He was leaving.
"John—John, don't do this."
There went the gun and the hat.
The last cigarette in his pocket.
And the full departure of his face.
"John, the baby—"
"Doesn't need me," he finished, slamming the door of her bedroom open. "That child—I ain't no father."
"I could never be a father, Bonnie."
"I never will be a father."
"How would you know?"
His eyes bore into hers.
"You enjoy rubbing salt into wounds?"
He turned then, taking a long drag of his cigarette before he made his way over to her trembling form, gaze impenetrable and so like that day—the day of their cursed meeting. There was no turning back, and they both knew it: He knew this most of all; he knew it from the beginning of the rift that had begun to strangle their relationship; he knew it after all those years of a foolish journey towards supposed redemption, now tied to a sentence that had spanned for the longest of whiles. He knew he hated himself as much as she did—broken, empty, and delusional.
With a babe.
"You like that? Reminding me?" He backed her up against the wall, all too aware of the wideness of her eyes that drowned a river. "You gonna serve that plague onto some silver platter again?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Yeah, you go on ahead and say that."
"You know what I mean."
She knew it then; he knew that she knew it—she was never a good liar, anyway. With her disheveled form and wide eyes, she wasn't the proud damsel who never was in distress, until now. He could see all those years of coming back to her after being nearly sent to the grave, and it struck him then how similar they were when it came to matters of the heart. He recalled the new ring on her finger declaring her Mrs. Marston, this little house teeming with unsuppressed sentimentalities, the relief of obtaining a red redemption he thought was too dead to even dream of; but all of this—all of what they had now—had resorted to disintegrating at the new demise.
Was she really Mrs. Marston? No, she couldn't be. She had always been Ms. MacFarlane from the beginning. The only symbol of their bond was the child inside of her, the child that, if he was selfish enough to stay, would grow up to be an even bigger monster than his whole being.
Women, he found as he regarded her with a newly leveled gaze, truly drove a man to ruin.
"John, I didn't mean for it to lead to this." A breath. "Jack—"
They were too dangerous.
"Is dead; I know that," he bit, scoffing in disdain. "Don't you think I would know that of all people?"
"Don't you think I know that? Didn't you ever think that I knew my boy was dead?"
"I held his bloody body in my arms as he was dying!" His fingertips trembled as he took the short cigarette out of his mouth, crushing it in his palm as he dug in his coat for another and a lighter, and the only way he disguised it was by clenching his fist. For to see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing, was the only way—this tactic was his last stand, the last before the final step out of this house. "I held my only living child as he was gunned down at the age of seventeen, Bonnie, along with Abigail. Gunned down because they were looking for me."
"I buried my son and wife the same way I buried my daughter; except this time, I couldn't even recognize their faces!"
God damn this all.
He needed to leave before he lost himself once more.
Because she was looking at him, and it was then he realized how tired both of them were from this strife that ate their tie, hanging onto some unity that couldn't ever last from the start. They were much too obstinate and young in this old world for a child that would create a new beginning; he could never have a new beginning—he was stupid and much too hopeful for his own good, thinking that he was a new man who had his slate wiped clean. And she was naïve, a woman in a man's world, a woman who, even in that pit, was a girl who wanted that whole family she never had, much like him, if he took out what he had during his redemptive walk.
But he could never forget. Perhaps, that was his flaw, standing here with a cigarette that tasted like the bite of bullets, a supposed husband before a wife he had sworn to protect for the rest of his life, however short that may be now. He had failed her, and yet, he found a sick satisfaction in projecting that inner turmoil right into her face, to see those quivering hands on her belly clutch even tighter. She was vulnerable—but not as vulnerable as he was.
He would never say that out loud, though. He would not remind himself that he was the man who repaired the stairs and bought the wedding ring, the man who became sheriff after the law demanded his hide, the man who had gotten on his knees for her. He knew that she would not tell him that she was Mrs. Marston who became a new woman for him, who tried hard to be a good wife, someone who dragged him to church every Sunday with contentment. They both would not say a word about the past, about the past that came before these happy, golden years that deemed him not as a condemned outlaw, but as a simple man.
So, he stared at her, his Colt tucked into its holster, teeming with bullets that would be the end of him by another hand. He looked at her face, the face that was still painfully beautiful and honest after countless assaults; he looked at the bulge in her stomach and the place he called home; he looked at the calluses on his palms the same way he looked at the hollowness of her eyes. He gazed at the window and saw the darkness of the night taking over.
"It's over." The definition of 'sorry' was lost on him. "It's over."
"No, no, no," she breathed. "No, it's not."
How he had wished for that before. Now, the memory of doing so at night, aware of those after him as she lay sleeping in his arms, was much too vivid, and he crushed that nonsensical reminder into ashes. He could not stay; they knew it all too well. He could not stay, but she was killing him just by refusing to let go.
"I'm tired of all this shit, Bonnie. I'm tired, and so are you."
"I'm tired. You're tired. This … this had damned us both—no, this was about how I damned both of us. It's not possible.
"Because it's idiotic to believe that I could start over. You know that they're after me again. They won't stop until they see my body riddled with bullets. After all those years, it seems as if I never redeemed myself.
"I ain't the sheriff anymore. I ain't free anymore. I ain't clean anymore."
He never was.
"I can't be a father anymore."
Not ever again.
She was trembling, but he went down the stairs as a bounty again; he went down the stairs as one of the most wanted men in the country, known as a killer and heartless bastard that brought forth demons. He went down the stairs as a man avenging his dead child and wife who were ruined by the very United States that had sworn to protect its citizens; he went down the stairs as one outlaw of the many.
He went down the stairs without a ring on his finger.
And he left without a child in his arms.