The gang’s hoots and hollers could be heard from Valentine all the way to Saint Denis. A celebration with no rhyme or reason, but still just as spirited. With the uncertainty that there would ever be a sunrise to come, everyone partied as if heaven’s gates would be waiting for them bright and early the following morn.
Drinks were plentiful as generous portions of booze were passed from one hand to the next; leave no cup high and dry. Arthur nursed his beer slowly as he observed his ragtag family, mentally preparing for the shenanigans that would soon follow-the ever dutiful guardian.
Everyone was up to something, rambunctious as always. Sean made pitiful, lecherous passes to a drunk Karen, who responded in kind due to her excessive inebriation. Dutch was sitting with Molly, a familiar grip on her thigh as they sipped on finer liquor together; Miss O’Shea was too highbrow for whatever the commoners drank. Lenny and Hosea recklessly played “five-finger fillet”, which to no one's surprise, ended with sliced hands and hearty laughs at their blatant stupidity.
Javier sat by the fire, casually playing his guitar as people sang-some slurring-dirty songs in tandem with his strumming. Amongst the jovial crowd was you, cheeks pink from one drink too many and your voice louder and prouder than the rest.
Color Arthur surprised that a usually dignified lady such as yourself was bellowing filthy tunes with the likes of Uncle and Swanson. He quickly found a familiar tint adorning his cheeks, similar to yours, and he couldn’t pin the blame on the alcohol this time around.
Arthur was constantly enamored by you but seeing you like this, unrestricted by the commonalities of a society you had long abandoned, he found you even more captivating than before. With a lopsided grin and the fire casting delicate shadows upon the contours of your face, Arthur committed the image to memory so he could immortalize it in his journal later that night.
He hadn’t even realized he was starring, something he was usually hyper aware of, but with the flames emitting such an enchanting glow that continued to envelope you, he felt himself spellbound.
As if starlight had come to life, was the first thought that came to mind; he mentally reprimanded himself for sounding like such a lovestruck fool. Although despite that, he found no shame in admitting to himself that all those pretty poems you and Mary-Beth tittered about could never hold a candle to your beauty.
Too lost in his own head, Arthur hadn’t realized that you had looked up to meet his lingering gaze. Now exposed, heat quickly crept up the back of his neck as your smile widened and you proceeded to eagerly wave him over to the campfire. His feet acted before his mind could catch up and he started in your direction, not before taking an excessive swig of his drink in a sad attempt to calm his nerves.
While Arthur lacked the liquid courage, you on the other hand had enough of it for the both of you. The whiskey you’d been sampling had sent a warmth blooming through your entire body, weakening the shyness that usually reared its ugly head around Arthur. You were a well-spoken, educated woman but your feelings for a certain Mr. Morgan had reduced you to a blushing, bumbling mess.
“My lady,” Arthur said affectionately and he tipped his hat to you, “everyone,” he acknowledged the rest of the group with considerably less enthusiasm. The men responded in kind, grunting their hellos.
Almost as soon as he arrived, you had hopped up from the log you were perched on to meet Arthur, beaming at him even more now that you were in his presence.
Having your inhibitions assuaged thanks to a healthy dose of Uncle’s personal booze supply, you wrapped your arms snugly around Arthur’s sturdy shoulders, catching the usually stoic outlaw off guard.
“Ar-tie,” you singsonged, rather loudly; you had no idea where this newfound nickname had come from but your drunk alter ego seemed to enjoy throwing all formalities to the wind. Arthur’s eyes widened, his blush clearly visible as he found himself in your warm embrace.
A universal silence fell over the circle, Charles and John trying to contain their snickers as they eagerly awaited for the rest of this sickeningly saccharine scenario to play out.
Arthur sputtered pathetically as he tried to process the entirety of this overwhelming situation that he quickly found himself in.
You were so close to him, a distance he previously would’ve considered improper especially with a lady of your caliber. But now, with alcohol fueling both of your systems, he wasn’t so sure he could bring himself to care.
He could faintly make out the scent of wildflowers in your hair-a mix of lavender and honeysuckle. How could someone who lived amongst criminals and was constantly surrounded by depravity smell so sweet?
Your hypnotic aroma was almost enough to make him forget about your ridiculous shortening of his name-almost.
“Artie?” he asked incredulously. He was a hardened criminal, the secondhand gun and leading enforcer of the Van der Linde gang. A bad man. And here you were, drunk and without a care in the world, calling him something not even Jack had thought to come up with. You pulled back from him, much to his dismay, with a faux-pout pursing your lips.
“Yes, that’s,” you paused to lightly bop him on the nose with your index finger, “you.” The rest of the gang had abandoned any form of subtly as unrepressed chortles could be heard from practically everyone around the campfire.
Little ol’ you was making the infamous Arthur Morgan, a man with a bounty of over five thousand dollars, more flustered than a common schoolgirl. They weren’t naive to his feelings towards you, keeping to themselves lest they want to meet the business end of his wrath. But this was too hysterical to ignore, and they felt safe making jests at Arthur’s expense with you in tow.
“Artie why don’t you sit down with us,” Javier offered cooly, the smirk tugging at the edge of his lips practically giving away his teasing undertones. Arthur was about to retort when he was cut off by Uncle’s loudmouthed interjection.
“Yeah Artie, my boy, you look a lil’ red in the face! Take a load off and enjoy the company of the fine mistress called whiskey,” he whooped, slapping his knee as he keeled over from a fit of laughter due to his own witticism.
Completely oblivious, you laughed alongside the other men as you linked arms with a disgruntled Arthur. He scoffed in response to this incessant mocking, quickly tossing back the rest of his beer to alleviate his rapidly increasing heart rate as you continued to move closer to his side.
Your attention soon diverted from the conversation to Dutch’s gramophone, a gentle melody emitting from it and drifting up to the moon above. Excitement took ahold of your heart and in turn you took ahold of Arthur’s hands, the joy radiating from you almost palpable.
“Artie,” you chirped, earning another wave of sniggers, “dance with me!” It wasn’t so much a request as it was a demand, as you already started tugging him towards the music’s origin.
“D-dance?” he stuttered. He wasn’t known for his charm and grace and yet despite that, you were asking this of him anyway. And who was he to deny you of anything you wanted?
But at the risk of making an even bigger idiot of himself in front of you, he couldn't help but hesitate. You noticed his apprehension and turned towards him, hands on your hips in a stern fashion similar to Abigail before she’s about to scold Jack for misbehaving.
“Yes dance, silly,” you chided, resuming your place around his arm before softening your expression again. “Do you not want to dance with me, Artie?” you said sullenly; the sad look you gave Arthur was irresistible and almost impossible to refuse.
He sighed heavily, shooting daggers at the men ogling the two of you from around the fire and then returning his attention back solely to you, ready to concede to your wishes.
“As my lady commands” he said, ushering you closer to Dutch’s tent by the small of your back-always the gentleman. The two of you stood next to the gramophone, the record idly spinning as it produced a pleasant rhythm.
Arthur extended his hand and you excitedly gave yours in turn, not expecting such a soft kiss from his chapped lips to grace your senses. Your flush was amplified by his chivalry and you bowed your head in response, like a true lady of high society.
His arm found a comfortable place around your waist and the two of you began swaying in an almost perfect tempo to a song unknown to the both of you.
With the entire camp peering at this tender moment between you, the only audience you two acknowledged were the stars twinkling faintly above.
Arthur surprised you with an elegance and poise that could be expected of a Saint Denis socialite, but still making it an experience that was uniquely him. You giggled as Arthur clumsily twirled you around before bringing you back towards him, your chests mere inches apart. He cocked an eyebrow at you in mock accusation at your sudden outburst.
“You are full of surprises, Sir Artie,” to which Arthur let out his own hearty chuckle for the first time that night.
“I’m no sir, my dear lady. Just trying to please.”
“And you are doing a fine job, cowboy,” you purred, putting extra emphasis on your last word and catching his attention for yet another time that same evening. It seemed to be a talent of yours and he had no qualms about your skills. A nickname, so suitable for him, sounded absolutely perfect coming from you.
“No more Artie?” he questioned with a humorous tone, giving you another spin. He was never one for dancing, but with you, it came as simple as breathing. You smiled at him mischievously, daring to lean in closer. He didn’t object.
“I was just teasin’, didn’t mean to make you sweat cus’ of it,” you admitted.
To be perfectly honest, you didn’t take into account the backlash from the rest of the gang that would result from your drunken roguery. But you were tired of letting your lack of confidence get in the way of pursuing a man who you held such a deep level of admiration for. Right now, you had absolutely no regrets about any of your actions.
Arthur laughed again, a lovely yet rare occurrence. “Well no offense taken darlin’, despite those buffoons I’d say this evening ended quite pleasantly.”
With that, he dipped you gracefully as the music gave one last bombastic crescendo before its grand finale. A majority of the gang awarded the two of you with a hearty round of applause, but Arthur paid them no mind.
Gently, he pulled you back to him as you both regained your composure. He looked down at you fondly, brushing strands of hair that came loose during your dance back behind your ear. Even disheveled, you were still a marvel to behold in his eyes.
Your gazes were locked to one another, fingers still intertwined. Arthur, bless his heart, was unsure of how to end this beautifully intimate encounter. He had already taken so many risks tonight, and if said risks weren’t related to some sort of gang heist, then it meant he truly was taking a leap of faith outside of his realm of expertise.
You could practically feel his frantic heartbeat thrumming against your own chest. Feeling bold, a hand found its way up to his neck and you stood on your tiptoes to place a single kiss on his cheek yet dangerously close to the corner of his lips.
As quickly as you gave it, you retreated in hopes of seeing his earnest reaction and you were not disappointed. Almost baffled, his free hand lingered where you had kissed in an attempt to reaffirm he wasn’t dreaming. You placed your hand over his, and gave him a loving smile that almost knocked him off his feet.
“You know where to find me later,” was all you said as you sauntered away, his line of sight following your form as you leisurely strolled back to your tent.
Another moonlight dance was definitely in store.