One-shot #2 Magicians for Sport, the Aftermath
Characters: Josiah Trelawny, Dutch Van der Linde, briefly: Susan Grimshaw, Charles Smith
Spoilers: Through Ch. 3
Trigger warnings: Mentions of torture and injuries
Shipping: Yes - minor Vanderlawny
Summary: Trelawny has just been rescued from the bounty hunters who kidnapped him. Dutch takes it upon himself to clean up the mess that is Trelawny.
Explanation for this abomination: I wanted hurt/comfort. I wrote myself hurt/comfort. It’s here if you want to read it :D
He knew he should have been paying closer attention to their path if he ever wanted to recreate it later. The ride had been more an easy trot, a slow lope, than anything quick. But his body ached, his mind empty of all save for one, ever present, thought: I’ve been saved.
There was a point in that whole ordeal that he was completely convinced he was going to die on the cold ground, at the mercy of some halfwit bounty hunters. And there would be people in his life who would be none the wiser: one day he was there, the next – he was not.
But for whatever reason, Arthur and Charles had been there. Whether they had been sent by Dutch to find him, or they had happened on the scene, or they had learned of his disappearance. It didn’t really matter why it happened. What did matter was that he was alive. In pain, entirely disheveled – looking like nothing more than a complete disaster – but he was alive.
“We’re here,” the voice brought him out of his head, and he looked out at the camp. People were walking from one point to another. Talking amongst each other. Enjoying their days. Josiah could only inhale sharp in an attempt to hold back his own emotions at a sight he had believed, if just for a moment, that he would never see again.
Oh, but he was being rather dramatic – wasn’t he? Didn’t half the folk here experience such a situation on the daily themselves? Who was he, who lived an all-things-considered blessed life, to bring attention to his situation?
“Mr. Trelawny?” The sharp, admonishing gasp caught his attention, “Whatever happened to you?”
“Just, ah, a spot of bother my dear Miss Grimshaw,” one by one, he noticed those at camp glancing over. At first a casual look, and then a second quick stare. He thought he noticed young Miss Mary-Beth with her hands over her mouth. He’d have to reassure her he was fine. His voice was low and gravelly, everything spent, “Not a worry, not a worry.”
“Some bounty hunters got a hold of him,” Charles had already dismounted his steed and come around to help Trelawny off his horse. It might be a bit embarrassing, accepting help off one’s horse. But it would be more embarrassing to fall on the ground, and with how weak he felt he was convinced a fall from the horse would certainly kill him. “Wanted him to talk. About Dutch. About us.”
“Did you?” and Trelawny found himself meeting the eyes of Mr. Dutch Van der Linde. The reason he had bit his tongue when his life was on the line.
“No,” he was able to answer with honesty, for once.
“They’re dead now anyway,” Charles was by Trelawny’s side, gingerly handing him and his care over to Susan. The woman giving him her own shoulder to lean on.
“You’re a good friend, Josiah,” Dutch looked over his face, and Trelawny could feel Dutch taking in each injury. The cuts on his nose and under his eye. The bruises on his cheeks. Dark eyes focused on the blood on his shirt and the markings on his neck where he was nearly strangled more than once. “Miss Grimshaw, can you escort Mr. Trelawny to my tent? I don’t want him sleeping on the ground like this. I’ll be by once I talk to Charles about a few things.”
“Of course, this way,” she steered him through the camp and for the first time since he had been in the Van der Linde gang, he avoided the eyes of the other people. Whether it be due to the shame for his appearance, feeling vulnerable being seen in such a state, or uncomfortable about the attention unintentionally bought upon himself, he found moving through camp to be a task in itself.
It was also a bit of a task physically, his legs still wobbly from the abuse and from being bound together for so long. It didn’t take long though until he was in the tent, being laid gently on a bed.
“I’ll be right back, Josiah. I just need to fetch some supplies,” she adjusted him so he was fully on the bed and removed his shoes for his comfort.
“Thank you, my dear,” he felt his body finally relaxing into the sheets on the small bed. His guard dropped – he was safe. However embarrassed he was for how he appeared; Dutch’s camp was a safe place. No one here was going to harm him. Hurt him. Demand answers. His eyelids felt so heavy, and in the next moment, they closed.
“Still with us, Josiah?”
He wasn’t sure how long he had been out when a voice and the sound of a chair being pulled up beside him brought him out of his slumber. He cracked his eyes open, realizing that the tent itself had been closed off from the outside. There was only one person inside with him, “Despite their best efforts, it seems I am, Dutch.”
A cool, wet cloth was pressed against the cut on his cheek, tenderly cleaning the wound. “It seems like they did quite a number on you. Charles said you’re planning on staying with us?” Another cloth was brought to his face as Dutch wiped away the dirt, the grime, the blood that had stained his skin. “I think that’s a good idea. I sent Charles back to your caravan to get your things. Until then….”
The wet cloth went onto to the small end table at the head of the bed, next to a small bowl that contained a couple of more clean rags and water. Dutch reached over to yet another small table and held up a pristine white nightgown, “Hosea volunteered one of his nightshirts. A man like yourself can’t be comfortable in, well, that.”
It was a blunt reminder of his disheveled and dirty clothes. His opulent vest once vibrant and unparalleled in beauty now dulled with dirt, stained with his blood, “No… I can’t say I am.”
“Can you sit up?” Dutch’s motions were similar to Arthur’s – large, careful hands decorated with rings made of valuable metals and jewels guided him up from where he laid. Josiah’s body screamed in pain as he helped to lift himself into a sitting position, and though he tried to hide it, Dutch’s eyes on him told him the man read him like one of Evelyn Miller’s books. “Those sons of bitches are lucky they’re dead.”
The comment caught him off-guard. There was a low anger rolling in Dutch’s voice. It was almost as though he was taking the harm that had befallen Josiah personally. “It appears they may be.”
Josiah could feel the rage in Dutch’s silence as the outlaw leader reached for Josiah’s forearm, picking it up with calculated calm. Dutch was using another wet cloth to wipe the blood and grime away in measured motions, looking over each bruise and remnant of the torture Josiah had endured. It was as though he were caught in a trance, placing one forearm down in exchange for the other.
The gang leader’s hand slid down Josiah’s arm, carefully supporting his wrist as his other hand went to hold his fingers. Dutch’s gaze went to the red chafing from the rope, the red knuckles from his attempts to fight back. Each mark, Josiah realized, was telling Dutch more of the story. His hand left Josiah’s in favor of taking the cloth over the wounded knuckles as he returned to ridding the body of filth. It was almost a marvel in itself. The hands that had ended so many lives were now treating his own life as though it were made of porcelain.
Fingertips brushed against Josiah’s collarbone as his filthy shirt was pulled away to expose more bruising. More cuts. More injuries. Another clean cloth was brought to his skin causing a small shiver.
“Dutch,” Josiah spoke and Dutch stopped his motions, as though awakened from deep meditation. His hand and the cloth were still resting on Josiah’s chest. “You’ve got more important things to tend to, I can handle this.”
“Nonsense. You protected me. I owe you at least this.” Once again, Trelawny found himself stunned into silence. It almost as though Dutch was taking responsibility for everything. Like he felt the cause of the entire ordeal fell on his shoulders. Sure, the bounty hunters had wanted Dutch. But it was Trelawny who spoke so vibrantly of the outlaw, had been so careless in his own poking around that provided the link between himself and the Dutch Van der Linde.
Before Trelawny could question him or alleviate the man’s concerns, however, Dutch stood up, guiding him to do the same. “You can’t lift your arms to get your shirt off, can you?”
Even though he knew the answer, he tried anyway. His arms made it half-way before refusing to move any further – and Josiah found himself looking away in what he could only describe as that same shame from earlier. The one that kept him from looking at those in camp.
“I thought so,” Dutch’s hands went to the opened placket on Trelawny’s ruined white shirt, “Forgive me, for my… uncouth,” his voice pitched up in its signature cracking, "behavior.” And in the next instant, he pulled the shirt apart – ripping down from where the last button had been undone to the bottom of the shirt. The fabric hung limp on Trelawny’s body, leaving him feeling more exposed and vulnerable than he would have had the shirt been removed in its traditional, rightful manner.
But this meant the shirt and the vest could slip right off. And despite the sudden ripping of what was left of his top, Dutch was treating him so carefully. It was though he saw Josiah as some fragile glass that would shatter should he move too quickly. The nightgown came on, fitting him decently and falling well below his knees. Dutch averted his gaze as Trelawny removed the last of his filthy clothes from under the gown.
Was it so obvious how uncomfortable Josiah was at this moment? Being so weak. So unable to perform a trick and vanish as he normally would. He had no control anymore over where he was – being at the mercy of those around him. He wasn’t even sure if it made things better or worse, how tenderly the leader of the Van der Linde gang was caring for him.
At least he felt clean now. The filth from the ordeal scrubbed from his body for the most part, his tattered clothes in a heap on the ground to be disposed of. Dutch’s attention was on him once more, helping to lower him onto the bed, laying him down while Dutch sat in the chair next to him.
“I’m very lucky,” Trelawny finally spoke after his long silence.
But Dutch was distracted again. This time by the bright red marking on Trelawny’s throat. The man’s calloused fingers went to Josiah’s jaw, holding it firm but with care, pushing his chin up with his thumb to get a better look. It was impossible to know what Dutch was thinking, the man’s poker face almost near as good as Josiah’s (when he hadn’t been near beaten to death earlier in the day).
He hadn’t realized how close Dutch’s face had gotten to his own. Almost tantalizing. The hand on his jaw moved to his neck. An act that hours ago had brought fear, but now the touch brought an inexplicable comfort. Perhaps he was foolish, trusting a man like Dutch so completely. Not perhaps. Josiah was plenty a fool. But not when it came to where he put his trust. Dutch’s thumb brushed over the part of his neck that was raw and red. The damaged skin bristled at the touch but Trelawny didn’t want to show that on his face.
And in the next moment he felt lips on his. The wanted man’s body leaned over the fallen magician, the kiss itself firm. Protective. Dominating. And for just this time in their charade together, Josiah let himself accept without competing. He was far too tired to offer anything more than a return of the kiss with approval and light appreciation.
Dutch pulled away in the next moment, “Thank you.”
Josiah wasn’t sure what he was being thanked for. For accepting the kiss? That hardly needed a ‘thank you.’ They had gone back and forth with their trysts before. For not revealing information about him to the bounty hunters? Perhaps. But Dutch should know, the man might not have Josiah’s honesty – but he had his loyalty.
“Get some rest. There will be time for more later,” Dutch’s hand made a last trip up Trelawny’s neck, cupping his injured cheek before moving on to some light grooming of Trelawny’s hair – fixing stray strands that had drifted too far from their rightful place.
He then stood and made his way to the front of his tent.
The outlaw worth far more than Trelawny could even imagine stopped in his tracks, giving his full attention to Josiah.
“Please, let sweet Miss Mary-Beth know I will be right as rain in just a day or so. The dear seemed quite concerned. I’d hate for anyone to lose sleep over a fool like me.”
“I’ll let her and everyone know you’ll be okay,” and he reached for the flap at the tent’s entrance, “Glad you’re safe, Josiah. We’d miss you. I’d miss you.”
With that, he slipped out of the tent and Trelawny let himself breathe in deep once again. The breath caused his body to ache but it only served to prove what he had been telling himself since he had gotten to camp: everything may hurt, but he was alive.
His eyes shut and in barely a moment’s time, the cunning magician hobbled by the greed and desires of others had fallen into a deep sleep. As Dutch had said, there would be plenty time for more later.