When we were young

we were the ones

the Kings and Queens

oh yeah, we ruled the world

John thought he'd die, up there in that frozen hell of a mountain. His horse dead, one arm not working properly, the blood that hadn't quite stopped seeping from that bullet wound attracting those damn wolves...! He'd been called lucky by many members of the infamous Van der Linde gang, their small little dysfunctional family, but honestly? In that moment, Little Johnny Marston had never felt Death's approach keener.

He didn't have much hope of being rescued. He didn't like Micah (doubted the bastard would come looking for him), Bill was an idiot, and everyone else was trying not to freeze to death. John knew Javier or Arthur would have the greatest chance of saving him, out of all of 'em… only question was whether they would bother.

Especially considering Arthur didn't particularly like him right now.

That was why, in the morning, when he was stuck on that godforsaken ledge, John could only feel relief when he looked up and saw Arthur Morgan. Guess all his shouting did help, when he'd heard those couple gunshots.

"Never thought I'd say this, but... it's good to see you, Arthur Morgan."

John then promptly spent the next few days fighting off fever and an infection in his injuries. He couldn't really remember much, it was all pretty much just one big blur, but he thought he saw Arthur at his bedside a few times. It was a familiar ritual for the two of them; John got sick a lot after first joining the gang at twelve years old, and Arthur had been the one to sit and keep an eye on him. So John only smiled when he finally woke and heard the familiar scratching of Arthur's pencil against the pages of his journal.

But perhaps he was still a little out of it when he mumbled, "Feels like it's been years since you did this, Arthur..."

The scritching abruptly stopped as Arthur looked at the bedridden young man. He took in John's sweaty face, the recently-closed scars, and the brown eyes that were actually aware for the first time since his rescue off that mountain. Arthur closed his journal and stuffed it in his bag before leaning forward and placing his hand on John's brow. "Well, the fever's definitely broke, Marston; you're quite a lucky bastard."

John snorted weakly, eyes closed. "Certainly don't feel it. Wonder how you'd feel if wolves tried to eat your sorry hide?"

Arthur cracked a small smile, eyes amused. "If that ever happens, I'll make sure to give you my review on it, Marston."

We smoke cigarettes

Man, no regrets

Wish I could relive

Every single word

John stumbled out of his tent, wincing at the bright sunlight that pierced his eyes. He no longer felt so cold that he'd turn into a chunk of ice and shatter, so Horseshoe Overlook had a massive advantage over Colter already. (Although, at this point, Abigail might prefer he turn into ice and shatter.) He nodded at some of the others and gave a grin to Hosea when the older man waved at him. Dutch was still in his tent, one of his Evelyn Miller books in hand, while Molly O'Shea sat on a chair nearby with her fan lazily waving. (The redhead looked bored, which John couldn't fault her for.) Javier was on guard duty, Uncle was near the fire, and Pearson was at his usual station as the camp cook.

Arthur stood near the trees, leaning against one with his legs crossed and a cigarette between his fingers, the smoke lazily curling into the sky. He was out of his heavier clothes, wearing light blue plaid instead with his father's old hat perched on his head as usual. John had rarely seen Arthur without that hat, which was odd considering what kind of man Lyle Morgan had been. But John had never dared to ask Arthur why.

John strode over and leaned against a tree across from Arthur, digging out his own cigarette and lighting it. He probably shouldn't smoke so soon after being injured but at this point he didn't really care. Arthur merely glanced at him before looking back out at the view unfurling before them, releasing another breath of smoke.

"Mornin', Arthur," John grunted when it became obvious Morgan wasn't going to. Arthur merely nodded.

"How're those scars feelin'?"

John shrugged. "Not infected anymore, at least. They still pull if I move the wrong way, but it don't hurt too bad."

Arthur looked out at the view below them, the carpet of green that seemed to stretch on forever. John felt a sudden pang of loss mixed with nostalgia; ever since John had left the gang for a year, quiet moments like this with Arthur Morgan had been few and far between for him. It was more likely nowadays for them to snipe and argue, like wounded animals. 'Fitting description for me right now, at least', John thought with a snort.

Hosea Matthews looked at his two boys, men he'd helped raise into who they were today, and smiled. Seems their relationship could still be mended after all.

We've taken different paths

And traveled different roads

I know we'll always end up on the same one when we're old

After John had returned after an entire year away from the Van der Linde gang, he'd never really told anyone why he'd left. Hosea probably knew, or at least suspected, because Hosea was probably the sharpest outlaw in the entire bunch. John didn't know what the gang would do without the old man. He'd just shrugged when Dutch had asked, said that he'd needed a change, even if just for a bit. Who knows if Dutch had believed him or not, though. Sometimes it was hard to tell what Dutch was thinking on the best of days.

Hosea had clapped a hand on his shoulder and said, "Welcome back, son," giving John a warm, genuine smile. Ms. Grimshaw had scowled and pinched his ear something fierce, but John had seen a glimmer of relief in her eyes at his safe return. Abigail hadn't been pleased (at all) but John had expected that and gave her space.

But Arthur? Arthur had been pissed.

Hosea had asked Arthur to go fishing for dinner that night, which was why he hadn't actually been in the camp when John had rode in, but Arthur sure as hell noticed when he got back and there stood John Goddamn Marston.

John hadn't had much of a warning, just seeing Arthur out of the corner of his eyes before damn near getting his jaw broken. Bill and the Calendar boys had to dig their heels into the dirt to keep Arthur from killing him! Hosea had gotten between the two men, trying to calm Arthur down, which was pretty damn brave of him in John's opinion. No one ever wanted on Arthur Morgan's bad side.

"You son of a bitch! I'll kill you, John Marston, don't think I won't!" Arthur had roared, muscles straining.

Dutch had finally arrived before Arthur could make good on his threat and took Hosea's place standing between his two adopted 'sons'. "Calm down, son. John's not been back two minutes."

Arthur finally quit struggling against Bill and the Calendar brothers but the murderous glare never left his face. He yanked his arms out of slackened grips and stormed off to his tent, nearly yanking the thing off the ground when he stalked inside and closed the tent flaps. An uneasy silence settled on the camp, the others reluctant to leave John, Dutch, and Hosea. No one dared approach Arthur's tent the rest of the night.

John hadn't slept that night, instead sitting by the river that hadn't been too far from camp all night long, simply staring up at the many stars he could see up there in the sky. Arthur had taught him about the different constellations and the stories behind them, stories Hosea had passed down to him, and John had never forgotten a single one. It had been one of their favorite pastimes.

John wasn't father material; he knew that. Hell, he'd only had a pa for about eight years before the bastard had died. What kind of example was that setting? He'd have no idea what he'd be doing! Not to mention that he was an outlaw in a well-known gang, a valuable gun for Dutch. This life wasn't what a kid should grow up in, not having a choice on what they'd grow up to be. John had just felt trapped, he'd needed to really think about it all.

So why'd he come back? Because whether Jack was really his or not, and John had his doubts, the gang was still his family. Had been for more than a decade by this point. It'd take more than this to make him truly leave them all.

And when you're in the trenches

and you're under fire,

I will cover you

John had still been young the first time Dutch and Hosea let him come with them on some of the jobs. He'd had a few years to learn some new tricks, improve his skill with a gun, but he'd finally gotten them to take him along. Hosea had been more hesitant, wanting John to have a few more years before really going on jobs, but Dutch had said Arthur would stay with John for his first few times and that had been that.

That job had been so long ago now that no one really remembered who exactly they'd been robbing or scamming, but it had gone pear-shaped quite quickly. It'd ended up as a gunfight between Dutch and Arthur against a few guards. John could remember being in the back, wide-eyed and unsure of what to do. Hosea had been urging him further away, hand gripping the young teen's elbow tightly so as not to get separated, but then John had seen a fourth man take aim at Arthur who hadn't noticed anything yet.

Despite Arthur not being especially warm towards the youngest member of the gang, despite being too busy to really bond with his new family member, without even thinking about it John had drawn his pistol with one quick, smooth motion and blown the guard's head to bloody pieces.

That had been his second ever kill, this time saving Arthur Morgan's life instead of his own.

Arthur had spun around, blue eyes wide and mouth dropped slightly in shock. It took everything John had not to drop the gun right then and there, eyes not leaving the mess that had once been a living, breathing person. His first kill hadn't...hadn't been near that messy. Hosea hadn't wasted any time getting John out of there, the boy not putting up much of a fight.

There wasn't much celebrating going on that night, but for the first time Arthur Morgan sat beside little Johnny Marston and said, "Thanks, kid. You saved my life back there."

John hadn't said anything, just looked up at the young man he admired so much and nodded.

That had been the first time Arthur had smiled at John, and the beginning of a wonderful brotherhood that would last until their deaths.

'We're Sons of Dutch, Johnny, and brothers look out for each other'

If I was dying on my knees,

you would be the one to rescue me

And if you were drowned at sea,

I'd give you my lungs

so you could breathe

I've got you, brother

I've got you, brother

I've got you, brother

I've got you, brother

John Marston had looked death in the eye more times than he could count, at this point. Even after making a living as a rancher for the past few years, there were nights he'd wake up in a cold sweat from nightmares of various robberies and other jobs gone horribly wrong. Abigail understood, she'd been part of the gang, but the one man that had really helped with his doubts and insecurities was long dead.

Arthur Morgan and John Marston. Sons of Dutch, brothers, best friends. All of it, torn away for what? Dutch's greed and paranoia, Micah's poisonous lies? John mostly wanted to never see his former leader and father-figure again, but there was a part of him that wanted to ask, to demand, if it had been worth it. Arthur had died, alone and on a cold mountain top, trying to save the remaining members of their mismatched family.

Of all his mistakes, all his regrets, all the things he wanted to go back and do differently, the one he wanted to change the most was the night Arthur had died. Arthur hadn't deserved to die like he had, beaten half to death by that slimy rat and abandoned by the man who'd been like a father to them. Abandoned by his brother.

John had left him there to face Micah alone, and though Arthur himself had urged him away from their former camp and that mountain to the waiting arms of his woman and son, John had left with dread and helplessness weighing down his heart.

Arthur had saved his life so many times: jumping into raging rivers to save him from drowning, shooting him down before he could hang, shooting someone John hadn't seen in time. But when it came down to it, John hadn't helped him when Arthur had needed it the most.

If John could trade his life for Arthur's, he would do it a hundred times over without a second thought.

Oh brother we go deeper

than the ink beneath

the skin of our tattoos

Though we don't share the same blood

you're my brother and I love you

That's the truth

"I feel like you should take your woman and child...and get lost. What reason you got to stick around at this point? It's done..."

"What about loyalty?"

"That's long been broken...

"...there was a code we had, gotta still mean somethin'."

"Listen to me: when the time comes, you gotta run and don't look back. This is over."

" I think I've pushed all I can."

"Come on!"

"You go."

"We ain't got time for this, Arthur!"

"...We ain't both gonna make it. You know that. Go...I'll hold them off.

"It would mean a lot to me...please. There ain't no more time for talk. Go."


"Go to your family, John. Get the hell out of here and be a goddamn man!"

"You're my brother, Arthur Morgan. I can't just leave you here alone! The Pinkertons, Dutch, Micah...!"

"I know. I know, John..."

We're living different lives

Heaven only knows

if we'll make it back with all our fingers and our toes

Five years, twenty years,

come back we'll always be the same

John slapped the horse's rump, making it run out of the barn with Jack and Abigail on its back. Tears were shining in Abigail's eyes as she rode away from her husband. To her, this felt too much like that terrible day another man was lost to her and John, and once again she was helpless to stop whatever would happen next. There hadn't been any sign of hope in John's eyes as he'd helped her onto the horse, just resignation. Even the untamable fire that had always been there seemed to be finally extinguished.

"Ain't no trouble, Abigail...," John whispered. He backed away from the opening in the barn, turning on his heels to face the double doors. The familiar sound of hay crunching underneath his boots was drowned by the sound of his own heartbeat in his ears. John pressed one palm against a door and gently pushed so he could see how many men were left outside to face him. Had to be at least a dozen from what little he could see, and John stepped away, letting the door swing shut again.

Terrible, icy dread speared his heart and John closed his eyes. He'd never been one to run away from a fight, never been one for being a coward, but just this once John wanted to leave, wanted to go to what little family he had left. He'd just gotten them back, this shouldn't be how this ends...!

The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end and John whirled around, one hand already grabbing for his pistol. Stupid, turning his back to an opening with no one watching his six...!

But what he saw stunned John Marston to the core, hands dropping to his side in shock. It weren't Pinkertons behind him, guns eager for his life. No, it was someone much dearer, someone long dead and buried.

Arthur Morgan gave a tiny little smirk in answer to John's silence, like he was saying, 'Really, Johnny? Now you go all quiet on me? Never knew that was possible!'

John felt time slow to a crawl, somehow knowing that this was it. This was the end of the road for him, but he'd gotten one last chance to say goodbye. John gave one last fleeting thought to the Strange Man he'd been seeing occasionally on his travels, wondering if Arthur being here now, in his final moments, was his doing. If it was, John silently thanked him. Wasn't like he deserved this chance, not after all he'd done.

Arthur walked up to his brother, steps eerily silent on the barn floor, and laid one hand on his shoulder, squeezing it gently in support. Despite being just a ghost, John felt Arthur's hand like he was flesh and blood, so John gripped Arthur's hand tight, seeking some small measure of comfort one final time. "Please, one last time, Arthur..?" he whispered brokenly. "I need my brother; I don't think I can do this alone anymore..."

Arthur smiled sadly but nodded just the same, flicking the brim of John's hat up before withdrawing his hand.

'It's been over ten years, John Marston, but I will always help you, you hear?'

John ducked his head, lips curling upwards at the familiar sound of his brother's voice, the way it had been before he'd gotten sick and everything had collapsed. He turned around to face the doors and took one final, steadying breath before stepping forward and throwing them forward, Arthur a warm presence at his back.

If I was dying on my knees

you would be the one to rescue me

John staggered, feeling the blood gush out of the bullet wounds and down his shirt, dripping onto the soil of Beecher's Hope. His gun, the same one Arthur had pressed into John's hand the night he had died, clattered to the ground, bullet chamber completely empty. John's legs shook, going dangerously numb before John fell onto his knees, coughing wetly.

And if you were drowned at sea

I'd give you my lungs so you could breathe

I've got you, brother

I've got you, brother

John felt his own blood flood his lungs; wouldn't be long till either he bled out or drowned choking on it. The cowboy looked up one last time at his executioners and gave one final, chilling glare to Edgar Ross, the bastard just smirking in satisfaction while lighting one of his cigars. The last of John's strength finally left him and he fell backwards, not even feeling his dying body's impact with the hard, unforgiving ground.

The last thing John Marston ever saw was the figure of his brother kneeling beside him, eyes unbearably sad underneath the brim of his father's hat. 'I've got you, Johnny. I always have, right? They're all waitin' for us, John; Hosea, Lenny...even Kieran and Sean. So just close your eyes, Marston...'

'Maybe...maybe we'll all be a family again, wherever we end up...'

And if we ain't on troubled water

I'd be the one to keep you warm and safe

And we'll be carrying each other

until we say goodbye on our dying day

Because I've got you, brother

I've got you, brother

I've got you, brother

I've got you, brother

Overlooking the barn was a nearby hill, where the Strange Man stood watching John Marston's last, heroic stand buying time for his wife and son's escape. But his sharp eyes caught sight of two small figures that no one else seemed to see...

Two young boys running the vast open lands of Beecher's Hope; one light-haired, the other dark. Their pure, innocent laughter seemed to echo through the air long after they vanished altogether, not even leaving any footprints behind to mark their path.

If I was dyin' on my knees

you would be the one to rescue me

And if you were drowned at sea,

I'd give you my lungs

so you could breathe

I've got you, brother

I've got you, brother

AN: I hate you, Rockstar. So much. You made me love these boys just to kill them off.

The song is 'Brother' by Kodaline. There's a video on YouTube using this song that heavily inspired this one-shot, and you should watch it.

Expect a lot more Red Dead Redemption fanfictions coming up, along with Assassin's Creed and some updates for older stories ;) As always, leave a review before you leave!