Julia saw the camp in the distance, the light of the fires was getting closer and closer and her heart filled with hope.
But that hope disappeared when turning her head to look at Arthur, she found his eyes closed.
She sped up, reaching one of the posts and quickly got down from Tundra.
"Come on, Arthur" she said stretching her arms towards the man who had opened his eyes.
Julia helped him down, but by the moment Arthur's feet touched the ground any energy left his body and he collapsed on the ground, dragging Julia with him as she wasn't expecting it.
"Arthur. We're here" she said brushing away his hair from his forehead.
The man hummed and closed his eyes again, relaxing into her hands despite the burning of his wounded shoulder.
"Don't fall asleep, Arthur. Stay awake" Julia urged him slapping gently his cheeks.
Turning her head, she saw Mary-Beth and Karen walking towards her and once they reached them, Mary-Beth kneeled near Julia.
"What happened?" asked the girl looking at Julia.
"I need someone to bring him to his tent" said Julia ignoring the girl's question.
Julia looked over at Karen who was just standing there, staring at Arthur.
"Please!" Julia pleaded looking at her.
"I'm going to call Miss Grimshaw" said Mary-Beth getting up and rushing away.
Julia looked at her before she moved her eyes on Dutch who had noticed them and now was walking towards them.
"Arthur" he called looking at him and then he moved his eyes on Julia.
"I told you it was a setup, Dutch…" exhaled Arthur looking at the sky.
Julia continued to caress hie forehand, feeling his sweat wetting her palm.
"My boy, my dear boy, what?" asked the man.
"I found him near the river…they got him, but he managed to escape" said Julia while Dutch kneeled near Arthur who was about to pass away.
"Yeah, he sure did. Miss Grimshaw, I need help! Reverend Swanson!" called Dutch.
"He was gonna set the law on us" suddenly said Arthur with an angry tone.
Julia put a hand on his head, trying to calm him down.
"We're gonna take care of you" she whispered as Mary-Beth came back with Miss Grimshaw and Hosea, who at the sight of Arthur grew pale.
"It's okay now. You worry for yourself" whispered again Julia at Arthur, whose hand tightened around hers.
In the meanwhile, Mr. Pearson had reached them too, looking worried and sorry.
"I'm sorry, Arthur" he said.
"It's a bit late for the apologies…Swanson!" called again Dutch while he helped Julia and the girls raising Arthur from the ground.
The reverend ran towards them and put a hand on Arthur's shoulder.
Looking at him Julia could see the bible in his hands and the idea that it could have been useful made her stomach sick.
"Mr. Morgan, you're safe now" said the Reverend.
"Let's get him to bed" said Miss Grimshaw leading them to Arthur's cot.
"You're safe now, Arthur…you're safe" said Dutch helping him on the cot.
Julia instantly got by his side, reaching his hand that he took, looking at her with half-lidded eyes.
"That's pretty, Dutch…" he answered, but he was looking at Julia who faintly smiled at him.
Slowly his eyes fell shut and his breath became regular while Julia felt his hand lose a little bit around hers.
Dutch drew closer to her and put a hand on her shoulder making Julia look up at him.
"Will you sit with him for a while?" he asked, looking at Arthur.
"I was gonna do it anyway" she answered staring at the man who looked at her for a moment before he walked away.
Julia looked again at Arthur, sighing in relief while closing her eyes for a moment.
Then she got up and began to undo the bottoms of his union suit, taking the wounded arm out of it.
The wound was already cauterized, so Julia guessed the bullet had been taken out.
She sighed thinking about Arthur taking care of such a wound by himself, with Colm's men ready to jump on him any time.
She walked out of his tent and got to Pearson's wagon, but the man wasn't there.
Julia took a small pot and filled it with water before she put it on the fire, then she walked to the wagon of the medical supplies and took a clean cloth and some bandages, bringing them to Arthur's tent and leaving them on the table.
Then, she walked to her tent and took a couple of her covers, using them to cover up Arthur, just to his waist.
When the water got hot enough, Julia brought the pot to Arthur's tent and with the cloth started to clean the wound all around to avoid any infection.
When she finished, she pulled Arthur on his side and started to wrap the bandages around his shoulder and torso, tiding them when she finished.
Then she sat back on the chair and took his hand on hers, looking at him.
After a couple of hours, Miss Grimshaw showed up and turning her head to her, Julia straightened up on the chair.
"Luckily you went looking for him" the woman said.
"Yeah, luckily" repeated Julia looking at the sleeping man.
The older woman walked closer to her and sat down on the cot, near Arthur's feet.
Julia didn't say anything, nor Miss Grimshaw did. They just stayed there, looking at the man, hoping for him to get well.
The next day, Julia woke up realizing she had dozen off on the chair.
Miss Grimshaw wasn't there anymore, and the rest of the camp seemed to have come back at its usual daily work.
Julia moved her eyes to Arthur, who was still sleeping on his cot.
She raised from the chair and fixed the covers on him before she sat back down again.
Hearing some light footsteps on her side, she turned her head and saw Mary-Beth walking towards her with a shy smile and a cup of coffee in her hands.
"How does he feel?" she asked stopping just out of the tent.
"Good, for now" said Julia looking back at Arthur, who twitched in his sleep.
"You should rest a little. If you want, I can stay here with him" said the girl with a caring tone.
Julia shook her head at her.
"No, thank you. I'm fine" she added without looking at her.
Mary-Beth got into the tent then and stretched the cup of coffee towards Julia, who looked up at her and frowned.
"Here. I knew you wouldn't accept my offer" sighed the girl.
Julia took the cup that was still hot and sipped the strong, bitter liquid.
"Thank you, Mary-Beth" she faintly smiled at her.
Mary-Beth nodded at her.
"Call me if you change your mind. I'd rather take care of him than help Miss Grimshaw with housework" she said beginning to walk out of Arthur's tent.
"I'll keep that in mind" nodded Julia looking at the girl go away and then her eyes came back at Arthur.
Just after a while, when Julia was about to finish her coffee, she saw Hosea awkwardly walk towards her, hitting his sides with his punches.
Julia frowned at him as the old man shyly smiled at her coming closer until he reached her side.
"How is he doing?" asked the man looking at Arthur with a painful expression on his face.
"He's sleeping. No fever so far, but I guess it will come eventually" answered Julia, finishing her coffee.
The old man hummed and leaned against the table behind him.
"How did you find him?" he asked looking at Julia, who shrugged.
"I just got the feeling something wasn't right. So, I took Wind Catcher and started to look for him. I found him just for luck" she said sighing.
"Yeah…luck" replied the old man thoughtfully.
Both of them stayed quiet for a while, just looking at Arthur sleeping. If he would have awoken at that moment, he would have said they looked like a pair of degenerates, staring at a half-dead man in his sleep.
The thought made Julia smile and shaking her head she turned her head towards Dutch's tent, seeing the man go back and forth in his tent.
"How's Dutch?" she asked the old man near her.
Hosea looked at the man in his tent and sighed.
"He's…a little overwhelmed" he said moving his eyes on Julia.
"He thinks it's Simon's fault" she said lowering her eyes on the ground.
"No, he doesn't. He just said that because he thinks it's his fault" said the man.
Julia hummed and then looked at her back, seeing Tundra dig into the ground with her hoof.
"Would you stay a little with him? Just the time I take care of something" asked Julia at Hosea who raised his eyebrows at her.
"Yeah, I can do that" he said clearing his throat.
"Thank you" smiled Julia, getting up and give up her chair to Hosea, who gladly took it.
The old man watched Julia walk towards Arthur's horse, that when it saw her, came to meet her halfway.
Julia started to pet the animal while smiling and Hosea couldn't stop the idea that everything that concerned Arthur, loved her.
He first of all.
The girl led the horse near one of the posts where she tied it and then took off the saddle, leaving it on the ground.
Then she began to groom it gently while talking to the animal in a lovingly way.
When she finished, Julia gave the horse a sugar cube and then took the saddle, bringing it near the guard fire, where she started to clean it from the bloodstains of the night before.
When she finished, she brought the saddle at Arthur's tent and left it near his cot.
"Did something happen?" she asked at Hosea who was smiling while looking at her.
"Nothing at all, my dear" said the man shaking his head.
Julia walked towards Arthur to check him and she noticed that on his forehead there were a few drops of sweat, so she touched him feeling him burning.
"He has a fever" she said pushing, just a little, the covers down.
"What you need?" asked the old man getting up in a rush.
"Cold water and a clean cloth. I can try to lower it, but he has to fight it on his own" she said looking at Hosea who nodded and walked quickly away to gather what Julia needed.
When he came back, Julia put herself to work, wetting the cloth every five minutes in the cold water and putting it on Arthur's forehead.
After one or two hours, the man started to talk in his sleep. Julia couldn't catch a word of what he was yapping, but she took his hand anyway and assured him that she was there and that she wouldn't have left his side.
And so, the hours passed, becoming days.
On the third day, Arthur was still having the fever and Julia was continuing to take care of him, trying to lower it in any way she could.
She kept him hydrated, by making some water slip into his mouth. She also tried to give him something to eat, but he wouldn't take it.
Water and rest were the only things that could help him, Julia knew that. However, she felt like she was not doing enough for him, so she stayed by his side every moment, of every day, almost depriving herself of food as well.
Julia was seated on the usual chair, her head leaned against her head as she lazily looked at Arthur feeling her eyelids heavy and her eyes begging for rest.
She hadn't sleep in three days, everyone could see that, and they kept telling her to go rest a little, but she always answered in the same way.
No, of course.
And while she was looking at Arthur, Dutch from his tent was doing the same. The only thing was, he was looking at her and not him.
The man had been watching her for days now, feeling somehow grateful at her for taking care of one of his best friends. But at the same time, he was jealous of Arthur for having someone who was taking care of him so passionately and so genuinely. And more than once his mind had traveled back at the memory of Annabelle, making his heart ache, for more than a reason.
Dutch threw away the cigar he was smoking and collected all his courage for closing that small distance between him and Arthur.
Julia, hearing someone approaching, turned her head, meeting eyes with Dutch briefly before she looked back at Arthur.
Initially, the man just stood near Julia, looking down at his painful friend as he fought over the fever.
Then he sighed, catching Julia's attention and looking at her, he couldn't really read her expressionless face.
"How is he?" he asked nodding at Arthur.
"Stable, for now" Julia said diverting her eyes on Arthur once again.
Dutch hummed, shifting on his feet for a moment while Julia rubbed her forehead, feeling her head aching and her eyes pulsing for the effort of keeping them open.
"I know what you're thinking of me right now" Dutch suddenly said making Julia turn her head to look at him.
"Is that so?" she asked frowning.
"You think it's my fault, don't you?" the man asked with a challenging tone.
Julia sighed, turning her head to Arthur.
"No" she shrugged.
Dutch couldn't believe his ears in fact, he just stared at her, trying to understand if she was mocking him.
Julia could feel the man's eyes on her and turning her head once again she locked her eyes on his.
"I don't think it's your fault. I don't think it's Pearson's fault either. The only one we should blame for this it's Colm" she said pointing at Arthur.
"But I was the one who accepted to meet with him" sighed the man looking at the man in turn.
"You couldn't know what that bastard had planned, and you cannot blame yourself for having hope in a truce for the common good of these people" said Julia shrugging while playing with her hands.
"Is that what you think?" asked Dutch hopefully looking at her.
Julia looked at him before she sighed and shook her head.
"I think we're not safe anymore, wherever we go there will always be someone who will try to kill us" she said as her eyes fell upon Arthur still fast asleep.
Dutch nodded, putting his hands in his pockets.
"You know, I was thinking about a truce between you and me. You think that's possible?" he said without looking at Julia, who on the contrary glanced at the man.
When the man didn't hear an answered he turned his head finding the young woman thinking about his offer.
"Yeah, I think we should try" she nodded.
"Okay" nodded the man looking away.
After a while, he turned towards Julia, who looked at him by the corner of her eyes as he nodded to her and did to go away.
But just after a couple of steps he stopped and turned once again.
"And if you want, you can always come back with us. There's always been a place for you here, after all" he said.
Julia hummed, looking down at her feet before she looked at the man and weakly smirked at him.
"We wouldn't get along" she answered, making the man chuckled.
Julia watched him turn on his feet and go away while she still thought about his offer.
It wasn't that she didn't want to stay there with them. On the contrary, the idea of staying with Arthur, made her heart swell with happiness.
But her conscience scolded her about her promise and her more and more distant possibility to keep it.
The next day, Hosea woke up with the sunrise. Once he got up from his bedroll, he stretched his back, feeling it cracking a little.
Then he walked towards Pearson's wagon, finding the man with a bottle of whiskey in his hand and his eyes red.
"Oh, come on Simon. Stop this nonsense. No one is accusing you of what happened to Arthur and I'm sure he thinks the same" said the old man taking a cup of coffee.
"How can you tell? He haven't awakened yet. Maybe he never will and it's all my fault" sobbed the man, taking another sip from his bottle.
Hosea sighed, walking closer to the man and giving him a look.
"He will come back to us. Now, put that bottle down and prepare some stew. We all count on you" he said before he took some oatcakes and walked away.
He sat down at the table near Dutch's tent and began to eat his breakfast while reading a book.
Then, he raised his eyes, moving them to Arthur's tent where he found the man still asleep and Julia seated next to him.
The young woman looked really bad. Her eyes were red, her cheeks hollowed, and she seemed to be about to collapse on the ground.
Hosea knew Julia had more than once, rejected the girls and Miss Grimshaw offer to look after Arthur so she could rest a little.
But she had pushed herself too much, so he quickly got up and reached her.
"My dear" he said catching Julia's attention.
She knew why he was there, she could read his expression of pure worry.
"Hosea" she greeted, moving her eyes on Arthur.
"You need to rest or you gonna end up like him" said the old man, pointing at Arthur.
"I'm fine" answered Julia, making the man huff.
"No, you're not. Stop this madness and go rest a little" he commanded, by Julia shook her head.
"I said I'm fine" she repeated.
Hosea reached her and kneeled near her, searching her eyes.
"Listen to me, he's not like going somewhere any soon, and the fever is going down. He's fine. Now, you care for yourself" he pleaded.
Julia turned her head to look at the man.
It was true that she was exhausted, but how could she leave him?
"I'm going to watch over him, but please go rest" assured her Hosea.
"Okay" nodded Julia.
"Good girl. Now, come on" said the old man helping her get up from the chair.
Julia started to walk out of the tent, but then stopped and turned to look at Hosea.
"But if anything happens, call me" she said pointing a finger at him.
Hosea sighed and nodded.
"Promise, now go" he said sitting down on the chair.
Julia dragged herself to her tent, where she left her body falling on the cool and soft covers, feeling her body gave in already.
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before she deeply dozed off.
Two other days passed and now the fever was almost completely gone.
During those two days, Julia had taken care of herself too, regaining the energies she needed, and she also decided to help the others with camp chores.
So, when that morning Charles walked to her and asked her if she wanted to go hunting, she accepted without hesitation. But before she left, she asked Hosea to watch over Arthur and the old man accepted.
She had been gone for more or less twenty minutes, when Hosea heard a deep sigh and moving his eyes from his book to Arthur, he saw the man's eyes open.
"It was time for you to wake up" said the old man putting away his book.
Arthur rubbed his head, feeling it strangely light.
"Hosea…what happened?" he asked with a raspy voice while trying to sit up.
"Before you start with the questions, here…drink some water" said the old man getting up and giving him some of the water of the near bucket.
Arthur gladly took it and swallowed it while the old man sat back on the chair and watched him.
Arthur looked at himself, noticing the bandages and the covers.
"For how long did I sleep?" he asked at Hosea.
"A week" answered the man after a moment of thinking.
"Damn" whispered Arthur rubbing his face.
Then he quickly turned his head at Hosea who noticed his worried look.
"What about Julia?" he asked making Hosea smile.
"She brought you back, do you remember that?" he asked.
"Yeah, I remember that" said Arthur looking at the camp, hoping he would have seen her.
"And she took care of you. She wouldn't leave your side. Almost got sick" said Hosea making Arthur turn towards him with a surprised look, and touching the bandages he silently asked the man if she had done it.
"Where's she now?" asked Arthur.
"She went hunting with Charles. She also took care of Tundra for you. That horse loves her more than you" jocked the old man.
"Yeah, I know" faintly smiled Arthur.
Hosea watched Arthur and suddenly noticed his eyes widened, so he turned his head noticing Dutch walk towards them.
"You finally woke up son" he said putting his hands on his holster.
"What happened with Colm, Dutch?" asked Arthur with a worried tone.
"Nothing you have to worry now" said the man shaking his head.
"The sneaky bastard was about to throw the law on us. He hoped you would have come to rescue me" said Arthur with a sigh.
Dutch gave a look at Hosea who did the same before the old man shook his head and lowered his eyes.
"And I surely would have if you weren't so brave to run away" complimented Dutch, putting a hand over Arthur's shoulder.
"And so lucky to find Julia" added Hosea.
"Exactly" agreed Dutch.
Arthur faintly smiled at the memory of his happiness when coming out of the river, his eyes had fallen on Julia.
Her big, green eyes transpired concern, but he however thought she was beautiful.
"So, what we do now?" he asked Dutch.
"What you mean?" inquired the man frowning.
"You think we should move?" Arthur asked again, making Dutch sigh.
"Not yet" he answered.
"What if Colm had discovered where we are?" asked again Arthur looking at Hosea.
"Were you followed?" asked Dutch looking at him, now a little worried.
"Not that I know" shrugged Arthur.
Dutch relaxed at his answer and then faintly smiled at him.
"We're gonna discuss this, once you'll get well again" he said patting him on the shoulder again.
"Look, Julia's back" said Hosea looking at the young woman getting down from her horse.
Dutch and Arthur turned their heads to look at her while she talked to Charles, and once her eyes moved on them, her smile disappeared as her eyes fell on Arthur.
She quickly dismissed herself and walked towards them while Hosea moved his eyes on Arthur, who fixed the covers on the bottom half of his body.
"Hey, there" said Julia once she reached them.
"Hey, there" answered Arthur, his eyes glued to hers.
Hosea looked at him and then at Julia before he got up and stretched his legs.
"I think I'm gonna take a walk. Dutch, would you come with me?" he asked the man, walking out of the tent.
Dutch gave both of them the last glance before he followed Hosea out of Arthur's tent.
Julia didn't waste any time and immediately sat down on the cot next to Arthur.
"How you feeling?" she asked touching his forehead with the back of her hand.
The fever was gone.
"Better" he answered smiling at her.
Julia returned the smile, lowering her eyes for a moment before she looked up at him once again noticing that his beard was too long.
"Your beard is long" she said touching it.
"Do I look bad?" asked the man with a playful tone.
"You look like an old man" mocked Julia giggling.
"I am an old man" answered Arthur looking away.
"You're not that old" shrugged Julia playing with the hem of his union suit.
"Hosea told me you took care of me" said Arthur and Julia moved her eyes on his face.
"I returned the favor" she said in a low tone.
Arthur took her hand on his while staring into her eyes.
"Thank you" he said almost in a whisper.
Julia's breath stopped in her throat as the man smiled at her.
"You should eat something. I'm gonna take you some stew" she said getting up.
"Alright" replied the man letting go of her.
"I'll be right back" she said and then walked out of the man's tent.
Arthur's eyes were fixed on her until she disappeared from his sight. So, he started to look around, noticing the others doing their usual stuff.
It was good to be back, he thought. And knowing that Julia had taken care of him, and surely would have continued to do it, it was even better.
I'm sorry for not having informed you before that last week I wouldn't be at home so I couldn't write the chapter. So I did it this week.
However, two days ago I got my period and yesterday I felt so sick I wasn't in the mood for doing anything at all
And today the light went off from nine o'clock am until half past 3 pm. Then came a storm and my dog got so scared I had to stay with it until it passed and then the light went off again for the storm.
So, I couldn't publish the chapter until now and even so, I haven't made the gif. Yep.
I'll provide tomorrow if you're curious to see it.
But, how was your day? I hope it went better than mine *nervous laugh*
Anyway, this Saturday I'll leave again, but this time I'm bringing my laptop with me, so don't worry, the chapter will be published.
Having said that, I'll wish you a good day or night and I'll see you next week.