The bank robbery in Blackwater could not have been anymore fucked.
The ground thundered beneath the stampede of horses as they raced through the grey cobblestone streets. The city had since retreated indoors, shutters closed with only a few daring individuals poking their heads out to see the commotion of the infamous Deadlock gang contend with hordes of law enforcement. Dozens of dead bodies littered the streets, ranging from citizens to police, coating the walls and roads with a shimmering red in the setting sun.
This is it, the low raspy voice of his boss reminded him in his head, the last one. Then we are free! Are you ready to be rich, son? Gonna make bank and blow this muddy joint.
Gabriel Reyes was always an enthusiastic idealist.
Free to go where? Jesse McCree mused. I’m sure fancy towns like New York full of rich snobs would roll out red carpets for us. Matches the blood on the outfits, yeah? Our wanted posters would make good headshots. Interested in bein’ a model, boss?
Somewhere far away, Gabe said, twisting the brim of his hat and ignoring Jesse’s snide remark. The cigar in his mouth burned a bright red. You ever heard of Tahiti? Apparently, it’s lovely this time of year.
What and where the fuck is Tahiti?
The memory of Gabriel and the gang laughing just a few days ago bubbled to the surface of Jesse’s thoughts at the most inopportune time, distracting him enough to the point he didn't realize his horse steering off course. They had been so sure. So excited to rob the Blackwater bank. Ready to start a new life and turn away from the harsh realities of gunslinging. Gabriel suggested being a fucking farmer at one point. Gabriel Reyes, the infamous gang leader of Deadlock… a mango farmer ?
A mango farmer with $150,000.
He came to when Bounty whinnied, stopped, and abruptly reared up with a loud noise and a jerk to the reins. Jesse was thrown forward in the saddle, grunting as the leather bit into his stomach. He scrambled to keep the hat on his head from flying off in the gust of wind.
“JESSE MCCREE!” Gabriel’s angered growl came from behind as he unholstered a short shotgun from his side, covered in blood. His preferred weapon of choice. The perfect image of a mango farmer. “What on EARTH are you doing, son? Trying to get us all killed? Get your hide MOVING! That’s an order!” He kicked his heavy boot to the side, catching a lawman off guard and sending the stranger toppling form his horse. His head cracked off the pavement. Jesse didn’t even flinch.
“McCree!” Gabriel growled again, louder and with more ferocity. “Catch up to Ashe! She is head of the escape group and they’re making a dash to the northwest exit of this godforsaken shithole!”
His boss pulled the reins of his stallion to the side and fired the deafening shotgun at oncoming law enforcement. Jesse focused on the noise of death and shouting around him to help pull his mind to the present. He pushed the pained memory of laughter and hope down his chest. Apparently, the outlaw life was the only life Deadlock knew how to live. Blackwater. Gabe. Money. $150,000.
What idiots they were. Who the hell could make off with $150,000 as easily as Gabriel Reyes thought? Not when Overwatch and local authorities were on their tail. Blind and foolish idiots .
“JESSE MCCREE, I SWEAR TO GOD , IF YOU DON’T START MOVING- ”
“I get it!” Jesse broke off the beginning of his boss’s angry tirade before he could hear the insults and quick drew Peacekeeper from its leather holster at his hip, landing precise and clean shots in the foreheads of three lawmen. Dead on impact. “Ashe, gang, northwest, got it.”
Without looking back, knowing Gabe was plenty capable of taking care of himself, Jesse spurred his horse into action. Bounty took off at a dead sprint, kicking up dust at breakneck speed. Bullets whizzed past and clipped his already scraped hat and serape as it billowed in the breeze. The high speed was both exhilarating and terrifying. Peacekeeper was a welcome weight in his right hand that helped ground him to reality.
Jesse picked off pursuing lawmen as he flew down the cobblestone. Gabriel was close behind, shouting indistinctly as his shotgun roared. Despite his nerves and the fact his body was vibrating, every shot Jesse landed hit its mark between the eyes of every poor bastard who dare crossed his path. He had yet to meet another person who rivaled his exceptional aim. He hoped he never would.
Bounty threw his head to the side and whinnied as they skidded around a corner. The rest of Deadlock became visible up head, and the gates leading out of this accursed town never looked so welcoming before. Jesse felt his heart flip, seeing the rest of the family a few leagues ahead, plowing their way into the yellow expanses of West Elizabeth's golden fields. The dead grass of the surrounding county looked so beautiful in the sunset. A welcome retreat from all of the cities’ chaos.
Ashe, a woman Jesse decidedly did not like, peered over her shoulder back at him and Gabriel, white hair flipping in the wind as she spurred her horse and aimed her shotgun at another lawman. “About time you showed your faces! Don’t worry, I’ll do all the work for you, boss. I’m sure McCree and you will enjoy your vacation in Blackwater, here. It’s a lovely town. They seem to like us.”
“Quit your bitching and move!” Gabriel growled. “Goddamn.”
With a few more precise headshots and bursting through a few patrols at the outskirts of the city, the thundering of the horses soon became the only noise they heard as the commotion of Blackwater faded in the distance behind them. The alarm bells still rang in Jesse’s ears long after they were out of hearing distance. The sun was setting to the west, casting an unearthly golden glow over the grass and bloody gang. A bunch of golden fools with absolutely no money and no morale.
They rode until every one of them was tired and sore and filthy with sweat. Gabriel would have pushed them further, as persistent as he was, despite the fact it was the dead of the night by the time they began to slow down and stop. Had it not been for Fareeha’s grunt of barely concealed pain and Hana practically falling off her horse in exhaustion, Jesse knew Gabe would have pushed until the horses were dead on their feet.
“Yo, boss,” Jesse pulled Bounty to a slow stop. “Maybe we should pause a second. Gang looks like we’re about to fall apart, yeah? Horses need water and food. Fareeha’s arm looks a lil’ worse for the wear. Maybe we could let Moira take a look at it before she risks losing it? Hana and Jamie-”
“How far from Blackwater are we?” Gabriel asked, barely casting Jesse a glance as he pulled his own stallion to a stop.
Mild irritation prickled Jesse’s spine, but he knew it was likely due to the shitty day and frayed nerves. “I dunno. We been runnin’ for hours now, haven't we? At least a few miles. We can camp in the trees up the ridge, there.” He gestured vaguely to the black hilltop framed by stars. Prayed Gabe would say yes. Sleep sounded wonderful.
“The town of Strawberry ain’t far from here. If we go further we could hide there for a bit.” Ashe pulled her horse up and stuck her nose into their conversation. Jesse swore he saw her lift it toward him in disdain. The absolute gall. Really? Now, of all times? I mean, he might be crusty with dirt and sweat, the opposite of her barely messed up makeup and pristine hair, but boy they just almost died.
Despite being a newer member of Deadlock, she always tried her hardest to step on McCree’s toes and gain Gabriel’s favor. Why? He had yet to figure that fun little fact out.
Jesse screwed his face into his best look of contempt and leveled it back at Ashe. Two could play at this game. He was past the point of caring. She wants to be petty at a time like this? Time to be petty back. “I dunno. Strawberries ain’t never really tickled my fancy, Elizabeth. The town is probably as gross as they are. Also, why not stop right now, right here? Oh, nevermind, I know; because you don’t want to do something suggested by me. That’s right, yeah?”
He felt a twist of amusement at Ashe’s genuinely surprised reaction to his boldness and the use of her first name. “Excuse me, McCree?”
“Strawberry is too close to Blackwater for my liking.” Gabriel grunted with an edge of anxious command and a tug to his horse’s reins, immediately halting their argument and clearly not in the mood. "We need to go further if we want to be safe from the mess we made back there.”
Ashe turned her gaze to Gabriel and pursed her red lips in disappointment. McCree was thankful she stayed silent this time.
Hana was the next one to speak. “Not that I’m complaining much or wanting to take any sides, but like, can we stop and camp where Jesse said?” She quipped. “Let Moira look at Fareeha and let the rest of us sleep for an eternity.”
The small Korean gunslinger held an irritated and tired look, thumbing the brim of a hat that was too big for her head yet she still insisted on wearing it. The pistol at her hip seemed dinky and unthreatening in the hands of such a small and skinny girl (especially with the engravings of rabbits on the metal and wood), but Jesse knew better than to push her tiny buttons.
Gabriel narrowed his eyes at the girl and opened his mouth to speak, likely to insist they kept riding well into the morning hours, but relented when Jesse pushed himself and his horse in his boss’s line of sight.
The gunslinger leveled that equally defiant glare back at his boss. “There’s no use killin’ what’s left of us because you’re afraid, Gabe. If these horses die of exhaustion before we do, we’re dead men walkin’.”
After a few hesitant moments and an intense stare off between the two men, Gabriel snarled. “Fine. Have it your way. Hitch up. We can set up camp on the ridge. I want two people keeping watch at all times, on opposite sides of camp. Jesse, Hana, since you two were so keen on stopping, you can take first watch. Two hour intervals. Everyone else, get some sleep. We leave at dawn. No exceptions.”
Hours later, after everyone had at most two hours of sleep, they were on the move again. Away from the county and towns they knew. Away for the prospect of a new life. Not as mango farmers, but as wanted criminals with a bounty so high even the richest people in the world couldn't resist. Wanted dead or alive.
Their horses trotted along at a relatively normal pace this time, the initial shock and adrenaline of the failed robbery left behind. Gabriel is leading them east. Where to? Ashe dared to suggest Strawberry again ( she must have a death wish , Jesse thought). After a hard stare from Gabriel, she remained quiet and stopped pushing. Moira mentioned the small town of Valentine to the east in the neighboring county of New Hanover. She knows the doctor there (seeing as they share a strange fascination in questionable medical practices). She believes the gang could lay low in the surrounding area. Bonus? It’s apparently a prettier county than West Elizabeth. Green with grass and trees and next to a beautiful blue lake.
It’s an idea that holds more merit than Strawberry in Gabriel’s opinion (Jesse sees Ashe sneer with a leveled frown to the ground), and he is eager to move forward. The rest of the gang agreed, some more than others. After some convincing and Gabriel’s final executive order, they tore down camp and left little evidence of their presence. It didn’t take them long, and by the time McCree gathered some of his scrambled thoughts, they had already packed the horses and set out.
The ride east is quiet. Little is said between the group as they move, aside from a few brief conversations. It is very rare that everyone in the gang is this quiet at the same time. It gives Jesse time to collect his thoughts, but it’s eerie and unnatural. Everyone was so talkative and elated for their future the few days before the robbery. He is almost thankful for the silence after the stressful previous days, but is saddened nonetheless.
No one has spoken about it yet. It’s an elephant in the room that Jesse is unsure of how to break. Never has the gang failed so miserably. It was almost as if law enforcement knew Deadlock would be robbing the bank that day. The idea raises Jesse’s anxiety. He wants the gang happy again- wants them to move on. They’ve failed a few robberies before. They’ve lost money and morale and been injured before. This should be no different.
A single intrusive thought prodded it’s way into McCree’s head. He tried desperately to ignore it, but it persisted nonetheless.
They have never failed to this extent.
Jesse peered at his boss’s hard back, trying to get his thoughts to focus on something less depreciating. Gabriel Reyes, leader of the Deadlock gang, notorious for causing trouble all throughout the counties of New Austin and West Elizabeth. Father figure. Friend. He has a silver tongue and the deadly aim to back up his fearless boasts. Over the years, Gabriel has worked hard to ensure Deadlock feels like a family. It’s a band of misfits; of outsiders that have nowhere else to go. A family is exactly what they are. A family is exactly what they will remain until the day they die.
Jesse is considered second in command. His voice holds authority in the gang, but he rarely wishes to order his family around. He doesn't see himself as very persuasive, and works diligently to be the best worker in the group rather than the best leader. He finds his skills in combat more refined than his skills at conversation. He’ll leave the sweet talk to Gabe. The best sweet talk Jesse can mutter is a bullet through the skull.
The redhead on the black mare, Moira O’Deorain, is their resident doctor. Despite the fact her methods are unconventional and rather frightening, no one has died under her watch before. Jesse always aimed to never be on her terrifying operating table. Her fingernails are long and unnatural, and she always has a sinister smirk on her face. It feels like a ghost is brushing past when she casts that smirk his way.
Ashe is one of the newest members. Her real name is Elizabeth, but she insisted from day one that they should call her by her last name. Why? She never really elaborated, but Jesse quickly assumed it had something to do with her previous oppressive family. He would do it every now and again to annoy her, and was always pleased at the annoyed reaction it drew. She was exiled and cut off from her rich family for finding too much fun in small heists and robbing stores. He assumed her parents didn’t want to put up with her entitled attitude anymore. The life of an outlaw comes naturally to the unusually white haired woman. He’s almost envious. When he was young and new, having just turned to Gabe for guidance in the wild frontier, he wasn’t exactly the wisest chicken in the coop.
Hana Song stumbled into their little family while on the run from robbing a gun shop. Jesse hadn’t expected a tiny ball of pink fury and that oversized hat to come crashing out of the Tumbleweed gun shop, a pistol in each hand and laughing like a maniac. The mischievous girl immediately spotted Jesse and Gabriel scouting the town and used them as cover. She had the nerve to walk up to them as if she’d known them her whole life and threw her arms around their shoulders, striking up idle conversation while walking them away from the gun shop. Gabe was immediately taken with her boldness. She was half their size and sauntered up to two armed criminals without hesitation. She’s been with them ever since.
Hana recruited Lúcio Correia dos Santos not long after. The two had known one another, and Hana highly recommended the brazilian doctor’s skills. He’d helped her get out of some hairy situations and wanted to return the favor. The brazilian had recently pissed off the local mining and oil company, Vishkar Industries, by stealing some supplies and picking off a few workers to try to disrupt their assault on the wilderness. Gabriel, despite knowing Vishkar would likely come for Deadlock if they took the small man in to their family, welcomed him with open arms. Jesse, despite excited and happy they would receive a new family member, was hesitant. They had police, Overwatch, and several other rival gangs on their tail. They definitely did not need Vishkar industries breathing down their necks, but Lúcio was a bundle of bubbly joy and enthusiasm. Having young, skilled people like Hana and Lúcio in Deadlock added a fresh, new feeling of happiness to the group again.
Jamison ‘Jamie’ Fawkes and Mako Rutledge came as a package deal. The two were inseparable and were hired guns when Gabriel needed a little extra muscle for a difficult robbery a few years ago. Impressed by their reckless but efficient style (Jamie had a fond fascination with dynamite… and used it for everything …), Gabe offered them a permanent spot in their family. Even if the two of them are nice and cordial with everyone, McCree assumed that the two of them were more interested in Deadlock for a steady income rather than family. They were fun guys, though, and warmed up to the rest of the gang pretty quickly.
Olivia Colomar was caught snooping around their campsite one night and dared to level her revolver with Gabriel’s forehead. How she didn’t die that night is beyond Jesse. It’s almost like Gabriel prefers to be greeted with the barrel of a gun rather than a handshake. Quickest way to his boss’s heart, apparently; gun to the head. Jesse kept note. Olivia was excellent in stealth ops and was a master at retrieving information regarding literally anything, so Gabriel quickly made her their informant.
Fareeha Amari joined at the same time Jesse did. They were practically brother and sister, despite sharing different blood. Fareeha’s mother Ana, second in command of the law enforcement group Overwatch, taught them how to aim and hold their own in the harsh frontier when they were merely preteens. Both kids got into so much mischief without supervision, and eventually Jesse was swayed by Gabriel’s silver tongue and idealistic promises. Fareeha, afraid to lose the only friend she’d ever had, followed Jesse with little hesitation. Despite Ana’s protests, and despite the fact Jesse still viewed her as a mother figure, he followed Gabriel. He loves the Deadlock leader like a father, but Jesse still wonders, decades later, if it was the correct choice to make. He’s dug a grave so large for himself, Jesse is unsure if he could ever come out of it anyway.
Genji was a silent enigma to McCree. The Japanese man with no last name was found half drunk in a saloon and dared to pick a fight with him. His weapon of choice might have been a katana (what's that about the old saying you should never bring a knife to a gunfight…?) but the man was a real life ninja and the cowboy could barely keep up with the unusual fighting style. Jesse maintains the fight was a draw. Genji was nice enough to agree.
“There it is!” Hana shouted, startling Jesse out of his trance. He followed the point of her finger through the trees and up the hill to the small silhouette of buildings. “Sweet civilization! Am I right?”
“Sweet civilization, indeed.” Gabriel stated with gritted sarcasm. “McCree, Fareeha; ride ahead and scout the town. Don’t know how fast news of Blackwater has traveled. Don’t want to enter a town with our faces plastered on every corner.”
“Yeah, boss.” Jesse said. “I’ll make sure every wanted poster of you has your good angle and your flawless nose. For that modeling job.”
“Don’t sass and get moving.”
Fareeha gave a quick salute and spurred her horse to a gallop. Jesse waved some finger guns back at the gang and followed the woman.
“Finally.” Fareeha sighed as the gang disappeared in the distance behind them. She lifted her hand to gently rub at her shoulder, grimacing. “That ride has been one of the quietest and most depressing of my entire life. All I want to do is something other than run and cry.”
“Things will cheer up once we stop and build a permanent camp.” Jesse stated, eyeing the hand on her shoulder. “You alright, there? How bad is it?”
“It’s nothing.” She deflected his concern, placing her hand back on the reins of her horse. “Moira patched it up nicely. Nothing permanent. I just want to get this all done and over with.”
“Give it some time. Then you and I can go back to shootin’ up some other low-lives and gettin’ filthy rich.”
Fareeha leveled him with a snide smirk. “Since when have we been rich, Jess? You hiding money in that big ugly hat of yours?”
“My hat is mighty offended, little lady. What’d it ever do to you?”
“Assault me with it’s offensive appearance.”
“ Ho ,” Jesse placed a hand on the top of his head, “tell me how you really feel, then.”
“Your nose is gargantuan and you desperately need a bath.”
“Yeah well… your… butt is big and ugly!” Jesse said triumphantly, thumbing at the brim of his offensive hat. “Nailed it.”
“Ah, yes,” Fareeha snickered. She began to slow her horse down as they neared the town. “Jesse McCree, the king of comebacks.”
Jesse pulled the edge of his hat over his eyes. He was thankful that Fareeha was in a better mood and able to joke with him, despite everything that happened the previous day. Just like when they were kids together. It made his heart lift. “I have an A plus ed- ju -ma-kay-tion dear ma’dam. Don’t need fancy words out in this here wilderness. You’re maybe like a B minus, at best.”
“Yeah, Jess? That’s exactly why I’m on the road and you’re about to ram straight into a pole.”
Jesse pulled the hat out of his eyes so fast, desperate to preserve some of his remaining dignity, only to collide his ‘gargantuan’ nose into a tacky wooden stagecoach sign that said ‘WELCOME TO VALENTINE. HAPPIEST PLACE IN THE WEST.’
At least it got Fareeha to laugh.