The snow was coming as light flurries. It was still too much to leave. It actually had to thaw, like the others said, for them to leave. Maybe it was Arthur’s worries rubbing off that made Charles want to pace. That man’s only issue at the moment was the fact that they were sitting still. He expressed some thoughts when they were coming back from hunting and it seemed that Hosea shared them.
Charles didn’t disagree. Whatever happened on the boat caused too much trouble. Arthur and Hosea were doing their own thing, so when they were called upon, they missed most of the action. People who were on the boat didn’t like to talk about it while people who weren’t there nor on the boat didn’t know enough so Charles was mostly in the dark about what truly happened.
Despite the temperature, Charles found himself sitting outside the cabin by the fire. He wasn’t technically on watch but he was one of the few still wide awake so he took the responsibility while he crafted arrows. Snores emanated from the cabin to his back. Murmuring came from the cabin where most of the women slept. The wind whistled through the few trees. A horse huffed, another stomped a hoof. A bird in the distance let out a cry.
The future is unknown, a man once told Charles, you can’t make it yourself but you can shape it enough with your actions. He was a wise man, from what Charles can remember, probably an elder of his old tribe. Or it was a drunk he encountered in his late teen years. Either way, they were words he tended to keep close to his heart.
A door to the cabin Dutch, Molly, Hosea, and Arthur sleep in opened and closed. It was odd, coming from any of the four. Dutch has been exhausted after finally settling the camp here, Molly never left the decently-warm cabin, Hosea has complained about aching joints in the cold so he wouldn’t be out this late, and Arthur… well, his schedule wasn’t as easily predicted. He’s a light sleeper but Charles hasn’t been louder than the wind while he’s on watch. He also was good at falling asleep when he wanted, unlike poor sods who fear nightmares before they sleep.
The scent of cigarette smoke alerted Charles that it was Arthur. No one else in that cabin smoked cigarettes. Arthur occasionally smoked cigars but he seemed most content with cigarettes. It was almost concerning. He didn’t usually smoke at night and the fact that he woke up to smoke was possibly worse. However, Charles knew personal space and he’ll give it if needed. He’s also known Arthur long enough to know the man will seek out something if he wants it.
An owl shrieked from above. A warning cry. The man raised his gaze from polishing the stem of an upcoming arrow. Most likely a snowy owl, judging by its faint outline. White on white; a perfect time for it to hunt. It must not like the human presence. Maybe it has a nest in one of the broken cabins or somehow got a nest inside a cabin they sleep in.
“You should be resting your hand.”
Charles, unsurprised, turned his head to look at Arthur. He was wearing his thick coat buttoned all the way up to his chin but no hat, leaving his short hair to the wind’s mercy. In this lighting, it wasn’t hard to notice the tired, worried lines on his face. His cigarette hung loosely between his lips. It screamed the very essence of exhaustion.
“And you should be getting your sleep. Dutch will need you in the coming days,” Charles replied calmly.
A chuckle rumbled deep in Arthur’s chest. He raised a hand to grab the cigarette so he could breathe the smoke out. He shook his head as he came closer to the fire and sat on the box to Charles’ left. “He may need me but there are others.”
“By the way, why are you up?”
“Can’t sleep because the stupid wind.” The man sighed. “It’s like there’s a wolf howlin’ outside my window and invadin’ my room with cold air. The temperature, I deal with. I got all my blankets and my coat to cover up with and the fire in the other room. We let Hosea sleep in front of the fire, as long as he moves when it’s time to wake up. It’s just the goddamn wind.”
“You’ll eventually fall asleep if you stare at the ceiling long enough,” Charles more-or-less assured.
“I’d like to fall asleep as soon as I lay my pretty little head down.”
It was Charles’ turn to laugh. He’s been part of the gang for six months now and Arthur’s charisma was starting to shine through his gruff facade. At the start, he was the boogyman to the new arrivals like Charles, Sean, Davey, and Mac. Pearson talked to Charles one night and called Arthur a butcher, along with multiple types of dogs and other things. They both had drinks in their hands but Charles soaked up everything he could. Arthur Morgan was Dutch’s guard dog and attack dog, raised by him and Hosea to be the perfect, level-headed enforcer they could rely on. Charles learned that Arthur was dangerous but he could never get an explanation as to why.
He knew why now. At first, it was just talk and rumor about what Arthur did. After spending time in the gang, Charles has gotten to see the man in action, see how his shooting skills were better than words described and how skills he said he didn’t have were pulled out of the attic and dusted off. The best example was when they went hunting the other day. Arthur, one of the most competent trackers of the gang, tracked the deer and killed it with the bow, which he said he never got a good handle on before, with a clean shot that only experienced hunters can make. Charles was colored impressed, which doesn’t happen often.
“Why not try alcohol? Seems to put some of the others to sleep just fine,” Charles murmured.
“Can’t have none of that lingering in the mornin’,” Arthur grunted. “Plus, I’m not Pearson.”
“Alright then, let’s talk. I hear some people get tired the more they talk.
Arthur stared into the fire and sighed. He wiped at his face with a hand but kept his eyes on the source of warmth ahead of him. He was actually more quiet and secluded than some people tend to think. You could leave that man out in the woods alone and he would find a way to survive and not go crazy from lack of socializing. They were good qualities, ones that Charles was thankful to have himself.
Charles was about to think that the offer would be untouched as he started on polishing the arrows again, only planning to glimpse at the enforcer occasionally. Arthur sighed, “‘bout what?”
The other man shrugged, not even sure if he was being looked at. “Anything. What’s on your mind?”
“I wanna get outta here,” Arthur growled. He shook his head and covered his face with his hands briefly. A few of his little bangs hung over his fingers. Unable to tell if he needed comfort, Charles kept his place. He wouldn’t even dare to touch the man unless the situation required it but usually he was seen as a sturdy, untippable boulder. Tonight, he looked more like a man who was at his end. “We’re just sittin’ up here. We need to head west, like we originally planned. And the sooner we get outta here, the sooner Hosea will be feelin’ better.”
Charles wasn’t dumb, he had plenty of common sense and he thinks he can read others decently well. It didn’t take a genius to notice the connection between Hosea and Arthur. It was like a father and son relationship. Many a time Charles has seen Arthur confiding in the older man and going out on rides with him to return with warm smiles on their faces. There was also a connection between Arthur and Dutch but it was not as strong as the bond Arthur has with Hosea. If anything, it seemed that Dutch had a better father and son relationship with John instead.
“It’s just a waiting game, now,” Charles said.
“I know and I hate it.”
The arrow stems were all finished with polishing. Now, one by one Charles will start adding the heads. They slotted into the ends neatly and all that had to be added were thin strips of leather that would help keep them in place. He was aware of Arthur’s eyes on him, watching the arrows be crafted. Although he was making good progress tonight, Charles wasn’t sure if he would be able to finish them yet. Unfortunately, he seemed to be lacking feathers.
“Why you makin’ those?” Arthur wondered aloud.
Charles put aside one arrow to pick up another to fix the arrowhead in place. “You’ve got a bow now. We both will be needing arrows. We can’t share them if we’re in two different places at a time.”
Arthur laughed, like he thought it was a bad joke. When he saw Charles staring at him, the smiled waned off his face and he sighed again. He was getting good at that; sighing. “You ain’t jokin’...”
“Afraid not,” Charles replied. “I saw you hunt. You’re just letting your skills go to waste if you don’t help provide.”
“I hunt sometimes with Hosea.”
“Hunt sometimes for the gang.”
Arthur finally realized he was trying to win a losing battle. His lips became a thin line as he studied Charles. Charles stared back but he was lacking the intensity that Arthur’s gaze held.
“But of course no one’s going to force you,” Charles assured lightly.
Arthur waved him off with a lazy hand. “No but I should. It’s nice to provide.”
A warm pang beat in Charles’ heart for a moment. Not everyone in the gang has been able to convince Arthur of something so quickly, Hosea always has the easiest luck with the man. Maybe Charles was high on the list of people who can easily convince him or Arthur just needed a bit more assurance. The first option would possibly make Charles smile but he won’t push it.
This wasn’t the first time Charles has had to trek through snow. The first time, he wore thinner clothes and nearly died from the cold. Thankfully, this time, he managed to grab thicker clothes and he was with a group that was prepared and had resources. So sitting by the fire, in his buffalo fur coat, the cold didn’t bite as badly as it could. The only parts of him suffering were his cheeks and exposed hands, but his hands needed to be free for the arrows.
“Thank you, Charles,” Arthur murmured. With his head bowed, his face was pretty much unreadable. He wrung his gloved hands together before looking up. “I think I’ll go rest up. Make sure you get some sleep before the entire gang wakes. Who knows when we will get movin’.”
Charles nodded to the man. “I’ll make sure I do. If you ever need any more talking, I’ll try to lend myself if I can.”
He didn’t miss the little snort from the retreating man. “Sure thing, Charles.”