Author's note: I got the idea for this one-shot during my current second playthrough, when Arthur started talking and apologizing to the others at the campfire. In my game, Hosea and Javier also sat there and listened.
So, I wondered two things:
First: Why is Arthur apologizing, stumbling over the words, stuttering as if he was drunk, when I played at high honor, did not drink before the encounter and never antagonized the other gang members (at least not that I could remember).
Second: Why did no one show any reaction to Arthur's apology? Not even one single „It's ok, Arthur" from any of the other gang members.
Since this scene left me slightly confused for these reasons, I had to fix this and write at least an attempt to explain the situation. Also, me absolutely loving the father-son relationship of Hosea and Arthur and having him coincidentally sitting there during that scene, I couldn't resist but let Hosea be the one to confront Arthur about his behaviour and having a well deserved father-son moment =)
I hope you'll enjoy this little story. I'd love to read about your thoughts in the comments! Thank you!
Arthur drank that night. Two beer which was already more than he usually drank and it made his mind slightly foggy. Not enough though to forget what he had done. To forget the terrible cough he got the other night when he was out late hunting, sounding so much like the cough Mr. Downes had. And this man really was sick.
Arthur shook his head when he thought about how he still beat the man half to death. The hateful stares of his wife and son following his every move. No, he would not think about that. Not now.
Instead, he made his way through the camp where Reverent Swansen, Bill, Hosea and Javier where already sitting around the fire.
„You boys mind if I sit down a while?" When he did not get a response, he just took it as permission. He needed to talk. To get some of this crushing weight off his chest.
„Been a tough few weeks… I know I've been… kinda… mad with you all." He started, and it was true. He'd been more away from camp than there, avoiding people and often giving short-tempered replies whenever someone dared to ask him what he was doing this whole time out of camp.
„I'm sorry, ok? I'm sorry but I… I want us to get out of here. Everybody nearly gone crazy, I'm just… trying to keep things together." He paused and stared into the flames.
„Sometimes it gets hard… I guess I'm… I guess I'm struggeling to just… find a path forward for us all. Same as Dutch. Same as Hosea." Just the thought about them two kind of hurt. He avoided Hosea's eyes that were glued on him, a frown visible on the man's forehead.
Oh, how he did not want to loose them! Loosing Hosea would surely mean loosing himself, too. Loving Hosea like a father he never had. How much he wanted this all to work out in the end!
But he had this awful feeling that they at some point lost their way. That Dutch no longer cared about the code they once had. No longer cared about the lives he altered, the souls he touched, the methods he used. Only the money it got him.
And Arthur feared that they were all paying the price for this ignorance... sooner or later. Again, he involuntarily thought about the tightness in his chest. The effort it took to suppress a cough.
„I don't wanna die. But if I have to, I will. So… forgive me, all of you." With that he stood up, not really expecting any response to his rambling.
Slowly and slightly swaying, Arthur made his way back to his tent.
„Arthur?" Hosea stood up from the warming fire and hurried to follow up with Arthur who already managed stumbling halfway to his tent. „Arthur!"
He reached out for Arthur's shoulder to stop him in his tracks and pulled a bit on it to turn his son to face him.
„Hosea…" Arthur said, voice small and empty.
Hosea winced at the sound. „Arthur, what's the matter with you? Why are you apologizing? What's really bothering you?"
„Doesn't matter. Just know that I'm sorry. For everything."
„It matters to me, son!" Hosea urged. „Come on." He quickly tilted his head towards his own tent without turning his eyes away from Arthur and discreetly led him there with his hand that had wandered down from his shoulder to his back.
„Well, it shouldn't." Arthur stubbornly stated, head hanging low, as he was seated down on Hosea's cot, the old man taking his seat on the stool in front of him. Hosea grabbed Arthur on both his shoulders and gave them a small shake.
„Nonsense. It should. And it does. –
Hey. Please Arthur, look at me." Hosea said gently.
When Arthur finally complied with the request after a few long moments, Hosea was shocked at the sadness and raw pain he saw in these blue eyes. „You have to tell me what happened. Please. Something's clearly hurting you."
Hurting him… Him?! „I hurt folks, Hosea. You know it. We all did that for a long time now." He said bitterly. „We had a code, Hosea, a good one and I broke it. Help those who need helping? Save those who need saving? I know we did not rob for anyone but ourselves lately, but I did more, I – I –"
Hosea was about to intervene and say something, but Arthur stopped him. „No Hosea, it's true! Do you know how many widows I've made, how many orphans? All good people who where just unfortunate and desperate enough to take money from Strauss! We were supposed to protect those people! To give those who have nothing! It's disgusting what I did and I hate it!" He spat out the words, fast, as if they were poison.
„Arthur, none of this is your fault. Please, don't do this to yourself. It was a mistake that we sent you on these kind of jobs, I can see that now –"
That was the final push that let Arthur's walls crumble. His constant fear of being rejected, of being a disappointment, overtaking everything else. He felt panic raise inside him. He shook and began sobbing, Hosea lifting his hands from his shoulders to cup his face and stroking his cheeks as the first tears fell from Arthur's pained eyes.
„I'm sorry for being useless. We need this money I know it. I will pull my weight and collect the rest of the debts as soon as I can. Please don't send someone else – I know I'm a failure but please! Please Hosea, let me prove you that I'm not completely useless. It's just… they don't deserve it… they don't."
„No! No, no, no, Arthur! That's not at all what I meant to say." Hosea said alarmed. "You're right, it is disgusting and we – Strauss – had no right asking this of you. And I can only apologize – I'm sorry we made you feel this way. But you are already pulling your weight, Arthur! In fact, more than that. And I will not allow you to go on those jobs anymore. Never again - no one of us - you hear me?" Hosea moved one of his hands up on top of Arthurs head and stroke the messy strands of dark blonde hair.
„You hear me?" Hosea asked softly and Arthur nodded slightly, slowly closing his eyes and leaning into the touch of the hand on his cheek. He couldn't help it. He felt so small and vulnerable, but Hosea's voice and touch promised such safety he hadn't felt in months.
„Still, I'm a bad man, Hosea. The things I did…" Arthur swallowed and suppressed another cough.
„What did you do?" Hosea asked, feeling Arthur struggling as he returned his other hand to the side of Arthurs face and brushed away a tear with his thumb that had escaped Arthur's closed lids.
It pained Hosea more than he could ever say seeing his boy in such distress, so desperate and broken. As he watched Arthur slowly opening his eyes that still held that unimaginable sorrow, void of any sparkling that usually filled his eyes, he felt his own eyes moistening.
„It's too late, Hosea. That one debtor… farmer with family… he was sick. Coughing blood and I still beat the shit out of him for those damn few bucks. Now… he's dead. Might as well killed him then and there. And I don't think – "
Arthur stopped as the prickling in his lungs and throat became too much and he released a strong cough. Hosea moved to sit beside him on the cot and let his one hand draw circles on Arthur's back while the other one rested on Arthur's arm.
„I – I don't think… I can ever forgive myself for that. It's not what you taught me and I'm sorry. I guess I'm quite a disappointment as a pupil… as a human being really –"
„Arthur, stop!" Hosea said over another coughing fit, worried as Arthur weakly leaned against his side for support. Hosea tightened his grip on him, engulfing him in an heartfelt embrace, gently pressing Arthur's head against his chest. „I'd only be disappointed if you would not care about what happened at all. But you are not some cold monster, Arthur! You have a good heart and soul that just sometimes has to do hard decisions that clearly trouble you. I'd honestly be surprised if they wouldn't."
Hosea looked him over, not liking the pale face and sweaty forehead.
„What got me worried however is this cough of yours." He gently laid a hand on Arthur's forehead and said „You've got a fever, son."
„Nah, it's nothing." Arthur said moving his hand dismissively, but toppling forward ever so slightly as he was coughing again.
„That farmer…" Hosea suddenly said. „How near came him to you?"
„Hosea, I beat the man… how close do you think we came?" Arthur asked back, exhaused. „I'm fine."
„I don't like it, Arthur. All of it." Hosea said with a raised eyebrow. „At least lay down and rest for a day or two, I don't want that fever go any higher."
Arthur groaned, but still stood up to go to his tent, feeling actually more tired by the minute, swaying a little as the world began spinning before his eyes. Hosea immediately was by his side again, strongly grasping his arm and guided him back to his cot. „Oh no, Arthur, you stay here where I can keep an eye on you." He said sternly, but not able to hide the concern in his voice.
„But this is your cot – where will you sleep?" Arthur asked, already letting himself sink down into Hosea's pillow. „I got enough place here. It's not like I'm not used to sleep at a certain someone's bedside." Hosea said amused with a wink as he tucked Arthur in the thick woolen blanket. That's when Arthur knew he was referring to the many times Hosea sat on his own bedside whenever he had those bad nightmares as a kid.
„That was long time ago, old man." Arthur said sluggishly.
„Old habits die hard, son." Hosea said with a small smile on his face, fondly brushing a stray strand of hair out of Arthur's face. „Now go to sleep."
„I… thank you, Hosea. Although I don't deserve it." Arthur said, trying to keep his eyes open, but slowly loosing the fight, eyes finally falling shut.
„You surely do, my son. You do." Hosea whispered in earnest, not sure if Arthur was still with him, placing a gentle kiss on his hot forehead and squeezing his hand tenderly as he sat down right next to him.
His smile returned when he felt the smallest pressure from Arthur's hand on his own one.
„And I'll make sure you'll realize it in time, too." He muttered hoping against all odds that his boy would be alright.
That he could heal his wounds and that this was just a normal cold, ignoring the knot that had formed in his stomach ever since Arthur mentioned the farmer coughing up blood.
No, he thought grimly. Arthur would be alright, he would see to it.
For he would loose himself if he ever were to loose Arthur. Loving Arthur like a son he never had.