but takes up a stance preparing to fight. On reflex, his arm blocks one punch from the man giving him a chance to gut punch him. The crowd cheers along with Dickens shouts.

“Come on, Johnny!” Arthur cheered on his little brother.

“Kick his arse, John!” Sean shouted along with him while John took a punch to the face. The crowd grouped around the two as they traded punches in between blocks. However, despite John’s wry frame, he had more experience battling someone of his challenger’s size. So, he was able to quickly put an end to the fight.

“There it is, skeptics and dissenters!” Dickens cried when the challenger hit the dirt. “Irrefutable proof!” The crowd patted John’s back as he was led away, and they see a man walk up to the fallen man.

Words are said between the two, and suddenly the challenger is on his feet, gun pulled. Dickens points it out, and John turns on his heel.

“You ain’t leaving here alive, stranger,” the man growls, gun aimed at John. But John is quicker from a life once on the run, and his skills haven’t dulled completely. Before the man and the crowd can blink, John has pulled his gun and shot the other man’s gun out of his hand.

They hear Dickens claim it was his elixir but they know the truth of the matter. Either way, the crowd eats it up, and they can see them crowding around Dickens’ table while John walks off.

The scene flickers to show them John and Dickens next to each other. “Well, I think that went kind of well, don’t you?” asked Dickens. John shrugs.

“I’m just glad my normal job involves either chasing after cattle or murderers, not the likes of you, mister.”

“Don’t be like that.”

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to see my goodbyes, head on back to the real world.” John walks off with Dickens stumbling and stuttering behind him

“Wait, sir, I’ve been thinking. About your predicament, and I think I may have an idea.I’ve been thinking I could be your cunning Odysseus.” John turns to him. “Beware of the Greeks bearing gifts, sir. Williamson had better beware. We will make them into Trojans.”

“I don’t rightly get you,” John replied summing up the dead’s feelings as well. What did Trojans have to do with Bill Williamson?

“I want you to go and see my old friend, Seth.” Dickens paused with a nervous laugh. “He can come across as a little curious, but I’m sure you two will get on. He’s most often found at Coot’s Chapel. He’s very devout.”

“Why see him?”

“Because between him and me, we can get those gates to open for you and you can right in just like Homer’s great Trojan yarn,” Dickens said as John started to walk off again.

“Huh,” Lenny said. “I still don’t know what that man means.”

“What does some Trojan horse or whatever gonna get John in Fort Mercer?” Sean asked. “It’d be easy to spot that kind of trap, just saying.”

“I’m impressed you know that,” Arthur teased.

“Oh hush up, you. I do know things, thank you very much,” Sean bites back.

“Doesn’t seem like it most of them.” Sean waved him off dismissively much to the amusement of some.

“Well, I can’t wait to see what happens,” Karen spoke up. “Since this Dickens guy is basically Hosea and Trelawny mixed together, it oughta be good.”

“I suppose we’ll see,” Arthur agreed watching John mount up and ride off.

Chapter Text

When the flame flickers to show them a man digging a grave, or is he digging it up, the dead know they’re in for a ride already. John appears behind the digger.

“Excuse me, are you Seth?” The lanky man turns to look at John.

“Who are you?”

“I’m a friend of Mister West Dickens.” Groaning, the man returns to whatever he’s doing. “My name’s Marston. John Marston.”

“Goodbye, John Marston. It’s been a great pleasure.”

“I need your help, Seth. We need your help. Me and Mister West Dickens.”

“Let me be frank for one second, partner. I hate people.” He points at John, and the dead notice how black his hands are. They don’t know if it’s from the dirt, or something else. “It was people who got me into this mess in the first place.”

“What mess?” The man giggles at John’s question, and turns to look at John.

“Look at me. Look. Scrambling around, looking for maps, half insane.” He digs a little more before glancing back at John. “I ain’t washed in six months, my hair’s fallin’ out, my mind’s going.”

“Disgusting,” Susan muttered under her breath. “This is who John is going to consort with?” She shook her head before crossing her legs over each other, and her arms over her chest. “A grave robber? That’s low, even for us.” John asks what happened making Seth remove himself from the grave.

“Well, it’s certainly not someone… that would be my first choice, but he has few allies.” Hosea scratched the underside of his chin. Seth ranted about his partner stealing half his map. “Of course, a grave robber may be able to get into Fort Mercer.”

“Still… robbing the dead.” Susan tsked shaking her head. There’s conversation about John helping Seth get his map back, and the man agrees. They head to the front where the horses are hitched and mount up.

The pair ride off into the desert. John calls Seth a sick bastard, and how people ave been laid to rest. The gravedigger replies how he takes care of the dead when others have forgotten about them. How folk are cold and mean, but to Seth, they get warmer dead.

“Think I’m glad he’s no where near my grave,” Lenny muttered. “I honestly wouldn’t want him hugging my bones.”

“I’ll do it for ya, Lenny. Give them old bones some loving,” Sean grinned making the other man look at him in disgust.

“I’ll pass,” he replied scooting away from the Irish man, and making some of them giggle. Silence rides along until John mentions he was told Seth could get a wagon inside Fort Mercer.

“I was told you could help me, but I’m not sure you even know what day it is.”

“I don’t. I can’t even tell you what year it is.”

“I knew this was a waste of time,” John muttered as they rode hard along the roads.

“So, you wanna go after Bill Williamson, do you?”

“You know Bill?”

“Oh yes. I met Williamson and Deek and all them boys. Sometimes they call me on when they got some special job needs doin’,” Seth casually said. “I got a reputation as a man who do things most other fellas won’t.”

“Now, that I can believe.” So could the dead.

Seth reckoned John could get in there no bother, provided John helped him find a map. The ex outlaw asked what was so important about this map as they grew closer to Benedict Point. Seth replied that it was unimagable riches and the like. And how it put a spark of hope in him that he couldn’t douse. John had thought as much, and commented about Seth being another treasure hunter losing everything in the search for nothing. Seth didn’t argue with John on that. Simply agreed admitting he had lost his wife, children and business to the hunt. He didn’t sleep, eat, or wash and he didn’t care.

Lenny made a face at that. “God, I don’t even want to know how bad he stinks.”

“Probably something close to Uncle’s smell, I bet,” Susan replied which made Lenny look worse.

“Please never say that again.”

“I know. I can smell you from here,” John replied as they rode further into the desert. The dead watched as Seth explained he didn’t know who he was anymore, and how he could no longer not stop hunting for the treasure. He was a sad excuse for a human being driven mad for something he didn’t even know existed. Minutes later, they arrived at Benedict Point.

“Let’s stop here a moment and come up with a plan,” Seth said dismounting from his horse, and John following suit. “As far as I know, Moses is being held in that shack.” He pointed the building behind the station. “There’s a couple of deputies keeping guard outside. Can you distract them so I can sneak in for a quick parley with that son-of-a-bitch?”

“I’m sure I can thinking of something.” Both men headed towards the building with John breaking off to walk on the wood. His eyes were glued onto one of the deputy’s horses before he dashed forward and swung up into the saddle. The men shouted as John rode off hard. Bullets flew by him, none hit him however, and John was able to lose the deputies easily in their pursuit of him.

“Best we deal with this now, mister,” Seth said when John stopped the stolen horse next to him. “Good job getting rid of those clowns. Now keep an eye out in case they come back.” The ex-outlaw simply watched as Seth bounced over to the door. “Moses? Oh… Moses? You got a visitor.” Bounding up the stairs, Seth knocked on the door and a voice answered.

“Oh my god. Seth? They arrested me. It weren’t my fault.” Suddenly a man came barging through the door knocking Seth over and taking off towards the open road. Seth shouted for John to get the slippery bastard alive. A quick chase ensured but John was quicker with his lasso than the man could run, and it wasn’t long before Moses was safely hogtie and carried over to Seth.

The moment John drops him in front of the deranged Seth, Seth is already calling him a son of a bitch. “Where’s my damn map?”

“Damn you, Seth. Damn you, Seth” Moses hisses back being lifted up by John. “You’ve always been a twisty little freak. I ain’t telling you shit!” Staring at Moses, they watch Seth lift up a knife with a creepy smile.

“Then I’m gonna cut you up piece by piece, till ya find your tongue.” John placed his hand on Moses’ shoulder.

“Friend, this man has gone crazy in the sun. I suggest you take my advice and start talking.”

“Shut up, Marston. I wanna cut into a bonafide man’s flesh! Ain’t never cut into a live one before.” He lifted the knife towards Moses, and the man quickly blurted out where the map was.

“Oddfellow’s Rest!” he squealed. “It’s in Oddfellow’s Rest! Now get away from me once and for all.”

“Well ain’t that a damn shame. I was starting to enjoy myself.” Seth cocked his head to the side pointing. “I think you’ve gone and pissed yourself, Moses.” With a laugh, Seth turned to John. “Those deputies went and put a bounty on your head. Best we clear it now; don’t need the law on our backs. I don’t have no money but, I got me a pardon letter.” The dead share looks as Seth fishes it from his pockets. “Here, take it. You earned it for helping me with Moses.” Seth casually kicks Moses into the ground before gesturing to Marston to follow him. “Come on, we can pay it off in the telegraph office.”

They move to the telegraph office where John posts the letter to the appropriate office. It’s a quick handing over the paper, and a mention of John’s name before the two men head back outside where Seth is quick to mount up. He thanks Marston for helping him, and John tells him to come when he calls for Seth’s help. The other man agrees before taking off leaving John, and the dead, to wonder who the hell they had just met.

Chapter Text

Two hunts with Seth and horse race with Dickens, John finds himself back in Armadillo looking for a man named Irish. He finds three people in a barn with one having their head shoved into the water trough. “Yes, boyo. You messed up properly this time didn’t you? You little paddy bastard. You thieving mick cunt…”

“You got it all wrong, Welsh. All wrong. It was French, I promise,” the man on his knees pleaded. “He said he was going to rip you off, now he’s ripping me off.” But he was shoved back into the water by both man.

“Ya keep on talking there, Irish.” John strolls in and looks at the group of men. “In about 15 more seconds your whole world’s gonna turn black.”

“What’s up, boys?” John casually questions as if there isn’t two men trying to drown a third into a water trough. Welsh spins around and points a knife at John.

“Fuck off, boyo, this don’t concern you.”

“When a man with a sing song voice tells me to fuck off, it always concerns me, boyo.”

“Look here, this paddy bastard stole our gun. Tired to steal our horses. Law is clear on the matter.”

“I never stole nothing, sir. Never did. Not in all me life. That French cunt.” The two men look at Irish. “He’s playing with the Welshman’s tiny and ineffective mind.” French told him to hush his mouth.

“Anyway, y’all got hot horses now. No one needs to die. Leave him be.”

“Who do you think you are, boyo? The bloody cavalry?”

“Your voice is really starting to get on my nerves, boyo.”

“And you’re getting on my nerves!” The two lunge forward, but John is far quicker with his gun. Blood paints the ground as the two bodies tumble forward. And with an exhale, John hostlers his gun again while walking over the still living man.

“A Mister Nigel West Dickens said you’d help me locate a machine gun,” John announced. “And since I just saved your life…”

“I can’t thank you enough for taking care of those two degenerates. Untrustworthy, poor in personal hygiene,” Somehow, the dead doubted Irish was that much better in his hygiene, “lacking in the finer qualities of a gentlemen.” John helped him up.

“What about the gun?”

“It’d be my pleasure. She’s magnificent. Government issue.”

“Oh, God, don’t tell me he’s stealing from the government again,” Arthur groaned.

“It’ll be a bit of ride, but we’ll get there soon enough. Follow me, fella.” The two move from the barn, and onto their horses before riding out of Armadillo. Irish asks John his name as they ride on one of the trails leading out of the town. John answers, and Irish replies it was a stroke of luck he came along, and that Irish had thought he had drunk his last breakfast.

John asks who those people he shot were, and he’s told they were Irish’s only friends, but he’s glad to see the bastards dead. The three had come over on the boat from Europe, and had been thick as thieves since. Which was part of the problem, Irish added a second later. John asks if it was normal for people in Europe to drown each other, and Irish replied his Pa always told him never to trust a Welshman, and the man was probably right since he’s got his throat slit.

What a group of people John has allied himself with.

Irish announces they’re not too far from the thieving bastards, so it seems John wouldn’t be stealing from the government. The fools were hiding in a cabin by the lake, and were probably easy pickings with the lack of tree cover in the desert. He can’t wait to see the look on their faces when they blast in there. John commented he hoped Irish wasn’t lying causing Irish to snap back he didn’t owe John nothing since he didn’t ask for his help in the first place. The conversation fades a little into the background while the dead share looks amongst each other.

“You can make quick work of those fellas if they give you trouble.” Irish’s voice jolts them all back to the fire. “The gun’s stored just inside that shack.”

“What about you helping me out?”

“Ah, I’ll cover you from the ridge… I’m better from long range…”

“Oh, bullshit,” Sean said. “There’s no way he’s gonna help John. He’s the type to clearly duck and run at the first bullet. Not like me, I tell ya.”

And Sean was right, because as the gunfire started, they only heard John’s gun and the return fire of the group’s gun. No Irish. A fact made even worse when John walked into the cabin, and saw no machine gun as promised.

“It’s not here. That lying sack of shit,” John cussed looking around the empty cabin.

The fire wraps to show them John looking around Benedict Point, and the voice of Irish muttering in his sleep. He finds said man against a wall asleep talking about some woman and a corset. When they hear Uncle Irish, none of them want to know the details at all. John stares before a second before kicking the man awake. Irish jumps up knife in hand as he starts threatening the air unaware of John at first.

“Right here,” John says hands raised and gaining the attention of the drunk. “Where’s that machine, Irish?”

“Ah, Mister Marston. I found you one.” He leans forward to hold his head.

“Found us one, Irish. We’re in this together. You, me and an assault on Fort Mercer. I’m the guy that saved you frm getting killed back there and who you owe your life to, remember?” Irish laughs.

“Not really. Happens to me all the time.” John drew closer tightening his fists.

“You don’t want it to happen to you again do you, Irish?”

“No, friend. I wants to buy you a drink.” He gestures at John with a whiskey bottle. “I wants to tell you how much you means to me. How special you is.”

“And I want to tell you, that if you don’t produce a Gatling gun within the hour, you’ll wish you’d been killed back there.”

“It’s the whiskey, sir,” Irish says with a half-chuckle, and a quick swing of another drink. “It gives me the memory of a new born babe. As innocent as can be.” The bottle is handed to John who takes a drink himself.

“And it makes me violently angry. Shall we go look for that gun, sir?”

“Yes, let’s do that.” Irish moved towards the horses with John following silently. Mounting up, they hit the trail towards the west and Irish starts singing making John wonder if he’s going to pass out. There’s a laugh from the other man before he replies he’ll be just fine. John reminds him he’d be stuck between dying and dead if he tries to cross John again. Another laugh comes from Irish, and he swears it was mistake, and he just gets confused sometimes. Another threat comes from John.

“Boy, he’s sure as hell grumpier bastard,” Sean commented. “Sending death threats out like it was candy.”

“Yeah, I wonder why to be honest, but it doesn’t seem like we’re going to get a straight answer anytime soon.”

Loudly, John questions where the gun is, and Irish replies he heard miners talking about stashing it at Gaptooth Breach. Both John and the dead are suspicious on the idea of miners having a machine gun for seemingly no reason. Why would they need it? Bullets did nothing to rock and stone like dynamite did.

Moving to the side of Gaptooth Breach, the two take a second to get the lie of the land. They see miners on horses and patrolling, and very little mining. It only serves to strengthen their curiosity, but they highly doubt they’ll get an answer. John dismounts as Irish starts talking.

“The entrance is plain to see, and there’s a shaft them bastards use to haul out heavy ore. We, I mean you, can use that lift to get you and the gun to the surface. “I’d do it all meself, but the mines play havoc with me sinuses.” There were loud scoffs from the dead. They highly doubted Irish would do it at all. “I’ll find us a fine place to hide these horses, and then return with a borrow flat wagon.”

“I’ll meet you at the mouth of mine shaft, and Irish - I strongly advise you don’t run off this time.”

Two miners one horseback greet John, but he quickly fires two shots to their chests. The bodies stumble off as the horses take off, and John runs towards the men nearby. Gun shots are fired from both John and the men. But several times they watch the world turn orange and red cover the men’s bodies as John makes his way through the miners. Arthur still inhales at the sight, he always thought he had been the only to have such an ability.

The ability turns the fight into little more than bloodbath made by John himself. No regular man could stand up to what John can produce. Bodies litter the ground as John looks in a mine cart to see a disassembled Gatling gun inside. Close the cover, he starts pushing the cart forward. And towards the end, he was able to hang on let the craft move forward until the lift where Irish calls down to him surprised he’s still alive. There’s no comment from John as he and the weapon are hauled up.

“Ah, there she is, what a beautiful weapon… God’s own gun, ain’t that the truth,” Irish comments watching John struggle to carry the crate over to the next mine cart. With the crate loaded onto the cart, Irish tells John to meet him at the bottom of the hill before taking off. John takes a hold of the cart railing before hanging off as more bullets bounce of the ground near him. He takes aim easily killing his pursuers.

Finally after passing through a shack, John slows the cart where Irish is waiting with a carriage. Taking the heavy package from the cart, John loads it in the back while Irish comments on delivering it to West Dickens. They wonder exactly how John’s going to get the Gatling gun into Fort Mercer with Bill or his men seeing it. John replies to make sure it doesn’t fall off on the way as Irish snaps the reins while John mounts his horse intent on heading somewhere.

Chapter Text

One horse cart race, another swindle job, and a search for a gun part, and John was finally ready to launch his assault on Fort Mercer. The flames flickered to show him on the ridge nearby lighting up a cigarette as he looked down at the fort. He was joined by the Marshal and his men as he flicked the burnt match away from him. The men circled him as the Marshal greeted John.

“John.”

“Marshal.”

“Gentlemen!” Dickens said coming in from behind. He used a spy glass to search Fort Mercer for a few seconds while the others crowded around him straining to see. They noted the Marshal using the barrel of his gun to push Irish away. “It’s time. We must go.”

“Why? What’s happening?” Dickens handed him the spy glass.

“Seth has managed to get himself inside, but we can’t leave it too long.” The aforementioned man danced happily on of the wooden structures near a gate. “Or they will soon realize how very curious he is, and remove him from the premises, or slit his throat and watch him bleed to death, but a for minute, he will delight and amuse them. That’s when he’ll get us inside.”

“Okay.”

“Marshals of the law, when the shooting starts, take that as your cue to start awarding each other medals…”

“Huh?” Jonah said smartly.

“I mean, take that as a cue to get inside and clean up the mess.”

“Oh.”

John lowered the spy glass from his eyes. “All I care about is Williamson. It is vital we stop him.”

“Agreed. That man is a stone-cold killer.” The dead couldn’t help but agree. No one hadn’t forgotten the events at the ranch John and the others had gone to. Certainly not after seeing the body hanging from the rafters.

“Williamson’s a proud fool,” John replied, and he was also correct. Bill had been a proud fool. A very proud fool. “Question is… which will win out between his pride and his instinct for survival. The images pulled back away from the group before the flames flickered to show Dickens climbing up onto his wagon, the machine gun hiding in the back of the wagon.

“Ensconce yourself in the back of my wagon, John, so that we can make our grand entrance.” John slipped in and the two deputies locked the door in place. With a snap of the reins, the wagon moved forward. “Alright, good. Now just stay put until I tell you otherwise. That scoundrel Seth had better not let us down. Once we’re inside and I’ve lulled our adversaries into a false sense of security with some beguiling sales patter, I will give you the signal.”

“What signal?”

“The moment you hear a sharp rap on the side of the wagon, rise like the phoenix and start shooting like you’ve never shot before.”

Lenny rubbed the side of his chin. “Is this gonna work as well as everyone hopes, or we are gonna see John shot to death in front of us?”

“Well, with John’s skills and the element of surprise on their side, it should,” Hosea replied staring down at the fire. His fingers shook slightly, but no one brought it up.

“This is it, my dear boy. The moment of truth. Me and you, John. One last time into the breach! This is going to have to be the performance of my life. I hope my nerves don’t get the better of me. I’ll be honest with you, John, I;m a little jittery. John? John?”

“It reeks of miracles back here,” he answered.

“Thank God. Now be ready with that machine gun, my dear boy. I’ll be a sitting duck in there.” They arrived at the gate where Seth danced above, and they noted it was a back gate, and not the gate Bill’s men had shot John at. Two men open the gates allowing Dickens to drive in backwards. Seth cheered from his spot.

“Hey, hey there! Come on in, come on in. Welcome to my humble abode! Come on.” Bill’s men gathered around eying Dickens, but no one pulled a gun and shot the old man. That relaxed a part of their nerves.

“Greetings, my good men!” Dickens said beginning his spiel. “What would you say if I said, immortality was at hand? What would you say if I told you, I could teach you to fly?” With shared looks, the outlaws drew closer slowly being drawn into Dickens’ cunning words. “What would you say if I told you, I could turn a man into a beautiful woman? Impossible? Yes, once but no more. Gentlemen, I bring you wisdom from the East. I have here in this wagon some of the finest goods, the best medicines and the newest inventions available for you and your families!”

“He really is a man after my own heart,” Hosea replied resting his cheek on his fist with a smile. Arthur snorted and bumped his father with his shoulder teasingly making the older man roll his eyes.

“Exotics trinkets from the far reaches of the earth!” Drawing closer to his wagon, they watched Dickens move his hands to distract the men from what his true purpose was, if any of Bill’s people suspected him. “Elixirs that give vigor and strength! And… for you men of physical skill and athletic physique, this miraculous elixir can keep the muscles supple and relax the chords. It loosens the joints and gives a feeling of vigor and freshness to the whole system. Why some men have reported to me that after drinking it for one month, they can chew through steel!” Dickens laughed as exclaims thundered through the group. His fingers rapped sharply against the wood, and John burst from his spot.

Someone yelled about it being a trap as the group scattered. Seth danced with glee while Dickens hid behind some barrels, no doubt praying not to be shot. “Now John, now!” Dickens cried as John starting shooting. Bullets flew through the air followed by blood painting the ground. And bodies littered the ground when the Marshal and his men finally came down from the hill.

“Fuck a dang pig, them cocksucking sons-a-bitches escaped to the other side of the Fort,” Jonah complained from the left side of Johnson.

“Alright, let’s go!” Johnson said pulling his pistols from his hostlers. “Let’s find those bastards.” The group rushed forward trading shots with the outlaws. Dickens ran off wishing them well saying his work was done. They didn’t know where Seth had gone while John and the group cleared the outer walls and the buildings. They did note so far there wasn’t any sign of Irish, and they all had a feeling he probably wasn’t going to make a show any time soon. But as the group moved through the dead and living, they heard Seth shout about how many there were.

“Well, despite the grave robbing, at least Seth’s good for it,” Lenny commented, and the others agreed. Between Irish and Seth, they liked Seth a tad bit more.

A final gun shot and death cry signaled the end of the fight. The Marshal called for them to regroup in front of the gate.

“That’s the last of ‘em. We still can’t find Williamson anywhere.” John scowled as a deputy called out that Dickens was back.

“Gentlemen! Let me in for goodness sake!”

“That fool must be hiding.”

“Men, it is time to start tearing this place apart and find out where he’s cowering!” Johnson said, half-yelling the last part. Dickens shouted for some urgency, and the deputy yelled to open the gate again. “Well, get the goddamn gate open and lock it behind him.”

“Oh, we’ve got company, gentlemen!” Dickson spoke as he shuffled in. “These scoundrels have got reinforcements riding this way!” The deputy shouted above them, and John headed towards the gate. More men poured from over the hill, and John climbed back into the wagon with the machine gun. Within seconds, he’s firing again followed by the gun shots of the rest of the group.

More spent bullets tumble to the ground from both sides. It surprises the dead how many people follow Bill. They wonder the why behind it, but any man can join an outlaw gang like Bill’s with very little reason. In many ways, Bill’s gang reminds them of Colm’s. Large and stupid.

“I can’t see any more of them! I think we did it, boys!” The scene flickers again to show the other deputy, they’ve forgotten his name, walking towards someone.

“Bill ain’t here. We looked everywhere,” he says just as Irish comes stumbling through the gate. The drunk takes one look around and notes he’s missed it.

“Marshal! Mister Marston!” Jonah speaks up dragging a man with him. “We got a live one. He says, Bill’s already run off to Mexico yesterday morning.”

“You’ll never get him,” the last outlaw says laughing.

“Javier Escuella,” John states, and the name has everyone twitching in their seats. It’s been just as long since they’ve seen him as well. Not since Beaver Hollow where he stood alongside with Micah and Dutch. “He’s gone to see Javier Escuella. That should make things interesting. Where in Mexico?”

“How should I know?” One of the deputies punches him in the gut asking him where in Mexico. “Someplace near Chuparosa, I think he said.” John and Johnson share a look. “That’s bandit country.” Jonah now kicks him to the ground before spitting on him.

“Chupa-fecking-rosa?” Irish says looking at John. “Oh, I’ll take you there, John. I’m real popular down there.” Irish starts to slowly back up. “You just meet me at the ferry. I’ve got lots of friends down South.”

“I’ll see you at the ferry, Irish,” John said watching Irish comment on how he’ll get his things. The Marshal claps John on his shoulder.

“I’m sorry about this, John. I guess you’ll be heading to Mexico.” The two walked towards the main gate with Dickens. The deputies took turns beating on the last guy.

“So it would seem.” He shook hands with Johnson. “How is it down there?”

“Wonderful! A sweet, peace loving people, with a love of social justice,” Dickens injected. “May you always find coin in your pocket. It’s been a pleasure spending time with you, boy.” John shook his hand as well.

“You too, Mister West Dickens. Marshal.” John walked off with a nod leaving the rest of the group behind. It was time for him to meet Irish had the ferry. And to chase down another ghost of the gang.

As John rode off, the dead gang members glanced around at each other. “So, Javier,” Sean said, stating the unsaid. “What do you think is gonna happen? Is John gonna kill or capture him too, or let him go?”

“Hard to say. Very hard to say,” Hosea replied. “Depends on how John feels, I suppose. And with everything else, we still have to wait and see.”

Chapter Text

Irish’s definition of popular seemed not to line up with everyone else’s. The ferry ride over had been filled to the brim with bullets from the Mexican Army. They were sure Irish said the reason why, but none of them had paid attention after the first few shots had been fired. They only watched to keep an general eye on John.

In his lucky usual self, John manages to make it over the border, and rides into Chuparosa. As he walks in, the flames show three Mexican men speaking to each other in Spanish. They can only catch a few of the words thanks to their time with Javier. But anything else, they don’t understand. What they do understand is the looks they shoot John. One of them calls out asking if he understands Spanish.

“No, sir.” John says something that they assume means he doesn’t speak Spanish, and the trio laugh. He then asks if they understand English, which the man acting as leader replies back he does.

“Hablo ‘filthy fucking bean eater’…” he starts listing off all the things he’s been called in English while circling around John. The other two laugh. “Hey, what you doing here, gringo? I don’t remember inviting you to my country.”

“I don’t think you did, amigo. I mean you no harm.” They note an older white man watching in the back ground as the leader of the group laughs again.

“You mean us no harm? This is funny! What harm could you do to us, exactly?”

“Nothing, amigo.” It surprises them how calm John is being again, even though they know he has got to know the three are planning something. “Now, I appreciate the welcome committee but I’d hate to spoil a beautiful afternoon on such beautiful land with any further unpleasantries. Now, if you’ll excuse me…” The leader holds up a hand stopping John from moving.

“Ah, hold it, gringo. I think you are forgetting something. A little taxation. I have a large family.” The group burst into laughter again.

“I too have a family, friend. So that we may see our families again, I suggest we part ways amicably.” One of the other two snatch John’s hat off his head. They expect the former gang member to explode in his usual rage, but John stays still surprising the even more.

“Can I see the boots, gringo?” the leader asks.

“I think you can see them from where you’re standing just fine, señor.” With a quick look at his companions, the leader starts to move back telling John to take off the boots. “As you wish.” He kneels to take them off making the group explode in laughter, but that laughter is quickly replaced by John firing three bullets killing the men.

“Oh for the love of God,” Arthur groaned into his hands. John takes his hat back as another voice speaks. It’s from the man that was watching.

“Oh, very good. Very good indeed, sir.” He rests his arm on the pillar next to him. “What a great way to improve border relations. An illiterate farmer crossing the river, coming into this civilization and butchering the local peasants. Thank you very much, sir.”

“Don’t mention it, old man.” John moved to the side as the old man walked forward.

“You kill peasants, you become a peasant.”

“I’ve never aspired to be anything more.”

“Ah, a socialist, huh?” he asks overlooking the bodies of the men John has killed. He faces John. “No wonder you left America.”

“I am many things, most of them bad, but a man of political principles, no.”

“Well, then I fear Mexico may not be for you, sir.” The older man walks close to John now.

“Don’t you worry about me.”

“Oh, but I do worry. An angry man, a long way from from home. A man who handles a gun as sloppy as you.” There’s varied snickers from the group. He’s both right and wrong. John handles the gun well, but he’s obviously rusty in a couple of other ways.

“I can handle a gun okay, partner.”

“Yeah, as long as you’re killing quail or peasants. But if you face another man, you don’t stand a chance.”

“And you do?”

“He’s humoring this guy, ain’t he?” Sean said leaning forward on his elbows.

“Yes, he is,” Hosea replied. “Very much so. I suspect John could kill him quite easily, but I do wonder who he is. There’s something familiar about him.”

“I can show you a few tricks. Come with me.”

“Hold on, what’s your name?”

“Ah, that doesn’t matter anymore. And you?”

“I’ve never had a name, mister. I was raised in an orphanage.”

“A real American, huh?” he chuckles raising his hand to shake John’s. “Wonderful, just wonderful.” The two head off and the scene flickers to show John aiming and firing.

“Well, you won’t make it in the circus, but you can shoot. Keep on practicing.” John thanks him, and fires another shot before the old man asks him who he was.

“No one interesting. Who are you?”

“Landon Ricketts.” The name made several them twitch in their seats. Landon Ricketts was one of the most famous gunslingers in the West, and many of them grew up to his stories. To see John meeting him in the flesh was quite the shock. “Not a name that means much anymore.”

“It means a little. You were famous when I was boy.” For once, John looked happier out of actual joy, and not from growing closer to his so far unrevealed goal.

“Ya, killing men is a strange kind of fame, I was the fastest in my time. I must have been. I’m the only one left.”

“What are you doing here?”

“Living quietly, waiting.” John goes to aim, but pulls his gun away.

“For what?”

“I don’t know and you?” John turns holstering his gun.

“I’m looking for a couple of men, Bill Williamson, Javier Escuella.” Ricketts hands him a cigarette. “Escuella is from here.”

“It could be, this whole place is teaming with a, with Americans on the run, mercenaries, locals hell-bent on revolution.” John sits next to Landon.

“Revolution? Another one?”

“Yeah. Never really ends. This whole place has been a hot bed for revolution since before the Spanish left. Now, there’s another local guy running around promising the peasants their freedom. Hah, just like the last two or three. Local goverment, foul bunch. Colonel Allende, he runs this place like a feudal king. He’s an awful individual.”

“Is that so?”

“Yeah… until someone puts a bullet in his head.” Getting up, Landon told John to get back to it. “You got to keep that back straight, otherwise it makes the gun jump.” He hands John a Schofield. “See if this Schofield makes a difference. Now that’s a real gun.” With three quick bullets, the bottles shatter into pieces. “Well done. Now that wasn’t so hard was it? Follow me. We’re gonna try something a little more challenging.”

Landon instructs John to kill the scavenger birds that terrorize the local population. A few more bullets and a few dead birds, the two are walking back into Chuparosa with Landons surprise John’s heard of him.

“I would have thought an old goat like me would have been long forgotten by now.”

“I heard many a story when I was a boy. Still do, sometimes.”

“What, these days? I find that hard to believe. What do people say?”

“Oh, you know how them conversations go. Fellas arguin’ over who’s the toughest, who’s the fastest, and who shot people in the back.”

“I wonder if I get mentioned as Sean “Deadeye” MacGuire, fastest hand in the van der Linde gang,” Sean cackled with glee.

“Doubtful,” Lenny said. “You weren’t that good.”

“Hey!”

“He’s right, Sean. I do remember you getting knocked about a lot.” Sean groaned and threw his hands in the air.

“I’d place good money on me still being the fastest.” As they passed the bank, a man came out shouting at Landon asking for a favor.

“Our bank wagon’s under attack just outside of town! We need your help again.” Landon raised a hand.

“Whoa, slow down, Ramon. We’ll take care of it.”

“Thank you, señor. Again, you are the savior of this town.”

“Well, my friend, are you ready to take a less theoretical exam?”

“Sure, I don’t think I ever rode with no savior before.” Landon smiled before heading to the horses. John followed hot on his heels. They rode out of the city, and towards where wagon was.

“So why are you looking for these two men?” They leaned forward again hoping to glean more details about why John was doing this. He had kept the details very close to his chest, and perhaps he’d be more honest with Landon than with everyone else.

“It’s a long story. We used to ride together. We was all friends once.”

“Only a buzzard feeds on his friends. There must be a high bounty on their heads.”

“What would you do if somebody took the people you loved, and told you they’d die if you didn’t do as they asked?” John’s words send chills down everyone’s throat. It seemed one of their theories had been correct. Abigail and Jack, maybe even Uncle, were being held hostage by Ross. He was hanging thier lives over John’s head. Otherwise John probably wouldn’t have left Beecher’s Hope.

“He’s a real right bastard that Agent Ross,” Sean spit.

“That he is,” Lenny agreed. “Using Abigail and Jack to get what he wants. God knows what he’ll do when John finishes this. If he finishes it before getting killed. John’s lucky, but that luck has to run out sooner or later.”

“Hopefully later,” Hosea chipped in before going quiet as they pair come across the wagon.

“Look, over there! They’re in trouble alright. Come on!” The world turns red, and threo x’s appear over three men. Gunfire echoes, and bodies drop. The hostage is able to break free, and climbs up onto the wagon. One snap of the reins, and the group is heading back to Chuparosa. Landon tells John to keep his eyes peeled.

“I can see you haven’t lost your touch, Landon.”

“Nobody said I had. You talk real big for a boy who couldn’t shoot straight a half hour ago.”

“And you talk big for an old man who can’t stand straight no more.”

“You’re a long way from being a Landon Ricketts, partner; young old or otherwise.” The wagon driver shouts out something, and they see another wagon with three bandits next to it. Two guns silence the men before the bandits can silence John and Landon. “Good work, boys! Now let’s get this wagon back where it belongs.”

“So much for this quiet life of yours, Mister Ricketts.”

“I didn’t say I’d become a coward. I’m not going to stand by and watch good people suffer. They’ve been beaten down for too long. I give them some hope.”

“They don’t know how lucky they are.”

“Damn right they don’t, my sarcastic little apprentice.” Arriving safely, the driver thanks Landon, and he tells the man to buy him a whiskey later, and he’d call it even. John watches the two go in before heading to stay at the inn. It’s been a long day, and he needs to rest. The dead sit quietly waiting for the flame to flare up again. They’re not sure what else they can say now that they know Ross is lording Abigail and Jack over John.

Chapter Text

It took two days for John to ride to Escalera from the border where he and Landon had helped those people escape. When he arrived in town, he set his eyes on the big mansion lording over the city, and rode up to the gates where three people in military uniforms sat. One of them rose, and called out, “What do you want, gringo? What are you doing here?” The group drew closer to John. “Have you heard, there’s a war going on?”

“My name is John Marston. I’ve been sent here to retrieve a couple of men. Can I speak to your commander?” The lead man looks at both of his men before staring back at John.

“You want to talk to my boss, gringo?”

“I guess.”

“Because I am not good enough for you?”

“No, sir.”

“You think you’re better than me?” He stepped closer to John. “You come to my country, my poor little country, and you think you can be friends with the president?” Anger laced his tone and body language.

“No, sir. I am sorry, sir. Things must have come out wrong. Maybe you can help me?”

“You’ll be sorry, friend,” he said softly moving closer, and his two men leaned forward with their guns. John took a step back. Suddenly the man broke into laughter with his troops. “Relax, amigo. Relax. I had you.”

“Sure, somewhere between the threatening stare, and the soldiers armed to the teeth, yeah, yeah you had me.”

“Welcome to Mexico, amigo!” This time when he moved forward, he clapped John on the shoulder. “Let’s come, eat, drink! And then we’ll talk.” John sat down with the other man at the table the soldiers had been sitting in before. “My name is Capitan Vincente de Santa.”

“John Marston.”

“My country is in pain, John Marston. Terrible pain. The rebels have seized the people by the throat and destroy our way of life.”

“I’m no politician, sir.” Another man appears to wipe the table off a bit.

“And I am no soldier.” Captain de Santa glanced at the new man. “Tequila…” He turned to John and the man moved to grab them their drink. “But we are both beholden to our time. A brave man, perhaps you have heard of him, Colonel Allende. He is trying to preserve the order in our province, to keep our civilization alive, it is tough. They people are confused, and usually swayed. Sometimes in the service of what is right, you got to do terrible things. It breaks my heart.”

“I also am no moralist, sir.”

“I wish I enjoyed your freedoms, Mister Marston.”

“I’m trying to find a man, an American. An outlaw named Bill Williamson.” The captain lent forward before glancing towards the road. “I believe he came here to seek protection from another outlaw, named Javier Escuella.”

“You’re no moralist, but you hunt outlaws?”

“So it would seem. You heard anything of these men?”

“I am the government, or what is left of it. Outlaws seek each other. They are possibly hiding with thieves and killers who pose as freedom fighters in the hills around here. They’re united under one traitor named Abraham Reyes.”

“Where can I find this Reyes?”

“If I knew I would be there hunting him with everything that is true within me. Reyes finds you.”

“Like cholera,” John commented making the men around him laugh. Arthur placed his head in his hand and said nothing while several of the others just shook their heads.

“Something like that. But it’s possible though. My men are trying to lure him into a trap. Possibly you could ride with us? And if everything goes okay, I am sure the Coronel will help you.”

“Okay.” John clinked his shot glass with the captain before downing it. They stood, and the captain yelled for them to move. As the soldiers mounted horses, John joined the captain on the wagon. Setting off, the captain added they must be quick since it was a long ride to Chuparosa.

The two talk about John’s welcome by the Mexican Army, and how he was shot at before he had even crossed the border. Captain de Santa didn’t comment on that, instead choosing to repeat how the peasants were taught that Colonel Allende was an oppressive tyrant. That the Army is suffering a crisis of reputation. John replies he’s heard of the Colonel but he’s not known for his compassion. They tune out of some of the conversation about Allende and how he’s a good, strong man. And more of the philosophic conversation about the state of Mexico’s and America’s governments. They have no context to even comment on the conversation from the land of the dead.

“Who are these outlaws you hunt? This Billy the cowboy and his Mexican friend?”

“Bill Williamson’s a fella I used to know and Javier Escuella…. well, I knew him too.”

“What do you mean, you know these men?”

“We was friends once. They’re part of a past I can’t seem to get rid of.”

“The past is all that’s real, my friend. It cannot be erased. That is the problem with the people here. They spend too much time dreaming about imaginary futures.”

“I know I can’t change the past but I’m sure gonna do somethin’ about the future.”

“Whatever helps you sleep at night, amigo. My country is full of American criminals, mostly in the service of the rebel pigs. Mexico is an easy place for a man to lose himself, whether he wants to get lost or not.”

“Hopefully not too easy. I ain’t got much time to find these men.”

“There must be a high price on their heads.”

“The highest price.”

“Can I ask how much?”

“I’m not gettin’ paid. It’s… it’s a long story. I’m bein’ made to do this.”

“I will never understand you Americans.”

“Me neither.”

“We have a system of law in Mexico, Señor, and we do not tolerate people who think they can run with their own. However, if you help us, we will help you. No one hides from Colonel Allende for long.” He spoke on more of the rebellion and how it was disease to the country. Marston replies that about the people having the right to stand up for themselves? It serves to make the captain angry telling John not to throw silly ideas at him, and what did he know about the rights of the Mexican people? John admitted he knew very little, and was wondering what was behind the rebellion. The captain’s reply is lies drives the rebellion.

He compares the peasants to cattle and how they can be herded by a few people. It prompts John to ask if maybe they’ve had enough of being called stupid? Captain de Sata tells John he’s talking about things he doesn’t understand as they grow closer to Chuparosa. With a shrug, John replies if he’s asked something, he’ll reply. In anger, the other man asks if John is a revolutionary, and if that was why he was truly there. John replies he probably was one once in a twisted kind of way. Thought he could change something if he fought hard enough. And says he doesn’t know what it is, and that was probably the problem, when asked by the captain on what he was trying to change.

The captain calls revolutions selfish as they’re often motivated by greed and ego. How the individuals put their own needs above those of others. Fighting for change when they know nothing of change. To a poor man that’s been beaten down all his life, any change is going to seem good comes John’s reply. He’s asked if overthrowing the government is going to make a poor man rich. John’s reply? If someone wasn’t helping them, it was only natural they look for someone who would. De Santa calls him naive and asks what he wants them to do. Walk around and give out money to every poor person in Mexico? John laughs calling it a terrible idea. And de Santa goes on saying they first needed to look at why they were poor. Then they needed to work instead of sitting around talking about freedom.

Silence swings by for a couple of minutes before John asks about the man they are looking for. Abraham Reyes, the captain says, calling him a traitor, liar, coward and sinner. A hero that doesn’t nothing, and how the captain has more respect for the shit he took that morning than Reyes. John comments quickly on the nice image before de Santa goes on about how Reyes comes from a rich family, and knows nothing about the poor. He takes advantage of the ignorant and weak-minded. Makes John wonder what he’s telling them.

Finally they arrive at Chuparosa, and John finds out how the train carries no supplies despite the rumor going around it is. It’s a clever bait for a group of needy people. Something the dead know very well. Mounting another horse alongside the others, they escort the train as it shudders down the tracks.

Sometime after the train leaves Chuparosa, the rebels pounce, but they’re no match for the Army assisted by John’s sharp shooting. A trail of dead bodies is left behind the train and the men. The crows and the vultures will have a good eating tonight. Not so much for the rebels who run away after a time allowing the train to hit its destination, Casa Madrugada.

Slowing his horse to a walk, John hitches it to a post before finding the captain. He meets up with the man in front of the saloon where a group of soldiers is walking in. De Santa slaps him on the back. “You did a good thing for Mexico today, Coronel Allende will be very pleased.”

The scene flickers black as they walk in before showing them two soldiers guarding the train. As the soldiers pass each other, two rebels with knives appear from behind the rock and stab the men dead. Another soldier sees them and runs into the saloon where John, de Santa and the others are. The soldiers groan in unison when they hear him, and it’s clear no one wants to move making the captain groan at them between yelling. He asks John to stop the train who complies without question.

Mounting a horse, they watch John chase down the train. He fires at the rebels standing guard, and shots are returned as well. However, barely trained peasants are no match to him, and they quickly fall to his bullets. With no one else shooting at him, John jumps form his horse to the train. The scene flickers to show them dynamite about to blow up a bridge making the dead hold their breaths. However, John is able to quickly slow down the train before it falls into the water below. A narrow escape, and one they’re happy he’s gotten.

Chapter Text

Another two missions done for Colonel Allende, who they’re not sure they like, including burning down a possible innocent village, John returns to Luisa Fortuna, a woman he helped save with Landon, and who he helped to get her sister out of Mexico. He sees her crying on the stairs of her former home before it was burned down by the army. She glances up at the sound of his spurs.

“Oh, Mister Marston! Mister Marston!” She runs up to him bringing him into a hug.

“What’s wrong, Lusia?”

“I don’t weep for myself, but for my country! Abraham Reyes has been captured!”

“He has?” He walks towards the ruins with his arm around Lusia as she explains.

“He was coming to meet me at Roca Madera.” She sits while John remains standing. “It’s a very romantic spot. It was a beautiful night, yet he was ambushed by a patrol. My heart is breaking, but I cry for Mexico.” John sighs.

“Where’s he being held?”

“El Presidio… You know, in our hearts, we are married already, but his family do not approve. How could they, when I am little more than a peasant girl?” She looks up to John. “But that’s what makes Abraham the man he is. He doesn’t care their bourgeois, snobbery, or elitism. He sees the real me.The woman.”

“I’m sure.” Suddenly Lusia stood up.

“I am going to go and rescue him or die trying.”

“Whoa, I don’t think that’s such a good idea. Ride with me to near the jail, we’ll figure out how to rescue him.” A happy sigh comes from her as she moves forward to kiss John on the cheek, calling him a true friend of the land. Patting her on the shoulder, he replies, “So everyone keeps informing me.”

“El Presidio is to the north, we must hurry. Who knows what they will do to him?” They climb onto a wagon and set off. There’s little conversation between the two as they ride towards El Presidio stopping just outside of it’s walls. “There’s a partially broken down wall. You should be able to scramble over it.” John jumps from the wagon. “Hurry, but please be careful. There are guards everywhere. If they see you, they will kill you both.” He nods before running up the hill, and slipping over the wall.

“This reminds me of the assault on Bronte’s mansion,” Arthur murmured watching John take up a sniping spot. “Well, him climbing the wall does, not everything else.” Lenny hums in agreement as John takes his first shot killing the executioner. Shouts sound from the army, and bullets bounce off the wall by John.

“And if he had all of us behind him,” Lenny added as a few bullets pushed through the bodies of the soldiers.

“That too,” Arthur agreed clapping Lenny on the shoulder, the sound echoes around the fire as the last soldier falls.

“Victoria!” Abraham cried from the post. “Now please cut me free, señor!”

John’s knife tears into the ropes. “Luisa sent me. We have to meet her by the river.”

“Qué?” Heads turn, and the dead wonder if Abraham even knows her name.

“Luisa. The girl you’re marrying.”

“Oh yes,” he said throwing up his hands, and not even sounding remotely convincing that he loved her. “Such a devoted thing. El amor de mi vida.” He tells John to grab a horse, they’ll have to ride because he’s too weak himself. John finds one in the stables that hadn’t run away from the gunshots, rides over to Reyes and helps the man mount. “Now ride like the wind, my friend!”

Horse hooves thunder through the empty walls as John rides out the gates to find a rebel outside waiting for them. The man says he’ll take them to Luisa before turning his horse and riding hard with John following. And when they’re several feet away from the fort, soldiers pour from the desert, guns cracking like thunder. But like the soldiers before them, they stand no chance to John’s skills.

“What is your name, my friend?”

“John Marston.”

“No? The American who is working for Allende?” The dead lean forward tense. So he’s aware of John’s involvement with the Mexican Army.

“I ain’t working for nobody. I’m here because Luisa asked for my help. “

“As I thought you were friend of Allende’s, I was planning on putting a bullet in your back.”

“Well, try to resist the urge.”

“How do you know my young lover, Laura?”

“Good Lord, he doesn’t care at all, does he?” Karen groaned into his hand as John corrected the name. “Even Dutch got Molly’s name right despite the fact he didn’t care.” A couple pairs of eyes flickered to Molly who sat there with a sad smile.

“No, it doesn’t seem like it,” Hosea said, his mouth turning into a frown, but he reached over to squeeze Molly’s hand. She returned the gesture with a smile.

“I will not forget this, compadre. You will be rewarded. Money, women… Luisa, if you want her.” Karen huffed with annoyance throwing her hands into the air, and curse that couldn’t be repeated leaving her mouth loudly.

“I’m here for two men, and that’s it.”

“You have been spending too much time with Captain De Santa.”

“Very funny. Not like that. I’ll explain later.”

“I am free again! I will write a poem about this day!”

“This is from a man who was tied to a post with a fun in his face a few minutes ago.”

“I wish I could see Allende’s face when he finds out that I defeated a hundred of his men!” The sound of palms meeting faces sounded.

“All you done is get on the back of this horse, my friend.” The rebel that’s been guiding them shouts out that Luisa is up ahead, before splitting off. John rides until they come to where Luisa said they would be.

“There she is! I remember her now!” No one comments on the muffled scream from Karen, and the muttering of how much she wanted to kill Reyes already. Or the comment of ripping his balls off for leading on a wonderful young woman. “My amiga!” Luisa looks up from what she’s doing.

“Abraham, Mister Marston.” She skips over. “The revolution will live on, thanks to you!”

“Yes indeed, John. You are as a brother to me, and my people need a man such as you to help our cause. My ranch is in Agave Viejo, and let me say, my brother, that you await you.”

“Well, best of luck to both of you, but I need to find two men so I can return to America.”

“No problem. I will help you find those men, and in return, you will win a people her freedom.” Luisa moves to hug John, but Reyes stops her to lead to her to the dock where he starts singing in Spanish. They can only parse out a few words of the love song from the time spent with Javier. And Reyes saying ‘Laura’ again.

“Jesus, how many times is he gonna get her name wrong?” Karen snapped. “Obviously he know how to lie sweetly to her.” Murderous fire rages in her eyes, and Sean makes a show of scooting his chair away from her.

“Clearly enough to keep her hanging on,” Molly whispered sadly, her face bearing the understanding expression she holds. She knows what sweet little lies can sound like, and how they can destroy you as a person. “I only hope for her sake, she wakes up to it soon. Before it gets her killed.” Her fingers grip Hosea’s pinky finger tightly, and he pats her hand in return.

Chapter Text

When John arrives through the gates of the Colonel’s mansion, de Santa appears calling out his name. “Good news! Good news! The Coronel himself wants to speak to you! Come.” He leads John up the stairs where the Colonel is harassing a working girl. He lets her go when he sees the two men standing there.

“Look at that ass,” he says pointing. “Magnificent. I’ll save her for later or I’ll kill her and all her family. They’re probably rebels anyway.” De Santa lights Allende’s cigar. “Anyways it’s good to see you, amigo. Good to see you.” He shakes John’s hand. “You know, you are a rare find. A gringo who is also a friend of our country. Bienvenido. We welcome you.”

“Okay.”

“Relax, relax, I have some wonderful news for you! Quite wonderful in fact… You know the men you hunt? They have been captured in Chuparosa.” Silence lands on the group of the dead. They’ll be seeing Javier for the first time in forever, and they’re not sure how they feel about that. I want you and De Santa to ride out there and then you can take possession of them. It is my gift to you. For all your help, señor. Although part of me wishes, that you remain here and enjoy more of out hospitality.”

“Thank you. If it’s all the same, I’d like to collect the men. I have a wife and son at home whom I miss.”

“Don’t wee all, amigo, don’t we all? De Santa, I want you to take care of señor Marston.” The captain doesn’t look pleased about it, but when Allende pushes him forward, he moves.

“Come, my friend! It is time to bring these men to justice!” John hops into a wagon alongside de Santa. “This is very good news, my friend! Didn’t I say the Coronel would find these men for you?”

“For your sake, you best be telling the truth!”

“You have my word.”

“After that trick you pulled on me with the munitions train, I ain’t sure that means very much.”

“You have Espinoza to blame for that! Come now, John, after everything we have been through, I think we can trust each other, don’t you?”

“How did you find them?”

“They were captured just outside Chuparosa! Every rat must come out of his hole eventually. They are being held in the churst. A chance for them to contemplate heaven, before you send them to hell. We have the area surrounded! Oh cheer up, John! This is what you came for. You are so tense all the time.” De Santa goes on saying John and his soldier should have a shooting competition with each other. The rules are set up, and they already know John will win provided he decides he doesn’t want to.

As gun shots echo off the wall, conversation between John and de Santa continue. The captain tells John people would trust him more if he wasn’t so secretive about what he was doing. John asks if he was married while taking a shot at a raven. Or did he terrorize young girls like the Coronel did. De Santa scoffs saying that’s not his way. But it’s an honor for them to please their leader.

“Oh, bullshit,” Lenny spat, shaking his head. But before anyone could further comment on it, John reiterates that Abigail and Jack have been taken. No mention of Uncle. De Santa says he can sympathize with John, he’s married to his country and the rebels are trying to take it from him. But he never took a wife saying that too many great men had been tempted by flesh. Somehow, they doubted how great de Santa truly was.

De Santa asks if John’s time in Mexico is coming to an end, and John confirms it is. It makes the Captain sad that he’s leaving, but John calls him out saying it’s doesn’t. De Santa doesn’t reply to that, instead choosing to talk more about Coronel Allende, John’s time in Mexico, and other smaller things amongst that.

The wagon stopped just outside of Chuparosa’s main entry. The party dismounts, and walks down the street. De Santa comments on where Bill and Javier are, and why they’re being held in the church rather than elsewhere. John walks carefully to the Church with the men following. But when he enters in, and sees neither Bill nor Javier, he turns to the sound of his name.

“Mister Marston. Gracias, for your service to this land!” A butt of a riffle knocks John to the floor accompanied by the captain’s laughter, and anger roars from the dead seeing John betrayed by the Army.

“Oh those bastards!” Arthur hissed. “They’re lucky I ain’t there to kill them all!”

“Damn right they are!” Sean shouted hitting the palm of one of his hands with the fist of the other. “And I’d be right there with ya!”

The scene flickers to show de Santa grabbing John’s chin and shaking his head. “Marston. Hey! Marston!” John’s arms are bound, and being held by two soldiers. “You have betrayed this land enough. I hope you have a clear conscience, ‘cause you are about to meet God.” One soldier holds up a revolver to the side of John’s face, but before he can shot, another gun shot sounds killing the man. Everyone turns to see Reyes with a repeater.

“My brother! They will kill you if we don’t get your ropes off!” He waves his arm at John. “Over here, I will free you!” John darts between the fire from both sides headed towards Reyes. He sprints up the stairs where Reyes awaits, and turns to let the man cut his bonds. “It is lucky for you, I arrived when I did.”

“Well, he gets a little thankfulness from me,” Karen commented though her arms were crossed over her chest.

“I guess we’re even then.”

“Now find your weapons and fight these dogs!” It’s a quick run to the middle for John who grabs his repeater and begins firing into the soldiers. But when the gun fire ends, de Santa is nowhere to be found, and the rebels gather in the middle to listen to Reyes’ speech. John stays, but the look on his face says everything the dead think. It sounds so much like one of Dutch’s speeches.

And when the crowd starts chanting ‘Mexico’, John walks off not wanting to hear more.

Chapter Text

After taking out a military caravan, letting the rebels kill de Santa, and robbing another train for Reyes, John walks up the stairs to Reys’ ranch. It’s oddly quiet until he enters a room where Reyes is enjoying the presence of a working girl. John clears his throat loudly, and Karen growls making even Lenny scoot away from her.

“What would your most loyal follower, Luisa say about that?” John asked moving closer to Reyes.

“Who?”

“Luisa. The girl from Campo Mirada.”

“Ah, her. A gentlemen never tells, but she was a most wonderful, ay…. I just say she was incredible, yes,” he struggling to find words, and maybe even an excuse. His next sentence completely nixes the idea. “Let me tell you something, I storngly recommend her. You take her when you have the chance, my brother.”

“She thinks she’s your wife.”

“My wife! These peasant girls. They believe every word a fellow says.”

“Oh, I’m gonna fight him,” Karen declared rage filling her eyes. The rage steadily builds as Reyes goes on about loving peasants and how naive they were. John asks if he’ll marry her, and Reyes laughs calling John absurd. He’s going to be the next president of Mexico. He needed a wife that didn’t have the hands of a farmer for meeting with other great man. John stood there judging him before saying ‘interesting.’

“But come on, let’s run. I’ve got an amazing present for you my brother, ah yes. The man you seek… together, we will bring them to justice! Let’s go.” Following Reyes outside, the two climb into a wagon filled to the brim with dynamite. It makes them wonder as the carriages move forward. There’s brief talk about John’s role in bringing de Santa down, before John asks where Bill and Javier are.

“They are El Presidio, John. Can you believe it? The place we first met. The scene of one of my greatest victories over Allende’s traitors.” John didn’t mention how he did most of the work. “You could not write a better story!”

“It’s a story I want to finish.”

“It is a story we both want to finish, my brother. If my rebels can take El Presidio, then we can move on Escalera. The revolution is happening, John.”

“Are you sure they’re there? Escuella and WIlliamson?”

“Javier Esculla is there, that much I am sure of.” The dead glance at each other. It seemed they would be seeing Javier first before seeing Bill again, and they wonder what happened to him for him to be working with a government he once tried to overthrow. “I don’t know about Williamson.”

“Escuella will do for now.”

“I am told they paid Allende to hide them. They have been in his protection since you arrived in Mexico.”

“If that’s true, then…” Lenny started but trailed off knowing the others understood.

Reyes said he should have trust him all along. John replies when both men are captured, then Reyes can start making him feel bad after he’s thanked John for everything he’s done. Dodging the comment, Reyes goes on to talk about Javier and how he had heard the name before. That Javier was form the province, a notorious bounty hunter, and one of the early revolutionaries. And John comments that he was about right, and how Javier was a torn man. And he was, the dead knew that fully.

“Javier would die fightin’ for what he believed in. He had a lot of passion, but no love. Although he really admired Dutch, of course, but then we all did.” Heads bowed knowing John was right. They all did until Dutch had shattered it.

“He was the leader of your little group of fortune hunters, verdad?”

“When Dutch started fallin’ apart, it hit Javier harder than any of us. He went crazy. It was like the one thing he’d ever believed in turned out to be a fraud.” No one knew how to comment on it, as they weren’t sure if it had been a fraud the entire time, or became one at the end.

“You talk about him fondly.”

“It ain’t exactly fondness. We was were close once. But he never cared for me or anybody else.”

“That’s a lie, John, and you know it,” Arthur grumbled, remembering the freeing cold he trekked through with Javier to find John after Blackwater.

“Old memories can change when soured by something else, Arthur,” Hosea replied, placing his hand on Arthur’s leg. “Many of my memories of Dutch feel sour now.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

“Not any of his so called brothers. He left me to die, when he had the chance to save me.” They wondered if John meant the Saint Denis bank robbery, or the last train robbery. Reyes asked if he taught John any Spanish when they were together. John remember cabrón being used a lot. Reyes told him he could pay that cabrón a surprise visit. “I ain’t here for revenge. I just need him and Williamson.”

John decides to ask who the woman Reyes was with before they left his ranch. Reyes called her a loyal follower of Mexico, before asking if John had ever known power. The ex-outlaw replied saying he was a semi-literate farmer and a hired killer. He wasn’t in the power game. Reyes starts talking about John not knowing that would bear his child. That it would be an honor for her to do so. John says he knows enough bastards that he doesn’t need to make any more of his own.

The wagon creaks down the road as Reyes goes on about how a man like him couldn’t be with just one woman. It would be an injustice to the people he swore to serve. An interesting of serving the dead and John note. Reyes says he owes it to the future of Mexico to breed, tells John if he can noble blood flowing through the veins of peasant, Mexico would be even greater. John wishes he had never asked.

Silences descends for several minutes until Reyes asks if John has enjoyed his time in Mexico. John replies saying it hasn’t exactly been like a vacation, and wonders why Reyes was talking if it was already over. The revolutionary replies he doesn’t know, only that one way or another this might be the end. They hoped it wouldn’t.

He goes on to ask John how he felt about the Mexican people. John replies he wasn’t sure, some of been kind, but many more have tried to kill him. Ryes comments on the names the American people have used on the Mexican immigrants despite America’s immigrant heritage. This prompts John to say he doesn’t care where a man comes or does as long as he treats John kind, he’ll do the same for them. Reyes says that John would make a fine socialist with such a simple view.

The conversation turns to Mexico, the treatment of the Chinese workers, and Reyes’ plans for after winning Mexico for himself, and even John’s plans for growing old with Abigail. He’s growing tired of pulling the trigger, and wants to stop. Reyes tells him to get ready to pull it a few more times since El Presidio will be heavily guarded. John tells him he has a few more pulls left in him.

Reyes wonders if one day he’ll return to Mexico like Landon Ricketts. He could always use a cynical American renegade on his staff. And the wagon grows closer to its destination as John says he’ll bare in it mind.

For several minutes, the sounds of horse hooves and creaking wagons are the only noises heard until Reyes speaks again. “My men will launch a ruse attack on the side entrance to the fort. Meanwhile, you, my American friend, will drive this wagon at the front gate, and jump off when you’re close. It’s been packed with five crates of TNT.”

“That sounds crazy!” John said, echoing what the dead felt. “How long is the fuse?” Reyes laughed lighting the fuse and not answering the question.

“It’s not a very long fuse, is it?” Sean said, stating the obvious.

“No, it is not,” Lenny replied.

“Yes. Like I say, fun times! It’s plenty long enough I think? I’ll see you in there, amigo!” A rebel smacked the rump of one the horses making the wagon lurch forward forcing John to snap the reins harder as he rushed towards the gate. They watch explosions appear on each side of John, but thankfully none come closer the wagon allowing him to jump off at the last second. The gates explode and the see three soldiers come out of the ruins of the gate. The fight is on.

It’s a bloody fight as John dodges in and out of gun fire; the rebels are providing him with cover so he can search for Javier. He picks the barracks as the first place to search for his fellow former gang member, and when he opens a door near the top, Javier is there looking for a way out.

“Hello, old friend,” John greets pointing his revolver at him. “It’s been a long time.” It has been a logn time since they’ve seen Javier. The man is dressed simple, and not the fancier way of dressing they were used to seeing him in. Mixed emotions flowed through the group looking at their once so-called brother.

“He… looks different. Rougher,” Arthur said, noting the rougher lines mixed in with new scars. “I wonder what he’s been doing all these years.”

“Probably been on the run. Although from who I can’t say, besides Ross,” Hosea chimed in watching Javier laugh and raise his arms.

“Hello, brother. It’s good to see you. I heard you was coming. You took your time, no? Come on, you’re not going to shoot your own brother, are you? We was family.”

“Yeah, we were, then you, Dutch, Micah, and Bill went cray, and family didn’t mean so much.” With glances to the side, Javier chuckled nervously.

“So now you do the government’s work?”

“And what do you do? You just work for a different government.”

“Come on, brother,” Javier says as John, for some reason, lower his gun. “I think we should go our separate ways, huh?”

“What you and them did was wrong. And the way you left me was wrong. Now, I ain’t the judge, but as it turns out, it’s you or me, the way I see it, it might as well be you.”

“We thought you was dead, brother. I promise, I’m telling you the truth.” Javier inches closer placing his hand on the crates next to him and John. “Besides, I can give you Bill. And Dutch… Dutch is in Colombia. I can take you straight to him.” John raised his gun again inching closer to Javier.

“You left me to die to save your own skin, and now you expect me to care about you?”

“You got it all wrong, brother. I’ve always loved you, even now,” Javier said before pushing the bigger crate onto John and escaping. Laughter bubbled out of Arthur’s chest despite the situation making the others look at him. Between his wheezes of laughter and words, he explained about Bronte throwing the gun at John’s face which made Kieran, Lenny, and Sean start cracking up remembering. Hosea and Susan shake their heads at Arthur while watching the flame out of the corner of their eyes.

“You never were any good at this, John!” Javier yelled running out of the gates, John following. There’s brief horse chase before John lassos Javier off his horse.

“It’s over, old friend, I got you now!” He hogties Javier who fails to struggle free. “I’m taking you in, my brother. I’ll let the others judge you. Where’s Bill?”

“I don’t know.”

“You think I won’t kill you, brother?” John hissed.

“He ain’t here, brother. He’s with Allende.” Several groans sounded followed by the sounds of palms meeting foreheads. As John carries him to the jail cell, there’s brief conversation about Abigail and what she would want, but it doesn’t keep John from placing him into the cell despite Javier’s protests.

“I hope you’re sure about what you’re doing, brother. You sold me out. Didn’t that life we had mean nothing to you?” John drops him on the ground back first, and Javier cried out in pain. “Ah, ah, you puto. Ah. One day, one day I promise you, you’re gonna regret this.”

“One day is all about you got left.” With a loud creaking sound, John slammed the door shut.

“I hope you and your wife, and child rot in hell,” Javier cursed.

“You know that life we lived is over. And when we was living it, it didn’t mean nothing anyway. It was just an excuse and we all knew.”

“What I knew was that you was always a puto. And you’re still a puto!” Whatever else Javier had to say was cut off by Reyes telling John to come with him. There were reinforcements. Javier shouted again at John as the two other men left.

Running up the stairs, John took a hold of one of the canons at Reyes’ request. Rumbling thunder cracked into the air with each fire of the canon, and the army’s reinforcements dwindled until there was no more. El Presidio was the Rebel’s.

“We did it, my brother! El Presidio is ours!” Reyes shouted. John slid down the ladder of the tower, and headed back down to the jail where Javier was still struggling against his ropes. But it was no use as John lifted him onto his shoulder, and out the gate. Reyes clapped and comments on the beautiful sight of two friends reunited.

The flames shot up for a second before the scene flickered to show Ross and his partner waiting at the bridge to the States. “Mister Marston! Fancy seeing you down here. I must say, it’s a pleasant surprise to see you.” John is dragging Javier forward.

“You’ve done well, Mister Marston. Now, Javier here gets to see how far the hand of justice can reach.” The partner grabs Javier who takes a second to spit at John. “Come on you… get in the damn automobile!”

“Can we assume one of my commitments is cleared?” John asked wiping off his shoulder.

“Unfortunately, nothing is cleared, John, until your obligations are met,” replied the partner shutting the door on Javier. “We need you to find Williamson, then head to Blackwater as quick as you can. We have reason to believe that Dutch van der Linde is in the area.” Nervousness settles in the heart’s of the dead. They weren’t sure how they were going to feel about seeing Dutch if he was really in the area near Blackwater.

As the partner turned on the automobile, Ross turned to John. “Oh, your wife sends her regards.” The machine shuddered across the bridge taking Javier presumably to Blackwater or Armadillo and leaving John behind.

“Do… do you really think we’re gonna see Dutch?” Molly asked shyly. She wasn’t sure how she felt beyond a mix of nervousness and fear about seeing Dutch again. It had been so long since the dead had seen him on that snowy mountain top.

“We have too,” Arthur said running his hand through his head. “It sounds like they ain’t gonna let Abigail and Jack go until he gets those three dead or alive. Why Charles isn’t being included is beyond me, but maybe he’s laid low enough to never be found again. Lord knows he’s damn good at that.”

“That he is. But, I agree with Arthur, Molly. We’ll be seeing Dutch for certain, but who knows how long it’ll be.” Hosea reached over to rest his hand on her comforting. “I know how you feel. We’re all feeling it, dear. But let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.” She smiled sweetly and squeezed his hand back.

Chapter Text

Javier appears sometime later after John has left the bridge behind. He’s laying on the ground as Arthur makes his way over; no one else knew who should greet him after so long. Placing his hand on Javier’s shoulder, Arthur watches his eyes fly open. “Art-arthur?” he whispered, half-choked with surprise. “How…. What…. I….”

“Welcome to the land of the dead, Javier,” Arthur said helping him up. “We’ve been watching for a while.” Grabbing the other man’s shoulders, he flipped the man around to show him the dead already gathered. “And when I mean a while, I mean everyone here has been here since they’ve died. Though we haven’t seen everything either.” Javier’s eyes darted between him and the group, eyes as wide as fish out of water.

“So, you guys… saw most of everything?” he asked, half scrunching in on himself walking with Arthur to the fire.

“Most of everything,” Hosea confirmed. “Everyone up to Susan saw the gang fall apart, then everyone up to you has seen John build his life with the help of Charles and Sadie, and then kill Micah together before they headed off years ago, and now we’ve been watching John hunt you, Bill, and Dutch down.”

Unsteady, Javier took a seat surprised how kind everyone was being despite the fact he had chosen Micah and Dutch in the end over Arthur and John. “I see…” he trailed off watching the fire roar to life, and John appear walking by a firing squad executing a rebel.

“We’ll explain more later. It seems John is in Escalera again,” Hosea said ending the conversation, and not bringing up the events of Beaver Hollow. Javier wasn’t sure if he was forgiven or not.

More rebels appeared, and the army responded completely ignoring John for one reason or another as he weaved in and out of the men. The two groups met fighting before the scene flickered twice, once showing more men leaving the mansion, and another showing someone punching a tied up Reyes at an officer’s command

Spitting out blood, Reyes called out, “Welcome to México.” It drew the soldiers’ attentions to John who stood a few feet away. “My brothers and I are just discussing the future of our country!” The soldier punches Reyes again.

“Okay, let this man go.” The officer pulled a gun.

“And who are you, gringo?”

“I’m no one… but unless you want this town to tear you and your boys to shreds, I suggest you let him go.”

“And you think you can tell me what to do, friend?”

“Oh, you should listen to him, friend,” Reyes answered. John quickly pulled his own gun.

“Look at that. You want to risk it?” A laugh bubbled from Reyes.

“The American is a drunk. If I were you I would, I would pull that trigger.”

“Put that gun down, Americano,” the soldier that had been punching Reyes spoke. Reyes said something in Spanish. Suddenly a woman’s voice cried out in Spanish and Luisa came charging at them with a knife. Two bullets ended her life. So John fired two at the two soldiers, one for each, leaving the officer still standing.

“God damn it!” Karen cursed, visibly seething with rage. Strauss moved away from her this time. “I’m going to.. Oooh, the things I would do!” Arthur mouthed he would explain later at Javier, who had never seen Karen in such a rage that it actually scared him.

“So you want to settle this now, friend?” John asked as the officer raised both hands. “Or do you want me to shoot you in the head right now for that poor girl?”

“Okay, but we fight like men, not like dogs,” he replied dropping his gun. John did too, and the two men took a dueling stance. It was over before the officer could blink, and John was left standing. He walked over to Reyes.

“Thanks my brother. Now the people are finally ready. Today we overthrow the Coronel!”Reyes exclaimed as John’s knife tore through his bonds. Another man joined them from a nearby building.

“Señor, there are prisoners in jail who will fight on our side. Can you save them?” Reyes told him to leave th speeches to him, and to go free the prisoners. Taking his repeater from his back, John marched up some stairs killing soldiers as he went. Guards rushed from the doorway of the prison, but John was quicker than them to react. His bullets pierced through skin, and into the hearts of the men leaving him an uninterrupted walk into the prison to free the men there. Once he freed the, John shot soldier after soldier until he was rejoined with Reyes at the gates of the mansion itself.

“Go for the machine gun, John? Reyes shouted running by him. As John took a hold of it, Reyes went on, “We will blast through the door with gunpowder barrels! Wait till we get everything into position!” One of the rebels started moving the barrels closer until they were where the rebels wanted them. Reyes moved away with the other man. “Now John!”

The machine whirled to life, and within seconds, the barrels exploded breaking the gate into pieces. John didn’t stop firing when the gate broke, and many of his rounds tore through Allende’s men who where no match against John on such a powerful weapon.

With the gate cleared of the few soldiers there, the rebels were able to charge in firing at the new reinforcements. But when the courtyard was clear, the sound of reinforcements behind them sounded, and John sprinted to the machine gun again tearing through them as he did before. The last man fell to the ground seconds later allowing John to join Reyes at the door where the rebels were using axes to break down the door.

The flames flickered to show Allende leading Bill through the building. “Come on! We can still get to my stagecoach!” Allende said.

“Go then! I’ll cover you.” The door busted open seconds later.

“They’re getting away! We have to stop them!” Reyes said running after the two with John following.

Through a back door, the stagecoach carrying both Allende and Bill left flanked by some soldiers. Reyes and John mounted the last two horses to give chase. Gunshots were traded by parties as the chase moved into the valley, and away from the town. Then the world turned orange and small red x’s appeared on the soldier’s heads and the horses, and the dead knew Bill nor Allende were getting away. In quick succession, John shot all of them dead and Javier let out a low whistle as the carriage slowed to a halt.

“How the…” he breathed looking at everyone who shrugged. He wanted to ask for even the most basic of questions, but a voice stopped from him doing so.

“What the hell are you doing?” Bill cried while John and Reyes walked up the carriage.

“Buying my freedom, pendejo,” Allende replied. “Now shut up, you dumb ape, and get out of the wagon. Apurate!” The door banged open making John and Reyes level their guns at the two. “I’m coming out! Don’t shoot!” He threw Bill out. “Here. Take Williamson. Just let me live.” Jumping out, he walked over to Bill who was crawling tog et away. “I will leave the country, I promise.”

“You always was weak minded,” Bill spat despite Allende’s boot on his back.

“You’re the one who let Dutch drive you insane!” John shot back.

“Dutch wanted you dead. We all did.”

“Arthur didn’t! Neither did Sadie or Charles or even the others! Well, either way, I’m goin’ after him next. I’ll outlive all of you!”

“You always was a traitor, you bastard orphan!” John’s finger pulled the trigger and Bill fell silent, the dead knowing he would join them soon. Allende tried to make an escape, but Reyes shot him dead. With a smile, he turned to John.

“Allende is dead… Mexico is mine!” He half-bowed to John who took a moment to stare at Bill’s body before following. The scene flickered to show John walking out the mansion to Reyes. “My people are free, and it is all thanks to you, John.”

“And to the people who laid down their lives. People like Luisa.”

“Oh yes, she was very brace, and she will be missed,” Reyes replied flatly. “Who was she again?” Standing up, Karen took her chair, and promptly threw it out at the darkness.

“I am going to kill this man from the grave!” she hissed stomping away from the fire.

“God, I love her,” Sean smiled making Lenny shake his head.

“Your peasant girl wife to be…”

“Oh, yes of course. She will have a day named after her, Laura’s Day!”

“Luisa,” John corrected.

“What? Oh yes. I knew a Laura as well. Magnificent girl. Like reading a pampas bull, it was, amigo. You never saw anything like it.” An awkward pause. “Anyway, enough about sport. Let’s get back to politics. I trust you will join us on riding on the capital?”

“I’d love to, but with Williamson dead, my jailors need me back in Blackwater.” They pass two men where Reyes shouts at them in Spanish making the move from a relaxed position to a more attentive position.

“Well I must say I’ll miss you, John Marston.”

“I doubt you’ll even remember me, Abraham, but it’s been an experience. Good luck with the revolution. If you win power, remember why you wanted it.” Reyes hummed before shaking John’s hand.

“Well travel safely, amigo.” Reyes moved into the mansion with his men while John walked off headed back to Blackwater.

“So, Bill’s dead too,” Lenny said eying the spot where Javier, and the rest of them, had appeared.

“Yep,” Arthur said, also eying the spot knowing he’d be joining them soon. He turned to Javier. “Now, first things first, about Beaver Hollow, it’s been a long time, Javier. A long time, though we don’t know how long.”

“Very long. It is, was, 1911.”

“So, about twelve years. Either way, it’s been a long time, and we’re hear to watch this story end, not discuss what happened in detail. But I ain’t forgotten you had your pistol raised up, not at us.” Arthur leaned forward resting his arms on his knees. “But, I also haven’t forgotten you still choose Dutch and Micah in the end either. However, I ain’t gonna hold it against you after so long when the world has changed, and we’re both dead. No point in holding a grudge, when for the time being, we’re all stuck with each other. So, relax some alright?” Javier swallowed and nodded even as his fingers twisted in his pants. Arthur glanced at Karen who was still fuming to the side, doubly so after Reyes had forgotten Luisa again. “As for that, well…” He went into detail about Luisa and her love for Reyes when he didn’t seem to love her back. Javier couldn’t help but think of Molly’s and Dutch’s relationship. He glanced at Karen and remembered the screaming match she had gotten into with Susan after Molly’s body had been taken away.

“I see,” he croaked.

“Yeah.” Arthur glanced at the fire that showed John heading out of Mexico and back towards America before the flames fizzled out. “Now we wait for the fire show us John again, and maybe hope Karen doesn’t find a way to actually murder Reyes from the dead, even though I would like too myself.”

“Right.”

Chapter Text

Bill arrives when John enters Blackwater. He jumps with a curse halfway on his lips for John when he sees Javier standing there with a solemn smile. Beyond Javier sits people Bill hasn’t seen in years.

“Hello, Bill,” Javier greeted pulling him by the shoulder and towards the fire where everyone stares him. He sees no rage from the others merely identical smiles like Javier’s. “We’ll explain in a second when the fire is done showing us. Just sit down for now.” He lets himself be led by Javier though a part of him remains weary. He fully expects Arthur to jump out of his seat and punch him square in the face.

But Arthur remains focused on the fire before him, occasionally sending Hosea meaningful looks as John walk through the streets of Blackwater and into the police department. Everyone is greeted by the sound of a man counting money. John tries to get his attention, but the man keeps counting for a second later before telling John upstairs on the right. John passes through the small gate as the man resumes his counting, unbothered by John’s appearance.

When John reaches the top of the stairs, the partner from before greets him holding a board clip. “Mister Marston! So glad to see you. How was your journey?”

“Where’s my wife and son?” John asks sharply, fully confirming what the dead already knew.

“Being well looked after. Well looked after.”

“I wanna see them.”

“Mister Ross wants to speak with you. We’ve had some important developments.”

“You want me to take out a gun and blow a fucking hole in your head, right here, right now? You want that?” He moves closer in his anger, and the partner simply makes clears his throat.

“Mister Marston.”

“You want that?”

“Mister Marston, I ask you to calm down.”

“Why? Why? I did what you asked. I got you Williamson and Escuella. It’s over.” They see Ross lean against the doorway. “Stop playing games with me.” Ross scoffs shaking his head.

“No one’s playing games with you, Mister Marston! But if we were to play some games, there’d be some interesting ones we could play.” He walked towards John after glancing at the board before waving his partner away. “Like hanging you for murder, or confiscating all your property like that little farm of yours or having you put in the electric chair. Those are the sort of games we could play, but we choose to play a different game, so calm down, and play along with us.”

“God, I hate this man,” Lenny commented resting his chin on his palm.

“That makes two of us,” Arthur agreed.

“Where’s my wife?” John asked again.

“I forget… but I hear it’s very nice this time of year….” Ross glanced out a window with a sigh. “Mister Marston, please, I’ve never insulted your meager intelligence. Do not insult mine. We’ve done this little deal for your freedom in exchange for all your men from your old gang. You gave us Williamson and Escuella. We still don’t have van der Linde or Charles Smith, but now we know where Dutch is.” Hosea’s fists tightened along with the rest of his body. Arthur placed his hand over Hosea’s fists comfortingly.

“Sounds like Charles disappeared pretty good,” Arthur said, squeezing his father’s hand. “Then again, he did say he was going back to Canada after that business with Micah.”

“Micah? Charles… dealt with Micah?” Bill asked, half-surprised, half-nervous about speaking up.

“Well, he, John, and Missus Alder shot him dead on Mount Hagen, but yes,” Arthur replied, voice betraying nothing of how he felt about Bill.

“Oh, that was them, okay,” Bill muttered rubbing the back of his neck.

“Then go and shoot him,” John replied to Ross, while turning his back to the man. Ross’s partner returned form the room.

“No, sir. I want you to shoot him for me. And then I’ll let you be. The last thing I want to do I make martyrs out of all these people. He can be killed by some petty squabble by another low life.” Ross moved away, and the partner spoke up again.

“We believe van der Linde is holed up with a group of renegades near the wreck of the Serendipity river boat.” A sigh left Ross who glanced up at the ceiling almost dramatically.

“Ah, yes. Another group of renegades, obviously, the first group, your group has, shall we say, been disbanded.” That was a mild way of saying it considering all the death and destruction they had left behind. “Anyway, Mister Fordham, Mister Marston, shall we go?” Ross walked forward a few steps. “Oh, Mister Marston, your wife and son are doing well. Let’s both try to ensure things stay that way.” He walked off and the other two followed until they had reached halfway down the steps and Ross turned around with a gun they didn’t recognize pulled out.

“Oh, Mister Marston, one more thing. This is for you.” He held it out barrel first pressed against John’s stomach, and finger on the trigger. For half a second, most of the dead wondered if he would flat out shoot John, but then John’s hand pushed the barrel down.

“You’re too kind.”

“See, I having nothing but your best interests at heart.” Somehow, the dead doubted that.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t go off by mistake,” came John’s reply as he followed Ross down again.

When Ross passes the man counting money, a familiar voice rings out screaming about he had a patent for it. West Dickens is being led in cuffs by an officer, and he comments on John being alive. John replies with a hello of his own, and a comment on how he thought West Dickens was headed to Peking. West Dickens thought so too, until he was being arrested and charged with narcotic possession or some other such nonsense. John turns to Ross and tells him to have them release West Dickens. Ross questions it, and John tells him that West Dickens is an harmless old fraud; the kind of man that built the country. And that he helped John get Williamson, which was very true.

Ross tells the officer to let West Dickens go, and that he’s apparently a hero. The officer moves to uncuff West Dickens while Ross tells John to come along. West Dickens stumbles around the lobby for a few seconds after being released before finally moving outside, and then the flame flickers to show them John entering the automobile with the agents.

The automobile rumbles down the streets of Blackwater, where the gang has noted some change, and Ross starts talking about how it was something that lawmakers and lawbreakers were working together for the good of civilization. Fordham replies about how Ross always said, the higher the stakes, the smarter you have to play the game. Ross says he can’t imagine saying something so trite, and he wasn’t so sure john would agree with them. Fordham replies that John wasn’t as broadminded to appreciate the offer they were giving him.

“Son-of-a-whore,” John muttered.

“You best watch your damn mouth,” Fordham snapped.

“And it’s strange you should say that, Mister Marston, because, according my files you are the whore’s son,” Ross added.

“More files? Ugh,” Arthur muttered, remembering what Milton had told him all those years ago.

“Now, what else can I recall from the files? Oh let’s see. You killed hundreds of innocent people. You robbed at least forty banks that we’re aware of…”

“They told us there was a prize when you got to fifty,” John deadpanned sending the dead into roaring fits of laughter and giggles.

“Why does that sound like something you would say, Pa?” Arthur asked, wiping a tear from his eye.

“A con man never tells,” Hosea replied winking and sending the both of them into harder fits of laughter.

“I’m glad this is all such a joke to ya,” Fordham said. The automobile rumbled pass a farmhouse.

“I want my family.”

“And I’m sure all the men you murdered wanted their families too. Come now, you’re stupid, but you’re not that stupid. We both know how this has to be. And it could be all over today. As as soon as we find Dutch van der Linde, you can go back home and play being a farmer again, or whatever else you’ve been pretending to do for the last few years,” Ross said.

“First it was Bill, now it’s Dutch. After Dutch, it’ll be somebody else. Where does it end?” John asked prompting Fordham to say it ended when they said it ended, and John was in no position to make demands.

“The life you lived,” Ross spoke, “you don’t just walk away from that, buy a few chickens and make it all disappear.” No one could refute what Ross said. What he said was true, and John was seeing and living it first hand. Though some of them wonder if John hadn’t gone after Micah, would Ross still have found him? It was very likely Ross still would have, but no one could say for sure. “You should be dead or rotting in a jail cell by now. We are giving you a chance at new life, a chance at redemption. You can’t erase your past, Mister Marston, but we can.”

Silence held until Fordham said that the automobile was running well. Ross replied it was an elegant way to travel, and asked John what he felt about it. Slow was John’s reply. Ross replied it was convenient and reliable before asking John if he was comfortable. John said he wasn’t. Ross turned to Fordham calling John the brooding cowboy, and that weren’t many left. That he was a cliche, but still a dying breed like the buffalo, just as dumb, but not quite as noble.

Fordham says he hears that most cows are moved by rail, and John says not from where he is. Fordham says he’s not from anywhere. Ross comments a new dawn is breaking signaling this as the age of the machine. This prompts John to reply that they all would be living on the moon. Ross isn’t sure, but there was a possibility, it is the future, anything is possible. He also comments that this godforsaken land was finally entering the twentieth century. Prosperity has arrived, but for who?

Ross turns the subject to the wreck of the Serendipity, and how it’s been used as an occasional criminal hideout for years. They had been informed that Dutch and his new gang were making camp there. The group would stop on the cliff above, and John and Fordham would go on foot while Ross stayed with the vehicle to keep watch. Fordham reminded John that he would do as he said, and not to do anything stupid. Ross commented that John knew what was at stake. John replied that he wanted to find Dutch and finish this.

The vehicle stopped at the cliff, and John and Fordham jumped out to head down to the wrecked boat. There’s brief talk about Dutch, and what happens if John steps out of line. But as they grow closer to the wreck, Fordham comment son the lack of lowlifes, and told John to keep his eyes open.

When they’re almost on the boat, a loud yell echoes around the area. Fordham orders John to go investigate while he keeps watch. John says nothing as he climbs to where the sound is revealing a man bound to chair and a bag over his head. John shouts he’s found the man and takes off the cloth revealing a man of some native descent. Fordham says it’s their informant, Nastas. Nastas breathes out it’s a trap after John cuts him loose. Fordham informs John he has to carry Nastas because he doesn’t think the man can walk. With no complaints, John picks him up just as the fire flickers to show two men running towards the three guns drawn.

John carries Nastas to the automobile while Fordham gives him cover. They’re able to load him onto the car before taking off. Ross asks what happened, and Fordham tells him it was a trap. Ross asks who the man is, and is told that he’s the informant. Ross questions the man if he speaks English, but draws the sentence out. Fordham, again, says he speaks English, and repeats that he’s the informant. They found him tied up on the boat, and then they were jumped. John dryly thanks Ross for his help, and how great of an idea it was to send two men to take out an entire gang of outlaws. Fordham snarls at John to shut his mouth.

Halfway to Blackwater, the motor gives out, and Ross tells him to hurry up and fix it. They needed to take the man to a doctor. Fordham jumps from the machine, and when his feet hit the ground, bullets ring out. Ross tells John to hold them off with him before yelling at Fordham to fix the engine. Lenny leans forward to squint at the incoming gang.

“Is it me, or are they Indians?” he asked as John’s bullet pierced through one’s chest.

“Yep, they sure are,” Arthur confirmed. “Using them again? Of course, he is. Easy to rile them into a fury against the government, though I can’t say I blame them.”

“Yes, it’d be easy for Dutch to have a large amount of numbers from them, and good God, look how many are coming,” Hosea said, eyes intently focused on the fire fight before them.

“It’s like… he’s turned into Colm in a way,” Arthur replied. “More numbers over a decent few.”

“Oh, yes,” Hosea agreed as the firefight ended with the agents and John as the winners. “I can see it already.”

Fordham is able to restart the machine, and it rumbles along the dirt road back to Blackwater. There’s chatter about how lucky they were, John’s skills, and if the automobile was the future, then God help them all. Fordham’s driving skills were insulted as well by Ross, and John commented on how he preferred a horse, and that he could walk faster than the machine.

“So, what now? Do I get to see my family?”

“Where is Dutch van der Linde?”

“I don’t know.”

“In that case old boy, no, you don’t get to see your family. It’s a fairly simple agreement Mister Marston, even for a man as devoid of intellect as yourself. If you’d like me to explain it to you again, I’d be more than willing.”

“No, you’ve said enough.”

“We’ll find van der Linde soon enough. For now, however, I suggest we call it a day.”

“So how does it feel? Taking a man’s wife and child from him? Does it make you feel good?” John snapped at Ross.

“How does it feel to kill hundreds of men in cold blood?”

“You’re a coward. You’re a murderer. Actions of consequences, Mister Marston. Come now. Try to look on the bright side.”

“The bright side? There ain’t no bright side.”

“Your family is enjoying a much needed vacation. And in far more luxurious surroundings than those to which they’re accustomed, I assure you. Soon you will be able to start a new life together, absolved of all your sins. I can think of far more upsetting alternatives. We should take the Indian to Professor McDougall. See what he can get out of him.”

“Good idea sir!”

“I just can’t communicate with them,” Ross says as the vehicle stops in front of a green building.

“God, he’s an asshole,” Lenny muttered, and several of them nodded.

“So, this is the office of an anthropologist name MacDougal. He was thrown out of Yale for degeneracy,” Fordham said, getting out of the machine.

“Which should tell you something.”

“Indeed, but he’s been helping us deal with the natives in this area.” Everyone gets out of the automobile, though Fordham moves to open the door where Nastas still lies.

“They see him and they presume we’re all idiot academics,” Ross comments while Fordham and John get Nastas out. Ross knocks on the door, and a man opens it. It’s easy to assume he’s the professor.

“Mister Ross, Mister Fordham, good day, good day, what’s on earth’s going on here?”

“Kid got shot in the leg, beat up pretty good,” John answers. Fordham hands him over MacDougal.

“Now, MacDougal,” Fordham says, confirming what they thought, “we need information from this fellow about Dutch van der Linde. Can you see what you can find out for us?”

“I’ll do my best, sir,” MacDougal replies taking Nastas in. Fordham tells him to make sure he does while Ross speaks to John.

“Professor MacDougal has been a good friend of the U.S. government, Mister Marston. Just like you. Why don’t you see if you can help him in his study of the native problem in this county, that’s good fellow.” Ross leaves with Fordham while John watches them head off.

“Well, so far, no Dutch,” Arthur said.

“But it sounds like he’s near by at the least,” Hosea replied, clasping his hands together in front of him. “We’ll see how long it takes before they find him, especially with this Nastas fellow with them.” He turned to Bill. “But enough of that for now. Bill, obviously you’ve just seen what the fire does and shows us, let’s explain the rest to you while we wait for it to come back. For starters, we’re not going to attack you despite everything. We’re dead, and there’s no point either way, because we can’t change what’s happened.”

“Right,” Bill muttered before falling silent to listen to Hosea and the others speak.