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a heart that will not ever go astray

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Arthur is still barely alive when Charles finds him.

The starry sky is above him, and Arthur is pretty sure he can hear the waves crashing down on the shore and the sounds of the ocean. Which is utterly absurd, since they're nowhere near the ocean. That tells a lot about the kind of pain he's in.

Arthur tries to focus on the absurdity of his mind, because focusing on how much he's hurting it's too much and doesn't do him any good. He'd like to die, as soon as possible, because the pain is too much and his whole body feels on fire.

Charles finds him like this, gasping for air, covered in blood and with his eyes towards the sky and the imminent dawn.

"No," Charles says tersely, quietly, like he's simply stating something. No, like he's saying no, this won't do, I simply won't accept this turn of events.

Arthur laughs, and then coughs up some more blood, and then hates himself for laughing because every single part of his body is in pain and, really, he should've known better than that.

"It's okay," he tries to say even if he's struggling to breathe and talking is so difficult he feels like crying from the pain, and Charles seems to understand what he's trying to say.

This doesn't mean he seems to accept it.

"I won't let you die," Charles whispers with so much determination in his voice that for a single moment, Arthur even believes him. But it's out of his hands, obviously, there's nothing Charles can do, there's nothing anyone can do.

Arthur has lived long enough to know when the end is near.

"It's okay," he croaks out again, and then he can't keep his eyes open anymore. At least he got to see Charles for one last time. At least he got that, it's so much more than he deserved.

Dying with Charles' image in his eyes it's not that bad.

 

Except Arthur doesn't die.

 

Except Arthur finds himself, hours and hours later, deprived of the sound of the ocean (what ocean, Morgan, really?) and in so much more pain than before. He's pretty sure he shouldn't be feeling pain, not after his own death.

So he's alive, that much is clear.

Charles is next to him, and Arthur has no idea where they are or what is going on.

"I told you I won't let you die," Charles says once again.

Arthur blacks out again only a few minutes later.

 

After a few days, there's only one thing that Arthur knows with absolute certainty.

Charles brought him back from the dead with his sheer willpower. There's no other possible explanation, by all accounts Arthur should've died that day. He didn't. He's still alive and he's slowly recovering, even if Charles still looks worried.

Arthur is still alive, and it's all because of Charles.

Arthur heard him during the first night, whispering prayers and cursing under his breath at the same time. Asking anyone who could hear him for help, for Arthur to live. Arthur heard him cry, heard him ask for nothing more than a chance to be happy. Arthur heard him pray for his life, after all the other lives Charles had to let go. He still hears him pray, night after night, for God or Gods or the Spirits of this world, or the devil himself to let him have this one thing. Just this one.

Arthur would like to tell Charles that he's not worth it, that there's so much more he could have in this life, so many more people better than him.

But then again, what would Arthur do if he could have the chance to have Hosea back? If he had the chance to save John, or Jack, or Sadie. What would Arthur do if he was holding a dying Charles between his arms, other than beg for his life?

Arthur doesn't feel like he's worth it.

Arthur doesn't have to decide.

When the fever breaks and the terrible pain starts slowing down, Arthur manages to ask Charles.

"Why did you do it?"

"You know why," Charles answer without looking at him, almost like he was still afraid to see him go. "I couldn't let you- die. I couldn't."

"Charles-"

"And don't you start with all those I don't deserve it nonsense."

"I just wanted to say I'm glad. I'm glad you came back for me."

There's so much left unsaid, so many things Arthur doesn't have the strength to say out loud and so many things they should probably talk about. There will come a day when Arthur will need to face the fact that he's always a little bit too ready to die.

There will be time for that, Arthur hopes.

For now, he can simply hold on tight to Charles' hand.