Chapter 4: A Devil's Trap
*Waves* Hello again, readers.
So, good news: I'm getting Kay back! Yay for betas! I was waiting to post this until she got to it, but it'll be a bit longer and I feel bad about withholding something I actually had done. So here. Chapter 5 will very likely be beta'd by her and the remaining as well. :3
Sora Resi: Yeah, he's just- emmm, lost, I suppose? I think that best explains the shift.
Sarpndo: Actually, Oregon was pretty hopin' in the Western expansion age for America. Oregon trail, new land distributing, Indian removal, statehood, fighting the Brits over borders and the slavery clauses in the Oregon territory constitution making a pain to be admitted to the Union. Oregon was a hot mess for the US for a bit, but people flocked to it. Big fur and lumber trade up there was ripe with wealth for people going West.
Tamagoakura: A man can dream, and live in his delusion, can't he? ;)
april. sherbert: Pffffft Alfred's a softy.
Trahnael: Answered in a pm. :)
blackcat: He expected a perfect, quiet life because that's the naivety he chooses to indulge himself in :P
KnightByDesign: *Puts on her own shades* Maybe they will... maybe the won't... stick around, sweet-cheeks.
Minooshka: Nope, promise he's not bipolar. DID is a very strange psychological disorder in that you are actually dealing with separate individuals. Dark!Art is his own person, and so is Arthur. Some patients of DID have reported being co-conscious of their alters, in that they recognize them as separate people. This is where it usually gets mistaken as schizophrenia, but they're very different. Arthur's earliest incidents with his alter when he can't remember what he did were because he had not recognized Dark!Art as a person. Dark!Art was present, not Arthur. Remember, back then, these kinds of things were not just simply known. People didn't really understand physiological disorders, diseases and abnormalities. Through years of dealing with the condition, Arthur slowly came into understanding, and in turn becoming co-conscious with Dark!Art. This is why he can tell what is happening, despite Dark!Art being manifested. Imagine it almost like seeing through another's eyes, but only seeing, not interacting. That's the only way I can really think to describe it. Abnormal Psych, isn't it great? xD Anyways, thanks for reading AT and giving it a chance!
Ivory Greenfeild: Thank you, dear!
Chapter 4: A Devil's Trap
The train ride gave Alfred a chance to sleep on his worries. He wasn't fitful per say, but his sleep was shallow as his mind raced. He kept finding himself waking each time the train passed over a rough patch of tracks. And being jolted awake yet, he had to instantly glance over to his left to ensure Arthur was still beside him. The older was curled up against his side, head on his shoulder and his fingers gripping Alfred's cotton shirt. He didn't look any better than Alfred felt. There was a grimace on his lips, and his brows were furrowed, almost as if he were in pain.
With a sympathetic sigh, the blue-eyed man carefully removed Arthur's fingers from his shirt so he could wrap his arm around his shoulders. Arthur made a soft noise in his sleep, but nuzzled close and curled his hands into Alfred's shirt again. Alfred smiled as the pained expression eased some and his love could feel his comforting body heat washing over him in the cool cabin.
It was always the strangest thing. Arthur looked small and completely non-threatening with his legs tucked up on the seat and his nose pressed into Alfred's flank. Yet somehow a whole other monster occupied the same body, and turned his lover into a cunning killer at the slightest provocation. The murderous glint his lover's eyes could hold was enough to chill the bones and send a shudder down his whole body.
Arthur stirred at the disturbance, nuzzling closer and grumbling something incoherent. He blinked up at Alfred with a sleepy expression, hair mussy and mouth slightly agape. The cowboy offered a soft smile.
"Ya sleep okay?"
Arthur narrowed his eyes at the question, but didn't bother to respond as he sat up straight, and glanced out the window. Green eyes tried focusing on the blurring outside, but having trouble, was quick to give up out of boredom. Alfred watched him curiously, finding Arthur's silence a bit strange considering the older rarely refused a chance to exchange words.
"Are we almost there?" Arthur muttered after a long lapse and Alfred had turned back inwards.
"Not sure," Alfred started, "lost track 'a time."
"Did I sleep long?"
Alfred shrugged, leaning closer as Arthur turned away to look out the window once more. He couldn't see the emerald-eyed man's expression, but he could feel the tension between them that hadn't left since Oil City. He'd hoped it would gradually disperse, but it wasn't looking like a viable option any longer. There had been a bright moment Alfred had believed it was gone in the alley behind the train station, but it had crept back between them, making the American wonder what Arthur had been dreaming of to keep him aloofly hostile. It left him sighing wistfully, and Arthur glanced back at him. There was a flicker of hope in Alfred's bright eyes, but it was quickly dashed when the older turned away again, forehead pressed to the glass without a word.
He had no other choice but to resign after that, though he rested his chin on Arthur's shoulder for a moment. The emerald-eyed man sighed quietly, relaxing under the touch, but felt afraid to speak for fear of upsetting Alfred. What else could he really say? Apologizing again would solve nothing, and trying to make amends would be pointless. There was nothing he could give to Alfred to make up for this.
So they sat in silence, Alfred eventually leaning back to fall asleep while Arthur restlessly debated in his mind.
"It was worth it. That place was getting old anyway," the shadowy voice hissed.
No! Alfred loved that home!
"Trolley had to die! And how could he love it? That pig treated my cowboy like a mangy dog!"
It was his hometown! Imagine how it would be to go back to London!
"London was a filthy place..."
But it was home...
He was jolted from his thoughts by the sharp shriek of the train whistle. The jerk jostled Alfred too, who had slumped in his seat against Arthur during the long ride. Arthur hadn't realized the extensive length of time he'd been oblivious to the world around them. Looking out the window to avoid Alfred's drowsy mumblings and obvious question of where they were, the Brit watched the world fly by.
"Why won't ya talk to me?" Alfred suddenly asked, a strange expression on his visage. Arthur looked back, unsure of what he read in those shining blue eyes and the slight furrow of his brows.
"We can talk if you'd like."
"Not what I was meanin', Artie."
"Then what do you mean?"
Arthur loosed a frustrated sigh, knowing exactly what Alfred wanted, but too pensive to actually speak the words. So he said nothing else, and the dejected look that he earned from his cowboy hurt more than he cared to admit. The blue-eyed man backed off after that, returning to gazing around the cabin before he was dozing from boredom again.
They didn't speak a word to each other the rest of the agonizingly long train ride. It went on through the night, and eventually Arthur fell asleep as well. He woke occasionally, sometimes with his head on Alfred's shoulder, or slumped against his body. The younger never seemed to mind despite the emerald-eyed man flinching every time he realized the situation. He almost expected some kind of cold shoulder routine or maybe even a rebuttal, but Alfred did nothing but smile sadly at him as he inched away in his seat.
So when the time finally came to disembark, Arthur practically skittered away the second his feet hit the ground. He moved into the crowd, vanishing to catch his breath, trying to get a moment away from the man that left him feeling guilt-ridden and bogged down with it. Breathing coming in harsh pants, the Arthur's eyes darted about, taking in the reddish city, the dust, the grimy faces. This certainly wasn't Pennsylvania anymore.
Arthur yelped in surprise when a heavy hand clapped his shoulder. He spun around, eyes wide and hand in his pocket when he met the startling blues of his lover.
"Ya ran like the Devil 'imself was after ya," Alfred noted, worrying his lower lip.
There it was again. That tone. It was laced with such maddening guilt that it made Arthur shrink under Alfred's gaze, feeling wretched and repulsive. It took Alfred making a noise in his throat to drag the older from his inner detest to finally make some sort of response to justify his actions.
"Err, I don't like confined spaces. I needed a breath of fresh air, and I needed it now."
"Oh, well, I see."
Arthur awkwardly shifted his weight from one foot to the other, growing uneasy as Alfred's gaze was redirected from him to the people milling about the platform. He couldn't help but inch closer, unconsciously finding his fingers curling into Alfred's hand. He was shocked when Alfred shook him off.
"Not here," he said, eyes alert as he continued to observe.
Arthur withdrew his hand as if he'd been stung, miserable and uncomfortable without the gentle friendliness of his cowboy by his side. He regretted not making amends on the train, he really did, he just had no idea how to go about doing it.
"What are you looking for, brute?" he whispered, trying to lighten himself, and maybe draw Alfred back to him.
"Hunters," Alfred stated before grabbing their bags and nudging Arthur off towards the main street.
"Hunters?" Arthur questioned, glancing up for an explanation as they walked. "Like Ivan?"
"Yeah," the younger responded, keeping at attention, "I doubt Trolley's death's been heard out here yet, but it dun' hurt to be cautious. Last thing we need's another Ivan chasin' us."
Shivering, Arthur couldn't agree more. Just the thought of the ambitious Russian sent a chill down his spine. He'd spent so long fleeing from the man, lost Alfred for two years because of him, and now to think a new man could take his grisly place frightened the older. He swallowed hard, and doubled his efforts to keep pace with his American as they made their way to a lodge with vacancies.
Upon reaching their room, Alfred shut the door, and leaned back on it with a rough sigh. Arthur turned, eyes filled with worry as all the life and energy seemed to drain from his love's body. He couldn't help but move to him, but the cowboy skirted away, heading for the bed. He hadn't even bothered to move their belongings away, having dropped them at the entrance.
Lip quivering with nervous apprehension, Arthur immediately followed.
Alfred had taken to lying flat on his stomach, arms folded under his head as he tried to think of their next move. It made him sick to his stomach to imagine another hunter chasing them. He'd lost the love of his life for two long, miserable years. He'd brooded and fallen so far in those aching times, a shell of his former happy-go-lucky self. He couldn't do it again, he couldn't lose Arthur again. And he couldn't keep him safe with this ugly distance between them. He needed Arthur to be at his side, smiling and trusting again. Just watching the older dart off the train and vanish into the crowd had sent his heart plummeting. The emerald-eyed man could vanish without a trace at any second, had spent the better part of his life in obscurity. And the cowboy's greatest fear was that someday his love really would be gone, stolen or fled, and loneliness would be his only companion once again.
His eyes widened as he was pulled from his thoughts by a soft weight on his back. Glancing over his shoulder, he was surprised to find bright emerald's watching him with concern. Arthur had crawled onto his back, draping himself on the cowboy's much larger frame. Head resting on his shoulder, Arthur offered an apologetic kiss to his cheek before settling back down.
Arthur's slight weight didn't bother the thickly built American in the slightest, but the kiss had him blushing faintly. He didn't know what to say, wasn't sure how to fix anything anymore. Maybe his mind was just too crowded. Maybe he was clinging to his lover too much. He just didn't know.
"Alfred," Arthur whispered, nuzzling the nape of his neck, trying to find the excitable and loving cowboy he'd left behind that stormy Pennsylvanian morning.
"Artie, I think I'm gonna take a walk. I wanna clear m' thoughts. 'Sides, my legs' stiff as boards from that train."
The older sighed.
"As you wish," he mumbled.
"Dun' follow me, 'right?"
Arthur was silent, being somewhat forced to agree. He owed Alfred that at the very least. But he didn't move. It wasn't that it didn't faze him to, it was more that he hoped Alfred would change his mind. Maybe he would let him stay perched on his back, stay close, make things right. Alfred didn't stir either, the same thoughts occupying the various niches of his mind, hoping and praying somehow the Brit's silver tongue would concoct some kind of cure-all for this void left between them.
But it never came. Arthur snapped his jaw shut, afraid to speak and deepen the crack. He knew he wouldn't lose Alfred, couldn't really. It would have been the death of them both; Arthur would be destroyed by his own madness, Alfred from his loneliness, but it didn't mean the strain couldn't leave an ugly scar.
Finally, Alfred breathed a terrible sigh, one that left his very bones aching and had Arthur cringing. Rolling his heavy shoulders, the American braced his hands beneath him and rose. Arthur skittered off, sitting cross-legged in the sheets and shoulders slumped . A twinge of guilt left a pang in the younger's heart seeing those bright eyes turned downward at his slim, knotted fingers. He kneaded at the linen as he felt those blue orbs upon him, imagining the accusation he knew should be there, though Alfred wouldn't show it.
"I'll be back soon," Alfred muttered, running his fingers through his hair.
"Stay outta trouble," he said, and Arthur felt the rebuttal in those words even if Alfred hadn't intended it. When the door shut, Alfred having departed, Arthur slumped into the pillows with a miserable groan. All he could do now was wait, and pray that this walk would somehow clear away the distasteful separation Alfred felt in his heart for the Brit that could ruin his life like the slice of a knife through skin.
But time came and went until the sun had long since vanished. Its dying embers left only the faintest color in the sky when Arthur peeked out the window of their room for what could have possibly been the hundredth time.
The bright lights of saloons dominated the main street where most shops had closed up and dimmed. Shadows of men flickered around porches or from windows, their silhouettes laughing and drinking. Arthur furrowed his thick brows, looking for one distinguishing shape among them. Alfred had said he was taking a walk, but the man could have walked Dodge three times with how long he'd been gone, and the emerald-eyed man thought he had ulterior motives.
Leaning up, he folded his arms across the window ledge, and set his head down with a wistful exhale. He hated when Alfred drank. He wasn't violent or any such thing under the burn of liquor, but he only took to alcohol when his heart was hurting. And that gnawed at Arthur with unease and even more guilt.
He had to wrench his gaze away after so long, unable to keep his mind from wandering to a darker place than the nightlife of Dodge. Arthur grabbed his coat, shrugged it on and was out the door as he smoothed the wrinkles down his chest.
Exiting the lodge and stepping out on the porch was like being transported to a whole other world. The night came alive with shadows thrown in every direction, the sound of harsh laughter and the cacophonous noise of pianos, bands, and glasses all making their own lively music. The air smelled of liquor and dust, and the people sang and cheered to God-only-knows what rowdy girl or tune. It was absolutely intoxicating.
Arthur swallowed hard as he stepped from the porch and was barreled into by a group of men leading around a flirtatious saloon girl. Stumbling, Arthur managed to get around them, but the girl sent Arthur a wink before wrapping her arm around the neck of a scraggly fellow as they went on their way. The Brit shook his head, dusting off his coat before making it across the street without another incident.
Already a bit shaken from earlier, Arthur nearly jumped out of his skin when he was yanked off his feet the moment he entered the nearest saloon.
"Hey, Artie!" the jubilant and very drunk voice of his American called. Alfred hauled Arthur up into his lap with his abnormal strength. The resounded squeak and squirming from the Brit earned a raucous laugh from the others around the table.
Wide-eyed, Arthur clawed at Alfred's forearm as it was wrapped around his middle. Clearly he was having no say in the matter as Alfred – drunk beyond logic – started babbling along with other rough looking fellows he'd decided to befriend with his friendly face.
"This here's m' friend Artie," he explained, and most of the others raised their glasses in welcome, spilling whiskey and grinning.
"Ain't he scrawny!" one exclaimed, motioning with his glass, resulting in more sloshed liquor.
"Yeah, scrawny as a starved mule! I reckon he got less meat on him than lil' miss Beth over there!" the man motioned to a petite saloon girl making her way around the tables, obviously looking for the man with the most money.
"Ya even got 'im sittin' like a real lady!" one of the men jeered, banging his hand on the table and laughing like it was the world's best joke. Alfred furrowed his brows though, and glanced down at the squirming Brit. He had the older sidesaddle in his lap, though holding onto him that way was starting to become a pain. Without much thought, he tugged Arthur to sit forward in his lap, and gave him another bone-crushing, but affectionate, squeeze.
"Nah, he ain't no gal. Artie just small, right, Artie?"
"Put me down!"
"Hey, pull the lil' fella up a seat!" one of the men rose to grab Arthur a chair, but furrowed his brows and scratched his head. The saloon writhed with people and sound, and there wasn't an empty seat to be found among the rowdy crowd. "Place is full! Sorry fella, not a chair left for ya."
"I don't care! Just put me down you brainless, drunken ogres!" Arthur howled, trying to bite at the cowboy's arm.
"Heh, he's feisty too!" Alfred grinned, squeezing Arthur's middle with what he meant as affection, though it simply crushed the air out of the Brit's lungs. "Oughta see 'im with his knife! Scare the life outta ya!"
"Nah! That lil' thing?"
"Yeah! I'm tellin' ya!"
"Alfred, shut up! Let me go!"
"Eh, I like this here lil' guy, let 'im stay!"
A cheer went up around the table, muffling the Brit's sigh of utter defeat as he slumped back against his American. The drunken men, Alfred included, didn't pay any heed to anymore of Arthur's protests, nor did they seem to mind the way the blue-eyed man kept showing his companion so much attention beyond what was friendly. Arthur was glad for that, guessing that they were too drunk to hold either themselves or Alfred accountable for whatever happened tonight. He could only hope to understand the musings of uneducated, criminal drunkards.
They kept up their heavy drinking and talking, eventually starting a game of cards as well. The Brit had long since given up on his escape, seeing as Alfred's strength didn't diminish under the affects of alcohol. Though he did have to slap Alfred's wandering hands away a few times. It seemed a little bit of playfulness crept into his blood this drunk. While he waited on the others to deal he would smooth his hand down Arthur's lithe thigh, hidden under the table, or the hand at his side would stroke down his ribs to the jut of his hipbone. It wasn't much, but Arthur was in no mood to be touched when he was being held captive against his will.
But when swatting at him didn't work, Arthur resorted to digging his nails into Alfred's skin. The blue-eyed man glanced down at him, grinned devilishly, then returned to his game with a little giggle. But when he grew bolder, influenced by his apparent win streak at a game of barely cogent poker, and slid his hand down between his companion's legs, Arthur lashed out and tore skin from Alfred's arm.
"Arthur!" Alfred whined behind a wince as he quickly withdrew the offending hand. His shoulders slumped, making the older feel a bit guilty for the absolutely miserable look his cowboy wore. But he couldn't help that he was uncomfortable as is, and getting felt in the middle of crowded, public saloon just wasn't what he wanted.
Suddenly, the scrape of a chair being pushed out and the resulting exclamation of a few men behind them caught quite a few of the saloon patron's attention. They turned, necks craned and whiskey glasses set down to see a tall blond standing with a glass in hand. He swirled the liquor before breathing a cold sigh.
"Arthur," he said, shoulders squared, though he didn't turn around. "As in, Arthur Kirkland?"
"This 'im," Alfred retorted, growing defensive and pulling Arthur closer. He could sense something was wrong, even through the drunk haze. Arthur reached for the knife in his pocket as the man turned around.
There was a brief flash of terror in Alfred's eyes as he watched the man pull a revolver from his waist, aimed straight at the older blond's eyes. But what was the strangest was that Alfred thought he was gazing into a mirror as the explosive exit of the bullet shattered the jubilant air. The entire saloon burst into chaos. Violent screams and yells deafened the crowd. People rose to try to grab the gunman, but he dodged and bashed his way through them. Another gunshot went off, sending up a splash of blood as one man at Alfred's table collapsed with a strangled shout.
The rush of air as yet another the bullet flew above Alfred's head snapped him from his shock, but glancing down, Arthur was gone.
"Arthur!" he shouted as panic took over, but as he reached out, as if he could grab the Brit back, his attacker flew by. Alfred attempted a lunged attack, but stumbled over his own feet, poisoned nerves frayed from the alcohol. "Arthur!" he screamed again, trying to make it to the door as both men vanished beyond it. It was to no avail, as a set of firm hands grabbed his shoulders, and forced him back into his seat.
"Nothin' ya can do, son. They long gone and ya ain't in no shape to be chasin' a madman with a gun!" the bartender tried to reason, but Alfred refused to listen, and continued to struggle. More hands had to hold him down as he raged and fought for freedom.
"No! Lemme go!"
"Son, I said sit down!" The bartender shoved the blue-eyed man to the floor roughly and made sure he stayed there. "Probably already losin' quite a few patrons outta fear, I ain't losin' any more good folk 'cause a' wild men and their guns. Sit, and stay sittin', fella. Ya pretty safe here."
The cowboy worried his lip, wishing these men would let him go. He had to get to Arthur, he just had to! He may have been upset with him, but if the Brit ever got hurt, Alfred wouldn't be able to forgive himself regardless of the situation.
"Ya don't understand! I gotta go after 'em!"
"Son, what is so damned important about those two fellas that ya gotta risk ya life for?"
"'Cause that's my best friend... and I think my brother was chasin' 'im..."
Look! Look guys! Mattie! :D
Adios until next time, folks!