Sadie didn't see Arthur again for a week. Wasn't the first time, his hunting trips went on for days and days, and he usually didn't come back without a new gun belt or holster or piece of clothing, one made from his latest kills. He almost always brought some crazy stories with him. How does a person kill five cougars, FIVE cougars, with a bow? They move so fast, the only thing you can get a shot off with is a firearm!
She was so lost in thought, she didn't hear little Jack run up and start pulling her hand.
"Auntie Sadie! Auntie Sadie!" His voice cut into her thoughts, and she snapped out of her reminiscence.
"Yes, Jack. What's goin' on?" She chuckled to herself at the boy's excitement.
"He's back! Uncle Arthur's back!" He replied, hopping up and down.
"Then let's go and see him, why don't we?"
Jack dragged her across camp to the horse hitching post, grinning the whole way.
Sure as Jack said, there was Arthur, hitching his trusty American Standardbred. He could most definitely afford a better horse, but Arthur kept the reliable race horse, naming it Spirit. As he patted Spirit's neck and left the horse to its own devices, Sadie could see the bond he had with the mare.
"Uncle Arthur!" Jack called out. Forgetting Sadie, he bolted the remaining distance and lunged at the outlaw, wrapping his little arms around Arthur's legs. Sadie chuckled at the sight.
Arthur reached down and picked up the boy, swinging him around. "Jack, my boy! How've ya been?"
Jack squealed with laughter, kicking his legs in the air. Arthur brought him close and wrapped his arms around Jack's little body, enveloping him in a bear hug. "I'm great! Where'd you go?"
"Oh, I went up north! Made a short stop in Strawberry for some ammo, then I went up into the Grizzlies. Wanna hear about the bison I got?"
"You killed a bison?" Jack asked, an incredulous look on his tiny face. He'd seen the huge animals from far off, as well as heard a few size comparisons from Arthur and Charles after their hunting trip. No doubt he was surprised something so big could be felled by anything less than an act of God.
"Yes, I did," Arthur boasted, "a few shots to the head and it went down in the snow. That reminds me," he knelt down, placing the boy on his own two legs, and searched his satchel for something. He pulled out a porcelain-white horn, as long as his forearm. He held it out for Jack to look at.
"This is the horn I took off it once it was dead. I took the pelt to a trapper friend of mine, so you won't see it for a bit, but it was beautiful. White as the snow it fell into."
"No way!" Jack exclaimed, running his hands along the massive horn. He looked up at Arthur hopefully. "Can I have it? Please?"
"Eh, I guess I could make an exception," Arthur relented, handing the boy the hulking animal trophy. Jack cradled the horn like a newborn and ran off, most likely to tell his mother what Uncle Arthur got for him.
Arthur stood back up, groaning slightly. Sadie tried not to smirk at his discomfort. "Storm coming, old man?"
"You try squatting after spending four hours riding a horse at a canter," Arthur replied, scowling. Sadie broke down into peals of laughter, clutching at her side. She loved pushing his buttons.
"Ooh, boy," she said, regaining her breath with some effort. "You're a funny man, Arthur Morgan."
"Uh huh, sure."
"I'm serious!" Sadie exclaimed, indignant. "I'm amazed that you've managed to hold onto your sense of humor after all this time. And if I'm being honest, it's nice to see you so happy." He looked at her with intrigue, one bushy eyebrow arched. "You're not a man who sees true happiness in his life very often, Mr. Morgan. It's nice to see you seize it by the throat when it comes along."
"Well, thank you for such a gracious compliment. Now if you'll excuse me, I'd best be getting to bed now. Not a lot of restful sleep in those mountains."
"Wait!" Sadie interjected, a bit more forcefully than she intended. "I was just thinking, you were near Colter, weren't you?"
"I suppose I was, yes."
"Do you think we could go back up there soon, just you and me? Like, tomorrow?"
"I'll think about it," Arthur replied, yawning. "Gonna sleep on it."
"Thank you!" Sadie wrapped her arms around him in a hug, surprising both of them. She let him go quickly, brushing her hair behind her ear. "I-I guess I'll see you when you're ready to go then."
He simply stood there, frozen in place from shock. "I... guess so." He snapped out of it, and walked off toward his tent, grumbling and shaking his head.
Sadie remained still for a moment, letting the words and the conversation sink in. She was going on a days-long journey, alone, with Arthur! She smiled and turned to tend to her horse, a new bounce in her step. She was going to need to make a stop in Rhodes for some warmer clothes.
Sadie spent the next day gathering supplies and gear for their trip. She didn't really know what they would be doing on the way there and back, so she packed a fair amount of ammunition, and a little food. If it ran out, they could always hunt.
She spent the day after that waiting anxiously for Arthur to be ready to go. He just kept on fishing off the coast west of camp, not a care in the world.
"Are you ready to go yet?" She asked for what must have been the hundredth time that day.
"Not quite yet. I'm waitin'."
"For what?" Sadie demanded, incredulous.
"You'll see when it arrives. I'm gonna have to make a stop in Saint Denis to pick it up."
"You do realize that's the opposite direction of where we're planning to go?" She seethed at his nonchalance.
"Yes, I do. It's important. I'll need it for the trip."
"Fine." Sadie stormed off to go hunt for Pearson, grumbling to herself about the idiocy of men.
She returned after another day of hunting and target practice to find him reading a piece of paper, a letter by the look of it, with a huge grin on his face.
"What's got you so happy?" Sadie asked.
"It's arrived!" Arthur nearly shouted to the sky, he was so giddy. He grabbed Sadie by the hand and started pulling her toward the horses.
"Okay, okay, Arthur! Jesus! Slow down!" Sadie admonished him as they went, but the laughter in her voice betrayed her amusement.
They rode to Saint Denis, where Arthur directed them away from most of the main streets, toward a small marketplace crowded with people of all walks and races. They hitched their horses, but before Sadie could enter the market, he stopped her with a hand on her arm.
"What now? I thought we were picking something up?"
"I want to see your reaction. Trust me." Arthur looked her in the eye, as if willing her to relent. Sadie felt her stomach do a little flip-flop. How the hell could she say no to those eyes?
She waited for a long time outside the marketplace. What the hell could he possibly be doing that would take so long?
She started tightening the cinch on her saddle to mount up and go talk to the gunsmith in town when she heard him approaching. She stood up and started turning around.
"Well, it's about damn time-" she didn't get to finish her sentence. Her jaw was busy taking a seat on the cobble stones.
Wild. That was the best word her addled brain could come up with. He'd donned a pair of ox-fringed shotgun chaps, dark brown in color. His boots were the same, but that was no surprise. He wore his everyday plaid cotton shirt, buttoned up with a beautiful brown and white buckskin vest over the shirt. He had a pair of dark furred gloves on, from what animal she couldn't tell. He had his wide-brimmed "sheriff's hat" on, with a little feathery accessory sticking out the band.
Over his shoulders, he wore a cloak made of a soft, fine fur. Sadie reached out and ran her hand down it, sighing quietly.
"Panther," Arthur answered her unasked question. "Killed it a few days ago, brought it here and had the cloak made. Been waitin' for it to get done."
Sadie hummed in response, unconsciously bringing it up to her face.
Arthur cleared his throat loudly, and Sadie's eyes snapped open. Suddenly very self-conscious, she dropped the bit of the cloak she'd been holding and backed up a few steps.
"Guess we'd better get going then, huh?"
"Probably," Arthur replied, just as eager to leave the big city, and the awkwardness of that moment, behind them.
The ride to the mountains was long but uneventful. Once they reached the mountains, however, the wind picked up to a howl and it was all they could do to keep from being separated and getting lost. Sadie couldn't see beyond her horse's muzzle, and could only find Arthur by the light of his lantern swinging around to her right.
"ARTHUR!" She shouted over the gale. "WE NEED TO FIND SHELTER!"
"THIS WAY!" He yelled back. She directed Bob toward the light, keeping her own gaze sweeping around them.
He slowed after a few dozen yards, having reached a rocky outcropping they could use for shelter. He dismounted and came around to help her down. What a gentleman. As she dismounted, he caught her with his hands against her waist to keep her from falling.
As Sadie plopped onto her own two feet, she thought she heard something else. An eerie keening, piercing through the howling of the wind. A wolf's call.
Sadie turned around in Arthur's arms, fear nestling deep in her heart. They didn't have a chance in hell of fighting off wolves, not with the visibility as low as it was. Their best bet was to grab their shotguns and pray they could get a shot off. "Arthur-"
"Don't worry," he replied, grabbing his 1897 Winchester pump action shotgun from his saddle. He started loading slugs, staring off into the fog, eyes darting like he could actually see something. "I've got this."
"What, do you mean, you've got this?" Sadie snapped. She turned to her own saddle, grabbing her shotgun and loading regular buckshot. She was a good shot, but not as good as Arthur was.
She heard no response, so she turned around again. "Arthur, what do you-"
He was gone. She looked down at the snow, and saw footprints leading off into the blind fog.
"ARTHUR!" She yelled into the blizzard.
"ARTHUR!" She repeated, the panic starting to creep into her voice.
Still nothing. Sadie heard the howl again, then growling of wolves. She couldn't tell how many there were, not from the sound alone.
The growling intensified. What was happening-
The sharp report of Arthur's shotgun firing cut through the frigid air. Sadie heard a whimper, barely audible over the wailing of the wind.
Sadie waited for anything, any sound to indicate life beyond the light of the lantern. She knew the model of shotgun, how many rounds it held. Arthur was empty. Reloading now would be suicide, so he would've needed to switch to his sidearms. He used powerful pistols, perhaps, but they still couldn't take down a wild in one shot. There's no way he-
"SADIE!" Arthur's voice pierced the wind, and Sadie, grabbing the lantern, ran full-tilt, heading straight for him.
She slowed when she saw the first corpse. She stopped when she saw the other five.
Every wolf was dead, their bodies forming a star pattern. And in the center stood Arthur Morgan, holding a machete dripping with blood. He looked savage... barbaric.
They stood there for a long moment, neither daring to move. Arthur broke the tension first, wiping his blade on the snow, sheathing it once it was clean to his satisfaction.
He had barely finished sheathing his blade when he was tackled by Sadie, her arms wrapping around his chest to hug him as tight as her strength would allow. Her breaths came in shallow, quick gasps. After a moment, Arthur returned the embrace.
"It's okay," Arthur said quietly into her ear. "We're fine."
Sadie pulled away, her eyes blazing.
"NO!" She shrieked, the sound clear through the wind, which chose now of all times to begin dying down. "WE ARE NOT OKAY!"
Arthur backpedaled, his hands up in a defensive gesture. "We're both alive, the horses are fine. We're oka-"
"Stop!" Sadie shouted over him. "Stop saying that! What part of any of this says we're fine?!"
He stood silent. She was on a roll, and she was not stopping for anything or anybody.
"You can't just say 'we'll be fine,' then disappear into the snow to kill six wolves by yourself! You can't move out of cover into the line of fire of half a dozen Raiders and say 'it's gonna be fine.' You can't just... I can't..."
Her voice failed her, the tears she'd been holding back finally flowing, freezing halfway down her cheeks.
"You can't do those things, because one day your luck'll run out and you won't be fine. How the hell do you think I'm supposed to deal with that? I can't lose you, Arthur. You're my... my best friend. I can't..."
Arthur moved again, wrapping her once again in a hug. He moved one hand to bring her head closer, resting his chin on her hair. She sobbed quietly into the fur of his new cloak.
After a while, Sadie fell silent, breathing heavily and slowly.
"Do you know why I say that, Miss Adler?"
She brought her head back and looked up into his eyes, which brimmed with unseen pain.
"I'm trying to convince myself as much as you. I have to tell myself I'll be okay, because every time I do something like this, I'm terrified it won't work out. That I'll be injured or killed. And I can't die yet. I need to make sure you and the rest of the gang is safe, that'll you'll all be okay when I'm gone."
"Arthur, I-" Sadie's voice failed again, so she hugged him again, gently this time.
After a few moments, Arthur spoke again. "We should probably set up camp and wait out this storm."
"Maybe not," she replied. "I think the wind's startin' to die down."
Arthur chuckled. "Just our luck. The weather only starts clearing up after the danger's gone."
Sadie laughed. "You must be new here."
Setting up camp took very little time, with no other problems in the area. Arthur took a short break every now and then to calm himself, let the rush of killing six wolves drain away. Before long, they were sitting around the fire, swapping stories.
"Just as we started to check the bait, the bear comes lumbering outta the brush!"
"Oh no!" Sadie cried, laughing.
"I know!" Arthur continued. "Hosea and I practically shit ourselves, the thing was so big. Scarred face, too."
"So what happened next?" Sadie leaned forward, eager to hear the rest.
"We fought it off, barely. Hosea went back, but I stayed behind to maybe kill it."
Sadie put her head in her hands. She knew Arthur well enough to see where this was going. "Oh boy."
"I followed after it, and it charged me again. I got a few shots off, but it bowled me over, landing on top of me."
"What did you do?"
"It was kind of an awkward position for him to be in, I was right under his belly. I pulled out my knife and just started stabbing blindly. I got him eventually, and took his pelt to my trapper friend."
"How on earth did you fuck that up that badly?" Sadie asked.
"This was early on!" Arthur protested. "We'd just come down from the mountains. I didn't have a rifle yet! Hosea had a rolling block, but he took that with him. I shoulda asked to borrow it, would have saved a lot of time and pain on my part."
"I remember when you came back from that hunt. You had a massive claw mark on the left side of your back!"
"That never did fully heal. I've still got the scar." Arthur rolled his shoulder, flexing the old wound.
Sadie reached over and put a hand on his shoulder. "You couldn't sleep right for a week. One of the other guys had to make sure you wouldn't roll onto it in your sleep every night."
"Charles did that the most, I think," he reminisced. "He's always been one of our best."
"He has. D'you know, that party, when Sean came back, I danced with him?"
"Really?" Arthur arched an eyebrow.
"What? He was nice to me! Probably the only guy at that point I would've dared to dance with."
"Well, you think that's still the case?" Arthur rose and held his hand out to her.
Sadie snorted. "Seriously?"
"What? Scared I'll step on your toes?" Arthur's face lit up with a smile.
"Oh, you're gonna regret that, Morgan." She took the hand and rose to meet him, her eyes level with his moustache.
They started slow, moving back and forth, stepping in time to music nothing else could hear. Arthur led confidently, taking them in a circle around the fire pit.
Out of the blue, Arthur spun Sadie around, and she gave him an intrigued look.
"Didn't know you were experienced in this kind of thing, Mr. Morgan."
He started her in a twirl around, which she followed. "I have few secrets from you, Miss Adler. But I do have some things I keep close to the chest."
He put her into a dip, and she yelped in surprise. He chuckled to himself, and she let go of one of his hands to hit his chest. He pulled her back up, and let go of her.
"Well then, Mr. Morgan, I look forward to perhaps discovering those." She moved to walk back to her tent to sleep, but Arthur took her hand again.
"Why did you ask me to come here, Sadie?" She was about to respond with a sarcastic remark, but she decided not to when she saw the seriousness in his eyes. "Why here, of all the places in the state, all the great and amazing places to go, all the climates, why here?"
She stood in silence for a moment.
"Because I want to go back," she finally said. "I want to see my house again. Or what's left of it."
She waited with baited breath for his reaction. He sighed and nodded his head.
"Okay," he said. "We'll go to the old ranch."
That's it for Chapter 2! I was gonna make this even longer, but I think the next part would work better in the next chapter. Speaking of which, it's gonna be big! Story wise, not word count. This is probably the longest chapter I've ever written so don't count on many this long.
One of you has mentioned that the scene at the end of last chapter, with all the guys kinda giving Sadie looks, is kind of weird. I'll be honest, it felt a little strange to write, but I think it worked well enough. I thought the game didn't really do much to address the way she dresses, and how guys might react to that. I hope her reaction was in line with her character. A little mischievous, a lot fiery!
Thanks to everybody else who reviewed as well! I love to hear feedback, especially if you have something that I can add to the story. So give me your praise, your criticism, your little ideas yearning to be utilized!