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a heart that will not ever go astray

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There are a number of different houses, huts, and cabins that they could find and fix up a bit. Arthur has been around this country long and around enough to know where to find a fair share of those, empty or not, secluded or close enough to other people.

Arthur is pretty sure they could've even gone with Charlotte's house, up north Roanoke Valley. She would've been happy to know the house was used by someone trusted - as much as that word still makes Arthur huff.

But no, after all that time together, it turns out that Charles is kind of traditional, as much as a former outlaw can be traditional.

He wants to build them a house.

They've found a secluded place, far enough from any kind of civilization they probably won't have any problems, and still close enough to at least one settlement so that they can get anything they might need.

(And Arthur has to admit, they chose a beautiful place. It's quiet and almost hidden in the forest, close to a small river near where Arthur loves to spend time drawing. Or just sitting there, with all the time they have to kill. It's the only thing they have to kill, nowadays, other than their meals. It's weird but nice.)

But Charles has decided they have to build a house, after years of sleeping in tents around a campfire.

Arthur has never done anything like this, in his entire life. Nothing this manual, nothing that meant he was actually building something. Destroying things, yes. Setting up a tent, yes. Nothing more than that.

At first, he's mainly distracted by Charles.

And it's not his fault, it really isn't. It's summer and it's hot, and Charles is building them a nice, little house basically from scratch, and he's doing it shirtless, and Arthur is very, very distracted. Extremely so.

They end up engaging in more exciting activities, one or two times. Maybe three, and it definitely wasn’t Arthur’s fault.

After a while, though, Arthur begins to enjoy the work they’re doing.

There’s something calming about manual working, especially when he knows they’re working for themselves, there's something that helps him not to think too much.

Working keeps his mind off the dark things that fill his mind.

Working on something that will become their house has the added benefit of making Arthur’s heart flutter with something he rarely felt during the rest of his life.

“I rode to the postal office this morning, left the wrong address so that if Sadie and John want to write, they can find us without anyone else finding us,” Charles smiles from behind a wood board. Arthur has no idea what that is for, but he trusts Charles, and he trusts the process.

“That’s great.”

“Are you sure you don’t mind being so far away from any sort of civilization?”

“Me?” Arthur snorts, hammering a nail in the exact spot Charles was pointing. “Civilization? Since when do I like civilization?”

“Fair point,” Charles laughs, and once again Arthur is left with a hammering heart and a really dumb smile on his lips. Charles is looking at him with such loving eyes that Arthur has to look away for a few seconds. He's still not used to it, he's still not used to all of this.

He's still not used to the thought that they're building their own house together. That they will get to spend the rest of their life, however long they'll be, together. He's still not used to the thought that he might actually deserve this. Charles seems to think so, and Arthur trusts Charles more than he trusts himself.

"Everything okay?" Charles asks, worried as usual.

“Everything more than okay. But, uh- see there, Charles? There’s a stain on your shirt. A big one.”

“Oh, is there?”

“Yup. Might as well take it off.”

It’ll take a while to build the house. Arthur doesn't mind.