It all starts with a chance meeting of air and fire in a hot, dry day. Like all wildfires do. Hosea stirs something inside Dutch, and he lets himself get consumed in return.
People always thought that Hosea was the sensible one. Which is true. No lies there. But that would miss the reason of their partnership, the passion stored inside Hosea’s that Dutch ignites right up.
Both the whirlwind and the bushfire are wild in different ways —too wild for the civilized world anyways— but Dutch and Hosea had no interest in being anything but outrageous and free. To live the way they wanted, to love the way they felt like.
It was something that all their lovers had to learn to live lest they explode in jealousy, that Hosea and Dutch belonged to nobody, and if that meant that sometimes Bessie’s husband came back home smelling like Dutch’s cologne, so be it. It’s not like they had hidden who they were or what they believed in. Hardly the most scandalous thing they had done anyways, so it was silly to draw the line here of all places, only now when it begins to affect you.
Nevertheless, Dutch and Hosea were fair. Imposing over nobody expectations that they weren’t able to live up to in the first place. If you had asked her while she was alive, Bessie would have told you that once the initial shock wore off —and as she eased up to the idea— she quickly found the many benefits of having a part-time husband and wife in the shape of Dutch and Annabelle in addition to her actual husband when one had the occasional need.
And that’s the thing, isn’t it? Dutch and Hosea had a way of being together. To stand next to them was to feel the sunlight on your skin and the summer breeze all at was once. It was as natural as it was addictive, it felt a shame to live without.
Many years later, during Sean’s party, Arthur catches from the corner of his eye two figures sitting in the distance. He turns back to meet them but as he walks towards Hosea and Dutch, he gets to see their held hands.
“We… have had quite the ride, huh?”
Despite how far they are from the bonfire, there, hand in hand, holding each other gaze, the odd couple seem to have a glow of their own. They shine bright together, and Arthur, embarrassingly enough, can’t keep neither his ears nor eyes away.
“We did it, Hosea.”
The older outlaw releases a short, almost silent gasp.
“Whatever else happens… we did it.”
“I know,” replies Hosea.
Just for one moment, Dutch clasps their hands tight again, then let goes. The man stands up and walks away.
“Am I stuck in the past, Arthur?” says Hosea to Arthur, who has been unsubtly standing still, just some feet away from the older man. There’s no reproach in his voice, no venom, not even some good-natured sarcasm, just the hint of a quiet note of longing. A soft, almost inaudible yearning that breaks Arthur’s heart all the same.
“Only you can answer that,” he replies. And he wishes he had anything better to say.
Hosea and Arthur share a look during one of Dutch's speeches. They know now, how the walls around them are getting closer and closer.
The expression on Hosea's face might have been unreadable to anybody else but he understands. Because while John's might have taken after his father Dutch, it was his father's Hosea who Arthur resembles the most.
"I'm counting on you," the gaze seemed to say. "You're the only I can trust with him. Together we might temper him yet."
Arthur would protest, but deep down he knows the old man is right. Dutch van der Linde is bigger than life, only a few chosen ones can get close enough without getting burned.
A gust of wind blows the camp’s bonfire to the opposite direction of the tinder, towards the shores of Flat Iron Lake.
Arthur believed back then, he really did, that they could make it. Until one day Dutch heated up the gunpowder stored inside the barrel of a gun.
Hosea falls in the middle of the street in Saint Denis. Now there is no fire keeper alive, and the blazes consume them all whole.
That dying flame shone so brightly as he ate himself alive.
Arthur wonders when it started, how long ago and how could they have been so blind to it. To Dutch’s unraveling of himself, now fueled inexorably towards self-annihilation.
Arthur hopes, briefly, that maybe Molly can…
But she couldn’t. Even good Molly, with the red flaming hair, try as she might (and she did try, to the very end) wasn’t able to handle the heat; and in turn, she was swallowed full by the fire.
That's not her fault, thinks Arthur, nobody could, not even him. Only one man has ever been able to stand in the surface of the sun. But he’s gone now.
Dear old Hosea, the tender of the flames with fireproof hands, how differently would he have handled this inferno.
Because even when it came to Arthur, Hosea was the only one, the only one who could dip his hands in the scalding oceans that were Arthur depths and bring out a string of pearls. Arthur tries anyways, he has to believe that something of them, of himself, can be saved. But alas, he has always been water too close to the boiling point. And it’s too late now to gather force and change the tides, can barely keep Dutch at bay, buying time for the others to escape.
Arthur evaporates under his heat.
John is also a child of fire, just like his father. But he has learned some skills along the road to keep it at bay, so it can warm and not burn. So it can bring comfort instead of pain.
He also learned when and how to drown it, too. Even if that last trick he picked up far too late in life.
Maybe John was meant, against all odds, to be a firefighter. It would make sense then, wouldn’t it? Him putting out the last cinders of the pyre that once scorched the earth. And if he can believe that, thinks John as he crosses the desert, he might convince himself it couldn't have ended any other way.
He can’t. But it was worth a try.
It’s a ghost white mountain, the one where John crushes the remaining embers with the heel of his boot. He watches as the wind picks the last of them and throws them down the cliff towards the snow-covered rocks.
After all this time, one would think that John Marston would be relieved of being out of the heat that has followed him all his life. He isn’t. He just feels cold.