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a heart that will not ever go astray

Chapter Text

When Abigail yells Arthur's name, Charles doesn't dare to hope.

Arthur has been gone for too long, and Charles doesn't really have high hopes for happiness in his own life. He has been through too many bad things, too many things that seemed great and turned out shit, to feel the need for hoping.

Charles has come to terms with the fact that Arthur is probably dead, at the bottom of the ocean. He's been having nightmares for the past few weeks - dead bodies and skeletons and waves higher than mountains -, and every time Charles wakes up, he has to steady himself to face the fact that Arthur Morgan is dead. Charles is doing his best to keep the gang together, to keep Abigail from breaking down, to help Sadie lead the gang now that half of them are gone. He's doing his best not to break down himself because the thought of Arthur's being gone forever claws at his chest and drags him down.

But then someone else yells Arthur's name, and a few seconds later the door of the hut they've been staying in opens, and Arthur is... right there.

Arthur is right there, like nothing ever happened, like they didn't spend the last weeks thinking he was dead at the bottom of the ocean. Arthur is right there, greeting everybody, ready to be put to work, as always.

Charles has to keep everything inside, has to greet Arthur with a quick and meaningless hug, and has to be content with that. Charles has to wait excruciating long hours - and, of course, a goddamn shooting and another narrow escape on top of everything else - to do the only thing he really wanted to do.

Arthur is resting in his arms, hours later, in the quiet of the night. Charles has spent most of the time checking for injuries and wounds, despite Arthur's many reassurances. He doesn't look good, he never looks good lately, but this is worse than usual.

He looks tired and haunted, and when Charles finally understands the extent of what happened on Guarma, he thinks he can understand why.

There's really nothing he can do to help Arthur, not now, not after everything already happened. Not after all the people they lost, not after everything else.

"I can't let John die too," Arthur whispers against Charles' shoulder, eyes closed and a tired look on his face. "I don't want to see anyone else die."

"You won't," Charles promise, even though he knows he can't promise shit. He knows there's no guarantee that John will survive, that any of them will survive. But he can't look at Arthur, he can't look at that defeated look and let him face this on his own. He can't.

He won't.

Arthur may not have any physical wounds, not at the moment at least, but there are other, deeper wounds Charles worries about.