Red Dead Revelation
by: The General
TG/N: John Marston and the theme of redemption that kept popping up throughout the game fascinated me, and even though I'm in full support of divine redemption, I thought Rockstar made some interesting points. Anyway, this is the result of that, as well as my excitement over a female character in a Rockstar game that was neither a prostitute, nor a snitch. Progress, yay! This takes place after the events of Bonnie being kidnapped; I made some minor changes to what happened. Please enjoy.
"Damn it!" He can hear Miss MacFarlane—Bonnie—burst out from behind him. "Damn Bill Williamson; damn those filthy Bollards; and damn my no good sense of judgment! Damn it all to hell!"
He flinches, reflexively by now. He still finds himself flush at the coarse words coming from her mouth, even though he has been around long enough to come to terms with the fact that Miss MacFarlane ain't like most womenfolk he ever met. In fact, it unsettles him some to hear a female talk in such a way despite having heard certain men utter far worse things. Though, in all fairness, if he had the kind of evening she had just experienced, he would probably be more inclined to swear, given the circumstances.
"Miss MacFarlane," he attempts again hesitatingly, calmly. He can't tell for sure, but she sounds upset, and no one knows better than himself that dealing with an upset woman requires patience, a soothing tone, and treading delicately. All skills he himself lacks, but he figures he may as well give it a shot, considering he has the whole journey back to the farm to make things right. "I understand you're upset, but sometimes the only thing you can do in a situation such as yours is—"
He notices she's crying after he turns around to face her. Two fat drops, one from each eye, roll down her face, first one then the other. For a moment, he remains physically frozen; he never knows how to quite comfort Abigail when she's upset, let alone some woman he's known for about a month. Panic bubbles in the back of his throat, and his mind begins racing through his options. He settles on finishing his statement. ". . . is . . . is to count your blessings; take into consideration everything you do have."
Bonnie bats her tears away with the back of one bruised and bloodied hand, her sadness temporarily replaced with anger. Of course she fought back; he'd have been a fool to think otherwise. Despite himself, he manages a ghost of a smile at her determination.
"'Count my blessings?'" Her voice shakes with all the subtlety of an unstable stick of dynamite. "Those bastards burned down our barn, and while nothing outside of the barn itself was harmed, it's going to take us months, possibly even years, to find the money to rebuild it!" Another couple tears slide down her cheeks, but she doesn't bother brushing them away. "A barn my father worked his whole life to build! So you tell me just how 'blessed' I am, you stupid man. All of our hard work, just . . ." She falters out, unable or unwilling to fill in the rest of the statement.
He hesitates again, still transfixed by the crying and unable to decide what to say. His line of work deals more with solving problems with guns and his fists than it does with issuing a word of comfort or two. Ignoring her insult, he assures her, "I'll stick around to help rebuild. Your father has shown me a kindness, and you saved my life. It's the least I can do."
"No offense, Mr. Marston," Bonnie offers with a pained grimace, "but the promises of an ex-outlaw hold about as much weight as the local law enforcement's guaranteed protection." She sniffs, and as if in a trance, he continues to watch as more tears spill from her eyes. "They threatened my father, and they nearly killed me, as well as attempted other . . . unmentionable things."
Suddenly, he brings the horse to a halt, his knuckles white from gripping the reins so tightly. He knows Bill Williamson, knows what he's capable of, yet the thought of him layin' a single finger on her fills him with a white hot rage. He struggles to keep his hands from shaking.
"Miss MacFarlane," he manages to keep his tone even; he doesn't want to upset her any more than she already is, "did they—did he—?"
"Nah," she brushes him off abruptly, sniffing unattractively. "I decked one of his goons good before he could get too fresh." He watches as she runs a trembling hand through her hair, which has since come undone. It falls far past her shoulders, sufficiently distracting his attention from both her tears and the cut under her left eye that has a trail of dried blood coming from it. "I was backhanded for my efforts"—At the look of his angered expression, she hastens to add—"but trust me, Mr. Marston. I gave as good as I got."
He takes in her appearance as a whole, becoming uncomfortably aware of her torn shirt and visible corset. He snorts in derision in an attempt to continue conversation as well to distract himself. Also to forcefully remind him of his marriage vows. "No offense, but you look a little worse for wear."
"Heh, you shoulda seen the other guy," she says dryly. In return, he offers her the first genuine smile of the evening. This seems to cheer her up some, but he can still see a few lingering tear drops. As if reading his mind, she adds, "I swear I'll stop cryin' soon. Just a little shook up is all." She grins. "Ain't nothing whiskey can't solve, that's for sure."
They both laugh, and the next thing he knows, he's reaching out to brush one of her tears away with the pad of his thumb. It mixes with the dirt and the dried blood, leaving a smeared trail behind it. He briefly considers trying again, but in that moment, he realizes that Bonnie's facial expression has sobered, though somehow it manages to convey a whole bundle of emotions. He feels her tense under his touch, and she stares at him with surprise, confusion, and—if he's not entirely mistaken—fear. That look alone brings him to, eliminating the mind fog, and he retracts his hand in a hurry. He hadn't even been thinking, his hands just kind of took over.
He just . . . seeing her upset and hurt like that triggers something in him. Reminds him of Abigail when their daughter died. All heaving sobs and something akin to terror etched on her face. It killed him to have no definite answers or comforting words to offer her; turned his insides to mush at the sight of all those tears. Same thing happens with Bonnie. He blames the part of him that always has to make things right for his actions. He blames his lack of intelligence for going along with it. He snorts to himself in mild amusement; Abigail would have agreed with the second part.
Abruptly, he reaches into his pocket, grabs his crumpled handkerchief, and tosses it to Bonnie. The handkerchief is filthy and patched all over the place, but she takes it as if it's a chivalrous offer from a fine gentleman, rather than an ex-convict. "Here." Whether she uses it or not, he can't say because he turns around, grabs hold of the reins, and punctuates flicking them with an animated, "HYAH!"
For her part, Bonnie doesn't address the incident. Once the horse reaches a steady trot, she thanks him. "I'm certain my father'll say it a thousand times over, but thank you, John, for everything you've done for us. Ex-gang member or not, you're alright."
It doesn't escape his notice that she uses his first name, but he resolutely keeps his gaze forward, eyes on the overgrown trail before him. All he can manage is a curt, "'Preciate that, Miss MacFarlane, I do. Now, let's get you home before it gets too dark."
He doesn't trust himself to turn around and say anything more, for fear he will do something rash, something stupid like . . .
He wants to kiss her. It scares him how much he wants to kiss her. Up until this point, he has never viewed her under the pretenses of attraction. Sure, she isn't God-awful to look at, but he's married; end of story. But in this moment . . . she reminds him so much of Abigail, with her stubbornness and vulnerability spilling out everywhere simultaneously, to the point where he's not sure whether he should find cover or offer his protection.
Bonnie's so different though, too. While Abigail closed off years ago, Bonnie's still living. He can't entirely blame Abigail, though, because she did lose a child, after all. Beautiful, little baby girl that they didn't even get to know. He has no problem putting himself in her shoes, but sometimes it gets tiresome.
Bonnie might be gruff around the edges, but she still has the fight mentality left in her. She still has purpose and convictions and the will to live. And even though it may be trampled, dragged through the mud or practically nonexistent, she still has a lingering sense of hope. While hope can mean different things for different people, it always means redemption for him. The chance to bury his past and command his own destiny. The chance to start over. To Abigail, he will always be a no good outlaw, hell bent on revenge; nothing more. But to Bonnie . . .
She offers him a faint glimpse of what a second chance would look like, of what it feels like to throw his shackles off and just to live. It's not much, but to him it's everything, and the temptation to ignore all the hellfire and brimstone and whatnot and just go for it is so damn strong, he can barely think straight.
Besides, she is here, and Abigail is not, and he's certain that if he would kiss Bonnie, she would more than likely kiss him back, rather than slap his face. And it would just be so easy to turn around and . . .
He realizes it before she does; they've reached their destination, they're here at MacFarlane Ranch. Two lanterns are lit, hanging from posts at the picket fenced entrance gate. From the look of it, it seems that Mr. MacFarlane has arrived before they do. The sheep dog sits on the porch, tongue hangin' out, tail wagging. A swarm of fireflies hovers in front of the house, lighting up in turns like tiny stars. He brings his horse to halt, attempting to focus on the horizon, the sun barely peaking over the mountains and casting the sky a deep purple. He estimates a good hour or two of light left, making his departure that much more necessary.
"Well, Miss MacFarlane," he says, though it is entirely unnecessary considering she knows where they are, "here you are."
He offers her his hand to help her down, but she politely declines. She slides off on her own accord with a grace he's never noticed before. Her feet barely make a sound when they hit the uncrushed gravel of the road, and had he not been looking, the only telltale sign of her departure would have been the absence of her arms around his middle. The night air quickly fills in the places of her absence.
She hesitates for a moment, as if she wants to speak somethin' on her mind, as if wants to share somethin' profound. Cat's got her tongue, though, and she just hangs her head and shakes it slowly back and forth. When she comes up for air again, her expression changes from undecided to resolutely annoyed.
"Call me 'Bonnie,' you stupid man," she all but barks at him, before turning on her heel and hobbling toward the front door. She hands him his handkerchief back; their fingers barely touch.
He manages a small smile and tips his hat at her. He waits until he can hear the front door close before he takes the reins in his own bruised and bloodied hands, urging his horse forward. As she falls into a tentative, then rhythmic gallop, he can feel the world tip back to its rightful, balanced place, and he breathes easier, despite his shackles.