How did things go so wrong?
That was really all that Arthur could think about as Dutch's boot pinned his hand to the ground. The man Arthur had looked up to most of his life, the man he had considered a father. Stepping on his hand, and knowingly stopping him from ending the life of the bastard who'd sold out their gang.
"It is over, Arthur." Dutch's voice was trembling. Whether it was rage, sadness, insanity or something else, it didn't matter. Arthur was passed the point of caring why, yet he still pressed on. Out of some long-broken sense of loyalty that was supposed to have united them all.
"Oh, Dutch…." Arthur forced himself to speak, blocking the astounding pain in his chest that would soon finish him. "He's a rat….." Arthur could hear Micah growling just a few feet away like some injured, embarrassed rodent. "You know it and I know it."
The pain in his chest exploded tenfold and Arthur wheezed out another splatter of blood. "He's sick." Arthur could hear Micah almost giggle. "He's dying. He's…..talking crazy."
There was a small gasp of pain from Micah that nearly brought a smile to Arthur's face. He had almost been able to kill the lying bastard, after all. The mighty Micah, nearly put down by an almost lifeless lunger. He'd never be able to live that down.
Dutch turned his head at the cries of nearby Pinkerton agents. As he looked around, Arthur searched for any sign of his old mentor in the eyes of the man who stood over him. The man who had brought him up and formed this group. The man who had once lived by a code. "I gave you all I had." Arthur coughed, scowling in disappointment towards the man. Dutch eyes fell back to Arthur. " I did." Arthur repeated, struggling to find any such indicator. Then there it was. A crack in Dutch's stern façade that quickly spiraled into uncertainty.
"I…." His voice was filled with fear. He wasn't sure if he was in the right anymore and Arthur saw for a moment, the face of his mentor forcibly acknowledging what he was doing. His boot flew away from Arthur's hand. "…I….." Dutch's fear turned to shame and regret as Arthur tried desperately to grab the revolver one last time, but when another wave of coughing exploded out of him, he knew he'd never be able to aim the damn thing correctly, even if he grabbed it. Arthur finally gave up on the weapon and rolled onto his back, looking up to nigh sky that somehow still managed to look serene when everything was going to hell below.
"C'mon Dutch." Micah's tired voice still annoyed Arthur even as he lay dying. "Let's go buddy. We made it. We won."
Arthur could tell that the bastard's hubris was damaged but still intact. He must've thought that Arthur was going to be the last gang member left. "John made it." Arthur groaned out. "He's the only one. The rest of us…. no." Arthur struggled to put on a small smile as he imagined the look of rage on Micah's face. "But I tried…In the end, I did."
Whether it was that little nugget of information or Dutch's continued silence, Arthur could tell something had changed in Micah. There was an air of fear and panic as words continued to slither out of his mouth. "C'mon." Micah pleaded at Dutch. "Let's go, we can make it!"
Arthur looked to his mentor for the last time, wondering if he'd really listen to the man who had sold them all out. Dutch's uncertainty vanished when Arthur met his eye and he looked to Micah with long glare as he started to move away from the two of them, one slow step at a time. Arthur let out a little sigh as Micah continued his pleading. "C'mon Dutch…..C'MON!"
The yell echoed all over the mountain but to Dutch, it might as well have been miles away. He kept on walking until he finally vanished from sight. Letting out a growl that sounded more wolfish than man, Micah started back down the mountain in the opposite direction.
Now alone, Arthur thought about everything that had happened to him. His childhood. Dutch and Hosea picking him up for the first time. Issac, Eliza, and the life he could've had with them. Mary Linton, and hoping she'd finally find someone who she could spend the rest of her life with. Charles, Tilly, and Sadie, and wishing that they could find peace. The members of the gang he'd lost in the last few months. Shaun, Lenny, Hosea, and the shame they would've felt if they knew what was going to happen once, they had passed.
And then there was Marston, the one he had probably been the hardest on aside from Micah. Dutch's favorite, little Johnny Marston was now somewhere out there running to his family and hopefully getting far away from all this chaos. If most of his life was one of regret, Arthur was glad he could be proud that he helped him do so. He could die with some measure of respect for himself intact.
"How do you want to be buried Arthur?"
Hosea's words from almost a lifetime age washed over Arthur's brain like a river. He let out another tired cough as he tried to remember what his answer had been.
"Ah, I don't care about that nonsense. Just face me to the west so I can watch the setting sun and remember all the fine times we had that way."
West. Arthur's forced his eyes open and rolled back onto his stomach. He had to be looking west before he went. That was the one goddamned thing he asked for. He started crawling over the rocky road right up to the peak of the mountain. His muscles were bursting and the pain in his chest only worsened with each nudge forward, but he paid them no mind. Finally, Arthur found himself right at the top. He fell back to his stomach and for the final time, rolled onto his back. The darkened sky was lighting up with shades of orange and red as Arthur tilted his head to the side. He looked out over the horizon expecting to see the still dark fields and forests below but instead was greeted by the dazzling show of light accompanied the rising sun.
He wanted to laugh. He had tilted his head the wrong goddamn way.
As his strength finally gave out, Arthur's vision began to darken and the spectacular showing of light from the morning sun started to fade and warp till it almost looked like the outline of a grazing white tail deer. The deer looked up from it's grazing as Arthur's eyes closed and for a split second its eyes saw into Arthur's before everything went dark.
The first thing Arthur noticed about hell was that it was surprisingly cool and more than a little breezy. He never gave too much thought to the afterlife but from what he could remember he was told that hell was supposed to be a hot and terrible place. Not a cool, windy one. He breathed in what should have been some sort of hellish fume but instead was rather cold and crisp air. Not unlike the kind he'd get atop a mountain somewhere. Things clicked in Arthur's mind as he began to remember what happened. He had been on a mountain. It's where he had…died. He opened his eyes which he regretted instantly as a blinding light smashed into his corneas. He growled out a series of curses and waited a few moments before trying again. This time he put a hand up to block out the light and hopefully get a better look at what was around him.
As his eyes adjusted, the area around him came into view. He was laying against a rock and could see he was overlooking some sort of cliff. Risking being blinded once again, Arthur lowered his hand to look ahead of him. The sun was right where it had been, the plains, the woods. It was all still there. If anything, it looked a bit more colorful than before. He allowed himself to wonder if he had, somehow, ended up in heaven. That thought was immediately ruled out when he felt a large cough come out of him. Heaven wouldn't let its people bring in diseases, would it? If so, he felt bad for Thomas Downes.
He accidently allowed a smirk onto his lips but that little burst of energy was enough to let him know that he did indeed have energy. Plenty of it, in fact. The type of strength he would rarely find after an exceptionally good sleep.
He pulled himself back up to his feet and looked down at himself. His clothes were the same, but they were cleaner and softer than ever. Almost as if he hadn't been in a gun fight at all. He felt up and down to see if any of the Pinkertons had taken anything. Nope, it all was still there. His holsters, his revolvers, some ammunition, his money. All still right were he left it. And then, he felt something in his right-hand coat pocket. He reached in and pulled out a folded-up letter that had his name written on it.
Arthur opened the letter.
"Evening or Morning chap,
I'm not sure you'll remember but I'm the fellow you managed to help when you found all those carvings for me some weeks ago. Francis Sinclair was the name. Now, I know you were probably more than a little rattled by our last talk and believe me It only gets more confusing from here, but the point is, I decided I needed to thank you with more than a little moola. I found out you're suffering from TB, so I mixed up a little something for ya. You should find it in your saddlebags. It's not an instant fix, so don't go around gabbing that it's a miracle. Just keep taking it every so often and get yourself somewhere with a dryer climate. With any luck, that cough of yours will just sort of go away. I hope you live a good life now Mr. Morgan, otherwise I'll regret doing this for you.
It all might as well have been gibberish. A cure, living a good life. And what did he mean in his saddlebags. His bags were down with….
A lonesome horse cry bellowed out from the path below him. Arthur turned around and froze at the sight of Buell came marching up the path like he'd just been called. His eyes as full of life and energetic as they had been before the attack by the Pinkertons. Buell strode right up to Arthur and lightly nudged him in the face trying to get some sort of response from the outlaw. The minute the horse made contact, Arthur let out a heavy, emotional breath. This shouldn't have been possible. He had watched Buell die and yet here he was. Here they both were.
He patted Buell's face and gave the horse the closest thing to a hug a man could give a horse before speaking. "You just as confused as me, boy?" Arthur chuckled, wiping away what might've grown to be a tear in his eye. Buell stomped in what Arthur's mind was agreement which in turn gave Arthur another chuckle. " I thought so." Arthur looked back and noticed his saddle still attached along with yet another note
"I managed to keep him alive. Horse is almost as tough as you, Mr. Morgan. Just don't push him too hard, right away."
The smile he had as he mounted his horse would make even the most sour men smile. "All right, boy. Let's just see what the hell is going on here?" Arthur said before Buell began galloping down the mountain. Right past where the bodies of Pinkerton agents should've been and right past the point where Buell had once been fatally shot. Arthur once again let out a laugh. None of this made a lick of sense. He was sure he had died on that mountain and he was sure Buell had passed as well. Yet here they were. Riding once again. And for the first time in months, he didn't feel like complete shit. Arthur's chest still hurt but it hadn't been nearly as bad as it once was. He'd certainly look into whatever Francis had left him but first he needed to figure out just what the hell he was going to do.
A few things started rolling through Arthur's mind at once as he and Buell barreled down into forest. Firstly there was the urge to go after Micah. Even if he didn't like being in the revenge business, what that snake had done not just to him but to the gang had couldn't go unpunished. Then there was meeting up with Charles. With any luck he and Rains Fall got away from the army in one piece but he still felt obliged to make sure. Tracking down Dutch also crossed his mind but he wrote that one off almost as quickly. He might have walked away from Micah in the end, but that didn't make up for what had happened before. Then there was Francis. The mysterious, gibberish speaking man who seemed to be responsible for Arthur getting better. He hadn't stuck around to see his work complete and there was the mystery of why he even helped at all. That was a whole other ordeal that needed to be looked into. That thought as well as all the others came to a screeching halt when he came upon Beaver Hollow.
"You be quiet Mr. Bell! And put down your gun."
"Ms. Grimshaw." Arthur whispered, thinking back to how when everything fell to pieces and the gang splintered, she'd been the only to side with him and John. Surely if he was still up and living, she could be. "Ms. Grimshaw!" He called out to the area that had once been the camp but looked like no one had been seen here in a while. He rode through the area, repeating her name in case she was just outside his sight. No response.
Next, he rode up to the cave. "Susan, it's Arthur!" He shouted into the darkness. He waited for a reply but after his echo vanished and the moments passed he grew worried. He got of his horse and started for the entrance but he froze just before he could go inside. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a small cross standing in the ground a few feet away from Butcher's Creek. Arthur held his breath as he started towards it. Once he was close enough, Arthur could clearly make out the letters written on it.
"Oh, Susan." Arthur knelt down towards the cross over Ms. Grimshaw's grave and bowed his head. It wasn't fair. Why was he up and moving and not her? She had been the one who held the camp together. His thoughts drifted back to her getting on Karen, Tilly, and Mary Beth to work more. Her and Uncle's odd little moments. Her getting Arthur to come with her and get Tilly back when she was kidnapped. She had been just as loyal and as tough as Hosea and himself. She didn't deserve what happened to her. Dying on the ground because of that bastard traitor Micah.
He clenched his fist in spoke in a low hush as if not to wake her from her eternal rest. "I'm so sorry, Susan." He wished he could say more. He wished he was some sort of great man of words who could do some justice to the woman who had practically be a second mother to him. But he couldn't. He was just some outlaw that had lost a woman he cared about.
He stood back up and turned to walk away. His mind returning to the plethora of things that needed doing but also now contemplating a different matter. Ms. Grimshaw had a grave and not a new one either. The wood of her cross was older and the ground she was buried under looked like it hadn't been touched with a shovel in a good while. That and the camp was long gone. Almost like it had never been there at all.
"Just how long have I been asleep for?" He wondered as he got back on his horse. He needed to start thinking and get his affiars in order. He thought about heading to a nearby town but at the risk of attracting any Pinkertons or other unwanted attention, he supposed the closest safe place he could go to do that was a little cabin further north. One in which a helpful widow would hopefully allow him some time to think and plan on what to do next. "Let's go, boy." He spoke to Buell who gave a loud huff of acknowlegment before bolting out of Beaver Hollow.
A/N: So, RDR2 is now one of my favorite games ever. And I wanted to take some time to start a little story about Arthur and would've happened if he suddenly came back to life during the epilogue. Hope you guys enjoyed it. I'll see you next time.