The moment John Marston slid off the "borrowed" horse his body threatened to crumple over top the muddy ground. His right hand went to his left shoulder, holding onto the throbbing appendage. He paused for a moment as his eyes scanned the are around him for any sign of leftover Pinkertons. The freshly risen sun burned his tired eyes, but he kept searching for any lingering threats. Copperhead Landing was an open, swampy area but that didn't mean it was safe. After the hell he'd just endured, all John wanted was his family not another battle. He searched some more before settling his eyes on the dilapidated, broken down shed that sat at the equally shoddy pier. A false sense of energy shot through his aching bones when he recognized the two horses standing nearby.
"Abigail!" His throat burned as he shouted for her. His boots suddenly felt heavier than ever as he drudged them through the mud to get closer to the shack. "Jack?" He hollered for his son next. God, just the thought of holding the child again was all that got him off that mountain. John felt his energy begin to dwindle once more the longer his cries went unanswered. Arthur promised that they were here, where were they? "Abi?" He tried again, voice breaking. His shoulders bowed while his eyes locked onto the shack. The moment hopelessness started seeping into his mind, he saw movement.
"Abigail!" The backs of his eyes stung with tears of relief. Just the sound of her voice brought him such comfort. He shuffled his way towards the direction of her voice. Every muscle in his body screamed at him to stop but he didn't care. There was more movement from inside the broken-down shed. Desperate shuffles filled his ears, along with hushed whispers.
"Sadie, let go of me!" Came Abigail's frustrated voice. He couldn't help but laugh. Sadie Adler was a smart woman he didn't blame her for trying to be cautious about his arrival. Before John could try to explain that he was alone, his woman came into view. His heart nearly stopped when he caught sight of her. Dark circles were nestled under her reddened eyes, her blouse messy and askew. Her hair fell loosely against her shoulders, the hair pins she used to keep it at bay hanging from the ends. In the course of the battle against the Pinkertons, Micah and his crew, John almost forgot how breathtakingly beautiful she was. Abigail opened her mouth to say something but quickly shut it. John tried his hand at words next, but he couldn't muster up a single syllable. All of a sudden, she started to run towards him.
He let go of his shoulder and rooted his feet into place just mere moments before her body crashed into his. The impact hurt like a sonuvabitch. He welcomed it. Abigail's arms linked around his neck as she stuffed her face into the crook of his shoulder. "My darling." He cooed into her ear as he grabbed hold of her. She fit so perfectly in his arms, John couldn't believe he'd ever pushed her away. He had been a fool to do so.
"Arthur said, he said—" Abigail stammered through her shaking sobs.
John knotted his fingers into her already tangled hair and held her tighter. "I know, darlin'. I know."
She lifted her head to look up at him. Her cheeks were soaked with tears. "You really here? Am I dreamin'?"
The hand in her hair moved to wipe away her tears. "You know I'll always come back to you, Abi."
Abigail laughed. "You and your sweettalk ain't gonna get you outta trouble for scarin' me and the boy half to death."
John's lips twisted into a grin. "I love you, Abigail." He didn't give her time to respond before bringing his mouth to hers. She melted into his arms, hanging desperately onto his shoulders. He swallowed the wince from her grip. He wasn't nearly ready to let her go.
"Pa!" A small voice screamed. It seemed that their son had other plans.
The couple parted and looked behind them to find the four-year-old doing his best to run through the sloppy mud. Behind Jack Marston stood Sadie Adler, arms crossed and a remorseful look on her face. John knew he would have to break the news about Arthur and what happened on the mountain. After he reunited with his family and figured out their next step, he would tell them. But it could wait until later. "Jack!" He returned his son's holler. He let go of Abigail only to scoop Jack into his arms. Tiny arms flew around his neck.
"I told Mama you'd find us! She didn't believe me!"
John laughed breathlessly. "I would go to the ends of the Earth to find you two."
The little boy's face lit up with a toothy grin. "Where were you, Pa?"
"Just had to finish up some business, son. Don't you worry about it another second, you hear?"
"Okay, Pa." Jack's smile couldn't get any bigger, John thought. He couldn't believe he'd wasted years brushing the boy off. Never again, he swore. He'd done wrong to Jack and he would give his life to make up for it. John turned to face the woman that was in all ways except legally his wife. He felt the same way towards Abigail. He'd done her wrong more than he'd care to admit. Like with Jack, he would spend the rest of his days trying to make her loyalty worthwhile.
John reached out his left arm, grunting at the dull pain the motion caused, and pulled her into the embrace. His lips lingered on her hair as a sigh blew through his body. He was a lucky man, he decided. How many men could say they had a woman as good as Abigail Roberts? A woman so fiercely loyal, so determined and thoughtful. And then there was his son. The boy lit up any room he entered with his bubbly, curious ways. John was certain that the boy was already smarter than both his parents combined. He felt so blessed to be his father and felt even luckier to be able to watch him grow into an adult.
John Marston was a man who'd made his fair share of mistakes in life. He often never learned from those mistakes, either. But as he held his family in his arms, he vowed to never repeat the ones that put them in harm's way. His hold on Jack and Abigail tightened.
He would do whatever it took to keep his family safe, even if it killed him.