If there was one thing Arthur Morgan both liked and disliked; it was bounty hunting.
It was good honest work with a pretty decent pay out but sometimes the bounties themselves were a pain in the ass to catch and keep hold of.
He’d gotten the tip off in Strawberry, a couple of Law men waiting on a train to Valentine to track down the new bounty and turn them into the Sheriff. Simple. Easy.
And Arthur was determined to get there first.
You weren’t exactly the most innocent of souls. In fact you weren’t innocent at all and that was exactly why you had such a bounty on your head. It wasn’t a large amount by any means but you were still eager to pay it off all the same.
Taking into account, the fact that you had also returned the horse you’d stolen. You were hoping the sentence wouldn’t be as serious as you were expecting. You couldn’t help but laugh. Of all the things to be wanted for. Horse theft wasn’t really the most impressive of crimes. Still; you’d almost earned enough to wipe your slate clean. Planning to stay away from Valentine just long enough to collect the rest before returning into town to pay what was owed.
You kicked away the embers of your dying campfire with the heel of your boot, then prepared your bow for another morning of hunting the forest for more pelts to sell. You’d already caught a glimpse of a fine looking deer that seemed promising. Maybe if you were quiet; you’d pick up her trail again.
But as you moved to search the forest floor for clues; your quiet morning was crudely interrupted by the stomping of cantering hooves. A black Shire horse huffing to a steady halt as a tall stranger quickly dismounted. His heavy boots thudding upon the dry ground before he began striding purposely towards you.
“Excuse me Miss…Are you Y/N L/N?” He asked gruffly; tipping his head back to look at you from under the brim of his hat as his large calloused hands rested upon his belt.
You eyed him warily, taking in his appearance. Tall, rugged. Definitely handsome with a strong jaw dusted by a dark layer of stubble. Straightening your stance you took a deep breath in a feeble attempt to feign confidence against this man before you answered with an unshaken voice.
“I might be.” You challenged. “Depending on who’s asking.”
The man’s lips seemed to twitch as he looked to hold back either a laugh or an amused smirk. Damn maybe you weren’t as intimidating as you thought. It was clear just by looking at him that he wasn’t here for a nice chat and had obviously been sent by someone to take you in.
You were honestly a little surprised the Sheriff would sink to the level of sending Bounty Hunters after you for stealing a horse. Perhaps this man could see reason, maybe you could explain things to him and he’d let you go? It was certainly worth a try. So striding up to stand face to face with him; you push for your courage to hold just long enough as you stare him directly in the eye.
“Look Mister…I don’t know what the Sheriff told you but I haven’t done anything wrong.” You reason. “So maybe you could just pretend you never saw me right? I’ll keep outta your way, I promise.”
The man stands unconvinced but he does smile. That you hadn’t been expecting. He sighs deeply; his blue eyes breaking contact with yours as he glances down at his feet before looking back at you in earnest.
“Madam I’m paid to do a job and you see, if I don’t do that job; I don’t get paid. You understand? So why don’t we make this easier for the both of us and you come quietly huh?”
You had considered it. You really had. You were so close to earning the rest of your bounty to pay for your freedom. But there was no way you could see the Sheriff or any other Law man taking the time to let you explain that, before throwing you into a jail cell to either rot or wait to be hanged. No, you still needed time. You needed to get away.
Though it seemed the Bounty Hunter knew exactly what you were planning to do even before you did. Because no sooner had you turned to run, you found your legs bound and your body hitting the ground with a dull thud. A pained groan leaving your lips as you twisted against your binds.
The man held back a laugh as he moved to turn you to face him. His overbearing silhouette blocking out the morning sun overhead. You winced when he leaned over you to tighten the ropes.
“Sorry Miss but I did warn ya and you ain’t the first bounty to try running off on me.” He mumbled. And if you didn’t know any better, you could’ve sworn he was actually amused by all this. It was an easy guess that you weren’t the first bounty he’d brought in but were determined to be the first to talk your way out of it.
“Please Mister; I have the money to pay my bounty! Well most of it, I was going to earn the rest today.” You pleaded. Slowly sitting up to better face him as you continued to pull at the ropes around your wrists and ankles. “If you want the payment I can give it to you. It’s yours! Just please let me go!”
He seemed conflicted. Running a hand over his stubbled chin and cracking a smile. You looked as confusion flashed in your eyes, watching this Bounty Hunter openly laughing at you with his hands on his hips.
“You seriously expect me to believe that you’re carrying nearly a thousand dollars in that satchel o’ yours lady?” He laughed.
At this you were taken aback. A thousand dollars?! That wasn’t right. Your bounty was forty. Since when had horse theft carried a thousand dollar bounty?! There must have been so sort of mistake; perhaps this Bounty Hunter had stumbled upon the wrong bounty and thought you were someone else. But that couldn’t be right when he’d asked for you by name.
You sat quietly. Defeated as you gave up pulling at your binds.
Which didn’t go unnoticed by the man watching you. Faltering for just a moment as he pulled a large piece of paper from the satchel he was wearing and holding it lowly for you to see.
You couldn’t stop the shocked gasp that escaped you; for there you were. Face to face with yourself. WANTED. DEAD OR ALIVE. Y/N L/N. REWARD $1000 Slowly reaching out, your every move tentative as you took hold of the poster. Your blood running cold at the sight of you. Along with the list of crimes were apparently wanted for.
“Guessing you ain’t ever seen nothing like this before? Am I right Miss?” The man asked softly. He almost seemed sincere.
“Y/N. Call me Y/N.”
“I’m Arthur. Arthur Morgan.” He returned.
Arthur had never had this happen before. A bounty that didn’t know they were wanted. And what’s more you didn’t seem to know anything about the crimes you had supposedly committed. He caught the surprise on your face as he went to sit down beside you. His forearms rested on his bent knees; blue inquisitive eyes glancing down at you.
“Well Y/N, don’t think I’ve ever come across a bounty that didn’t know they were wanted before.” He said. “Most of em’ either run or try ‘ta kill me. Some are even proud of what they done. You really got no idea about any of this?”
He watched you; your watering eyes darting across the page at the bold writing. Silently shaking your head at his question.
“I stole the horse…” you croaked. The tears in your eyes more from frustration than sadness. “But I gave it back.”
“And this one.” You pointed to the crimes listed, Arthur’s gaze falling from your face to the poster held between you. Reading them quietly to himself.
PUBLIC DRUNKENNESS & ASSAULT.
“That quiet drink I had in Rhodes, turned not so quiet when that Ranch hand wouldn’t take no for an answer. So I broke the bastard’s arm.” You said matter-of-factly as if it were the most nonchalant thing in the world.
But Arthur didn’t reply, instead he let you continue on. Your attention drawn back to the paper in hand. Fingers softly running along the printed letters.
“This one; now this one ain’t my fault.”
The Outlaw leaned close; closer than he realized when he could feel your hair wisping against his cheek. It was soft and he could smell a hint of lavender. He stopped himself; instantly coming back to his senses as he read on.
FRAUD/HANDLING OF COUNTERFEIT GOODS
“Those bank notes were counterfeit and I knew that but I stole them from a con man in Saint Denis so he’d stop scamming people.” As you explained that you’d planned to destroy the fake notes but had been caught with them before you had the chance; Arthur had to wonder if perhaps it’d been Trelawny you’d stolen from. However given his current situation he thought it best not to ask any more about the con man in question. He had to smile though, you were definitely unlike any woman he’d met before. And certainly unlike any bounty he’d tracked down in the past.
But the amusement was short-lived at the sound of your disgusted scoff as you scrunched the poster into your clenched fists. Your hands shaking in the apparent anger that came aflame in your wide eyes. Your nostrils flared as you spat bitterly at the offending words you’d read.
“Murder?! I killed those O’Driscoll’s because they were robbing a stage coach full of women and children! Was I supposed to just do nothing?!”You roared furiously, the skin of your fingers turning red as you ripped up the poster into shredded pieces. “Colm O’Driscoll is a goddamn monster! I know exactly what he and his men are capable of! And I’d kill every last one of those bastards if I could!”
Arthur was taken aback by your outburst; the anger that exploded from you at the simple mention of Colm O’Driscoll. It reminded him of Sadie. That raw fury for the gang that had clearly hurt you in some way. Maybe killed a loved one? Or tried to harm you. Or god forbid had hurt you and you’d somehow managed to escape them.
The man knew himself what they were capable of. After suffering at the hands of Colm and his men. So in that moment he made a decision.
Some may have called him a fool for it. To waste such wealthy pay out but that didn’t matter to him. Unsheathing his hunting knife and reaching across with his other hand to take your wrists and cutting away the rope that bound them.
“Wait-what are you doing?” You asked timidly.
“You’re a good woman Miss Y/N.” He replied, slicing the ties around your ankles before taking a firm grip of your hand and pulling you to your feet. “And any enemy of Colm O’Driscoll is a friend of mine. I know what that son of a bitch is capable of too and I ain’t gonna be the one to stop you helpin’ decent folk that need it. So go on Miss, get outta here while ya can. I’ll send away any other Bounty Hunters I see.”
Arthur could see you were both confused and cautious at his unexpected actions. But in all honesty he found himself quite intrigued by such a woman as you.
For one that at first seemed so sweet and timid to only then learn your striking readiness to kill in order to save an innocent soul.
The Outlaw was trying to live an honorable life; always choosing to do the right thing. Or help a stranger in need; no matter what was requested of him. He’d gladly do it with an open heart. But sometimes the choices were not always clear to him.
And people like you, Charles and Sadie; were the ones he truly admired. The people could do good or the right thing without even taking the time to think about it. It was a natural instinct he wished he could have himself.
You stood frozen for a moment; rubbing soothing fingertips around your irritated wrists and watched him carefully. But he was sincere and genuine in his offer to let you go. A chance you clearly weren’t willing to let pass by as you turned on your heel to dart back down your intended trail into the forest.
Though to his surprise you stopped. Those piercing eyes turning back to take one last glance at him as you smiled warmly.
“Thank you, you’re a good man Arthur Morgan.”
His lips twitched a second time at your words as he fought away a knowing smile and the readied words he always uttered on the tip of his tongue.
“Aw you don’t know me Miss; go on get! Before I change my mind.” He chuckled.
You nodded and he fixed those blue orbs your way until he couldn’t see you anymore. Shaking his head at the events this strange morning had brought him before finally deciding to call it a day. Mounting his horse; giving the gelding a loving pat on his neck then led him back into town.
As the weeks passed, Arthur found he couldn’t get you out of his head. His mind replaying that morning over and over.
Rereading everything he’d written down in his journal as he remembered it. Those same striking features and piercing eyes staring back at him from the page.
The sketch was one he was secretly proud of. In his opinion it did you more justice than that damn wanted poster ever did.
And every town he rode into since, he’d always taken the extra time to tear down anymore he saw.
Settling into the seat of his saddle as his gelding plodded into Valentine, now calmed from the hard ride over from Van Horn. Arthur looked for a good place to hitch the black Shire; allowing the beast the well-earned rest he deserved.
He was making his way down the main street when he caught sight of the Sheriff sat outside his office; cigar in one hand, coffee cup in the other. Waving his arms about dramatically to his deputy who sat beside him.
“Strangest damn thing I’ve ever seen my whole life.” He bellowed. His Deputy hanging on his every word. “I send four Bounty Hunters after this woman and not even half an hour after the last one leaves, she walks in like she owns the place, pays off her own bounty in full then leaves without saying a word!”
Both Law men throw their heads back in laughter as Arthur trots on by them. A knowing smirk on his face as he takes a guess at exactly who they were talking about. He reaches the Saloon, hitching his Shire beside a beautiful bay mare; a Tennessee Walker he thinks at a glance, before turning heel and heading up the steps.
He’s greeted with the usual ambience of the Saloon before the rowdy patrons show up to disturb the peace with their nightly games of poker and heavy drinking. He debates whether to sit at a table for a meal or by the bar alone for a quiet drink but his decision his made for him when he spots a very familiar face sat alone by the window. His scuffing boots against the wooden floor grabbing your attention as you turn in your chair.
“Arthur Morgan!” You announce to the room as he pulls up a chair beside you. “Didn’t think I’d ever see you again!”
“I could say the same to you Miss Y/N L/N.” He greets warmly. “How have you uh…”
“Been? I’ve been good I suppose.”
“Really? You sure about that?” He challenges, that same amused smirk on his face. “You haven’t run into any O’Driscolls recently?”
He watches your face scrunch up in feigned thought, your lips widening into a grin that he can’t help but find endearing.
“I don’t think I know what you’re talking about Mister Morgan.”
Arthur glanced over his shoulder to check the crowd before leaning in close, his arms rested on the table between you. His gruff voice dropping to a rumbled whisper.
“Really? Because I’ve seen that horse you got hitched outside Y/N and I ain’t blind. Don’t think I ain’t noticed the green bandana tied to her reins. We both know she ain’t yours.” He accused but you didn’t falter. Seeming to appear a lot more confident than the last time you met. Leaning back in your chair cockily, with a bright smile shining back at the Outlaw.
“She is mine…Now. Figured you can’t rightly steal something from someone if they’re dead.” You smirked. “And that O’Driscoll was very very dead when I stole his horse.”
At this Arthur laughed loudly. You had a point he supposed. And if he was honest he was rather glad to hear you hadn’t changed all that much. In fact he even found himself imagining how you’d fit into the gang, even if only for a moment. You and he were strangely similar and he found a deep respect for you and the things you had done. Especially your impressive skills when it came to killing O’Driscolls; he could imagine the delight Dutch and Sadie would find in someone that hated Colm as much as they did.
The sudden screech of your chair legs broke his train of thought as he looked to see you fumbling through your satchel before turning back to face him.
“I gotta admit I was hoping I’d see you again. I wanted to give you this.” You said sliding a clip of bank notes across the table towards him. Arthur’s eyes widening as he took the pile and counted the amount. “And don’t worry this ain’t counterfeit, I promise.”
“Y/N there’s over five hundred dollars here! I can’t take this.”
He moved to hand it back but you refused. His heart betraying him as it skipped it beat the moment you placed your hand on top of his.
“I owe you. It’s half the reward for my bounty. You didn’t have to let me go.” You explained quietly, fearing someone might overhear. “I still don’t get why you did but I’m grateful. After I left, I got some work and earned the rest to wipe the slate clean. But you gave up a lot of money Arthur. And I pissed off a lot of Bounty Hunters when I paid my own bounty. This is my way of saying thank you. There ain’t a lot a decent folk around here but you’re one of em’.”
Arthur had to think for a second, his callous hand slipping from your grasp and rising to rub at the base of his neck.
“Aww Y/N you don’t know me.” He said shyly. The same words he’d uttered so often to every stranger that had assumed his good intentions. They didn’t know him either. Instead only seeing just a fraction of the man he truly was.
“But I’d like too.” It surprised him when you leaned forward to gently press your hand against his forearm. Your eyes shining like your smile and he found himself smiling back in return. Incredibly astounded by how brazen you were being but even more shocked in himself to find he was flattered by it.
“Well then Miss L/N…How about we stay here a little longer and I buy us dinner?”