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Wild West Aldnoah

Chapter Text

The rays of the sun were cruel and sitting in the heat inside the train which was traveling through the dry desert of Utah was pure torture. Slaine sighed and lifted his hat to dry the sweat off of his forehead. The wooden seat was hard and made his hips and back ache. They had been traveling through the desert for a good while now. He opened the little leather pouch to have some of the lukewarm water and then leaned back and sighed as he closed his eyes. He felt like sleeping for a while. Traveling with his lord was always tedious.

“Hey, idiot,” he heard a loud voice say behind him which had no trouble drowning out the loud noises of the steam locomotive.

He sighed and opened his eyes to look at the man who had a neatly bowl-cut hair, cut by Officer Cruhteo’s personal hairdresser. Slaine wondered if the man was even aware of how silly the hairdo made him look. The man was dressed in a fine shirt and neatly pressed pants, much different to the clothes of lower quality that Slaine wore. The two men had one thing in common though: Both of their shirts were drenched in sweat from the heat.

“Yes, Mr. Trillram?” Slaine said and gave the man a slight bow.

“Cruhteo wants to talk to you,” the other said with a mean grin on his face. The man had always talked and acted big but once he was faced with a gun barrel his mouth would be welded shut in fright.

“Thank you. I’ll see to it immediately.”

Slaine got up from his seat and walked past Trillram, who of course could not keep himself from trying to make Slaine trip by hooking his angle to Slaine’s. Thankfully Slaine held onto the backrest of his seat as he lost his balance; he did not fall entirely to the floor and could keep himself on his feet and recover quickly with the support from the seat. Trillram laughed like the bully he was and Slaine sighed. He was too tired and hot to care.

“Watch out for bandits, brat,” Trillram scoffed in disappointment from not managing to make a fool out of Slaine.

“Thank you for your warning,” Slaine answered with a lowered voice and continued out of the cart and stood outside on the windy walkway between the carts and heard the rattle from the railway coupler which connected the carts together. The chug of the train was loud and the ashes from the chimney rained over him even if he was on one of the back passenger carts furthest away from the locomotive, and so he made the pause outside brief and hurried into the officer’s private cart. The blond older man was reading a newspaper as he sat and enjoyed a glass of brandy.

“You wanted to see me, sir,” Slaine said and bowed until Cruhteo had recognized his presence.

“Yes. I would like to go through the further details of your job,” Cruhteo said and glanced at Slaine over the edge of the newspaper. The man did not put it down as an act of arrogance and power to remind Slaine who was on the top of the hierarchy.

“Of course, sir.” Slaine raised his bowed head and waited for Cruhteo to continue.

“The Governor’s daughter shall be protected to all costs. The people of Salt Lake City are protesting violently so you will have to raise your level of attention even higher than usual. It would not surprise me if hired gunmen and bandits are hidden in the crowd to shoot her,” Officer Cruhteo said and sipped his brandy.

They were escorting the Governor’s daughter to Salt Lake City after she had been visiting Cruhteo’s ranch for a couple of weeks while the law had to deal with the worst part of the rebellion this far. Taxes had been raised to unbearable levels and the people were not happy with Governor Allusia, and so his daughter had to be sent away for a while until things had calmed down.

“I will do my best, sir,” Slaine answered and bowed again. The thought of the Governor’s daughter - Asseylum - made his heart skip a beat. She was so pretty even imagining her face made his cheeks want to blush.

“Doing your best is not good enough!” Cruhteo said angrily and stood up from his comfortable armchair and threw the newspaper on the table. Slaine jerked from the man’s violent and sudden outburst. “You should be better than best, you insolent street rat! You should be thankful that I took you in and gave you the training of how to shoot with a gun!”

“I’m sorry, sir,” Slaine hurried to say and bowed once again. “I will protect her and be better than the gunmen and bandits who might attack her. I will make great use of the knowledge and skills you so kindly gave me.”

Slaine hoped that would calm the man down. Being the surviving son to a doctor who had dedicated his life to patch up bullet wounds was hard; Slaine had gone from helping his father save lives to end up being one of those who took lives. Slaine hated it but he had no choice. Lieutenant Governor Saazbaum - one of Dr. Troyard’s patients from years before - had asked Officer Cruhteo to take care of Slaine when he became an orphan. Saazbaum had wished to take care of Slaine himself to show gratitude toward the deceased doctor who once had saved his life from tuberculosis, but since he was so busy with work he had no time to take care of Slaine. In the end Slaine had ended up in Officer Cruhteo’s care, and the blond haired officer did not like him at all. Slaine was a commoner and that made Cruhteo think of him as filthy.

“When we arrive to the station I expect you to escort her safely to the carriage and accompany her on her way home. If anything happens to her…” Cruhteo stepped closer and with a threatening hand pushed Slaine’s hat off from his head and it fell onto his back and hung in the thread around his neck. “… I will personally see you hanged.”

Slaine swallowed hard as he stared at the man and felt the urge to back away from him. It was not unusual for Cruhteo to threaten Slaine like that but the young man never seemed to get used to it.

“Do you understand?” the officer asked and narrowed his eyes.

“Yes, sir!” Slaine hurried to say and bowed once again.

“Now leave,” Cruhteo then said and seemed to lose interest in Slaine, and Slaine hurried back to the passenger cart where he had his guard post.

Trillram were nowhere to be seen and Slaine was grateful for it. Maybe he had joined the Governor’s daughter Asseylum for dinner in the dinner cart? Now that Slaine thought about it he was hungry. He had not gotten anything to eat for hours. He sat down onto the uncomfortable wooden seat and sighed again, even heavier than earlier.

Minutes passed and the harsh shakings of the train had almost become soothing. Slaine was about to fall asleep when he suddenly heard gunshots outside. He hurried to look out the window and saw…

“Bandits!”

There were only four of them; each on their own strong stallion which were fast enough to keep up with the train. Slaine hurried up from his seat and hurried to the dinner cart where he found the fair young lady Asseylum and Trillram look worried.

“Ma’am! We have to take you to safety!” Slaine hurried to say and ran up to her. “Please, come with me, my lady.”

“Slaine! What is happening?” she asked with that voice that sounded like a little bluebird chirping.

“Bandits, ma’am. I have to ask you to return to Officer Cruhteo’s cart and stay there,” Slaine said and offered her his hand, and she took it.

Trillram was pale but Slaine had no time to worry about the man. He led the young lady hurriedly toward Cruhteo’s cart and Trillram rushed after them.

“Bandits!? But there aren’t supposed to be bandits here! I thought the sheriffs had it under control!” Trillram said worriedly with a shrill voice.

“Well, now there are!” Slaine burst angrily and looked out through the door to the walkway between the carts. The coast was still clear. “Hold my hand tightly, my lady,” he then said and gave Asseylum a soothing smile. He led her through the carts and finally reached Cruhteo’s cart. As they stepped in the blond officer was already carrying his custom made gun and was preparing himself for a fight.

“Welcome back, lady Allusia,” Cruhteo said calmly as he checked the rounds in his gun. “Did you have a pleasant dinner?”

“Oh, Cruhteo!” Asseylum said worriedly and let go of Slaine’s hand to rush over to the officer. “I was told there are bandits trying to get onto the train!”

“Do not fret, my fair lady,” Cruhteo answered. “I and Slaine will take care of them. You will be perfectly safe.”

The blond officer gave Slaine a nod and Slaine turned around at the signal and headed back to the other cart in front of Cruhteo’s to stop the bandits from getting to the officer’s private cart. He looked out through the window again and saw three of the bandits climb onto the train further ahead. The fourth took the reins of the horses to lead them away from the train and so the horses would not run away. Slaine pulled his trusty Smith & Wesson Model 3 from its holster and kneeled behind one of the back seats and waited. He could hear screams and gunshots from the cart in front of the one he was hiding in and made himself ready and aimed at the door – which after a short while opened and three bandits came in.

“They must be in the back cart,” Slaine heard a woman say and suddenly he felt unsure of what to do. A female bandit? How was he supposed to be able to shoot a woman? As she took steps forward another of the bandits took a hold of her arm. “Inaho?” Slaine heard the woman exclaim.

“Move back to the dinner cart,” a calm male voice said.

“Why? We’re almost there!” a second woman complained.

Two women?’ Slaine thought confused and it became harder to decide what to do.

“Just get back,” the male voice ordered them and after a while they did as told. When Slaine and the bandit had been left alone in the cart the bandit suddenly said: “I know you’re in here. Come out.”

The job became easier. Now it was only Slaine and the other man. Slaine pulled the trigger to shoot a warning shot that was aimed right at the bandit’s hat and hit it. The hat flew off the bandit’s head and left it hanging in the string around the man’s neck.

“You won’t get past me, so get off the train!” Slaine warned him.

“I see your aiming it perfect,” the outlaw said calmly and took his hat from where it hung on his back to look at the bullet hole in it. “I need to steal a new hat since you ruined it.”

“Then go and steal somewhere else before I put a pullet in your eye!” Slaine yelled back and met the bandit’s gaze. Burgundy eyes met his. They were not western eyes.

Asian?’ he thought and ransacked his brain for the list of known Asian bandits. That was when it hit him. ‘Deadeye Lee!?’ This Asian bandit was no ordinary one. He was one of the most wanted outlaws in the west, known for his flawless skills as a gunslinger. The rumors said if you looked him in the eyes you would be dead the second after; thus the desperado’s nickname. The bandit had never failed to rob a bank or a train. He was more notorious than Billy the Kid and Jessie James and he had probably killed more people than the two notorious gunmen together.

“I’m afraid I cannot do that,” the bandit answered and placed his hat on his head again and pulled his gun. This was going to be tough. Slaine began cold sweating. “Move out of the way.”

“No!” Slaine yelled as an answer and shot a warning shot again but this time right next to the man’s cheek. The bullet hit the door behind him and the desperado did not even twitch.

“Then I have to move you out of the way myself.”

Slaine saw the man aim and as he pulled the trigger he dodged behind the backrest of the seat he was hiding behind. The bandit ran toward him without hesitation and Slaine had to break the man’s tracks and quickly looked out from behind the seat and took an aim at the man, and a violent gunfight broke out. They dodged behind the seats and jumped across the aisle behind the seats on the other side. The only time they made quick pauses was to reload. Slaine noticed he was faster at reloading than Deadeye Lee and suspected the man to have a Colt Single Action Army revolver. That explained the powerful hits that had blown chips off of the wooden seats as they had been hit. During their third reload the desperado suddenly hurried out through the door which he had entered and steps were heard on the roof of the cart.

He’s trying to get to lady Asseylum from above!?’ he thought and hurried out through the other door closest to him at the back of the cart. His shirt fluttered violently as he climbed up the iron ladder to the roof of the cart, and just as he got up on the roof he managed to dodge a kick aimed at his head. Slaine was grateful for his rapid reactions which had developed from Trillram’s constant bullying. Slaine had learned how to almost instinctively dodge hits and kicks due to Trillram’s aggressiveness. He had never thought the dodging skills would be of any use.

“Move!” he heard the bandit yell to drown out the wind and chug of the train.

“Never!” Slaine answered and his hat blew of his head once again. The string around his neck tugged at his throat as the wind caught a hold of the hat.

“I will shoot you if I have to!” Deadeye Lee yelled back to him.

“Not if I shoot you first!”

Once again a bullet whizzed past his ear and he dodged and pulled his gun again. Shots were released again but none of them hit their target. A strong wind suddenly took a hold of the steam that blew from the chimney of the locomotive and covered Slaine’s field of view when he was not prepared for it. He lost his balance and hit his chin against the roof of the cart and almost rolled over the edge but he managed to take a hold of the edge to the roof hatch. Before he had the time to get back up on his feet he heard a click behind him. He realized he should have been dead was it not for the empty cartridge cylinder of the enemy’s gun. He rolled to his back and landed a kick on the bandit’s left calve which made Deadeye Lee lose his balance too, and as the man hit his back against the roof Slaine got up and threw himself on the man. The train came to a curve and the cart tilted slightly and suddenly…

“Woah!”

Both of them rolled off the roof and hit the dusty desert ground.

***

“Urgh…”

His head hurt. His body hurt. It would not have surprised him if his soul hurt too. He felt like a train wreck. He opened his eyes and was blinded by the gruesome sun. The memories of what had happened came back to him and he figured he must have been knocked out by the impact of their fall. He was lying on his side and felt the taste of sand in his mouth. It was disgusting and he pushed himself up. Sand and dust fell off him as he moved and he tried to spit out most of the sand which had found its way into his mouth. He looked up to see where Deadeye Lee had disappeared but found the man sitting on the ground leaning next to a rock. The man stared at him expressionlessly and aimed his gun toward him. Slaine instinctively went for the gun holster on his hip but his gun was not there. Of course he had dropped it and felt a panic well up inside him.

“Looking for this?” the desperado said and Slaine looked up at the man dangling Slaine’s gun from its trigger guard on his finger. Slaine had lost. He slowly raised his hands into the air in surrender since there was nothing else to do; he was under the threat of a gun. “Who are you?” the man then asked.

“Troyard…” Slaine answered stiffly still with dust and sand in his mouth. “Slaine Troyard.”

“Troyard…” Deadeye Lee seemed to taste the name as he repeated it. “Your gunman skills are good.”

“I know…”

“I see you are confident about it too.” Deadeye Lee got up and seemed perfectly fine from the fall. Slaine had hoped the man had at least broken a rib or two, but since he himself was alright except for a generally aching body the fall must not have been a violent one. Deadeye Lee walked up to him and the hard barrel of the man’s gun pushed against his forehead and Slaine closed his eyes tightly. ‘I’m dead!’ he managed to think and bite back a panic before he heard a click. The man had pulled the trigger but no shot was heard. “I’m out of ammunition. You’re lucky,” the monotone voice said and then the man continued past him to wander out to the desert.

Slaine looked up at him and his body trembled. He thanked his lucky star that the Deadeye Lee was out of bullets. Then he realized he had no idea where he was.

“H-hey!” Slaine yelled and got up from the dusty desert floor to hurry after the man. “Where are you going?”

“Woodside,” the man answered bluntly and kept on walking.

Slaine caught up to him. Woodside was a small town and was less than a day’s horseback ride from Salt Lake City.

“How far is that?”

“About a day’s walk from here.”

“A day!?” Slaine exclaimed and sighed heavily.

“Why do you care since you are not allowed to follow me there?” Deadeye Lee asked without looking at the other man.

“Why aren’t I allowed to follow you there?”

“Because I will head for Salt Lake City from there and I know you will try to stop me.”

Slaine stopped in his tracks and stared at the desperado’s back as he kept walking. So that had been Deadeye Lee’s objective: To get to Woodside and then continue to Salt Lake City to finish off his job.

“You’re going to try to kill her!” Slaine exclaimed as he understood what the man was doing and ran up to him. “The Governor’s daughter… You’ll kill her! Why!?”

“I won’t try to kill her,” the man said.

“Because you’re confident that you will? I won’t let you do that!”

Deadeye Lee stopped and Slaine almost bumped into him. The man stared at Slaine with the notorious expressionless eyes.

“I never said I would kill her,” the desperado then said and Slaine blinked a couple of times. His mind had come to a halt. “Have I ever killed someone?” the man then asked. “It’s just a rumor that I am the deadliest man in the west. I have never taken a life.”

“But…” Slaine was confused. “But they say you are so deadly you can kill with just a look; hence your nickname Deadeye Lee.”

The outlaw sighed and started walking again.

“My name is Inaho – not Deadeye Lee. The nickname began as a joke among my friends because I always have had an expressionless face, and the rumors later went out of control when we began robbing banks and trains. I’m not even Chinese but people insist on calling me Lee.”

Slaine felt dumbstruck. The man who actually was named Inaho stared at him for a while and then continued walking again. Slaine remembered one of the women on the train had called him Inaho. He stared at the man who was walking away from him. ‘Wait what?’ he thought and knitted his eyebrows in the growing confusion.

“B-but hey!” He ran up to Inaho again. “People have died from meeting you! Like the sheriff at one of your bank robberies not too long ago. He was found dead in the desert.”

“I shot him in his leg when he persisted on chasing me. I guess the coyotes got him.”

“What about the shop owner to the gun shop you robbed last year? The entire shop was blown up!”

“The man started waving his gun around and accidentally shot a box with nitroglycerin. Nitroglycerin is a highly explosive liquid that is stronger than black powd-“

“I know what it is!” Slaine interrupted him frustrated. “What about the bar fight where three people died?”

“My sister got drunk.”

Slaine did not follow what the man meant.

“And…?” he pried.

“You don’t need to know more than that,” Inaho said and refused to explain what had happened at the bar with his drunken sister.

“So you do admit you killed those people? You’re just making a fool out of me, aren’t you!?”

Inaho stopped again and sighed frustrated. He drew a line in the sand between him and Slaine with his boot and then looked at Slaine with the eyes that the blond had previously thought were deadly. Now he was not sure at all.

“We’re both gunmen. You’re on that side as a lawman and I’m on this side as an outlaw. Now stay on that side and stop following me,” the brunet said and once again turned his back to walk.

Slaine stared at the line in the sand and wondered if Inaho asked Slaine to not become an outlaw or if he just simply asked Slaine to stay put. ‘No way!’ he thought and ran after Inaho. … Again.

“You’ll get dehydrated if you continue running like that,” the desperado said without looking at Slaine as the blond caught up to him again.

“So why were you after the Governor’s daughter?” Slaine asked and bore his eyes into the man’s expressionless ones, which stared straight ahead. “You said you wouldn’t kill her. Then what was your objective?”

“To take her as a hostage,” the man answered bluntly and kept walking. He talked about it like it was completely normal and something he did every day; took people hostage.

“And what would you win from doing that?” Slaine wanted to know and he tried to match the brunet’s steps which were shorter than his. That was when it hit him: Deadeye Lee – or simply Inaho – was shorter than him.

“I would pressure the Governor to lower the taxes. People are starving.”

“Lower the taxes? Are they really that high?” Slaine inquired worriedly.

“Yes. A loaf of bread costs as much as three days’ salary.”

Slaine stopped for… He had lost the count how many times he had stopped during their short walk, and he hurried up to Inaho – again…

“If you will refrain from kidnapping the young lady I promise I will help you,” the lawman said and this time Inaho was the one to stop in his tracks and stare at Slaine. There was still no hint of expression in the man’s eyes though. “I will lend you my gun, Inaho. Just leave lady Allusia alone.”

Inaho held up Slaine’s gun and tilted his head slightly.

“Technically I own your gun right now,” he said and Slaine wanted to rip his own hat off of his head and throw it to the ground. Instead he gritted his teeth and squeezed his hands tightly.

“You know what I mean!” Slaine exclaimed and tried to take his gun from Inaho, but Inaho raised it up into the air to keep it away from Slaine and took a step back each time Slaine tried.

“Don’t try to steal it from me. It’s mine now,” the desperado said monotonously.

Technically you stole it from me! And you really think you can keep it out of my reach?”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m taller than you!”

“Oh, you’re right…” Inaho said thoughtfully and let Slaine take his gun from him. Slaine quickly hugged his trusty gun to his chest and stared at Inaho disapprovingly. “Well, you are good with your aim and you are quick to reload,” the bandit said and thought for a while. “I guess – since I’m separated from my gang – I could let you follow me for a little while longer then.”

Chapter Text

The sweat had wetted his back. His face was drenched. His boots were soaked. The sun was cruel toward them and Slaine watched Inaho’s back as they wandered through the desert. The man was exhausted too but kept pushing on. They had to find water soon or they would get dehydrated. The little water Slaine had had in the leather pouch was already gone even if they had tried to ration it between them, but being two who shared the little water they had had resulted in the pouch getting emptied in no time.

“Inaho… I think I see mirages,” Slaine huffed with his mouth dry as he stared at a huge bird sitting on a tree with small green leaves on it further away. “Is that an eagle?”

Inaho looked up and stopped and Slaine took the chance to crouch down to rest for a while. The sun was scorching his back and his legs ached. He was not used to wandering in the desert. He had always had carriages and horses to do the work for him, and now that he thought about it he had never been out in the desert at all except on a train. His father had had enough money to be able to afford carriages and trains. Slaine realized he had grown up in a spoiled world. Inaho on the other hand seemed to be better off than Slaine, probably due to the man being used to the desert.

“Yes, it’s an eagle. It’s guarding its territory. I think I see a river bank,” he heard Inaho say and Slaine looked up.

“R-really!?” he exclaimed and got up. He wanted to run to the river bank but Inaho stopped him by grabbing him by his arm.

“If you start running you will get dehydrated and probably shock your body and die before you reach it. It’s still further away than it seems,” Inaho said in a scolding manner and Slaine sighed. He was impatient. He wanted water now. His body screamed for it – but he had no choice but to trust the bandit, and they slowly walked toward the river bank.

As they reached the small river bank Slaine could not stop the urge of throwing his hat off, drop down on his knees and dip his head into the water to cool it down. He felt like he was plagued by fever from the intense heat of the desert and the lukewarm water was cool enough to feel like paradise. As he pulled up his head from the water the blond and wet hair stuck to his face and the water from it dripped down onto his back. He cupped his hands in the water and drank until he thought he would drown. He was being disgustingly greedy but he did not care.

As he was finished drinking he looked up to see what Inaho was doing and the man stared at him without blinking. His stare was so intense it felt like he was staring straight at Slaine’s soul.

“What?” Slaine asked and frowned annoyed at the man’s stare. “Am I not allowed to be selfish right now? Is that it?”

“No, I never said that,” Inaho answered and broke his stare by averting his eyes to the river where he dipped his hat to pick up water. As the man raised the water filled hat from the river he stared at the bullet hole that gushed out the water. Slaine could swear he saw a hint of irritation in the man’s expression after he got reminded he had a hole in his hat, and all of it was Slaine’s fault. “Fill up your pouch and make yourself ready to leave,” Inaho then continued to say and pushed his hat under the water’s surface again, and this time as he raised his hat he held his thumb in the bullet hole to stop the water from gushing out, and then put the water filled hat onto his head and got drenched.

“We’re not going to stay here?” Slaine asked and frowned. “I thought we would stay the night here.”

“It’s too dangerous. Since this is the only water source in the entire area animals will flock to it and we have no ammunition to protect ourselves with,” Inaho explained and drank some more before he stood up. “Drench yourself and let’s go.”

Slaine pouted and shoved his hat into the river and did what Inaho had done and drenched himself with the water before he filled up his leather pouch, and then followed the man out into the mercy of the hot sun again.

***

The night was chilly despite Inaho’s perfectly made fire to keep them warm. It was uncomfortable and dusty where he had been sleeping next to the crackling fire. Inaho had held watch the first hours and kept the fire burning, and then they had switched the duty so Inaho could have some shuteye too. When morning came they continued their walk and finally reached the little town of Woodside in the early evening. As they entered the town people were already out drinking their brains out in the old manner and Slaine noticed Inaho kept his hat lowered over his face. It did not surprise Slaine since Inaho was a wanted man after all and Inaho ripped down the wanted posters of him the moment he noticed them on the building walls. The man had a hawk’s sight when it came to the posters.

“Are we really going to be alright?” Slaine whispered as they entered a saloon that was beneath a brothel – the only saloon in the entire town. “Your face is posted everywhere.”

“As long as we keep ourselves in the background and don’t attract attention we’ll be fine,” Inaho answered quietly and headed for a table in the corner furthest away from the lively drunken part of the saloon.

“What are we doing in here anyway? Shouldn’t we be getting horses to ride to Salt Lake City?” Slaine asked and looked around at the people who were dancing and cheering with the whores – the women who were also called soiled doves. The party in the saloon was wild.

“You expect us to just find some conveniently free horses?” Inaho asked and Slaine felt dumb. Of course the outlaw was right.

So in order to get some horses…’ Slaine thought and then went pale. He leaned closer to Inaho and hissed:

“Wait! So we have to steal horses? That would make me into an outlaw just like you!”

“Yes. You shouldn’t worry,” Inaho answered. “Stealing horses doesn’t give you a high bounty on your head.”

“You think that makes me less of an outlaw!?”

“No, but you won’t be as wanted as me. Only sheriffs will be interested in hunting you down, unlike me who is chased by bounty hunters and marshals.”

“That doesn’t make me less worried!” Slaine hissed quietly and Inaho locked his eyes to his.

“You said you would lend me your gun. Is your fair lady not worth you getting charged for stealing horses to save her from getting kidnapped?” the man asked.

“God knows what else you will drag me into,” Slaine sighed defeated and scratched his neck. “So what’s the plan?”

Inaho looked around in the bar from beneath the edge of his hat and then lowered his head once again and pulled the hat further down like he was pretending to be asleep.

“First of all we should not get caught by the bounty hunter who just entered the saloon,” Inaho said quietly and Slaine was about to look around when Inaho stopped him: “Sit still and don’t look behind you.”

Slaine swallowed hard.

“Who is this bounty hunter?” he asked whispering. He was thankful the saloon was loud enough to drown out their conversation.

“Calm Craftman,” Inaho said quietly. “He has been chasing me for more than a year now.”

“He must be bad at it,” Slaine smiled with a frown. “More than a year and not caught you once.”

“I never said he hasn’t caught me,” Inaho said and raised his hat carefully with a discreet finger to look at the bounty hunter. “He is smart, but I’m smarter.”

Slaine scoffed.

“Look who’s confident now,” he said and folded his arms and looked like he had taken a bite of a bad apple. Inaho had blamed him for being confident about his gunslinger skills and now the man was freely basking in his own confidence of being smart.

“I’m just stating the facts,” Inaho said quietly and got up from his chair. “He went out but I am sure he will be back. Hurry,” he then said and dragged Slaine up from his seat and pulled him along.

They snaked through the partying men and women and came to the stairs leading up to the brothel and hid behind them. Inaho looked around and then pulled Slaine along behind a curtain behind the bar. Slaine heard a female scream and saw two half naked women hurry out from the room that was positioned behind the bar. He blushed terribly at the sight of naked female skin.

“W-what are you doing?! This is a dressing room!” Slaine stammered and looked around the room that contained a small mirror and some improvised makeup made of coal and a messy lipstick lying on the table in front of the mirror along with a cheap bottle of perfume – and dresses. It was a room for the saloon girls and whores to fix themselves up.

“Get undressed,” Inaho demanded and Slaine hugged his arms tightly around his torso to protect the only shirt he owned right now.

“No way! Why?!”

“Just do it or do you want to get caught by the bounty hunter?”

“But you said bounty hunters wouldn’t be interested in me!”

“You are traveling with me; they are bound to start chasing you too.”

“You could have told me that earlier!” Slaine cried and backed away from Inaho who picked up a dark green and black dress with frills and black laces, and held it in front of Slaine to determine if it would fit. “You got to be kidding me! I’m not going to wear that!”

“Calm is a ladies’ man. I need you to lure him up to one of the rooms at the brothel while I follow you and will knock him unconscious when he’s not looking. I don’t ask you to go all the way with him. We will steal his horse and gear. That way he won’t be able to follow us,” Inaho explained with a blank expression.

“Why can’t you be the girl and let me knock him out?!” Slaine cried and he heard how ridiculous he sounded. “Or why won’t you just shoot him or something?”

“He will recognize me, and I don’t have ammunition right now and you forgot that I don’t kill people,” Inaho said monotonously and pushed the dress into Slaine’s arms. “Get to work. Do it for lady Allusia.”

Slaine stared at the dress and then at Inaho. Would he be able to swallow his pride as a man and dress up as a whore for her sake? Would he be able to seduce another man as a woman?

“Will this get us to Salt Lake City faster?” Slaine asked and looked up at Inaho. He felt stupid for relying on the bandit like that but right now he had no choice. He had never stolen anything before in his entire life and stealing a horse was no small task.

“Yes,” the brunet said and stared intently at Slaine again. “And we need to get there as fast as we can since I suspect my gang is still after the little lady. They have no way to know that I have decided to not kidnap her.”

That was the last drop of Slaine’s hesitation and he began unbuttoning his shirt and began undressing to the extent he had to. Inaho helped him pull the dress on quickly and he seemed more practiced at it than Slaine had expected. As he inquired the man answered:

“I live with women. I have been forced to help them with their dresses many times.”

If Inaho only knew how lucky he was, considering that he was forced to help women dress. Any man would be jealous of him but Inaho did not seem to think much about it. Had being constantly surrounded by women dulled his mind?

The dress was pulled tightly around his waist and Slaine gasped.

“I have difficulties to breathe!” he breathed with strained breaths.

“Don’t mind it,” Inaho answered sternly as he skillfully laced the dress up.

“I mind a lot, thank you, since I start to feel lightheaded already,” Slaine gasped and put his hands onto his stomach to feel how tight the dress actually was. “Do women go through this every day?”

“Yes,” Inaho answered and finished lacing the dress and turned Slaine around. The man picked up a rag and dipped it into a small bucket of water to clean Slaine’s face, chest and arms, and then he continued to smear lipstick onto Slaine’s lips and spray the cheap perfume on him. Slaine blushed terribly throughout the entire time of the dressing and as Inaho had pulled Slaine’s hair back behind his ears and attached a little decorative flower on a hair clip to keep Slaine’s bangs from covering his eyes he stepped back and nodded. “Just as I suspected; you look like a woman like that. You’re ready. Remember I will be behind you all the way,” Inaho said and then walked over to the curtain to look out into the saloon. “He’s back.”

“W-wait! What if I’m not pretty enough?” Slaine hurried to ask nervously and Inaho pulled him up to the curtain.

“Don’t worry about that,” he said and forcefully pushed Slaine out from behind the curtain and he nearly stumbled over from the push.

“W-woah!”

Slaine grabbed the railing to the stair up to the brothel to find something to grab onto and immediately the saloon went quiet. As he looked up everyone looked his way and he wanted to run into the dressing room again to hide. ‘I look so incredibly stupid!’ he thought and blushed all the way up to his ears. He was certain everyone saw he was a man in a woman’s dress and he looked over his shoulder to look at Inaho who looked out from behind the curtain. The man gave Slaine a reassuring nod and before long Slaine heard a man yell from across the saloon:

“Oh my, my! Look at that lil’ flower.”

Slaine thought of the words as mocking and he gritted his teeth and blushed into an even deeper red color. Slaine turned around to look at the man who most certainly had mocked him and met the eyes of a man holding a glass of whiskey in his hands. The man looked just like any other traveler and he gave Slaine a wink. A couple of men whistled at him.

“Come and rest yer pretty little legs at my table, miss. A girl like ya should not strain her slender legs like ‘at!” a second yelled.

“I saw her first!” another yelled.

“Hey, I addressed her first, jackass!”

“What did ya call me!?”

Wait… It’s working!?” Slaine thought and stared at men who was about to start a fight over him while the piano playing man hurried to calm the situation down by playing a more cheerful song on the dusty piano. The women sitting at the tables glared at him. It looked like their stare would set him on fire any second. Then he met the blue eyes of the man he was supposed to seduce. Calm Craftman was looking his way and after a couple of seconds of exchanging a stare with him the man walked over to Slaine from the bar, took off his hat and gave him a gentlemanly bow.

“I was not expecting to meet a pretty young lady like you in a place like this,” the man said with a boisterous tone to his voice; this man was a social individual. “Mind if I buy you a drink, Miss?”

Slaine stared at him and had no idea what to do. He had never been wooed by a man before and he hoped this would be the first and last time.

“Err…” he began and then cleared his throat and twisted his voice to a brighter pitch to try and for the first time in his life simulate a female voice. “Y-yes, thank you, Mister.”

Calm looked up at him with wide eyes.

“W-what?” Slaine asked with that bright voice he had just discovered and got nervous. Had he not made it bright enough?

“Nothing in particular, Miss, but I just found your voice to be so beautiful my heart almost stopped,” the man said and placed his black hat onto his head and offered the blushing Slaine his arm. Slaine let the man escort him to a table and Slaine sat down stiffly; he was so embarrassed he wanted to sink through the floor and burry himself in the sand like a desert spider. “Are you one of the new girls?” the man then continued to ask and ordered a glass of whiskey and gin.

Gin!?’ Slaine thought and wanted to give the man a right hook. He remembered his father – Dr. Troyard – had told Slaine that gin could render women infertile and was thus a good way to prevent the whores at brothels from getting pregnant. His father had detested the drink for that reason. He had looked stern when he had told Slaine to never buy a woman a glass of gin for three reasons:

“I want to have grandchildren and so by buying her a glass of gin you could destroy her future motherhood and make her infertile. Also gin is associated to whores and you don’t want to insult a woman like that. And lastly, it makes anyone drunk quicker and many men buy gin to women for that reason and do bad things to them,” his father had said and waved his finger at the 12 year old Slaine.

Slaine’s female persona had already been insulted three times by the man just by ordering a glass of gin. Mr. Craftman wanted to get into bed with him without having to worry about a bastard child in the future and he wanted to get Slaine drunk fast to cut to the chase. And he had treated Slaine as a soiled dove – which he pretended to be but if a man wanted to be respectable toward women he had to treat them nice and flatter them. That was what Slaine had been taught.

“Y-yes,” Slaine answered the man’s question with his high pitched voice.

As the drink arrived Slaine stared at the glass and held his breath. Luckily he was not an actual woman and so he took a mouthful of the gin and immediately after swallowing it down his throat burned and he fell into a fit of coughing. It was a disgusting and horrible drink he learned. He had never had gin before and rarely drank anything considered liqueur.

“Are you alright, Miss?” Calm asked and looked worried at him and pat Slaine on his back. “You’re not supposed to drink it like that. Sip it gently,” the man then smiled and Slaine wanted to pour the remaining of his drink over the man.

Slaine forced himself to socialize with the bounty hunter for as long as it took and at times glanced over to the dressing room curtain where he saw Inaho observe them. He wanted to ask the outlaw for help but soldiered on by himself as best as he could. He tried to act flirtatious and giggle – which made him feel so silly he wanted to slap himself at times – and after drowning two more drinks he was lightheaded and caught himself almost dropping his act of being a dove. His voice had dropped to its normal pitch at one point and Calm had looked at him with an arched eyebrow, but Slaine had skillfully brushed it off by lying about the gin making his throat sore. Calm had swallowed every little lie Slaine threw at him and after a while when the man had leaned in for a kiss Slaine had playfully pushed the man’s face away.

“That costs, Mister!” he had giggled. He had slowly begun to find his role as a soiled dove.

“How much for the young lady?” Calm had asked tipsily and grinned. Slaine had a hard time believing this man was a ladies’ man or then he had dropped his gentlemanly style thinking Slaine was an actual prostitute and thus there was no need to act as a gentleman. That made Slaine angry, but now he had a problem.

I have no idea how big the fee is for a saloon girl!’ he thought.

“E-excuse me just for a second, Mister. I would like to freshen up before we head for the room,” Slaine said and tried to smile as prettily he could and got up from the chair. “Wait here, Mister. I’ll be right back.”

Slaine hurried toward the curtain and found it hard to walk – probably due to the drinks he was not used to. Someone gave his hip a squeeze on his way there and he slapped the hand away in a hurry. As he finally stumbled into the dressing room he met Inaho there.

“Are you drunk?” was the man’s first reaction to the tipsy Slaine who wore a drunken blush on his face.

“I had to have some drinks to relax,” Slaine mumbled and poked his index fingers together, but then shook his head to clear his mind. “I will make you pay for this! Do you have any idea what I have to go through out there!?” he growled and Inaho tilted his head.

“You go through what every other girl goes through out there,” Inaho said calmly. “At least now you know how hard they have it.”

Slaine went quiet and suddenly felt like he had no right to complain.

“Um… I have to get back out there but… How much does a girl here cost? He asked me and I have no idea since I have never been to a place like this,” he asked and stuttered somewhat from suddenly getting nervous about someone paying for his company.

“Ten dollars,” Inaho answered and Slaine was just about to ask how the man knew that but Inaho continued: “But you should only take five dollars.”

“Why?” Slaine arched an eyebrow.

“He’s broke. He’s been dedicating his life to chase me for over a year and only caught me once,” Inaho explained. “Now get back out there before he goes suspicious and you won’t be able to save your lady Asseylum from getting kidnapped by my gang.”

Inaho began pushing Slaine out of the dressing room again and the blond protested.

“H-hey! What do I answer if he asks why I am so cheap?!”

“You figure that out,” Inaho answered and gave the cross-dressing man a final push and Slaine stumbled out from behind the curtain.

Slaine corrected his posture and called Calm to him by beckoning him with a finger. Calm got up from his seat and walked over to him and took his hand.

“Is everything alright, Miss?” he asked and Slaine smiled stiffly.

“Y-yes. Um… If you want to go to a room with me then that would be five dollars,” Slaine mumbled and blushed even more. He wanted to scream from the embarrassment.

“Five dollars?” Calm asked and tilted his head and Slaine hoped the man would not ask why only five and not ten like the other girls. “Why?”

There it was. Slaine wanted to facepalm and rip the curtain down and give Inaho a slap. ‘No! You’re not a woman! A damn fist! Yes!’ he thought and shook his head to Calm with a worried smile.

“Um… I… I’m not as experienced as the other girls… Since I’m new…” he stammered and began trembling from nervousness.

Calm’s eyes brightened and nodded intensely and took both of Slaine’s hands into his.

“Will do, Miss!”

As the man led Slaine up the stairs Slaine met Inaho’s eyes from behind the curtain. He tried to message the man through his facial expression that he wanted Inaho to help him right away. As they had gotten up the stairs he noticed Inaho get out from behind the curtain and walk up the stairs.

So he’s not ditching me,’ Slaine thought and let out a relieved sigh as Mr. Craftman led him down the corridor and found a vacant room.

In an instant Slaine was pulled into the bounty hunter’s arms way too easily due to his tipsiness and the man searched for a kiss. Slaine began stammering and tried to carefully push the man off of him.

“M-mister! You are v-very impatient!” Slaine exclaimed and felt the man’s hands squeeze his waist and feel him up.

“Sch, my dove,” the man whispered and his hands ran up Slaine’s chest. The man leaned back just slightly and looked down. “You’re flat,” he said and tried to squeeze Slaine’s chest with his hands and Slaine pushed away from him and tried to hide his chest with his arms.

“I…” Slaine stammered and noticed the handle on the door turn. Inaho was on his way into the room and Slaine hurried for something to say to distract Calm’s attention from the door. “I’m young!” he exclaimed embarrassed. “You’re so mean!”

Calm’s expression turned into an horrified one and he looked honestly apologetic.

“I’m sorry, Miss! I didn’t mean to be so cruel to you!” he said and walked up to Slaine to apologize. “Forgive me for being so insensitive toward a beautiful lady like yourself.”

“D-don’t be so tactless when it comes to women,” Slaine scolded and the door creaked slightly as Inaho was opening it. Calm was just about to look over his shoulder when Slaine grabbed the man’s cheeks and kissed him.

I will go to hell for this!’ he thought and blushed terribly. As he pulled his lips away from the man Calm’s kisses landed onto his neck instead and a shudder ran through Slaine’s body at the touch. He looked over Calm’s shoulder to see Inaho step into the room. The bandit was holding a bottle in his hands. Slaine begged Inaho to hurry up but the man sneaked slowly closer, not fast enough to prevent Calm from nibbling on Slaine’s neck and hit a nerve that sent a shiver down his spine.

“Ah! M-mister, not like that!” Slaine forced out his shrill female voice and this time looked urgently at Inaho and silently worded ‘Please! Hurry up already!

The floor accidentally creaked beneath one of Inaho’s steps and Calm was quick to pull his gun and turn around and pointed the barrel at whoever was intruding. As he realized it was Inaho the man stared at him dumbfounded.

“D-Deadeye Lee?”

“Surprise,” Inaho said monotonously and hit the man on the head with the bottle before Calm had had time to react and pull his trigger. The man fell to the floor unconscious.

“Finally!” Slaine exclaimed at Inaho and stared at him with angry eyes. “You took forever! I feel so violated! I even had to kiss him!”

“You seemed to enjoy it,” Inaho said bluntly and continued to take the sheets from the bed and rip them into shreds and then coil the shreds around the knocked out Calm’s wrists and bind him.

“I did not!” Slaine yelled back.

“That sigh you let out as he was biting at your neck said otherwise,” Inaho countered and went through Calm’s pockets. Slaine thought it was impossible to blush even more but his face felt like it became even hotter from the embarrassment. “He has bullets for your gun,” Inaho said and threw the pouch with bullets to Slaine – who caught them clumsily. “Let’s hurry,” Inaho then said and grabbed Slaine’s hand and pulled him along out of the room, down the stairs, through the busy saloon and out through the door.

“Deadeye Lee? Was it Deadeye Lee!?” Slaine heard a man yell from inside the saloon.

“He took that pretty girl! We have to save her!” another yelled.

“I-Inaho…!” Slaine said worriedly as they ran up to a brown horse with two bags on either side of the saddle.

Inaho untied the reins from the log where the other horses stood and then got up on the saddle. He reached his hand to Slaine.

“Hurry,” he said and Slaine took his hand and was pulled up onto the saddle behind Inaho.

Just when the men in the bar had come running out through the saloon doors Inaho had gotten the horse into a run, and they disappeared into the desert while the men behind them yelled at Inaho to stop.

“Y-you’ll get accused for abducting women,” Slaine said as he hugged Inaho to not fall off of the galloping stallion. He grinned tipsily. “I guess that’s payback enough for forcing me to dress up as a woman and pretend to seduce your bounty hunter.”

“I don’t mind. I already am accused of far worse things than abducting a lady,” Inaho answered calmly.

Chapter Text

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The sun was about to set as Inaho slowed the horse down. Slaine was leaning against him tiredly due to his tipsy state and felt like his entire world was spinning after the horse ride. Drinking gin and almost right after that ride a horse was not the best combination he had experienced and his stomach was in an uproar. He realized he was hungry.

“Inahooo…” he complained as Inaho jumped down from the horse. “I’m hungry.”

Inaho looked up at him and raised his arms to him to help him down, and clumsily Slaine slid down from the saddle and was caught by the bandit as he was about to slump facedown into the sand after his feet hit the ground. He chuckled as he found his footing and took a step back from the bandit and smiled.

“Thank you, Mister Bandit Sir,” he said and then patted the dust off from the dress and then his eyes sparkled. “That was so exciting! I have never done something so… So…” He tried to search for the right word to describe his new experience as an outlaw and then found the word he was looking for: “So crazy! The way I had to fool a bounty hunter and you smacking him in the head with a bottle and when we ran out of the saloon to steal a horse and…!” Slaine sighed satisfied while he was still high on the adrenaline. “It was fun!”

Inaho bound the horse’s reins to a nearby tree and seemed not affected by their adventure at all.

“It is fun until your head has hundreds of dollars on it as bounty,” Inaho said and took the large pouch of water which was hanging on the horse’s back and then poured some water from it into a leather bag made for the horse so it could drink.

“Oh, don’t destroy my fun now. I have never done something like this so it’s completely new to me,” Slaine said while frowning. Then he smiled again and slowly pulled up the dress and exposed his leg and said with the high pitched voice he had used in the saloon to seduce Mr. Craftman: “Oh cowboy… Did you like my acting skills?” He knew he made a fool out of himself but in his tipsy state he did not mind. It had been fun to be attractive enough to earn the people’s attention at the saloon and had people to almost start a fight over him. The attention had felt frightening at first but after he got slightly used to it he had realized it was enjoyable.

The moment Inaho saw him lift the skirt of the dress the bandit hurried to turn his attention back to the horse which was drinking the water it was offered.

“Calm down. You are still slightly drunk,” he said and then patted the horse on its muzzle as it finished drinking.

Slaine got a sour look on his face as Inaho did not praise his hard work as a woman and then looked at the dress and felt how it squeezed his torso for being so tight.

“I think I should change. This corset is killing me,” he sighed and reached behind his back to find the laces to the corset.

“You can’t change,” Inaho said as he walked over to the saddle to look inside the bags on either side of the horse’s back.

Slaine stopped untying the corset and looked up at the bandit.

“Why?” he asked with a frown and watched as Inaho rummaged around in the bags and then pulled out a cloth which he unfolded. Inside it he found dried meat.

“Because I had no time to take your clothes with me. They are still in the dressing room but I do have your gun,” the bandit said and took out a bottle of whiskey from the bag too. He set them onto the ground and continued looting.

Slaine stared at him. At first he did not make the connection of what Inaho had meant, but once he did…

“You had no time for WHAT!?” he yelled loud enough for his voice to echo in the mountains surrounding them and the horse made a distressed sound from getting frightened. “What do you mean you had no time!?”

“Calm down,” Inaho said to both Slaine and the horse and took out another cloth which contained bread inside.

“Don’t you tell me to calm down! I’m a man stuck in a DRESS in the DESERT and it’s your entire fault!”

Inaho sighed and walked over to some dried up bushes to collect firewood as he was finished with looting the bags, while Slaine’s burning stare tried to shoot him down. It was unbelievable. How could the man just not give a damn about bringing Slaine’s clothes with him when he was the one to make Slaine dress up as a whore to begin with?

“Are you listening to me!?” Slaine barked as Inaho filled his arms with firewood and carried it over to the little camp he was building for the night. “Damn bandit, are you ignoring me!?”

“You can always take it off if it’s that uncomfortable,” Inaho said calmly and began making a fire with his expert technique Slaine had witnessed the night before.

“Take it off? I have nothing else to wear!” Slaine exclaimed and groaned as he slumped down in the sand. “I don’t want to run around naked in the desert!”

“Then stop complaining.” Inaho carefully blew at the little spark he had managed to induce in the dry wood. It quickly grew into a small fire and Inaho kept carefully feeding it with wood to make it grow slowly and steadily so it would not suffocate.

“You can try to wear a dress like this and see if you can stop yourself from complaining,” Slaine spat and folded his arms over his chest.

“I don’t put that much value into what I am wearing. A bandit does not have that luxury,” Inaho answered and rolled out the bedroll to prepare a bed, and then sat down on it to watch the fire burn and continued: “Unlike some others who seems to have grown up with privileges.”

Slaine turned his face away and pouted childishly. He knew he was spoiled compared to Inaho and he was not used to the conditions they were in now. He wanted to return to Officer Cruhteo’s service and never leave the man’s ranch again even if that would mean he had to endure Trillram’s bullying. That sounded like a dream come true compared to the situation he was in now: His clothes were gone, he was tipsy, he wore a prostitute’s dress and smelled of cheap perfume, he had been seducing a man and even kissed him… On top of all that he was sitting in dusty sand that had already gotten inside his boots and was slowly getting inside the dress whenever he moved.

He felt miserable.

A bundle of cloth was thrown his way and he caught it in surprise. He opened it and inside he found dried meat and bread that had been cut into pieces.

“You said you were hungry,” Inaho said and was preparing his own share of the food they had found in the bags. “You should eat before going to sleep. I will take the first watch.”

Slaine scoffed and took a bite of the dry meat and threw glares at the bandit every so often while they continued eating in silence. The bandit stared into the fire and maintained it by moving the firewood around to prepare a proper coal bed and then continued building it up further. That way it would stay burning for longer periods of time without the need of too much maintenance. At times their glances met and every time Slaine turned his head away in a pout. He would not forgive the man for not bringing his clothes with him.

As they finished eating Slaine’s mouth had gone dry from the meat and bread and he looked around for water but saw the bottle of whiskey which lay untouched in the sand. He kept staring at it for a while and then figured that if he was to spend the night in the desert in a dress then why not drown his misery and have fun with it instead? If having fun like that was possible…

As he grabbed the bottle Inaho looked up at him.

“You shouldn’t drink when we have more than a full day’s ride to Salt Lake City,” the brunet said with a warning. “You will get dehydrated.”

“We have plenty of water, don’t we?” Slaine muttered and opened the cork to the bottle. Instantly the strong smell of alcohol hit his nostrils and he wrinkled his nose at the smell.

“Drinking alcohol means you need to drink even more water, and we don’t know how much water we will need in order to reach Salt Lake City.”

“Oh, come on. Just a little,” Slaine protested and before Inaho had the time to protest back the blond tilted the bottle and took a sip. He immediately frowned and tried to clear his throat as the whiskey burned on its way down. “That’s so disgusting! How can people drink this?”

“Probably for the same reason you are drinking it now,” Inaho answered monotonously.

“Then they are drinking for the right reason,” Slaine mumbled and took another sip, and before long he was drunk enough to find himself stumbling around a couple of meters away from the camp after Inaho had scolded him for almost setting his dress on fire.

“If you’re going to stumble around then do it further away from the fire,” the bandit had said sternly after he had saved Slaine from the near accident by pulling him away from the fire as the blond had lost his balance, and so that was what Slaine had done.

Slaine was kicking rocks and almost fell over every time he sent a rock flying. He was so frustrated about being stuck in the dress that he had to let off steam on something and so rocks had become his poor victims. When he lost interested in the rock kicking he looked over to the bandit who had lain down to rest with his hat over his face, and Slaine got an idea and grinned.

“Baaandit,” he called out quietly and stumbled closer. He lost his balance again and instead decided to crawl the rest of his way on his hands and knees while still holding onto the bottle. “Don’t go to sleep yet. A pretty lady is asking for your company.” Inaho did not react and Slaine pouted and knocked the desperado’s hat off of him. As Inaho opened his eyes to look up at him Slaine gave him a bright smile. Or at least he thought he did. “Hey, how about you show me some of your gunman skills?”

Inaho stared at him for a while and then said: “We shouldn’t waste bullets.”

“We can always steal more, can’t we?” Slaine said and frowned, but then he chuckled instead as he played with the hem of the dress. “I can distract them with my pretty dress while you steal from them.”

“I don’t think they would be distracted by the dress itself,” the man answered and averted his eyes hurriedly again.

Slaine pouted. This was the second time the bandit tried to ignore him like that. ‘How rude!’ he though and offered Inaho the bottle.

“Drink some and then let’s have some fun.”

“I shouldn’t drink,” the man answered and Slaine sighed and brushed the strands of hairs that had gotten loose from the hair clip behind his ears.

He noticed Inaho throw a glance at him as he did that and Slaine chuckled.

“Oh come on. Loosen up a little,” he said and pushed the bottle into the bandit’s hand. “Let’s care about tomorrow in the morning.”

Inaho sat up and stared at the bottle and after some more pushes from the drunken Slaine he tilted his head back with the bottle to his lips. Slaine applauded with a bright smile and before long they had moved a couple of meters from the camp to a little hill. Slaine was sitting on the ground and cheered at Inaho’s quick draws and perfect aiming as he shot down rocks from a boulder. The brunet had had a couple of sips of the whiskey and was slightly unsteady on his feet but he still managed to shoot down each rock he aimed at while Slaine cheered him on. For a moment Slaine thought Inaho was trying to brag about his skills since for each cheer Slaine gave him the more difficult his stunts became.

“I can’t believe how steady your aim is even when you’re drunk!” Slaine exclaimed and applauded after Inaho had made a fast series of shots and had hit each of the five rocks that Slaine had placed on the boulder. The smell of gunpowder drifted in the breeze.

“Your reload speed is excellent as well,” Inaho answered and walked somewhat wobbly over to Slaine to give him the gun. “Show me.”

“Now?” Slaine slurred as he stared at his own gun in Inaho’s hand – the only gun they had bullets to at the moment.

“I gave you a show. Now you give me one.”

Slaine pouted and folded his arms.

“I already gave you a show in the saloon. Isn’t that enough?” he protested.

“And it was an outstanding show,” the brunet mumbled and Slaine thought he saw a hint of a blush on the bandit’s cheeks.

Slaine chuckled and got up from the ground where he had been sitting and brushed the sand off of the dress before he smiled mischievously at the other man. He corrected the hair clip flower as it had almost slipped down by now and then took a step closer to Inaho. The other man averted his gaze again.

“Did Mister Bandit like the show that much?” Slaine mused teasingly with his high pitched voice as he took a hold of the skirt and pulled it up slightly like a seductive young lady. “Did my performance fool even you even if you knew I was a man?”

“I would prefer you showing me your reload skills rather than…” Inaho threw a glance as Slaine and then hurried to avert his eyes again. “…your legs.”

Slaine tilted his head in surprise and then gave the man a womanly giggle. “Oh, you like my legs, Mister Bandit? Shall I pull the skirt up some more?” Slaine’s body shivered at the thought of teasing the bandit the way he did and a gratifying burn tingled in his loins as he slowly revealed more of his legs; something that was out of place for a woman to do if she was not a dove. It was fun. Exciting. Interesting… He wanted Inaho to watch him.

Without waiting for an answer Slaine pulled the skirt up further and again a barely visible blush crept over Inaho’s cheeks in the dark. The blond dropped his act and burst into a laugh.

“Are you drunk enough to forget I’m a guy?” he laughed and hugged his stomach. He had only teased Inaho for a brief moment and the other man seemed to be fooled by it instantly. “Am I that good?” he chuckled and dried a tear from his eye from the laughter.

“I know full well you are a man,” the bandit answered quietly and shoved Slaine’s gun into the holster he wore at his hip before he began walking back to the camp.

The man’s words continued to ring in Slaine’s ears as he stared dumbfounded at the thin air where Inaho had been standing just moments ago. ‘Wait… He finds me attractive even if I’m a man?’ he thought and turned around to look at Inaho who sat down on the bedroll next to the fire and had another sip of the whiskey. Now he understood why Inaho had averted his eyes so quickly whenever Slaine had been teasing him. It was not unusual for men sharing a bedroll next to the fire in the Wild West. Slaine had heard of it before and never thought about what he felt about it when it came to sharing a bed with a man. Mutual solace was what people called it. He realized he would need to share the bedroll with Inaho that night since they only had one and Slaine was basically half naked; he would get cold during the night and thus needed warmth to not get ill. He blushed terribly as he stared at Inaho who was somewhere deep in thought and stirred the coal in the campfire with a stick.

“Um…” Slaine tried to say something about it as he wobbled back to the camp and sat down next to the fire on the opposite side of Inaho’s. “About tonight…”

“You can take the bedroll,” the bandit answered before Slaine had had the time to continue his sentence.

“What about you?” the blond asked.

“I will be fine. We survived last night so this night shouldn’t be any different for me. You on the other hand have little to cover you so you have the priority when it comes to the bedroll.”

Slaine sulked.

“And whose fault is that?” he snarled and kicked some sand at Inaho. “It’ll be your fault if I freeze to death out here. I knew you would drag me into something bad.”

“Then why did you follow me?” Inaho inquired and looked up at Slaine.

“I had no choice, now did I? You took my gun and were heading toward Salt Lake City. I would have been stupid if I had not followed you,” Slaine answered and raised his head slightly higher in annoyance.

“Then why are you complaining about me dragging you into things when you were the one who decided to follow me?”

Slaine stared at him without knowing what to say. ‘There he does it again; turns everything back toward me,’ he thought annoyed. He sighed and then blushed slightly.

“Hey… Do you find me attractive?” he asked and dared not to look up at the desperado who had suddenly made him so conscious of his clothing.

“No,” came a blunt answer and Slaine looked up at him pouting.

“I saw you blush earlier and you’ve been avoiding looking at me constantly!” he spat and got up to wobbled over to Inaho to stand next to him with his hands on his hips – which seemed bigger from the puffy skirt of the dress. Slaine loomed over brunet. “Don’t lie to me! You said you live with women and didn’t seem to care about it the slightest. You didn't care when we interrupted the doves at the saloon from dressing either. You didn’t even blush! Why is that?”

“I am not lying,” the brunet answered stiffly and Slaine grumbled.

“Oh? Well,” the blond said and got that mischievous grin to his face again and pulled at the skirt to slowly reveal his thighs – and again his loins burned satisfyingly. “Mister Baaandit…”

“Stop it, Troyard. You are drunk,” Inaho hurried to say and Slaine clicked his tongue in annoyance.

“So are you! Now look at me.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because if I do you might regret it.”

Slaine went quiet and stopped pulling the skirt up. Had the man answered his question just like that? Did the bandit mean he would like to bed him? Slaine sighed and rolled his eyes.

“I might regret it?” he asked drunkenly. “But then again, so might you.” Inaho pulled his hat lower to hide from Slaine’s view and the blond took a deep breath. “Listen. I don’t want to sleep alone dressed like this; I might freeze a lot. And I know you can’t keep your eyes off of me.”

“What do you mean by that?” the brunet wondered and kept his face hidden from Slaine.

“Mutual solace,” Slaine answered and suddenly found himself blushing as he realized he was straight forward asking Inaho to bed him. “Err… I… Um… I know it’s not unusual and … we are both drunk so we have an excuse tomorrow morning… Also, it’s fun teasing you…”

“That is pretty unkind of you, don’t you think?” Inaho stated and Slaine bit his lower lip before he answered:

“Maybe… Then why don’t you … uh … do something about it?”

“Would you like me to?”

Slaine blushed and nodded but then realized Inaho was hiding beneath his hat. He gathered his drunken courage and carefully pushed Inaho’s hat off and it dropped to the ground, and as he met the surprisingly hungry eyes of the bandit he said:

“Y-yes, Mister Bandit. You wouldn’t say no to a fair lady, would you?”

Swiftly the other man took a hold of Slaine’s hand and pulled him closer. Slaine stumbled a step forward, breaking their eye contact, and immediately he felt a gentle touch against the inside of his thigh right above his knee. It tickled and made him shiver and the burning sensation in his loins began growing hotter. As he turned his eyes down to see what the other man was doing he blushed hotter than he could remember he had ever done before. Inaho was kissing and nibbling his thigh as he slowly climbed higher and pushed the skirt of the dress up along with his advances.

“I-Inaho…” Slaine stammered with a sigh.

“Are you prepared to play the woman you dress as?” the man asked between the heated kisses and Slaine trembled at hearing the heavy lust in his voice.

“A-are you treating me as a dove?” Slaine asked and put his hands in front of his lips; his voice had quivered enough to make him want to shut his own mouth out of embarrassment.

“Would you prefer me to treat you as a wife?”

“W-we aren’t married!” Slaine yelped as Inaho’s hand caressed the back of his thighs.

“Then a dove it is.”

The kissing and biting grew greedier; Slaine could feel the man’s teeth scrape against his skin and it got more sensitive the higher up Inaho climbed with his lips. Slaine’s legs shivered beneath him and he was afraid he would collapse any second due to the sensitivity Inaho skillfully teased forth with his teeth.

“Ah… I m-might fall,” Slaine said quietly still covering his mouth while the intense blushing danced on his cheeks. Without warning Inaho grabbed his waist and threw him down on the bedroll, and before Slaine had had the chance to figure out what was going on he looked up at the bandit who hovered above him and stared at him like he was some kind of prey. Slaine wondered how long Inaho had been looking at him with those hungry eyes. ‘Since the moment I put on the dress?’ he wondered and was about to get up when Inaho pushed a hand against his shoulder to stop him.

“Don’t move,” the man said demandingly.

“B-but the dress… Shouldn’t we take it off?” Slaine asked confused.

“No.”

Slaine chuckled as he felt Inaho spread his legs to place his hips between them.

“So you did like me in the dress after all?” he asked as he watched the bandit lean closer and then let out a gasp as Inaho bit down on the same place on Slaine’s shoulder where Mr. Craftman had bitten him hours before. “Ah! I-Inaho! That’s… Mmmh…!”

“You don’t like it?” he heard the man whisper close to his ear, and Slaine shivered pleasantly again. It tingled everywhere and he could not help himself to expose his neck for the man even more by tilting his head to the side.

“No… I like it. Do it again…” he requested drunkenly. He was not sure anymore if he was drunk on the alcohol or the burning in his loins. “Haahh!” he gasped as he felt Inaho bite down on his neck again on that sweet spot that sent a tremble through his entire body. “Again…” And again he gasped and moaned.

He wanted more. His entire body had grown sensitive and cried for more touch. Inaho’s hands was feeling him up by moving them over Slaine’s body; he ran them down Slaine’s sides and squeezed his waist gently, and then the hands wandered up over Slaine’s chest and one hand grabbed his jaw and forced his head to the other side so Inaho could bite the other side of his neck. The man’s hands were forceful and demanding; it thrilled Slaine knowing he was in the bandit’s mercy. He slowly raised his knees to brush the sensitive insides of his legs against Inaho’s body and urged the man on with gasps and sighs. His hands grabbed Inaho’s arms while his elbows still rested on the bedroll beneath him; he made himself wide open for the other man; he gave him free access to his entire body.

“Haahh… I-Inaho…” he gasped as the greedy teeth tugged at the skin on his neck. “Mmmh… More…”

Inaho pushed up the skirt of the dress and the chilling breeze of the desert hit Slaine’s heated loins. The blond shivered from the feeling of his lower body being exposed. Only a thin fabric protected his groin from Inaho’s eager touch and the bandit was quick to eliminate that barrier of cloth. Even the touch of his underwear against his legs was thrilling as they were pulled off of him. He wanted to raise his arms around Inaho’s neck but the brunet pulled his lips away from his neck and took a hold of Slaine’s wrists to push them down against the bedroll. As Slaine looked up at Inaho’s eyes the man stared at him with eyes that told him not to get so emotionally intimate with him; the mutual solace they were having was strictly for carnal pleasure. The brunet – after making sure Slaine obeyed him – raised Slaine’s hands above the blond’s head and took his wrists into one of his hands and gripped them tightly. So Slaine was a prey after all. Not that he minded it; he felt hotter from being dominated like that.

Inaho put his weight on Slaine’s arms as his other hand moved sensually down Slaine’s chest and stomach and then disappeared beneath the skirt. Slaine let out a yelp the moment he felt Inaho’s warm fingers coil around his hardness. He suddenly felt embarrassed and turned his face away to try and hide his humiliated face.

“Hhnng…! Inaho! Ahhh! That’s too … much!” the blond gasped and tightened the muscles in his legs and loins as Inaho’s hand began to move. It stimulated terribly; Slaine whimpered at the mere touch on the tip. The corset made it difficult for him to breathe and heightened the sensation of Inaho’s touch.

“Look at me,” the desperado murmured and looked at Slaine intently as he kept molesting his body so wonderfully.

“N-no! Aaahnn!”

“Look at me,” the man demanded again with a stronger voice and squeezed his hand around Slaine’s manhood harder until Slaine let out a heated cry and turned his face to look at him. “Look me in the eyes,” Inaho then said and began moving his hand again.

Slaine tried to force himself to focus on Inaho’s eyes that did not even blink. His stare was so deep, so intruding that Slaine felt weakened by it. The hand moving between his legs was so good and now that he stared back at Inaho his embarrassment raised his lust even higher. He became conscious of his movements, his sounds, his facial expression… He became conscious about everything and tears sprung up into his eyes. He felt so good he wanted to kiss the man, touch him, embrace him – make him climax and hear his moans.

“I-Inaho! Mmhh! I…” he gasped as he heard the wetness between his legs from his precum. He blinked the tears from his eyes and kept staring into Inaho’s eyes like he had been told to do. “I want more… Please…”

To his relief and enjoyment the bandit answered his request by spreading his wetness down Slaine’s groin and smeared it over the bud between his buttocks. Slaine sighed and closed his eyes to lean his head back and again expose his neck to the bandit. Bite it his actions begged. Make marks on me his body language begged. Inaho was not late to comply the blond’s begging and bit down on the skin on the neck so willingly exposed for him.

“Aaagh! Haahh!” Slaine gasped and writhed beneath the man. His mind was spinning as the bandit’s fingers played with the entrance to Slaine’s body, and then he felt a finger force his flesh to open for it and his body was penetrated. “Aaaahhh! Inaho!” he yelled lustfully.

It felt uncomfortable and yet his body yearned for more. It felt awkward as Inaho began to move his finger inside his body; it tugged at his muscles in both unpleasant and wonderful ways and Slaine could not help but to move his hips slightly. His neck tingled horribly from the kisses and bites and his body burned like a wildfire. His hairs stood on end as he quivered from the electrifying shivers Inaho caused in him.

After Inaho had loosened him up somewhat he forced a second finger inside and Slaine arched his back from the shock. Now it hurt slightly and he shut his eyes tightly.

“Mm… Slaine…” he heard the man gasp and felt a whiff of alcohol from the man’s breath. Inaho’s sultry gasp gave Slaine the impulse to move his hips again. It was so raw and dirty; they both were a drunken mess and Slaine loved it. He had never been this defenseless before and being under the man’s control was exciting him beyond any experience he had been through before.

“Aahnn… T-take me…!” the blond begged and Inaho bit hard enough on his neck to force a painful groan from Slaine’s throat. “Aaagh!”

Inaho pulled his fingers out from Slaine’s body and the rattling of the man’s belt was heard. It was an exciting noise. It was the noise of Inaho desperately readying himself to ravish Slaine’s body. The blond spread his legs further to give Inaho free access to him and as he felt something completely different to Inaho’s fingers push against his opening Slaine jerked from realizing his first time was about to happen. Since his mind was spinning out of both lust and drunkenness he did not mind giving his first time to the man like this. He knew he would probably regret it in the morning but he could not care less. Why was it so special anyway? It was just two men taking pleasure from each other. It was hot, dirty, sticky and messy – that was all that mattered.

“I-Inaho!” Slaine cried as the bandit pushed forcefully against his opening. He suddenly felt a slight panic inside him. What if it would hurt and he would not get any pleasure from it while Inaho would get all of it? “Mmmh! Ah! It’s my first time! D-don’t be too rough!”

Inaho stopped biting his neck and raised his head to look at him. Slaine turned his face toward him and looked at him with tears in the eyes.

“I… I want it to feel good for me as well,” the blond whispered with a trembling and shallow breath; the corset felt really tight.

Inaho stared at him for a while and then let go of Slaine’s wrists and brushed the blond’s disheveled bangs from his eyes. He leaned closer to Slaine’s face and his lips brushed against Slaine’s as he whispered:

“Then I shall treat you as a wife.”

“Inaho…”

The bandit kissed him deeply. His tongue slipped into Slaine’s mouth and he allowed Slaine to put his arms around his neck. Slaine hugged him close and answered his kisses hungrily. He had not realized how lonely his lips had felt during the entire time Inaho had treated him as a mere dove. The blond moaned as they kissed and played with each other’s tongues, and Inaho began to carefully push into his body. The pressure grew; Slaine grabbed Inaho’s shirt tightly to stomach the pressure and slowly his flesh was pushed open. Then, unexpectedly, Inaho’s tip pushed inside as the resistance in Slaine’s body gave up and allowed him inside. Slaine pulled away from the kiss and let out a loud groan and gasped like he was in pain. It did hurt as his fleshy walls were stretched by Inaho’s size. He had no idea if Inaho was big or small or something in between but it hurt nonetheless.

“Aaagh!” he gasped in pain and took some shallow breaths as the corset hindered him from taking deep ones. “I-It hurts…!”

“Relax,” he heard the brunet whisper into his ear. “I will let you adjust.”

Those words were comforting and Slaine nodded gratefully to Inaho’s understanding. The man was so hard and hot and Slaine knew he was holding his lusts back for Slaine’s sake. He knew that if Inaho was to decide he would ravish him to his lust’s content. The man had been yearning for him the entire evening and now finally he was allowed to have Slaine to himself for the night.

“T-thank you…” Slaine gasped and tried to relax while Inaho continued kissing and biting his neck and shoulders. Sometimes he licked Slaine from his collarbone and all the way up to his cheek before searching for a kiss, and Slaine obeyed him and gave him what he wanted. As they had kissed and touched each other for a while Slaine finally whispered: “I… I think I’m ready…”

Inaho stared him in the eyes as he began to move his hips slowly. His hardness tugged at Slaine’s insides but it did not hurt as much as it had in the beginning, and so Slaine could relax more and more. His body moved slightly up and down as Inaho picked up the pace and the stimulation to Slaine’s loins grew. His excitement grew again as he realized what was happening. He began to enjoy the feeling of having Inaho moving inside him and giving him pleasure as Slaine’s body gave Inaho the pleasure the man had longed for. It was hot and thrilling having his body used like that.

“Nnngghh… Aaahh! Inaho…!”

“Slaine… Ahh... Slaine…” Inaho gasped and moved faster and harder for each thrust until their bodies slammed against each other’s. Slaine’s back arched at the intensity and he cried out his lust into the quiet desert and clung to Inaho’s shoulders.

“Haaaahh! It … feels so good!” Slaine cried.

His mind was in turmoil from the pleasure. His body tingled and shivered as it tensed up more and more. Inaho raised his body up from Slaine’s to make it more accessible for him to thrust into Slaine, and that was when he hit a sensitive nerve somewhere deep inside Slaine’s body. The blond grabbed the fabric of Inaho’s shirt harder and his eyes widened at the completely new sensation. He had no idea sex could feel this good and make his body into such a mess of stimulated nerve-endings.

“HAAHHH!” he cried out loud and a snap was heard from Inaho’s shirt; a seam was ripped open by the incredible and desperate strength Slaine’s body got as it was stimulated to such a degree that the blond was about to lose his mind. “There! There! Hhnnggh! Aaahh! It feels good!” he cried and moaned greedily.

“Louder… Aahh…!” Inaho gasped and thrust harder and straight against the spot that had sent Slaine’s body into such a chaotic pleasure.

Sweat had gathered on the bandit’s forehead and dripped down onto Slaine’s chest. The blond wanted to curl up and he pulled hard enough on Inaho’s shirt that he raised his torso from the bedroll and pushed his forehead against the man’s chest like he was begging him for mercy.

“INAHO! AAARGH! T-TOO MUCH!”

“No…” Inaho answered and grunted as Slaine’s fleshy walls squeezed tighter around his manhood that violated the blond’s insides. “Mmh! I will give you more until you can’t take it anymore,” the brunet whispered and Slaine whimpered and moaned in mercy.

Slaine tried to push himself away from Inaho but the bandit trapped him under him with his hands planted on top of the bedroll above Slaine’s shoulders; the blond could not move away from him. Tears from the pure and maddening pleasure rolled down Slaine’s cheeks as he helplessly was thrust into by the bandit. The muscles in his loins tightened more and more and the nerves in his body burned in a torturous way. The area echoed with his pleasure induced cries.

“P-PLEASE!” he yelled. “I think I’ll … Aahhh! … faint!”

“Then faint…” Inaho answered breathlessly and watched Slaine’s excruciated face. “Aahh…! Y-you’re so tight…!”

“S-stop it, please! Say n-no more!” Slaine cried and tugged at Inaho’s arms to try to escape the painful pleasure. “Hhaaahhh!”

“Y-you’re tightening up more,” Inaho grunted and slammed into Slaine harder once again and Slaine’s muscles began cramping.

The blond thought he would explode any second from the pleasure. He threw his head to the side and his cries went quiet as he desperately gasped due to the burning and tense muscles, and before long his eyes widened and his body convulsed violently as it seemed to prepare for something, and immediately his mind went white and a loud scream tore in his throat as his body exploded. He heard Inaho let out a loud and lusty groan as he slammed deep into Slaine’s convulsing body and Slaine could feel the bandit’s hardness twitch inside him as he released his passion into his body. Slaine shivered and twitched as his body slowly recovered from the surprise of an orgasm. It had been so intense he had no strength to move at all and his body went limp. Inaho collapsed onto him and panted against his neck with hot breaths.

“Are you … all right?” the bandit asked as Slaine stared up at the starry sky without actually seeing it. His mind was almost completely blank.

“Y-yes…” he answered with a rugged voice. A warm and comforting feeling spread in his body. It was rewarding to a completely new level than the ones he got by himself. He chuckled and put his arms around Inaho’s shoulders and hugged him. He wanted to nuzzle him and kiss him, cuddle and make himself comfortable in his arms. “I feel like I’m soaring,” he whispered and swallowed hard; his throat was dry.

Fingers pulled through his hair gently and Inaho raised his head to look at Slaine. They stared at each other for a short while and then kissed, and so they both fell asleep cuddling each other.

Chapter Text

“Urgh…”

It was hot and uncomfortable. A sticky feeling made it feel worse but what gave his miserable situation the finishing touch was the sickness and the headache.

“Urgh…” he groaned again and opened his eyes. The light from the rising sun was attacking his eyes like needles trying to pick at them and he quickly closed them again when his headache escalated. His heart felt like it was beating in his throat and the sickness was horrible; he thought he would vomit any moment.

“Good morning,” he heard a raspy male voice call from somewhere above his head. The voice sounded like a charming and traditional whiskey voice after a night’s drinking activities and it had no cheerful ring to it at all. Whoever spoke felt just as terrible as Slaine.

“Good?” Slaine mumbled. “It seems pretty horrible to me… Where am I?” he then wondered out loud and took a deep breath of the air that had begun to grow hot as the sun heated it up for each moment that passed. He made another attempt to open his eyes and slowly and carefully he managed to get a view of where he was.

Sand…

Sand everywhere.

As he made an attempt to sit up – which was successful after something that felt like an eternity of struggle – he realized he had sand in his hair, on his face and even more stuck to his sweaty skin; it was everywhere. He even had sand in the…

“Dress?” he mumbled and looked down at the dirty dress he wore. The back of the corset had been untied at some point which he could not seem to remember but he was thankful for being able to breathe comfortably.

“And boots,” that cheerless male voice said behind him and Slaine saw his boots land next to him in the sand as they had been thrown to him from behind him. “We need to continue our travel,” the voice then instructed and Slaine looked over his shoulder and saw a sluggish Inaho prepare the horse.

Oh yes… We stole a horse,’ he thought and sighed. ‘And apparently someone’s dress…

There was something in the back of his mind he could not pinpoint which he knew he should remember, but his sluggish brain had not woken up completely yet and so he gave up trying to figure out what it was. ‘It aches and it’s not my head,’ he thought and pushed himself up from the sandy bedroll he had been lying on. His pulse began beating harder the moment he strained his tired body by reaching for his boots and he pulled them onto his feet while he silently cursed. He hated the sand and the desert. He hated the dress. Most importantly he hated the disgusting whiskey he remembered he had been chugging down last night together with the bandit.

The moment he tried to get up on his feet his stomach turned and he gasped from the sickness and he leaned forward and hugged his stomach while his heart was beating even harder. He felt the beating all the way down to his troubled stomach which made his sickness even worse, and he felt something push in his throat; he threw up the little he had in his stomach and his body trembled and broke out into a cold-sweat.

He hated his life. Or at least he hated it right there and then. He swore he would never drink again in his entire life as he gathered the little strength he had left and walked over to Inaho by nearly dragging his feet with each step.

“I don’t feel so well,” he grumbled as he came up to Inaho and took a hold of the saddle on the horse’s back to steady himself. The horse gave him protection from the brutal morning sun which slowly and gradually rose from behind the horizon.

Inaho handed him the leather pouch with water and told him to drink while Inaho rolled up the bedroll which Slaine had been too weak to roll up himself. The bandit was a hard worker. Slaine saw the exhaustion in the bandit’s movements and eyes as well as heard it in his voice. The blond felt bad about not helping him out but his body just would not let him.

The water was lukewarm and did not sit well with his upset stomach which instantly threatened to reject it. He stopped swallowing the water he had in his mouth to let his stomach calm down from the first shock of getting something into it, and then he slowly with small swallows managed to get some precious water into his dehydrated body.

Inaho came back with carrying the bedroll under his arm and the thin blanket over his other arm. He handed the blanket over to Slaine and continued to strap the bedroll onto the saddle and then looked at Slaine.

“Are you all right?” he asked with that husky voice. The desperado squinted pathetically in the brightening light.

“No,” Slaine grumbled but felt a slight joy from the man actually caring enough to ask him such a gentle question. Slaine wished he was feeling good enough to answer the man with a kinder tone. “My body aches. And you?” the blond decided to say so he would not seem selfish.

“I seem better off than you,” Inaho answered and nodded to the dusty blanket in Slaine’s hand. “Pull that over you. You need to protect yourself from the sun since you have nothing to cover your head or skin.”

“And whose fault is that?” Slaine snarled and had some more water; his stomach had slowly begun to accept the fluid.

“You seemed to enjoy the dress last night considering the way you flaunted yourself in it,” the brunet answered and placed his hat on his head.

“Oh, you liked it,” the blond spat poisonously.

“I did,” the bandit answered and got up on the horses back – less gracefully than the night before probably due to his hangover. “Can you get up by yourself?”

Slaine did not answer him since he was busy blushing as he remembered which part of his body ached along with his head. Now that he thought about it he felt something sticky between his legs… He blushed even more as he remembered why it was aching. There was nothing he could deny and he remembered more and more clearly what had happened the night before for each time he blinked while staring at the bandit who had not only stolen a horse last night but also Slaine’s innocence.

“W-w-wait!” Slaine said and felt mortified as he heard his own gasps and Inaho’s moans from last night echo in his mind. “Y-you… You stole my virginity!” he shouted and pointed at Inaho with a blaming finger. “H-how could you use me like that!?”

Inaho blinked and tilted his head slightly as he frowned from confusion.

“You gave it up pretty willingly. You even persuaded me when I tried to be respectable and leave you alone,” the man answered and Slaine felt the humiliation grow even more.

“I did not!” he protested and instantly regretted he had flared up the way he did as his headache began pounding mercilessly. He cradled his aching head in his hands. “Urgh… You’re a horrible, horrible bandit…”

Inaho reached down his hand to him.

“We need to get moving. You can keep arguing while we ride toward Salt Lake City,” the brunet said with his husky monotone voice and waited for Slaine to grab his hand.

Slaine pouted as he found himself feel flattered by the bandit’s gesture and he grabbed the man’s hand and was heaved onto the horse’s back. That was when a throb shot through him and he grunted from the uncomfortable pain which reminded him of their activities from the night before. The blushing grew once again; there seemed not to be a limit to how much he could blush. He pulled the blanket over his head both to protect him from the sun but also to hide from his shame of how willing he had been last night to let the man into his body.

“If it is of any consolation you were an excellent bandit as well,” Inaho said and then clicked with his tongue to make the horse move forward and the animal began walking calmly.

“I just dressed up as a whore to seduce a man who was chasing you. You were the one to steal everything,” Slaine answered and brushed some of the sand away from his naked legs.

“Yes, but I was not talking about that particularly,” the bandit said calmly with his husky voice. “If I stole your virginity then you stole mine. It is a fair trade, is it not?”

“F-fair … trade?” Slaine repeated and stared at the man with surprise. “Wait, you were a virgin too? But you seemed so experienced.”

“I take that as a compliment,” the bandit answered bluntly and Slaine slapped his shoulder from getting annoyed at the man’s confidence.

“You’re so full of yourself,” he barked as the throbbing pain from his backside made his already bad mood grumpier.

“You liked it,” Inaho shot back calmly and Slaine sulked as he put his arms around Inaho’s waist to hug closer to him and steady himself. He leaned his head against Inaho’s shoulder and mumbled barely audible to answer his own words from moments ago which were now used against him:

“I did…”

The ride toward their destination was something Slaine would without hesitation call a living hell. He was so sick and weak, and since he knew Inaho felt the same way he did not dare to complain. They were thirsty and hungry; the water they had had to be rationed again. The heat from the sun was once again cruel toward them both but Slaine was alone with suffering from a throbbing bottom which went out of its way to remind him of how much Slaine hated his situation of traveling through the desert. It was his own fault and he would not blame Inaho for it no matter how much he wished to do so for the simple reason that he was feeling butthurt due to his own stupidity – quite literally…

And yet he did not regret it.

“You stink…” he muttered as they had traveled for a while, and he knew how much that applied to him as well.

“Bearing in mind we have not bathed since we fell off the train, have been wandering the desert and had whiskey as well as mutual solace, I am not surprised,” Inaho said as factually as always. “By the way, you stink too.”

Slaine let out a grumble and kept hugging the sweaty man in front of him in silence as his own sweat dripped from his chin.

I hate my life…’

***

It was late evening when they arrived to Salt Lake City. The streets were busy with people – just as it was expected of a big city like this one. People were cheering at bars, fighting on the streets and some were taking a piss in the alleys while lovely doves beckoned cowboys into the brothel further ahead. Slaine realized they had entered the less respectable part of town but Inaho seemed to feel at home. ‘Maybe he actually lives in a place like this to hide?’ Slaine thought and wondered who else in their right mind would want to live in such a horrible part of town.

Inaho stopped the exhausted horse outside the brothel and got down from its back. He offered his trembling arms to Slaine who almost collapsed onto the horses back when the man who had functioned as support had disappeared. He was so thirsty. So hungry. So exhausted.

“Why … are we at another brothel?” Slaine asked with a weak voice. “Wasn’t the one … in Woodside enough for you…?”

“We need to meet up with my gang…” Inaho panted and looked weak from the same exhaustion Slaine was plagued by. “It is safer here … than at a hotel.”

“You call … the brothel at Woodside safe?” Slaine gasped and pushed himself up from the horses back and tried to get down but instead of landing properly he almost fell over as his feet hit the ground. Inaho grabbed him and almost fell backwards himself. “The bounty hunter… You forgot about him already?”

“Then I expect you to … use your seducing skills … again,” Inaho gasped and helped Slaine regain his balance and wrapped the horse’s reins to the hitching post next to a water through before he grabbed Slaine’s hand and pulled him along inside the brothel.

“I won’t be … able to seduce anyone … the way I am now,” Slaine complained and followed the man. He would have been too weak to resist him if he wanted to anyway so following him was what he did in lack of coming up with a better destination in his state.

Inaho dragged him up the stairs like he had walked up the stairs many times before and he led Slaine all the way down the grand corridor upstairs; the walls were decorated with candles and fabrics and on the floor lay a beautiful carpet. The sound of people who engaged in sexual acts was heard from inside the rooms and Slaine felt awkwardness rise in him as he remembered back to what he and Inaho had done the night before. They stopped outside the room all the way down the corridor and Inaho knocked on the door five times. The door unlocked and opened and Slaine met the brown eyes of a strikingly attractive woman with long and straight black hair. She wore dark brown cowboy clothes and had a hat matching her attire hanging behind her back on the thread around her neck.

“Nao!” she exclaimed and pulled Inaho into a hug. “I was so worried! You look terrible!” She then wrinkled her nose and pushed him away from him slightly but still held onto his shoulders and looked at him. “And you reek. Did you roll around in cow dung or something?”

“I need a bath and something to eat,” Inaho said gasping from the exhaustion without caring about her remark on his smell. He pushed himself away from the woman and then nodded to Slaine. “And so does-“ he began but was interrupted by the woman whose eyes sparkled the moment she saw Slaine.

“Oh! Such a pretty girl!” she said and stared at him with wide admiring eyes.

“Um…” Slaine thought of how to explain he was not a young lady but the woman threw a scolding glare at Inaho the moment she realized Slaine’s state and spoke before Slaine got the chance to begin explaining anything.

“Wait… Nao! Have you dragged her around in cow dung with you!? She looks like she’s been through same hell as you!”

Inaho looked too tired to argue with her.

“No, it was through a desert. Let me explain later, Yuki-nee,” he said pleadingly and took a hold of Slaine’s wrist to pull him inside the room.

“Hm? Oh! Inaho is back!” a second woman with black but shorter hair said from where she sat on the bed cleaning her gun.

“Inaho!” a third squealed from the couch where she had been filing her nails. She had darker blond hair than Slaine and had it gathered in two perky pony tails.

“Welcome back,” the red haired woman said who came out of the bathroom only covered with a towel.

Slaine thought he would burst from embarrassment at being surrounded by so many women and one who was almost completely naked if it was not for the towel around her body. Inaho seemed completely unaffected by the women – he did not even care about the almost naked red haired one – and pulled Slaine into the bathroom before any of the girls got a chance to stop them to inquire about Inaho’s unexpected company.

The brunet closed the door and began undressing without saying a word and Slaine bit his lower lip as he hesitated on what to do.

“Um…” he began again and looked away from Inaho who threw all his clothes to the floor and got into the wooden bathtub which the red haired woman probably had used before.

A knock was heard on the door and the long haired woman who had met them at the door to the room opened it to look inside.

“Are you two busy with something?” she grinned teasingly and Slaine fidgeted awkwardly. She stared at Slaine and then Inaho, and suddenly her expression got angered again. “Nao! The young lady should take a bath before you! How rude of you!”

“He’s not a young lady,” Inaho answered bluntly and stared at the woman who seemed to go by the name Joki-knee as far as Slaine understood.

“What?” the woman asked.

“Um… I tried to … let you know but-“ Slaine began but was not allowed to end his sentence either as the woman let out a:

“Wait what!? B-but look at you!” She looked at Slaine up and down and seemed confused but then got a wry smile on her lips. “Oh, you almost had me there, Nao. That was a good one.”

“It’s true. Check for yourself if you have a hard time believing in me,” the brunet answered.

“Is it true?” the woman asked and loomed over Slaine who took a step back as her eyes seemed to burn with curiosity.

“Y-yes, I really am a-“ Slaine began to explain again but was not allowed to end his sentence again; the woman took a hold of the skirt of his dress and without warning pulled it up. Slaine was so shocked he did not know how to react to it at first but then he instantly blushed and pushed his hands against the skirt to force it back down and let out a pathetic shriek. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?”

“Oh, blame!” she complained and sighed. “I thought you had finally brought a pretty girl home.”

“I will explain everything once we have cleaned up. Could you prepare something for us to eat?” Inaho asked tiredly and leaned back in the bath.

Slaine slowly sunk to his knees on the floor from embarrassment and stayed there with making sure the skirt was securely tucked between his thighs to prevent the woman from grabbing it again if she would get the idea.

“I will ask the girls to get something to eat for you two,” the woman answered and went inside to pick up Inaho’s clothes from the floor. “I’ll get these cleaned as well.” She looked at Slaine and smiled awkwardly. “Do you want to get your … dress cleaned as well?”

Slaine kept blushing and hurried to hide behind the door to the bath and slowly and hesitatingly slipped out of the dress. He held it out to the woman from behind the door and the dress disappeared from his hand.

“Thank you!” the woman said gaily and then left the room and closed the door; Slaine met the prying eyes of Inaho the moment the protective door disappeared from in front of him and he stood there stark naked and trembled.

“Join me,” the brunet said and waited without letting Slaine go with his gaze. “I shall help you scrub your back.”

Slaine hesitantly nodded as he hid his groin from the other man’s eyes and then hurried over to the small wooden bath and got in the water. It was cramped and a tight fit but luckily they were slender of a build which made them fit into the small bathtub. Slaine hugged his knees to his chest and hid behind his legs as Inaho’s stare got too intense. Why was the man staring at him so much? Was he angry at him for some reason?

“Inaho, I-“

“Turn around,” the brunet said and interrupted him, and Slaine blinked in confusion at first but then turned around in the bath and felt grateful he was hidden from Inaho’s prying gaze.

He felt a slippery soap move over his back and up to his neck. It was soothing his aching muscles and he closed his eyes. The way the bandit moved the soap over his skin was almost in a loving way and Slaine let out a satisfied sigh as the bubbles ran down his back. Finally he could get himself cleaned up from all the sweat, dirt and … semen. ‘This is so embarrassing,’ he thought and leaned his forehead against his knees to rest his neck as Inaho caressed it gently with the soap. When his back had been properly soaped Inaho took a cloth and dipped it into the water and then scrubbed Slaine’s neck carefully. The water dripping from the cloth into the bathwater sounded lovely in Slaine’s ears and he almost dozed off for a moment. He was so relaxed and satisfied. No more sand in every nook and corner and no sweat rolling down his body.

Suddenly a shiver ran down his spine from the nape of his neck and he woke up from his sleepiness. Inaho was gently biting his neck and coiled his arms around Slaine’s torso to slowly caress Slaine’s chest with the soap. A jolt went through Slaine’s body at the sensual touch.

“I-Inaho, what are you d-doing?” he stammered but did no resistance to the man’s advances. “You can’t possibly still be drunk!”

Inaho’s teeth scraped down all the way from Slaine’s neck from behind his ear to his shoulder. Slaine’s body shuddered at the sensation and he let out a trembling gasp.

“Do you need an excuse now as well?” Inaho asked next to Slaine’s ear. The blond shivered again. “I can get some whiskey if you need to blame it on the alcohol.”

“N-no,” Slaine mumbled. “Stop it.”

“You do not wish me to stop,” Inaho said and did not listen to him.

The bandit’s hand massaged the soap further and further down Slaine’s chest. The blond relaxed his arms around his knees to give Inaho access between his torso and thighs, and the soap quickly slipped down beneath the water surface and massaged Slaine’s stomach with sensual circular motions. Slaine gasped and tensed up as Inaho bit his neck again, and then the man’s hand let go of the soap and dove between Slaine’s legs.

“Ah! I-Inaho,” Slaine exclaimed quietly and grabbed Inaho’s wrist with his hand but he did not pull the man’s hand away from his crotch.

“Yes?” the brunet asked through a whisper against the blond’s ear.

Slaine blushed and frowned with his eyes closed.

“Shouldn’t we eat and rest?” the blond asked and gasped when Inaho’s fingers teased the sensitive area between Slaine’s legs. “Ahh…”

“You are right,” the bandit suddenly said slightly disappointed and pulled his hand away from between Slaine’s thighs and continued scrubbing Slaine’s shoulders, and then asked Slaine to help him with the same task.

Slaine felt a disappointment well up inside him as well and felt his excitement between his legs throb for attention. Inaho had teased the blond expertly and his body was completely aware of every touch to the man’s skin as Slaine helped to scrub his back. He stared at the bandits back and shoulders and he felt an impulse to wrap his arms around him like a drunken woman searching for a man’s attention. Of course, since Slaine was exhausted – or at least it was the excuse he clung to – he refrained from doing so and only scrubbed the bandit’s back like he had been asked to.

After they had cleaned up properly and scrubbed off the dirt from their bodies Slaine felt refreshed and on a much better mood. He and Inaho got each a bed sheet to wrap around them as their clothes were being washed and as they exited the bathroom all the women sat at the couch and chairs in front of a table and stared at them in silence. They had been talking lively before the two men had opened the door and their high pitched voices had been heard loud and clear into the bathroom.

“So, Nao. Would you fill us in with what happened?” the woman called Joki-knee said. Slaine had to make sure he had heard her name correctly since he thought the name sounded ridiculous. He was sure he had heard it incorrectly.

Inaho pulled Slaine to the couch and pushed him down on the free seat next to the blond woman with perky pony tails. Inaho sat down onto the armrest next to Slaine. The blond woman examined Slaine quickly with her eyes and then smiled gently.

“I’m Nina Klein,” she said and reached out a hand like a man. Slaine stared at it; a woman should never shake hands since it was a masculine greeting. Instead Slaine took her hand in his and pulled it up to his lips and gave it a respectful but gentle peck with his lips against the back of it. He instantly felt Inaho’s stare burn against his neck from behind.

“A pleasure to meet you, Miss Klein. My name is Slaine Troyard,” Slaine said gentlemanly and gave her a smile back.

The other women stared at him for a short moment and Slaine wondered if he had done something bad and was surprised and frightened as the woman with black and short hair pushed Nina away and offered Slaine her hand as well.

“And I’m Inko Amifumi. Nice to meet you, Mr. Troyard.” She had a slight blush on her cheeks and looked at him like she anticipated something.

Slaine stared at her confused for a slight second but then took her hand and gave it a peck with his lips too.

“Nice to meet you too, Miss Amifumi.”

“Now it’s my turn!” the woman with the long black hair said and reached her hand over to Slaine by leaning over the table from the other side of it where she had been sitting on a chair. She stared at him awaiting something as well. “I’m Yuki Kaizuka, Inaho’s sister. Pleasure to meet you,” she then said and Slaine made sure to remember her name correctly this time.

“Oh, I did not know Inaho had a sister,” Slaine said and smiled gentlemanly toward her too and took her hand gently into his. “The pleasure is all mine, Miss Kaizuka.” With that he gave the back of her hand a peck as well and as he released her hand the woman called Yuki blushed satisfied like she had had the best drink in her entire life.

“Haaahh! To be treated as a proper lady,” she sighed and blushed. “It was such a long time ago!”

Slaine noticed Nina and Inko were blushing as well and had the same satisfied smile on their lips as Yuki. ‘What’s happening?’ Slaine wondered and then looked at the last woman in the room; the one with red hair. She stared at him with slightly narrowed eyes like she tried to determine if Slaine was a threat or not. Slaine decided to give her a polite smile and bow, and she blushed and turned her face away from him. She did not seem to be talkative at all.

“Her name is Rayet Areash,” Yuki said and smiled as she pushed a plate with bread and cooked meat over to the boys as well as two big beer glasses of water. “Don’t mind her; she’s always suspicious when it comes to strangers.”

“Nice to meet you, Miss Areash,” Slaine said and got a scowling stare back.

“So what happened, Nao?” Yuki asked and looked at Inaho who was drinking water from the glass.

Slaine followed Inaho’s example and chugged the water down greedily. As Inaho finished he took a piece of bread from the plate.

“He tried to shoot me,” Inaho said bluntly with a somewhat blameful voice and Slaine felt a bad feeling crawl up his spine.

“Hey! So did you!” the blond protested.

“He did WHAT!?” Yuki exclaimed and stood up on her feet and leaned across the table to stare at Slaine with fire in her eyes. “Did you try to shoot my little brother?” she hissed and Slaine pushed himself back into the couch and stared at her terrified. Something told Slaine Inaho was avenging something by letting Yuki get angry at him. ‘Is it because I greeted the ladies properly?’ he thought and felt how cold-sweat began gathering on his forehead.

“He was the gunman who was protecting lady Allusia,” Inaho continued. “We had a duel on the train and then fell off and got stranded in the desert. He promised to help me with the trouble related to the Governor in exchange to not kidnap the young lady,” Inaho said and took a bite of the bread.

“Oh you little…” Yuki hissed and reached her hands to threaten to strangle Slaine, who let out a pathetic yelp.

“He saved me from Calm Craftman,” Inaho then continued to say as he had decided Slaine had suffered long enough and Yuki looked up at her brother. “The bounty hunter came into the saloon in Woodside where we arrived moments before him. Slaine dressed up as a whore to seduce him so I could get away.”

Inaho did not tell the entire truth but Slaine was thankful for it since Yuki leaned back into her chair and turned her baffled stare from Inaho to Slaine.

“So that’s why you were dressed as a girl,” she said calmly and put her palm against her forehead and chuckled. “He’s still after you? I can’t believe he won’t give up. What a persistent little shit he is,” she said smiling and gave Slaine a friendly look. “Thanks for helping my brother out.”

Slaine stared at her for a while unsure of what to think about her; was she friendly or dangerous? He then decided to nod carefully and got up from his cowered position on the couch.

“So then what happened?” Nina asked and looked at both Slaine and Inaho with a curious smile.

“We stole his horse and traveled through the desert after he was knocked unconscious by me while he was trying to get Slaine into bed,” Inaho explained and then looked at Slaine who blushed once again but this time from embarrassment. “You can consider the horse we stole as yours now.”

Slaine nodded quietly and took a bite of the cooked meat. It tasted wonderful but his stomach was sensitive from being empty for so long and he had trouble swallowing it down.

“So you said we should not kidnap lady Allusia?” Inko asked and looked troubled. “Then what are we supposed to do?”

“We kill him,” Rayet said quietly and people began agreeing to her suggestion, although Inaho sat quietly eating and seemed to try and come up with an alternative plan.

Slaine thought it sounded horrible to kill a man despite of what the Governor had done to the taxes. He did not think of it as fair to make the fair young lady Asseylum into an orphan and the Governor himself did not deserve to die. Lady Asseylum had already lost her mother in childbirth just like Slaine had lost his own mother the day he came into the world and so it did not seem fair to rob the young lady something as her last and only guardian.

He raised his hand to wait until someone had noticed him. Nina noticed him.

“What is it, Mr. Troyard?” she asked and everyone turned their attention to Slaine.

“Um… There is a rumor which circulates among the officers’ staffs about Governor Allusia which I doubt has reached the people yet,” he said and felt conscious of everyone staring at him. “Instead of killing him, why not make him abdicate due to a scandal?”

“A scandal?” Inaho asked and stared at Slaine waiting to hear more.

“What kind of scandal?” Yuki inquired curiously.

Slaine pulled the bed sheet tighter and smiled wryly.

“Governor Allusia is said to be a womanizer and I have heard the staff at Officer Cruhteo’s ranch speak about how the Governor sleeps around a lot and pays first class doves to accompany him almost every night. I have even heard he has a bastard somewhere hidden,” Slaine explained.

The people in the room stared at him wide-eyed for a long time before Yuki got a mean grin to her face, Nina smiled amused and Inko blushed.

“So we need to expose that for the people and he would be forced to abdicate,” Inaho said and thought for a while. “A Governor who speaks about the Lord and claims to be a respectable man is leading a hypocritical life behind closed doors.”

“That won’t sit well with the people,” Yuki grinned and almost looked like a bully. “How will we be able to spread such a scandal? People won’t believe us without proof.”

“Take a picture?” Slaine asked cautiously. “The people cannot deny a picture with the Governor caught in the act.”

“But we don’t have a camera and those takes ages to take a picture and we need to develop the film too,” Nina said and frowned. “How are we supposed to get the camera into the mansion where he lives and take a picture? We all have wanted faces; they are on posters everywhere in town. There is no way we would be able to sneak into the mansion without getting recognized.”

“We would need to have someone who can keep him still long enough for someone to take a picture. There are two windows in his bedroom,” Inaho said and looked troubled.

“Maybe use a ladder?” Inko suggested.

“We still need a camera,” Rayet protested. “They are not cheap.” Slaine figured she hated the Governor since she was so intent on killing him.

“We have plenty of money from our robberies,” Yuki noted.

“Um…” Slaine began again and everyone turned their attention to him once again. “My lord Officer Cruhteo has a French Chambre Automatique de Bertsch.” Everyone stared at him in silence clearly not understanding a word he said. “It is a camera which is easier to carry and use than the American Optical and E. & H.T. Anthony & Company cameras which are commonly used here in America. My lord has it with him during his visit here since he likes photography.”

“You certainly know some fancy stuff,” Yuki scoffed somewhat pouting, and Slaine felt like he had insulted her in an awkward way. He knew he had grown up in a privileged life and he felt like he had shoved that truth up in everyone’s face.

“I apologize, Miss Kaizuka,” Slaine said ashamed and hung his head in dismay.

“Go on,” Inaho urged and Slaine threw a glance at him and kept explaining with his head still lowered:

“The automatic camera is small and light, and it has a much shorter exposure time than any other camera and it makes a wet plate negative which you can enlarge tenfold,” Slaine mumbled.

“Will you steal it from Officer Cruhteo?” Inko asked and Slaine frowned and nodded.

“I can try…”

“No, you will!” Yuki said and looked sternly at Slaine. “We don’t need half-assed tries. We need results.”

Slaine nodded and frowned.

“So we have a camera. A ladder is easy to find so that won’t be a problem. We do need a woman who can seduce the man though,” Nina said and looked thoughtful. “We can’t enter the mansion no matter how much we try to dress up since we are known outlaws. They would recognize us immediately.”

Everyone turned their eyes toward Slaine who looked from one person to the other and slowly felt himself shrink from their stares. They stared at him with foreboding expressions.

Chapter Text

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“No way!” he said and stared at the others. Slaine could not believe what the others were planning. He shook his head and pulled the bed sheet even tighter around himself.

Yuki grinned and leaned forward.

“Come on, don’t be so shy. Besides, you looked really cute even if you were a complete mess when you arrived,” she teased. “Not that you look any less cute now… You’d be the perfect bait and we can trust you since you’re one of us now, aren’t you? Otherwise Inaho wouldn’t have taken you here,” she said teasingly and her grin turned into a smile, and Slaine nodded nervously. “And hey, we won’t leave you hanging there if things go bad. Any one of us would have gone in there in your place if we could.”

Slaine had already hung around Inaho long enough – just a couple of days to be frank but that had seemed to be enough – and promised to help him take down the Governor, that he knew he would have difficulties of getting back to his normal life. He hesitated about actually wanting to return to that kind of life where he would be stomping on the same spot day after day. If Inaho managed to get through his criminal career without killing someone then it would be a far better option for Slaine to do the same since he hated shooting people. As Cruhteo’s gunman the blond had already killed two bandits that had attacked the Officer; Slaine had blood on his hands and he was not proud of it.

“We have done these things before but for other reasons, but now since we have gotten a little too known for our own good I’m sure the higher-ups knows our faces all too well,” Inko sighed. She looked troubled by the fact. “We shouldn’t even be in this state was it not for the problem with the taxes…”

“So how will we steal the camera?” Nina asked and tilted her head as she threw glances at Slaine which Slaine could not decipher. Her pony tails swayed with the motion of her head. “Do it like we always do while Mr. Troyard runs in there and takes is? Shouldn’t someone more experienced do it instead?”

Inaho shook his head.

“If we start a commotion to distract Officer Cruhteo every politician and marshal will get on guard, the Governor will probably refrain from his activities for a while and the heightened security around his mansion might adventure our plan. The security is already high due to the protests recently,” he said.

Slaine raised his hand again in determination and Inaho turned his attention to him.

“Officer Cruhteo has the camera with him during his stay in the Governor’s mansion,” he said quietly. “I can go there tomorrow morning since I am under Cruhteo’s service. I can easily get into his personal room when he is not looking and that is when I take the camera. All I need is someone to meet me afterwards with a horse ready.”

Inaho observed him for a while. Slaine liked having the man’s eyes on him and he could not help but to blush slightly each time he found out Inaho was watching him.

“Are you willing to do that?” the brunet asked and Yuki nodded agreeing to Inaho’s question.

“If you don’t feel up for it then Rayet can do what she does best and sneak inside during the night,” she explained and gave Rayet a glare. “If she promises she won’t put a bullet in the Officer’s head that is.”

Rayet sulked. Slaine understood the red haired woman felt some kind of dislike toward the rich since she seemed to get fired up the moment a conversation’s topic went to those who had economical privileges.

“I won’t,” Rayet answered and folded her arms while nursing her grumpy mood.

“I will do it,” Slaine said bluntly. “I can do this.”

“Are you sure?” Inko asked and Slaine nodded. “You won’t be able to go back once it gets known it’s you who stole it.”

“I realize that,” Slaine said and frowned with a slight saddened smile. “My life under Cruhteo’s care has not been of roses and clovers really, so it has not much value to me anyway.”

“Our life isn’t of roses and clovers either,” Yuki noted.

“I know but if I join you I will not be forced to kill people under an order, right?” Slaine said and his smile faded. “I really dislike doing that…”

Everyone stared at him for a while as they slowly seemed to understand what Slaine was talking about. Cruhteo was cruel and as long as Slaine was under his care Slaine would not be allowed to make decisions considering whose life to spare and whose death to bring; he would have to follow orders – it was as simple as that. He could bear with the punishment for disobeying an order but he could not deal with the threat of execution ordered by Cruhteo if he did one wrong move too many. And in all honesty Slaine wanted to be selfish enough to actually decide what kind of life to live and not let someone else decide it for him. He was grateful for what Cruhteo had given him but that alone was not a motivation to make him stay under the man’s care.

“Of course you don’t have to kill people,” Yuki said quietly. “Nao is doing great living a life like that. I’m sure if you stick around him he will show you how to do it.”

Inaho nodded.

“If that is your decision and you find the life of an outlaw a better alternative than being the lawman you are, then you are welcome,” Inaho said calmly but something in his tone of voice told Slaine Inaho was thrilled. “Be aware that if you are caught you will most likely get hanged,” the man then warned him.

“I could be hanged for a mistake as a lawman as well,” Slaine smiled wryly. ‘At least if I stay with you I would gain freedom to decide what to do with my life and a pleasant companion,’ he thought secretly. In Cruhteo’s care he had no choice but to follow orders no matter how bad acts he was ordered to do, but as an outlaw he would decide what crimes his name would carry. ‘No death…’

“So it’s settled?” Nina asked. “Mr. Troyard – or should I say Slaine since you belong to our group now? – will try to get a hold of the camera tomorrow by returning to Cruhteo’s service momentarily in the morning.”

Slaine nodded to her and then looked at Yuki:

“There will be results,” he said and Yuki nodded with a wry smile.

“One wrong move and you will get caught,” she said. “That’s why there always has to be results and no half-assed tries because that might get you killed.”

“I understand,” Slaine said quietly and Inaho’s sister gave a satisfied nod.

“And as for dressing up as a dove…?” she asked carefully and Slaine blushed terribly.

“Um… I… I have to think about that,” he mumbled and pressed his lips together from embarrassment.

“Please,” Inko said. “Of course if you say no, then no it is – but you really were pretty and I am sure he would choose you without hesitation because of that. The other doves don’t even compare to you and the Governor wouldn’t be able to keep his hands off of you.”

“But that’s the problem!” Slaine cried out and blushed terribly. The nervousness made him lose his gentlemanly manners. “I do not want a man to touch me!”

“I am a man and you had no problem with letting me touch you,” Inaho said and Slaine looked up at him with wide eyes as the man had just casually revealed what they had been doing the previous night. The entire room went silent and the only thing that was heard was the distant moans and squeaks from the beds in the other rooms – which made Slaine’s embarrassment even worse. “Or was I special?” Inaho continued. Slaine could swear he saw a hidden blush on Inaho’s cheeks.

“Have you two…?” Inko asked cautiously and left the question hang in the air without ending it properly. Everyone kept staring at both of them to hear the answer to Inko’s question.

“T-that was a c-completely isolated and special incident!” Slaine stammered and felt everyone’s eyes observe him.

“So you two actually have…?” Nina said in the same manners as Inko and did not let her question end either. All the girls – except Rayet – blushed and stared at the two men with wide eyes.

“You are saying that I was an incident?” Inaho asked and suddenly the brunet’s face went darker. “I understand.”

“N-no! Don’t twist my words! I mean-!”

Slaine was not allowed to finish his sentence once again. That had happened way too often after he had decided to follow the bandit as they had fallen off the train.

“Are you saying my little brother isn’t special?” Yuki growled like a demon from the abyss of torture and despair and stood up from her chair to lean over the table. Slaine yelped and cowered down in the couch again to try and hide from her. “So which is it? Is he special or just an incident?”

Her demonic voice made Slaine’s mind spin as he tried to come up with an excuse, but as his mind refused to cooperate with him he shouted out of the blue:

“He’s special! He’s so, so special and lovely!”

Wait…’ Slaine thought the moment he realized what he had said. ‘Did I call Inaho lovely!?’ He looked up at Inaho who stared at Slaine with this time a more visible blush and Slaine averted his eyes and blushed as well. ‘Dear Lord!’ he thought embarrassed.

Yuki nodded satisfied and sat back into her chair and folded her arms. Slaine relaxed as he confirmed her calm and let out a sigh of relief. He had feared she would have actually bitten his head off if he did not give her the answer she wanted to hear. Even if he had said it mostly so save himself from her hellish clutches he realized there was still truth in his answer.

“Lovely even?” Yuki chuckled pleased. “That’s better. By the way, we need to get you some proper clothes,” she then said. “You can’t walk around in the city or go back to your Lord in a dress. Do you mind borrowing some of mine for the mean time? We have the same height and all of my clothes are the male model – since they are more comfortable.”

Slaine blushed at the thought of borrowing a lady’s clothing even if it was of a male model, and it was thoughtful of her to offer her own garments – her own belongings – to someone she had just met.

“That is very kind of you,” he mumbled.

“Excellent!” Yuki applauded and smiled happily and looked at Inko and Nina. “You two, would you go out and get some clothes for the gentleman tomorrow when the stores open so he has a new set when he returns from his camera adventure?”

“Sure thing!” they both answered with a simultaneous cheer.

Yuki slammed her hands together to wrap the meeting up and stood up from her chair cheerfully.

“The first part of the plan is ready. We’re counting on you,” she said to Slaine – who nodded determined. “I will go down to the lobby and rent another room.”

“Why?” Nina asked and Yuki grinned like an angel in disguise.

“So my special brother and his pretty ‘lady’ can do some pirooting. It would be a shame to deny them that since what they both have is special, don’t you think?” she said with a melodic voice and disappeared out through the door.

Slaine pulled the sheets higher across his face to hide his crimson cheeks behind them. He even refused to look at Inaho’s reaction to his sister’s outspoken words because he had gotten so self-conscious he would explode from embarrassment if he met Inaho’s eyes.

Yuki came back shortly with a key and threw it to Inaho and wished them good night, and Inaho got up from the couch to walk over to the door where he stopped to wait for Slaine. The girls had gone back to their cheerful and loud talking – except Rayet who was sitting in her corner carving out a figure of a piece of wood with a knife – and Slaine decided it would have been nice to get some sleep in order to recover from the ride in the desert. He got up from the couch and gave the girls a gentlemanly bow and wished them good night, and after everyone – except Rayet – had wished him good night as well he walked over to Inaho and together they left for the other room.

Inaho walked into the room – which was lit up by an oil lamp on the bedside table – like it was his home and took off the bed sheet he had around himself to put it on the backrest of a chair. Slaine averted his eyes the moment he saw Inaho naked and hid his lips – which were pressed tightly together in nervousness – behind the sheet which he still wore tightly around himself.

“Will you stand there for the rest of the night?” he heard Inaho ask and the bedsprings creaked slightly as Inaho lay down on the single bed in the room. It was of a standard size.

“B-but there is only one bed,” Slaine stammered and dared to look up the moment Inaho had pulled the blanket over his lower body. Slaine almost gasped as he saw Inaho’s naked torso; it was so attractive.

So strong…’ he thought while he spaced out for a moment.

“It did not stop us from sharing a bedroll last night,” Inaho answered and made some more space on the bed and only had the edge to himself. “You can take the most of the bed if you find it uncomfortable having me too close.”

“N-no! That’s not it!” Slaine exclaimed and felt like he had insulted Inaho by being too picky. Slaine did not mind to sleep uncomfortably – if he did the nights in the desert would have been even worse than they had actually been – but having Inaho so close made him want to burst from awkwardness due to his own feelings. He liked the man a little too much.

He hurried over to the bed and crawled in under the blanket still wrapped in the bed sheet he wore and made sure he lay far out on the other edge to give Inaho space instead. His back was turned against the brunet since he would find it too awkward to have his face entirely exposed to Inaho’s eyes to observe; his blushing and nervousness was clearly showing on his face and he knew it.

“It’s your gang’s money so you should have the most of the bed,” Slaine hurried to say as he lay there with every muscle tensed up. He was so nervous and his heart was beating like the pulsation of a steam engine.

“You are a member of our gang now as well so we should have equally much space according to your logic,” he hear the bandit say from behind him.

“N-n-no, I’m fine out here,” Slaine stammered and heard the rustling of bed sheets behind him. A hand took a gentle hold of his shoulder and pulled him onto his back. “R-really! I’m fine with the edge!” he exclaimed and met Inaho’s gaze right in front of his nose as he was forced to roll onto his back. That instant his mind was halted. The sight of the man looking at him was thrilling and his loins burned. The smell of soap drifted to his nostrils and the man’s scent mingled with it, creating a wonderful mixture of scents.

“You told Yuki-nee you think I am special and lovely,” the man said. “Is that true or did you lie just to calm her down?”

Suddenly Slaine’s felt like he was a steam engine. His blush rushed all the way to the tip of his ears and it felt like steam would burst out of his ears any moment.

“W-w-why do you a-ask something like t-t-that?” he stammered and watched Inaho move even closer to him. Their bodies bumped into each other and the heat from the bandit spread through the bed sheet Slaine was rolled into.

“I want to know if it is true since I promised to treat you as a wife. If you lied then I will have to go back to treat you as a dove,” the man explained.

“W-wait a minute!” Slaine said and sat up in bed to stare at Inaho. “That ‘wife’ thing was only for last night!”

Inaho sat up as well.

“No, I did not mean it only for last night,” the bandit answered.

Slaine stared at him in amazement. ‘Did he mean it for the rest of our future?’ he thought and began trembling. ‘Does he love me!?

“S-s-so that’s why … you were so c-considerate toward me today in the desert?” Slaine asked and thought back to Inaho’s gentlemanly manners during their ride to Salt Lake City.

“A man should always be considerate toward his wife,” Inaho answered bluntly and Slaine almost fell off of the bed from embarrassment and from his loins which burned even harder.

“B-but I’m a m-man too and n-not a … wife!”

“Does it matter what sex or gender you are?” Inaho asked and tilted his head slightly, and Slaine frowned and bit his lower lip as he thought about it, before he answered:

“No…”

Inaho gently pushed Slaine back on the bed and the blond stared up at him nervously. Somehow he was glad Inaho was so pushy since he himself did not dare to do anything even if he wanted to – unless he was drunk, he had learned the night before. Was Inaho so forceful because he had noticed Slaine’s shyness? Slaine knew if Inaho took the initiative and managed to push Slaine over the edge to pleasure the blond would give in quickly and his shyness would slowly disappear – and Slaine liked that.

“Do you want me to stop?” Inaho asked quietly as he leaned closer to Slaine and lovingly brushed the blond bangs away from Slaine’s face.

Slaine knew he had to be honest; things he had wanted and wished for had always gotten out of his reach every time he had not been honest or then been too respectful to ask for anything – a reason to why he was still nothing but a gunman. This time he did not want to see Inaho get out of his reach since it would hurt in a completely new way than he was used to. He had to toughen up, and so he swallowed hard and tried to find his determination.

“N-no. Don’t stop…” Slaine whispered as he stared up at the burgundy eyes which were glimmering from the glowing oil lamp on the bedside table.

“Am I special?”

Slaine swallowed hard again and nodded carefully as he watched Inaho lean closer to the point where their breaths tickled each other’s cheeks.

“Yes…”

Inaho instantly pushed his lips against Slaine’s and the blond’s head was pressed into the pillow from the intensity of their kiss. Slaine let out a surprised moan and gave in the second his shock had passed. He closed his eyes and felt Inaho’s wet tongue force its way in between Slaine’s lips and searched for his and Slaine let out a gasp and gave the man free access into his mouth to let their tongues meet. The kiss was slippery and wet, passionate and exciting that Slaine instinctively wanted to spread his legs. He wanted to feel Inaho between them and brush against his sensitive thighs just like the night before. Slaine did not care if he was feeling slightly sore from their first time; the kiss they shared was greedy and hungry and it made his body want something more; he wanted a second time.

Inaho took a hold of the edge of the bed sheet around Slaine and began opening it urgently while the two men were locked in the kiss. Slaine wondered if Inaho felt like he was opening a gift since Slaine was tightly wrapped in the sheet and it was hard to pull off of him. Slaine could not help but to smile at the silly thought.

“The way you pulled the bed sheet tighter around you back there…” Inaho said quietly as he pulled his lips away slightly to be able to easier open the sheet around Slaine. “… made it harder for me to focus on the meeting.”

Slaine helped Inaho open the sheet around him and smiled as he felt flattered from having had Inaho observed him while they had discussed their plan.

“Why…?” Slaine gasped and got a deep kiss again and the sheet fell apart and revealed the entirety of Slaine’s skin.

“It revealed your silhouette the tighter you pulled it around you,” Inaho answered and pushed Slaine’s legs apart. The desperado placed his hips between the blond’s thighs and instantly began grinding their sensitive areas against each other’s.

Slaine trembled and jumped as Inaho made a movement with his hips which sent a wonderful pulse through his body as a sensitive nerve between his legs was attacked.

“Ah…!” he gasped and grabbed Inaho’s strong shoulders. “Y-you liked the sight?” he asked and lifted his head up from the pillow to give Inaho a kiss.

“I did…” Inaho breathed after they had kissed for a short while, while he continued moving his hips against Slaine’s. “Even the girls liked it… It made me jealous…”

The blond’s shyness was brusquely wakened and he opened his eyes wide at the shock and pushed Inaho slightly away from him by pushing his shoulders back.

“W-wait! What do you mean by that?” he asked and stared at Inaho who was looking at him with hungry eyes.

“They were watching you as well,” Inaho explained and tried to lean in for a kiss but Slaine pushed him back again.

“T-they were!?”

Slaine had no idea the girls had been looking at him but if it was true then it explained why they all – except Rayet – had been so eager to let him kiss the back of their hands as he greeted them. Slaine was reminded the girls had been looking at him in a way he had been confused about.

“Nina certainly found you attractive,” Inaho whispered and leaned in to try and kiss Slaine again, and this time the blond let him. Their tongues played with each other’s again for a while and Slaine’s body tingled once again. Then Inaho’s lips fell onto Slaine’s neck where the man licked and nibbled lovingly. “But you belong to me…” he said and let his tongue tickle Slaine all the way down to his chest.

“Aah… I-Inaho…” Slaine gasped and breathed heavily but then jerked as his nerves vibrated from the stimulation Inaho gave his right nipple. The brunet licked it, nibbled it and sucked it so wonderfully Slaine began moving his hips. The blond’s loins were on fire. “Haahh…!”

Inaho’s warm hands moved greedily over Slaine’s sides and stomach to excite him more and Slaine trembled more the longer the bandit teased his body. He felt like Inaho’s hands wandered all over him to feel the entirety of his body and searched for sensitive areas, and each time Inaho found such area Slaine let out a gasp from the gentle surprise. Inaho kept stimulating Slaine’s nipple for a while but then let his kisses drop further south. Slaine’s breathing became irregular and sharp the moment Inaho tickled a sensitive nerve with his lips on his way down over Slaine’s pubic region. His skin was so sensitive there he jerked the moment Inaho touched that area with his lips and goose bumps spread over Slaine’s skin. A wet trail from the man’s kisses made Slaine’s skin feel slightly cooler but the moment fingers coiled around his hardness the blond’s skin heated up once again and made him let out a loud gasp.

“I-Inaho…! Wha… What are you doing?” he gasped as the man’s kisses dropped further and further down; they did not seem to stop on their journey and the kisses and licks traced along his left loin further down.

“Giving you as much pleasure I can,” Inaho answered and opened his mouth which sent a warm breath against Slaine’s groin.

“B-but Inaho!” Slaine exclaimed and quickly took a hold of Inaho’s hair to stop him moving closer to Slaine’s sensitivity. “You don’t have to…” he gasped and looked at him with a slight worry playing on his face. As he met the desperado’s heated eyes which looked back at him from between his legs Slaine’s consideration began to waver; he slowly began wanting the man to give him all he had.

“I want to,” Inaho said quietly and squeezed his hands gently around Slaine’s manhood. Slaine let out a lusty whimper. “I promised not to treat you as a dove,” he then whispered and Slaine slowly let go of his hair as the blond began to give up.

That instant Slaine felt Inaho’s warm mouth engulf his hotness and the blond covered his face with his arms as embarrassment coursed through him. It felt so good… The inside of Inaho’s mouth was so wet and soft against his aching hardness that Slaine felt his mind begin to spin.

“B-but that’s … dirty…!” he tried to protest but begged to a higher power that the brunet would continue – and so Inaho did; he sucked Slaine’s tip a slowly and teasingly while his lips were tightened around it. “Aaaahh! Haahh…!”

Slaine’s back arched. Inaho’s mouth felt soft and good, and the blond’s breathing became faster and shallower. All the muscles in his body tensed up and he slammed a hand down against the bed to grab the sheets with his hand and squeezed his hand around them until his knuckles went white. The bandit’s lips stole a bit of Slaine’s self-control each time they reached all the way down on his shaft and so Slaine’s gasps and moans grew louder and less controlled.

“Mmhh! I-Inaho…! Hnngh!” he moaned with a sultry voice.

The wet noises from between his legs reached his ears and raised his heat higher; he became more sensitive for each wet and slippery sound. Inaho’s hands wandered up to Slaine’s stomach and sides where they caressed him tenderly to spur the hotness growing inside the blond by teasing the sensitive areas he had found moments ago. The skin over Slaine’s ribs was so sensitive the blond writhed the moment he was stroked there. Slaine raised his other hand up to his hair and grabbed it desperately as he was about to lose his mind; Inaho’s tongue slid up and down his hardness for a while to tease him, and then the man took it in his mouth again and pushed it as deep as it would go.

“AAHH! I-Inaho! N-no! Too…! Hhngh! Too much!” Slaine managed to get forth as his body began trembling more from the pleasure.

It tingled everywhere and he was shown no mercy by the man who continued moving his head up and then as far down as he could between Slaine’s legs. The tension built up even more each time Inaho’s lips reached Slaine’s hilt. The blond breathed deeper and faster. The warmth and wetness inside Inaho’s mouth and throat was so wonderful and pleasurable Slaine wanted to moan loud enough to let everyone in the building hear him. His insides screamed for attention as well and Slaine moved his hips as a signal to the other man that he was terribly needy to feel Inaho inside him. ‘Please’ Slaine’s movements begged him. ‘I want you inside me too!

One of Inaho’s hands slid all the way down to between Slaine’s legs and teased his loins gently for a while. Then the fingers slid down to the saliva mixed with Slaine’s honey that had dripped down onto the bed sheets. Inaho massaged it further back between Slaine’s buttocks until the fingers reached the entrance. Slaine’s breaths trembled from anticipation and soon enough a finger entered him and forced all air out of the blond’s lungs.

“Haahhh!” he gasped and felt like Inaho was reducing him into an animal in heat. “Mmmph! Ooh! Inahooo…!”

His body was screaming from joy. Every little cell felt like it was vibrating from pleasure. His nerves were burning as Inaho’s finger moved in and out of his body with the same rhythm as his lips moved up and down his shaft. Slaine was so filled with lust he thought he would burst and bleed it out any moment. Soon a second finger penetrated him and filled him up further after his body had adjusted; the tightness made the feeling of the moving fingers more prominent. They moved inside him shamelessly and harder as Inaho’s lips sucked at the tip of his hardness. The bandit wanted to steal an orgasm from him and Slaine wanted to give him a show Inaho would enjoy.

“I like your taste…” he heard Inaho whisper from between his legs.

“S-shut up!” Slaine almost yelled in desperation as his embarrassment made a comeback. “Aahh!”

“Cum for me,” Inaho’s heated whisper commanded and what choice did Slaine have but to comply when Inaho was masterfully forcing an orgasm out of him as his hot mouth engulfed him once again.

Inaho’s fingers moved around inside Slaine like they were trying to reach every nook and corner of his insides, and without warning they pushed against something that felt so intense and good that Slaine’s hips quivered violently and he let out a helpless cry. The pleasure from that little spot had felt so intimate and intruding his eyes became wet with tears, although he did not cry. As Inaho’s fingers kept teasing that spot he desperately pushed himself up from the bed with his arms and backed away from the brunet until his back hit the headboard and wall. Slaine’s body shook like he was freezing; his teeth clattered and his breath shivered along with his body from the intense stimulation to that special little spot. The teasing to the nerves on that spot had felt so pleasurable and intense he had to flee – but that had left his body in a state of desperation and anguish. He needed more and he wanted more, but suddenly he was engulfed with the most vulnerable feeling he had ever felt.

“Are you all right?” he heard Inaho ask and Slaine looked up at him with his eyes heavy of lust. The man was slowly closing in on him and while Slaine had just backed away from him he could not help but to give the man a look that begged him closer. His body was so tenderly needy.

“T-that was really … intense…” Slaine gasped with his shivering breath and tried to control his body but it was completely useless to try.

“Did you like it?” Inaho asked and planted his hands on the wall on either side of Slaine’s shoulders and leaned closer while their eyes held contact. Slaine nodded and closed his eyes as Inaho whispered close to his lips: “Then I shall continue…”

“W-wait!” Slaine said desperately and tried to stop Inaho from going back to give him pleasure by blocking the access between his legs with his hands.

“Why?” Inaho asked as he lowered himself closer to Slaine’s crotch. He took a hold of Slaine’s wrists to push them back against the headboard of the bed so he got free access to between the blond’s legs.

“I… Because it … made me feel so d-defenseless,” Slaine gasped and tensed up the moment he felt Inaho’s breath against the tip of his lust.

“Good,” Inaho said quietly and kissed the throbbing tip sweetly and Slaine jumped from the touch. “There is no need for defenses between us,” he then said and took Slaine into his mouth again.

Slaine pushed himself against the headboard and wall behind him and moaned loudly once again. Inaho let go of his wrists and instantly his fingers searched their way in between Slaine’s buttocks again and began pushing into him. Slaine took a hold of Inaho’s hair again but this time more gently, and as Inaho’s fingers pushed against that sensitive spot inside him once again he leaned forward and gritted his teeth. He gasped from between his teeth as that sweet spot was attacked over and over again; Inaho made sure to rub it gently with the tip of his fingers to send that agonizing pleasure shock throughout Slaine’s nerves in his entire body; even his fingertips tingled. Slaine’s knees shook as it felt like his spine was on fire due to the stimulation he got, and he was quickly getting closer to obey Inaho’s request to come for him as the tension built up and his body shook more for each second that passed.

“I-Inaho! AAHH! I-I’m about to…!” he said with a strained voice as his body readied itself to climax.

“Cum,” Inaho ordered again and quickly went back to pleasure him with his mouth and fingers.

Slaine’s breathing became strained and he panted like an animal. He moved his hips in desperation as the tension grew, and suddenly his mind went blank as an electric pulse shot through him. His body shook violently and he almost doubled over, and for a moment he lost his voice somewhere in the agonizing pleasure wave. Tears sprung to his eyes at the intense orgasm that hit him like a ruthless whip and then a second wave hit him. His voice came back and painful cries and moans escaped his helpless lips as Inaho forced every last drop of pleasure out of him. He twitched from the sensitive nerve-endings glowing in him like ember and he curled up and fell sideways onto the bed after Inaho had pulled away from between his legs. Slaine was so weak from the orgasm that he had trouble moving at all; even his fingers had gone weak.

“Was it good?” Inaho asked quietly next to Slaine’s ear which sent a new shiver down his spine, and Slaine weakly turned his head away.

“It felt…” Slaine gasped and tried to regain some strength to his body which had gone limp. “… horrible and wonderful … at the same time…”

Inaho caressed Slaine’s sweaty bangs from his eyes to save him the trouble of doing that himself since the blond was weakened. Slaine closed his eyes as he panted for breath and enjoyed Inaho’s loving caresses which calmed his exhausted nerves.

“You gave me an enthralling show,” Inaho then whispered and Slaine weakly hid his face in his hands.

“S-stop … saying such embarrassing things…!” he gasped and begged but refused to reveal it was a pleasant humiliation; he secretly wanted to hear more.

“I told you,” Inaho said and carefully pulled Slaine’s hands away from his face. Slaine looked up at him with teary eyes. “There is no need for defenses around me.”

Slaine gave him a weak smile.

“I have only … known you for a couple of days,” he whispered still trembling.

“And I have known you for just as long,” Inaho answered and kissed Slaine’s temple. “How many defenses do you have?” he asked and Slaine chuckled quietly.

“I have plenty of them,” he answered and rolled onto his back and lay down on the bed beneath Inaho. He caressed Inaho’s back with his hands to feel his skin against his palms. “I can’t just pull them down like that.”

“Then let me tear them down for you,” Inaho whispered and spread Slaine’s legs to place his hips between the blond man’s thighs again. “Let me see you as vulnerable as you can be.”

“I-Inaho!” Slaine yelped panicked; his body was still sensitive from the previous orgasm.

“Do you not want me to?” the bandit asked and stopped to look at the blond who stared back at him.

Slaine hesitated. He would have loved to have Inaho tear down his protective walls since it was so hard to do by himself. He wanted Inaho to expose him entirely, claim him entirely and reduce him into his most pitiful state.

Am I so in love with him?’ he thought hazily as he looked up at those burgundy eyes and tried to calm his breathing. He had not realized the magnitude of his feelings until now; previously he had been curious and not thought of how much he cared for the bandit that had stolen more from him than his virginity. They had only known each other for three days. Was it even possible to fall for someone that fast?

“No…” he sighed. “You are allowed to.”

There it was. He gave Inaho permission to make him crumble. It would only be fair to let Inaho enjoy himself too and Slaine was more than willing to be the object of the man’s pleasure. Slowly – while they kept eye contact – Slaine spread his legs wider apart to open his body for the man and pushed a hand down between their bodies to gently touch Inaho’s hardness and guide it to his entrance. He took a deep breath as he felt the tip touch his already sensitive bud and then gave Inaho a waiting look. The brunet pushed his hips forward and slowly entered Slaine’s body. It pushed him open and the feeling of it sliding in deeper sent shivers down Slaine’s spine and his body went limp once again from the feeling of Inaho invading him. He lifted his arms to put them around Inaho’s neck to pull the man closer and the brunet lay down on top him. Slaine found the man’s heaviness pleasing; he felt entirely consumed by the bandit and he had nowhere to run or hide. It was scary but he welcomed it.

Inaho’s breaths tickled Slaine’s ears as he pushed his stiffness into the blond. He let out quiet gasps and moans the deeper he pushed. Slaine was already trembling again from the pleasure and he let his head rest against the bed. He closed his eyes to feel Inaho slowly fill him up. His insides were sensitive and screaming from painful pleasure as his flesh was forced apart by the intruder.

“Inaho…!” Slaine cried and hugged Inaho harder.

“Ah… Slaine…” Inaho gasped and finally buried himself in Slaine all the way to the hilt. “Haah… You good…?” he asked to make sure the blond was all right, and Slaine nodded.

“Y-yes… Mmh…”

Inaho began slowly pulling out and then pushed back in and Slaine shivered violently due to his already heightened sensitivity; his spine felt like it would begin burning again. Pleading whimpers escaped his lips and he pushed his cheek against Inaho’s neck as the man began moving slightly faster while Slaine’s body adjusted to his size. The brunet seemed to enjoy the feeling of Slaine inclosing the most sensitive part of his body with his flesh. Inaho grunted and gasped each time Slaine’s inner muscles twitched and tightened when Inaho hit that sensitive spot with the tip, and the man showed no kindness once he had found it. He grinded his tip against it and Slaine shook helplessly beneath him and cried loudly from pleasure with nowhere to flee. He buried his nails into Inaho’s back in desperation as his body was claimed and sank his teeth into Inaho’s neck to stop himself from screaming. He was losing his mind as Inaho moved inside him.

“Aargh…! Slaine!” Inaho gasped as Slaine clawed at his back and pulled at his neck with his teeth. “Agh! Mmph!”

Inaho’s noises were heating Slaine up further to a point he did not think was possible. He writhed and squirmed beneath the man before Inaho began pounding into him, clearly excited from Slaine’s abusing nails and teeth. Slaine cried from pleasure and was muffled from desperately him biting the man who ravished him. He wanted to give Inaho as much pleasure he could and in his lusty state he did not mind if the brunet would break him.

“U-use me…! AAHHH!” Slaine cried and took another hold of Inaho’s neck with his teeth and the bandit’s movements became harder, deeper, faster and powerful. Slaine’s loins burned so badly from pleasure that tears rolled down his cheeks since he did not know what else to do to bear it. It was so intense and so intimate his mind was muddled and his eyes rolled back behind his closed eyelids. Inaho was merciless as he took whatever pleasure he wanted from Slaine who willingly let the man take it.

“Slaine!” Inaho gasped with his low voice. “Aahh…! Slaine! Slaine!”

Slaine wanted to yell at him to stop calling his name but dared not to let go of Inaho’s neck with his teeth or else he would scream from helpless pleasure and alert the entire building. His own name attacked his ears with Inaho’s smooth voice again and again, and his defensive walls crumbled around him each time he heard his name.

The sounds of bodies slamming against each other and both loud and quiet cries and moans filled the room for such long time that Slaine had gone limp beneath Inaho who still pounded into him. He had reached climax a second time and after that his body had been so overthrown from the pleasure he had no strength to anything. Inaho moved inside him with ease from all the wetness their bodies had produced. Slaine was sore and he did not care the slightest; all he wanted was to hear Inaho’s pleasured gasps and moans and he did not mind letting the man keep going for as long as he wanted. Inaho seemed to feel the same way as he exhaustedly moved on top of Slaine; each time Inaho had gotten close to an orgasm he had calmed his movements until he could continue to give Slaine pleasure. It had made Slaine lose all track of time.

“Ina … ho…!” he gasped voicelessly as Inaho’s body grinded against his. They were a drunken mess once again but this time they were not drunk on whiskey, but pleasure. “Ahhhh… A-are you … all right…? Haahh…”

“Yes…” Inaho answered breathlessly. The man was exhausted and yet he could not seem to stop.

“I-it’s … all right… Mmmhh… You c-can … end it…” Slaine tried to whisper while he panted for breath. “You can… Hnngh … inside…”

Slaine was barely able to keep track of what he was saying since his mind was numbed. It was a wonderful numbness and no matter how exhausted he had been previously in his life this was the first time he was so weak he had trouble organizing his own thoughts and actions. When Inaho gathered the last of his strength to push himself over the edge of an orgasm Slaine raised his head slightly to gasp into Inaho’s ear; he knew Inaho loved to hear him being under the man’s spell.

“Slaine…! Aaahh…” the man gasped and shivered from Slaine’s breaths against his ear.

“Cum…” Slaine encouraged him with a sultry gasp and once again his body began building up that painful tension when Inaho’s movements became more intense.

It hurt when his exhausted body was forced into another release and yet he could not help but to anticipate it. His abdomen tensed up enough to push harder against Inaho’s chest. Weakly he put his arms tighter around Inaho’s torso to find some kind of support as his body was begging for mercy. The bandit’s gasps turned into strained breaths when Slaine tightened around him. Slaine hugged him closer and his body convulsed once again. Then – the moment he let out a cry from a painful and sweet orgasm – he heard Inaho let out a sharp gasping moan and pushed himself into Slaine as far as he could reach and shook as he climaxed as well.

“Aahhgh!”

The brunet collapsed onto Slaine and panted for breath for a while and Slaine closed his eyes as his body relaxed as well to try and regain some of his thought back. They were sweaty and Slaine felt disgusted from how wet they both were but it was a disgust he enjoyed; it was worth it considering how wonderfully exhausted and tortured they both were.

“Inaho…” he panted and his sweaty palm moved across Inaho’s back and up to his neck, and then he buried his fingers into Inaho’s messy hair. “We need to … take a bath … tomorrow again…”

Inaho lifted his head and his body trembled from the exhaustion. They tiredly gazed at each other for a while and the brunet caressed Slaine’s cheek gently before giving him a kiss. He pulled out of him to reach for the jug of water on the bedside table and offered it for Slaine. Slaine’s throat was so dry and he did not hesitate to drink half of the water in the jug. It felt wonderful to drink some water. After Inaho had emptied the second half he lay down onto the bed next to the blond.

“Do you have … any defenses left?” the brunet asked with his breath almost caught in his throat.

Slaine stared at him for a while without understanding what the man was talking about, but then remembered and sighed loudly.

“You certainly … did go all in … to make me exposed,” he gasped as an answer and smiled weakly. Inaho had pushed himself only to be true to his word to tear down Slaine’s protective walls. His hard work had been fruitful; he had succeeded. “You messed me up,” he then chuckled tiredly and rolled his head to the side to look at the hard working bandit next to him. “I’m wide open…”

There was no self-consciousness, no shame and no uncertainties or fear anymore. To Slaine it did not matter any longer he had only known Inaho for three days. Why care about the amount of days when they had found joy from each other so quickly? He did not care if Inaho made him feel awkward or embarrassed about himself. Why care about pride at all when there was no need to compete with each other? Slaine’s mind had been put into rest and it felt like a relief.

Inaho reached out a hand to caress Slaine’s chest lovingly.

“Thank you,” he whispered between his ragged breaths and closed his eyes. “Rest now and … go to sleep.”

Slaine rolled onto his side to get closer to the brunet and gave his shoulder a kiss.

“You too…” he whispered and they both drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Text

It was early morning. He stood in front of the high gates which blocked his way into the courtyard of Governor Allusia’s mansion. Slaine swallowed hard as he closed in on the guards guarding the gates. He walked somewhat stiffly due to his and Inaho’s activities the night before and he was certain he looked like he had been horseback riding for ten days straight.

I must look ridiculous ,’ he sighed and pulled his new hat lower over his eyes to protect them from the scorching sun. Yuki had provided him with a set of her own clothes for the time being; they were the right size due to both Slaine and Yuki being of the same height. Her hat was slightly bigger than Slaine’s though; the blond had felt a slight sting in his pride from having a smaller head than her. Why? He had no idea…

Yuki had dropped him off further down the street. She had accompanied Slaine on her horse which she called Mustang for the lack of a better name; it was a black horse which seemed to be of the aggressive type – much like Cruhteo’s horse Tharsis, which was the man’s pride and joy. Slaine on the other hand had gotten Mr. Craftman’s stolen horse as his own and called it simply Sky. It was a calm horse which suited Slaine’s temperament pretty well.

Finally he stepped up to one of the guards and felt somewhat unsure of what to say at first, and as the guard – who had a Colt Walker gun in his holster – turned his squinting eyes at him Slaine took a deep breath:

“I’m here to see Officer Cruhteo. I’m working for him as his gunman and he was supposed to arrive to Governor Allusia’s private home a couple of days ago along with Lady Allusia. Would you mind telling him Slaine Troyard is here?”

The guard stared at him with intimidating eyes and played with the handle to his gun before he turned around toward the gates and told a servant – who had been sitting in a little shed on the other side of the gates and wall – to inform Cruhteo what Slaine had just told him. While the servant was away doing his duty Slaine threw a glance over his shoulder and saw Yuki observe him from behind a corner in an alley. She stood like a man, leaning her back against the wooden wall of a store which had not yet opened its doors for customers. Her hat was lowered over her eyes to hide her identity and she discreetly nodded to him to let him know she would be waiting there with Mustang and Sky ready once Slaine had signaled her he was on his way back with the camera.

It took a while but when the servant arrived, someone was with him. It was the young lady who had made Slaine’s heart skip beats in his chest each time he saw her – but now his heart was completely calm with the skips and made a hard thump against his ribcage instead. Slaine got reminded about what he was about to do to her father.

“Oh, Slaine! You made it!” Lady Asseylum cried out and waited for the servant to open the gates so she could greet Slaine properly. The moment Slaine stepped through the gates she took both of his hands into hers and looked at him with a relieved gaze. “I was so worried. I thought you were killed by the bandit!”

A reassuring smile crept over his lips automatically.

“You shouldn’t need to worry about me, Lady Allusia. I was hired as a lawman for a reason – but thank you for showing such concern toward someone like me,” he said happily, but it was all just faked. He was not happy to see her. “We should probably get inside. The city is not safe for you yet.”

They accompanied each other to the white doors leading into the mansion – which was pompous and grand in many ways with tall windows and wide doors. The young lady explained to Slaine what had happened once he had fallen off the train with Deadeye Lee, and apparently Cruhteo had managed to chase the bandits away by pushing them back all the way through the train.

Well, they seemed fine when I met them yesterday so I guess Cruhteo did not get them ,’ Slaine thought and frowned naturally from the awkwardness from suddenly becoming a member of the same gang which had attacked the train.

“I am so glad you are back, Slaine. I missed you. I shall show you to your room,” Asseylum continued but suddenly a shrill childlike voice screamed from down the hall:

“You should not show a gunman his room, my lady! You are the daughter to the Governor and should not lower yourself to such tasks!”

Slaine looked up and met the childishly angry eyes of a little girl with blue eyes of a slightly purple hue and brown tied up hair. It was Asseylum’s handmaiden Eddelrittuo – a little girl who was properly trained into a maid of excellent skills. She had never thought highly of Slaine and would probably never do that either. To her he was nothing but a lowlife gunman who was not worthy to accompany the young lady despite Asseylum having told her she enjoyed Slaine as a friend.

“Oh, Eddelrittuo, you should not greet our guests like that,” Asseylum playfully scolded. The blond young lady tilted her head slightly as she smiled with a hand covering her lips, and releasing a pretty chuckle.

“It’s all right, my lady,” Slaine said smiling. “Where is Officer Cruhteo, if I may ask?” he then said and threw a smiling glance at the 12-year old Eddelrittuo who pouted toward him with a clearly despising expression.

Asseylum was just about to answer when Eddelrittuo got to speak first, and thus interrupted the Governor’s daughter from speaking:

“Officer Cruhteo is in the garden,” the girl spat and walked over to Asseylum to brush off the hem of her skirt to the pearly white dress, even if there was no dust on it.

“Allow me to find my way there. You don’t have to accompany me since I do believe you have better things to do,” Slaine said and bowed slightly with his head while making sure the hat would not fall off.

“Out of the question! Who knows what you will steal when nobody is looking!” the girl shrieked and Asseylum patted her gently on her head.

“There, there, Eddelrittuo. I doubt Slaine would be stealing anything. He is an honest man,” she said with a pretty voice which always had reminded Slaine about a little bluebird, and suddenly Slaine felt sick in his stomach. All the color ran off his face.

I’m sorry... ’ he thought with a slightly heavier heart. He knew Asseylum never would have thought of Slaine becoming a bandit - and yet there he was, standing in the borrowed clothes of one of the bandits who had tried to kidnap the young lady - a bandit Slaine had befriended the night before and was now working with. ‘ I will not steal what I don’t need! ’ Slaine thought and made a vow to himself right there and then. ‘ At least I will try to be as honest as a bandit can be ...

“Thank you, my lady, for thinking so highly of me. Although I do understand Miss Eddelrittuo’s reasoning,” Slaine answered and forced a smile onto his lips again.

The little girl pursed her lips while she glared at Slaine and after reassuring them that Slaine would go straight out into the garden to meet with Cruhteo, Slaine was finally allowed to walk through the mansion alone. He met servants on his way who gave him a slight bow or curtsey, and as he stepped out into the hot sun he saw the back of the man he was looking for. Cruhteo sat together with the Governor and Slaine suddenly felt a cold sweat wet his back. He turned on his heel immediately and returned into the mansion and hid behind the wall next to the door into the garden; he could not let the Governor see him if Slaine was supposed to seduce him in the near future while disguised into a dove.

Slaine had to know where Cruhteo had his room without making it seem suspicious of why he would be interested in his employer’s room. ‘ Maybe it’s in the guest house? ’ he thought and pondered on if he should try to find his way there but quickly abandoned the idea. It would look even more suspicious if he was wandering around without knowing where to go.

Then he got an idea.

“Excuse me,” Slaine said to a maid he met in the corridor on his way back to the front door where he had come from. “I was asked to get a leather case with some documents from my Lord’s room; Officer Cruhteo. Where is it?”

The maid stared at him for a short moment before she seemed to have woken up from some kind of trance, and she blushed with a coy smile and gave Slaine a curtsey. Slaine felt slightly awkward and answered with a slight smile.

“I shall show you, sir,” she said and walked down the corridor.

Slaine followed her with nervous steps as he was closing in on his loot. They exited the building through a servant door and into the backyard of the mansion where a grand guest house stood, decorated with tall windows much like the main mansion, and with wide doors as well.

“Do you need any help, sir?” the maid asked and Slaine quickly shook his head.

“N-no, thank you. I know what Officer Cruhteo asked me to get, so I can manage, Miss,” he answered with a stammering voice.

“Did you get the key?” she then wondered and Slaine wanted to sink through the ground and disappear.

I forgot about the door probably being locked!

He smiled with a frown and scratched the back of his neck as he stared down at the ground beneath his feet.

“I guess Officer Cruhteo forgot about that…” he mumbled. “Oh well, I should just head back and ask for the key.”

No way I can do that! ’ he thought secretly with a slight panic. ‘ But I could try my luck and see if Lady Luck is on my side.

Suddenly his frown disappeared and he looked at the slightly blushing maid with a gentlemanly smile and then took a hold of her hand to lift it up - just like he had done the night before when he had greeted Inaho’s sister and friends. They had enjoyed it far more than Slaine thought was normal and hopefully this maid would answer with the same reaction.

Women of lower rank probably aren’t treated like proper ladies ,’ he figured.

“Although, I could ask for your help to unlock the door, Miss,” he said with a slightly lower voice and looked her straight in her eyes. He held her hand close to his lips but did not touch it. Not yet. “That way I don’t need to interrupt my Lord in his important discussion with the Governor, nor make him seem to be forgetful in front of the Governor. I would appreciate your help a lot.”

The maid blushed into a deeper red color and stared back at him without blinking. She seemed distracted and anticipated for Slaine to kiss the back of her hand.

“Oh… S-sir, I’m not sure if I…” she began but her voice faded out.

A sigh slipped out from between Slaine’s lips and the blond bandit released her hand. The maid instantly got a disappointed look on her face.

“I understand, Miss. I can’t ask you to do something you probably aren’t allowed to do. I should go and ask my Lord for the key. Thank you for guiding me, Miss,” he said and was about to leave and go back into the mansion while praying the woman would change her mind.

“S-sir!” she exclaimed and hurried up to him. “If you were ordered to bring your Lord’s leather case then I don’t think there are any problems with helping you with that,” she then continued.

Slaine smiled brightly at her and she gave him a shy smile. Relief washed over him.

“That would be so helpful!” he said happily. “I feel bad for having to make my Lord look like someone who would forget about things - especially in front of the Governor.”

The maid searched for the keys in the pocket of her apron and smiled satisfied while walking up to the door to the guest house and unlock it. Slaine followed her and prayed no one else would see him enter the house. As the door swung open he gave her a bow and gently took a hold of her hand again to lift it up to his lips and give it a soft peck on its back.

“Thank you  so much, my lady. I can  manage from  here,” he said with the gentle smile he had given Inaho’s gang members the night before.

The maid almost swooned and when she had collected herself she stammered:

“B-but someone has to l-lock the door after you are d-done.”

Crap! I forgot about that too! I’m a terrible bandit! ’ Slaine thought frustrated and felt like someone had smacked him on his head. He was so stressed out a headache had begun to bloom in his skull.

“Oh, yes of course,” he said and straightened his back again from the bow and released her hand. “Then do you  mind waiting here? It won’t take long, my lady.”

As the maid had given him a positive answer the blond bandit walked into the guesthouse with cold sweat running down his forehead and his limbs trembled. How was he supposed to hide the case with the camera from the maid when he exited the guest house? He had told her he was searching for a leather case with documents, not a case with a camera.

He pondered on what to do while he walked down the corridor with doors on either side of him. He checked each room; a lounge, an entertainment room, sleeping quarters and something that reminded Slaine of an office. There, on the desk made of rosewood, he saw the case with the camera inside. He swallowed hard and stared at it for a few seconds before he dared to take steps closer. This was it. He would commit his first thievery. He would become a bandit for real the moment he took a hold of the case with the intention of running away with it.

What do I do? ’ he thought and raised his hand to open the case and look inside it to make sure the camera was in there. ‘ How will I run away? ’ The brass camera was securely enclosed in soft cloths and all the chemicals were placed securely in place in small pockets. He closed the case quickly and thought about what to do. He could shove the maid out of his way and run for the gates but that would probably end up with a loud commotion which would attract more attention than Slaine could afford. He was not used to this kind of situations and was not sure of what way to go.

He looked around and then stared at the window which let in the bright sun from outside. It was still before noon.

“The window,” he whispered excitedly and hurried over to the window to look out through it and see where he could go from there. He could circle around the house and walk with confidence toward the gates to make it seem like he was allowed to do what he was doing and as he would arrive to the gates he would give Yuki the signal and together they would take down the guards on either side of the gates.

Perfect! ’ he thought with his confidence slowly rising. ‘ Inaho will be proud! ’ After a short moment he stopped and felt stupid. ‘ Make Inaho proud? Get yourself together! I’m not a kid anymore!

He took the case from the table and opened the window as quietly as he could. Carefully he jumped out through it and hurried around to the back of the house. He could hear the maid call for him from the other side of the house. Apparently she thought he had been gone for slightly too long and Slaine could hear her ask if he was all right and if he had found what he had been looking for.

I’m sorry! ’ Slaine thought and hurried to the corner of the house which allowed him to see the gates from afar. It was a terribly long walk to the gates and Slaine clicked his tongue and childishly cursed at the ridiculously big mansion grounds. The distance he would have to walk with confidence was at least 1000 feet. His confidence would break down before he reached the gates.

Slaine swallowed hard. He could not stay and hide behind the guesthouse forever – even though that thought was quite appealing at the moment. He tightened the grip around the camera case handle, gritted his teeth bravely, stomped his heel against the soft grass in determination, straightened his back proudly and took a deep breath to calm his nerves.

You can do this! If you managed to dress up as a dove and let a stranger fondle you then this is a piece of cake! ’ he thought and stepped out from behind the corner and headed straight to the gates.

One step.

Two steps.

Three steps.

Four steps.

… …

F-five steps…

Being out in the open like that with nowhere to hide was suddenly frightening. His confidence had plummeted within just a couple of seconds and his limbs began trembling. Slaine wanted to turn back and hide. Maybe it was not as bad as he thought to work for Cruhteo? Of course, he had to leave Inaho and his friends behind and that would have been sad as well as difficult – and probably stupid…

No! Pull yourself together, Slaine Troyard! You can do this! You don’t have to go back to the bad life you have lived this far! Besides… ’ he thought and blushed as he straightened his back further and raised his head to stare right ahead with determination. ‘ When I get out of here and succeed with stealing the camera I will be the one to push Inaho down as a reward for my hard work!

The moment he thought of the promise Inaho had given him that morning before they had set their plan in motion, Slaine found his confidence again. He would not lose to Deadeye Lee and he would get his reward of this time being the bully in bed. A slight menacing grin rose to his lips and he suddenly felt happy.

If you come back with the camera I will let you have your way with me ,” Inaho had told him in the morning after Slaine had been ranting about how much his hips hurt from the night’s activities. When Slaine had asked why Inaho would promise something like that the bandit had answered: “ Because you complain about your body hurting. I think we should switch the wife role between us for equality purposes .

The moment Slaine had learned he would get to be the husband the following night the blond had gotten excited and motivated for the job he had taken on. Slaine had to hold onto that motivation now when he needed it the most. He could do this! He would do this!

I’ll be the best bandit there is!

“Idiot!” he suddenly heard someone yell from the direction of the mansion, and Slaine froze to the spot. It was Trillram’s voice. “What are you doing?”

Scratch that. I’m a terrible bandit! ’ Slaine thought and swallowed hard as he turned to look at the man with the silly looking bowl cut hair. Trillram was grinning with his usual grin of a bully and was walking toward him. Slaine’s mind went haywire with trying to find a path which he could take. He could just start running but that would alert all the guards who were close by, and he would reveal what he was up to by reacting with suspicious behavior.

“Sir Trillram,” Slaine said and tried to sound natural, but his voice came out with a high pitched tone. “I will have to go to-“ he began but was interrupted when the slightly older man walked up to him and stood tall in front of him like he always did to try and intimidate Slaine, and said:

“What’s up with that camera case? You going somewhere with it?” he asked and Slaine swallowed hard again.

“Y-yes. Officer Cruhteo wanted me to … uh … get him some new chemicals for the camera, or whatever they are called,” Slaine lied. He hated how nervous he sounded; it was out of character for him to speak nervously to Trillram since he usually answered with a sigh and did not bother to give Trillram the reaction the man was after. Slaine was usually obedient toward Trillram’s whims.

“Hm? Then why are you taking the entire case with you instead of just the bottles?” Trillram asked with eyes narrowing.

Slaine’s mind went through his options quickly and said:

“Because I don’t know what chemicals they are, so it’s easier for them to know what chemicals Officer Cruhteo needs if they see the camera at the store,” he lied and hoped Trillram would not catch onto the lie.

The dark haired man arched an eyebrow and grinned teasingly.

“You really are stupid,” he scoffed. “The bottles have labels on them, don’t they?”

Why does he have to be so smart when he looks so stupid!? ’ Slaine cursed and panic bubbled up in his body. The adrenaline was intoxicating his everything and egged him to run.

“There you are, sir!” he head a female voice say from behind him. “Did you find the leather case with the documents?” Ice coursed through Slaine’s spine hearing the woman speak. He looked over his shoulder and saw the maid he had asked to unlock the guesthouse door. She looked confusedly at the big case in Slaine’s hand. “Are those the documents?”

Slaine did not know what to answer. He could lie to neither of them since both of them stood right next to him. He was cornered.

“Documents? But you said you were going to buy new chemicals for the camera,” Trillram said and looked confused as well.

“Camera?” the maid repeated and tilted her head slightly as she looked up at Slaine. She looked like she was about to cry, clearly understanding that Slaine had been lying to her.

“Wait,” Trillram mused and this time a horrible grin spread on his face. “You are trying to steal the camera, aren’t you, idiot?”

Slaine’s brain activity died from the intense panic and without thinking anything at all he suddenly darted off running toward the gates with the camera case in hand. He could hear Trillram yell at him to stop and the maid screamed something about a thief, and immediately the guards at the gates reacted.

Call for Yuki! ’ Slaine reminded himself while he kept running toward the gates even if the guards were in the middle of the motion of pulling their guns at him.

Quickly the blond bandit – since that was what he had become the moment he had taken the camera – pulled his gun from the holster and aimed it up at the sky. A shot echoed in the area like an angry bang of thunder. A second bang echoed and Slaine knew it was not his shot he heard. Trillram was probably shooting at him; the man had always been trigger happy but was of the nervous kind of character the moment he was confronted with an enemy barrel toward his forehead. The man was familiar with this problem and since Slaine had always been levelheaded behind the trigger during confrontations Trillram had found a reason to bully him out of jealousy. Now the trigger happy man was aiming his gun at him.

In the middle of his run Slaine stopped and turned around. He found his aim quickly and pulled the trigger, and as the echo of the shot had disappeared Trillram’s hat had fallen off of his head and fell to the ground behind him. Trillram stared at Slaine in shock with all the color drained from his face, and Slaine turned back around to continue running toward the gates where the guards were aiming at him.

What do I do!? ’ he thought distressed as Yuki had not shown up. ‘ Where are you, Yuki!?

Gunshots whizzed past his head and body, and he was running straight at his assaulters. He had to do something or he would be hit any moment, and so he raised his gun, stopped and took an aim again but this time at one of the guards. He pulled the trigger and the guard fell to the ground and let out a painful cry as he grabbed his wounded thigh where Slaine had shot him. The other guard looked at his colleague and then gave Slaine an icy stare, and the man grabbed his gun with both hands.

Something cut Slaine’s right side of his torso and a stinging feeling spread from the wounded place. It did not hurt like a proper gunshot, and so he figured the bullet had only grazed his skin.

It’s all right! ’ he thought as his mind began to cooperate with him. ‘ I hurt your colleague.

Blood for blood; it was a fair trade, he thought.

A horse neighed somewhere on the other side of the gates and that was when Slaine realized the gunshots he heard were not only by the guards on the mansion grounds.

“Sorry for the delay!” he heard Yuki’s voice from outside of the gates. “Hang in there!”

Within a couple of moments the gates were pulled open by force and Yuki came riding into the mansion grounds with Slaine’s horse in tow. Slaine saw her throw a rope away which she had had coiled around her saddle horn; she had forced the gates open with it. She rode toward the guard who was still sanding to make him throw himself to the ground to save himself and then steered toward Slaine.

“Gimme the camera!” she said in a hurry and Slaine did as she asked and gave it to her before he swung up on his horse. “Good grief! You made a spectacle!” she said with an excited grin playing on her face and turned her horse around toward the open gates.

Right in time, before the guards who had been inside the mansion and stable had run out to help the guards at the gates, Slaine and Yuki dashed out of the mansion grounds and hurried toward the city to get away. As Slaine had rode past the wounded guard he had hurried to yell an apology for the man right before he and Yuki had disappeared through the gate opening.

“They’ll probably come after us! We need to hurry back to the brothel without them seeing us,” Yuki said as they galloped side by side and urged their horses to run faster.

“I’m sorry!” Slaine yelled in dismay. “I was supposed to sneak in there and take the camera without anyone noticing. I put everyone at the mansion on alert by failing with my mission!”

“Don’t worry, pretty boy,” Yuki said and flashed a reassuring grin to Slaine. “You did great! We’ll come up with something! You got the camera, right? That’s the important part beside you being all right!”

Slaine frowned as he felt ashamed of his failure but he tried to hear Yuki’s encouraging words with the value she put in them. He had failed to secretly steal the camera and now the security around the mansion would be raised higher. That meant the others would have a problem with sneaking into the mansion grounds to take a picture of when Slaine was to seduce the Governor.

But if Yuki says it’s all right then I should trust her ,’ he thought as they rode into a back alley and continued to snake through the alleys until they came to the back of the brothel where the service entrance was located.

“They shouldn’t have been able to keep track of us. The alleys are a maze in this city, so let’s leave the horses here to hide them,” Yuki said and got off her horse with the camera case in hand.

“What if the staff notices the horses?” Slaine asked as he followed her example and descended from his horse’s back as well.

“I’ll pay them to shush. Don’t worry,” Yuki said with a smile and together they entered the brothel through the service door.

The activity level in the brothel was low; some men who clearly were battling with a hangover from the previous night’s party were slumped over the bar desk with a new glass in hand while the doves either helped to clean up the place or prepared themselves for the day’s work. Slaine stuck close to Yuki as the woman walked with determined steps toward the stairs with the camera case in a secure hand. As they entered the girls’ room Slaine met everyone’s relieved gazes when they saw him step in through the door.

“Thank goodness you did it!” Nina exclaimed and threw herself back against the couch’s backrest. She looked like she had been relieved of worry. “I was so worried for you!”

“Did everything go all right?” Inko asked and hurried up to Slaine and Yuki to look at them both in a manner as if she was checking them for injuries.

“Did you have such little hopes in me?” Slaine said with a wry smile and felt somewhat downbeat after his first try to steal something being a failure according to himself.

“Not really,” Inko explained and finished checking Yuki before she continued inspecting Slaine. “It’s just that since you are new we are naturally nervous, but we do believe in yo-” she began but suddenly went pale. “You’re hurt!”

Slaine jumped from her loud and unexpected cry and then got reminded he had been grazed by a bullet. The shirt he wore still felt wet around the area of the wound which meant it had not stopped bleeding entirely yet.

“Oh…! Yes, but it’s not that bad,” he said and looked down at the wound which he yet had not had time to inspect. His right hip was covered with blood.“It just stings a little.”

“Wait what!? You’re hurt!?” Yuki yelled and looked shocked, but before anyone had had the time to do anything Inko was pushed aside and Inaho emerged from behind her.

Inaho grabbed Slaine wrist and pulled him toward the door.

“Let us be alone,” he said with a slight stern tone to his voice, to the women.

“I-Inaho! Hey!” Slaine stammered as he was pulled out of the room without resisting the bandit who was in a serious mood. “I’m fine!”

Inaho did not answer him and they entered their room. The bandit showed Slaine to the bed and had him sit down on it before Inaho pulled out his handkerchief from his shirt pocket. He wetted it with the water from the refilled water pitcher.

“Open your shirt,” he ordered and Slaine frowned but did as he was told. Inaho sat down on the floor on his knees and immediately began dabbing the wet handkerchief against Slaine’s wound to wash away the blood and clean it properly. “If you do not treat wounds they are bound to get infected sooner or later. That is dangerous,” the brunet then said quietly while Slaine hissed from the stinging feeling from his irritated wound.

“I know,” Slaine said with a slight smile playing on his lips and remembered his father who had said something similar when Slaine had been a child and scraped up his knee while playing. “How bad is it?”

“It is shallow but your flesh has been torn by the bullet which makes it bleed more,” the bandit said seriously but then continued with a quiet and downcast voice: “You should be careful; you will get scarring once it heals.”

Slaine chuckled but suddenly hissed again as the wound stung, and his face contorted with pain.

“I don’t mind,” he said from between his gritted teeth. “It’s impossible to avoid scars anyway - especially as a bandit.”

The wound stung enough to make Slaine throw back his head and squeeze his eyes shut, and the blond let out a muffled groan. The wound began to feel raw even if Inaho cleaned it gently. The shock from being shot had probably begun to disappear and so the reality of a hurting wound caught up to the man who just moments ago had become a bandit. Out of nowhere he felt a tickle against his skin right above his wound and he quickly looked down to see Inaho kiss his skin gently.

“Your skin is too beautiful for scars,” the dark haired desperado whispered and lifted his hand to grab Slaine’s left hip and give it a gentle squeeze as he kissed the skin around Slaine’s wound.

Slaine smiled wryly and blushed.

“Th-thank you,” he whispered. “But don’t treat me like I’m made of glass. I don’t mind scars. You have a couple of them yourself.”

Inaho did not look up at him but kept kissing the blond man’s skin with soft lips, and between the kisses he said:

“Do you want us to match?”

Slaine could not help but to chuckle at that.

“Would that be awful?” he asked with a smile and brushed his slender fingers through Inaho’s hair. The brunet looked up at him with his usual blank expression. “To have you treating my wounds like this isn’t half bad at all,” Slaine continued with a whisper.

A weak blush bloomed on Inaho’s cheeks and he gave Slaine a small but happy smile. Slaine’s heart skipped a beat seeing the other look at him with such compassion.

Never stop looking at me like that ,’ Slaine thought and cupped Inaho’s cheeks in his hands and bent down toward his lips. Inaho quickly raised himself to meet Slaine’s lips halfway and they locked into a kiss. Wet noises occupied their ears as their lips and tongues played together for a little while before Slaine had to pull back. He frowned and straightened his back.

“Ow…” he complained. His wound burned from him being in an awkward position which the wound did not agree to. “It really stings.”

“You should not strain yourself. It will hurt a little now as well but bear with it,” Inaho answered and then pressed his handkerchief hard against the wound and Slaine groaned out loud:

“Ow! Ow ow ow!”

“Hold it there,” Inaho said and grabbed Slaine’s hand to push it against the handkerchief, and once Slaine did as Inaho showed him the brunet got up from the floor to help Slaine undress from his bloodied shirt. He ripped the shirt into shreds and then went on to wrap the shreds around Slaine’s waist to have them add pressure against the wound. “You should rest until the wound has stopped bleeding and take it easy for a couple of days.”

“We won’t continue with our plan as soon as possible?” Slaine asked confused; he had thought they would continue with dressing him up as a dove and have him seduce the Governor instantly after he had stolen the camera.

“You have to rest and we have to figure out how the camera works. Do you know anything about it?” Inaho asked and Slaine shook his head.

“No. I have only taken a picture of Cruhteo and Lady Allusia but I haven’t handled the chemicals at all. Cruhteo did that,” he answered and felt troubled to not be able to be of any more help.

“You have done enough,” Inaho reminded him. “Leave it to us; we shall figure it out. You did a good job today.”

Slaine smiled and knitted his eyebrows from embarrassment. He could not help but to think about Inaho’s promise from earlier that morning.

“Will I get my reward then?” he asked and looked at the bandit who stood in front of him.

Inaho stared down at him and his faint blush intensified just a little.

“You will. If you feel better later tonight I will give you your reward,” the bandit said quietly before he turned toward the door. “I should go and help the girls figure out how the camera works. Will you come as well?”

Slaine nodded.

“I’ll just clean up this mess,” the blond answered and pointed at the blood covered clothes. They were Yuki’s after all so the least he could do was to wash away the blood from them.

“Rayet and Nina were out to buy you some new clothes, so once you are finished you can change into them instead,” Inaho informed before he left the blond alone.

When the door had closed behind Inaho Slaine could not help but to laugh quietly. He could have sworn he saw the bandit feel embarrassed owing Slaine that kind of a reward even if he had promised him one. Slaine had managed to steal the camera and so he wanted to be the one to mount Inaho during their second night at the brothel.

I won’t let you hide from it ,’ he thought with a wide smile playing on his lips as he got up from the bed to head into the bathroom and undress to begin washing the clothes with the water and soap he found there.

***

“... but if we wet the plates with this, it should do the trick and develop a picture,” he heard Inko say before Slaine knocked on the door and then slowly opened it.

The moment he peeked inside he saw everyone aim their guns at him with spooked expressions on their faces, but when they realized it was only him they breathed out a relieved sigh.

“You scared us,” Yuki sighed and put down her gun. “You don’t know our secret knock?”

“N-no,” Slaine mumbled. “If you’re that jumpy why didn’t you lock the door?” he then inquired as he stepped into the room wrapped in a bedsheet and carried Yuki’s clothes under his arm.

“I did not lock it since I figured you would join us when you were finished,” Inaho said first expressionlessly but then his eyes narrowed slightly the moment he saw Slaine in the bedsheet.

“Oh, um…” Slaine stepped inside and closed the door behind him and locked it. He walked over to Yuki and put her neatly folded clothes in front of her on the table where the camera and camera equipment were standing in a mess all over the surface. “Thank you for lending your clothes to me, Miss. I am truly grateful.”

Yuki stared at him in silence with a blush slowly crawling over her cheeks but then she blinked and smiled gently.

“It’s no problem at all,” she answered and pointed at a bundle of fabric - held together with a string which was wrapped around the bundle - on a chair in a corner of the room. “Your new clothes are there. I hope they fit.”

“Me and Rayet were out buying them this morning,” Nina said excitedly. “I am positive you’ll look handsome in them!”

Slaine chuckled somewhat embarrassed as her excitement and thanked her and Rayet humbly. Nina giggled happily while Rayet turned her face away from Slaine with a pout, but a blush hinted on her cheeks. ‘ A sign of her warming up to me? ’ the blond thought while smiling.

“You should hurry changing into those,” Inaho said bluntly while he held up one of the chemical bottles in front of him to take a closer look at it.

Slaine threw a glance at the man who seemed to show some kind of jealousy, and the blond bandit took the bundle of clothes with him to the girls’ bathroom to change. It turned out to be a proper full set of clothes, and they looked like they were of the slightly finer quality than Slaine was used to. The white shirt’s fabric was slightly thicker which meant it would not tear easily, and the dark brown trousers felt heavy. He got a black pinstriped vest to match and a dark duster coat made with thick canvas. A belt with a big beltbuckle and a black bandana accompanied the rest as accessories.

I will look like a rich asshole! ’ he thought and sighed but pulled the clothes on without complaints. At least he did not have to walk around in a dress.

He listened to the others talking about the camera and how it worked. They seemed to have trouble figuring it out which was not surprising at all since is was unusual to use cameras. Awkwardly Slaine stepped out into the room where everyone else were and the moment he emerged from behind the door the entire room went quiet.

“Um… I don’t want to complain but - uh - don’t you think this will attract unnecessary attention?” Slaine said as he buttoned the vest.

Everyone kept staring at him in silence - until Yuki squealed:

“Oh, look at you; so handsome I can hardly take it!”

She was about to run over to Slaine with her arms wide open but was stopped by Inaho who had grabbed her shirt to hold her back. Slaine took a step back from shock and confusion.

“Sit down,” Inaho said scoldingly and Yuki let out a complaining groan and pouted.

Nina had stars in her eyes and Inko tried to concentrate on the camera with a heavy blush on her cheeks.

What’s wrong with them? ’ Slaine thought confused and blushed as he remembered back to the maid’s reaction at the mansion. ‘ Don’t tell me they are...

“Is your wound all right?” he heard a low female voice say, and the blond turned his eyes toward Rayet and met her gaze properly for the first time. Rayet was holding a box with wet-plates for the camera.

“Y-yes, thank you,” Slaine answered and smiled, and again Rayet turned her face away from him. “Have you figured anything out about the camera?” he decided to ask to distract everyone from their awkward behavior.

When he was about to sit down next to Inko on the couch Inaho got up from his chair and forced himself between Inko and Slaine without a word, and then kept studying the bottles with chemicals in them. Both Slaine and Inko stared at him confusedly.

“No, we haven’t really understood what the chemicals does,” Rayet answered while everyone else were awkwardly quiet and were conscious about Slaine’s presence.

“We should go to a store dealing with photography,” Inaho said. “I am sure they will help us if we ask.”

“Well, me and Slaine are out of the question since the lawmen are probably looking for us and preparing wanted posters of us,” Yuki pondered after she sat down on her chair again. “And Inaho, you can’t show your face either since you are more notorious than anyone of us. Inko, are you up for it?”

Inko nodded determined.

“I will go with her,” Rayet said. “Just in case something happens.”

Slaine felt himself go pale as Yuki’s words hit him hard; his face was about to be drawn onto wanted posters.

“W-w-wanted posters?” he stammered and slumped against the backrest of the couch with shock. “I haven’t thought about that.”

Nina giggled and waved her hand in front of her with a don’t you worry manner, and said:

“Let’s hope they make you as handsome as you really are.”

“It’s not that bad,” Inko continued. “To be honest no one looks at those posters except bounty hunters, and since you have stolen only a camera your bounty won’t be high enough to even attract a glance to the posters.”

“You sure?” Slaine asked and took a deep breath to calm his nerves. “I did steal a camera from the Governor’s guest house after all.”

“Have you taken a close look on wanted posters before?” Inaho asked and Slaine thought for a while if he could remember a moment like that.

“No. Except yours of course,” the blond answered and Inaho nodded:

“Wanted posters are so common  people do not bother to look at them if the name is unknown for them.”

Yuki went on explaining that each member in the gang was wanted but then again - since female bandits were not taken seriously - the girls had a less harder time than Inaho even if they were known for the lawmen as well. It was easier for the girls to move around in crowds. Slaine’s bounty would probably climb higher depending on what Slaine would decide to do with his bandit career but for the time being it did not matter that much if he attracted attention; he was not known yet. Yuki ended with saying:

“So enjoy those flashy clothes of yours as long as you can because in the future you have to start using plain clothes in order to hide. Take the opportunity to look as handsome as you can because that kind of freedom won’t last forever.”

So that’s why they bought me these kind of clothes... ’ he thought and sighed with relief.

“I understand. Thank you,” Slaine said and felt himself relax somewhat. “What about the money you used to pay for them?”

“You have already paid back by stealing the camera,” Rayet said quietly as she got up to walk toward the door. “Are you coming, Inko?”

The two girls disappeared out through the door to find information about the chemicals for the camera and the rest of the gang began packing away the equipment for the camera into the leather case. After that they continued to prepare food for everyone, and before long Rayet and Inko came back with a detailed description on how to make the camera work and which order the chemicals had to be used. Aparently it had been easy for them to get information by a photographer after Inko had pretended to admire the man’s knowledge. It had encouraged him to explain the entire process of taking a picture and developing it in more detail. It turned out to be called wet-plate collodion and now both Inko and Rayet had the knowledge of how to do it. They explained the entire process during dinner.

Then evening came - a time which Slaine had been anticipating since he wanted to pay Inaho back for the wonderful torture Inaho had submitted him to the night before. Inaho had had his expressionless face the entire day but now that evening came the brunet seemed to become restless - especially since the girls would not leave Slaine alone. Slaine himself did not mind their flirtatious ways since he did not think much about it; he knew who he wanted - but the others’ behavior did not sit well with Inaho.

He’s more possessive than I thought ,’ Slaine thought amused while Inaho was busy talking Nina out of her idea of trying out the camera with her and Slaine in the viewfinder “to make sure it works”. It was the first time someone showed that much affection toward Slaine and the blond could not help but to bask in it; his confidence grew - dangerously so.

“We should get some rest,” Inaho said and suddenly got to his feet from where he had been sitting next to Slaine on the couch. “We should start with our next move tomorrow.”

“But it’s only sunset!” Yuki complained. She had had way too much fun with drinking beer and her cheeks were flushed with red.

“It will be a long day tomorrow,” Inaho continued. “And Slaine has worked hard today and is wounded. He should rest as much as he can.”

Yuki was about to protest but Inaho grabbed Slaine’s wrist and pulled him with him out of the room and into theirs. Slaine had quickly wished the girls goodnight and thanked them again for the clothes, and the moment the door to their private room closed behind him Inaho reached up for a kiss. His biting lips were hungry and Slaine was caught off guard and took a step back from the man, but Inaho followed.

“I-Inaho,” Slaine gasped between their kisses. “What are you-?”

“I feel impatient,” Inaho interrupted him and pushed Slaine toward a chest of drawers at the end of the bed while their lips were locked in a kiss. The wooden furniture rattled against the wall from the impact.

Slaine grabbed Inaho’s shoulders and carefully pushed him back.

“Is it because of the girls?” he asked with a teasing smile and Inaho stopped kissing him to look at him.

“Mostly,” he said honestly. “And also because of the clothes.”

Slaine chuckled.

“You like me in a dress and in these?” he asked and Inaho answered with a brief nod. “I can understand the dress but I am fully dressed with these clothes.”

“It does not matter. Do not take them off,” the other man said quietly. “Just open them a little.”

A tension began building up in the air around them and the blond smiled teasingly.

“Are you trying to say I’m attractive in these?” Slaine whispered as he leaned closer to Inaho’s lips.

Inaho’s fingers fiddled with the belt buckle on Slaine’s belt to open it while they stared intensely at each other with their lips so close they lightly brushed together.

“Yes…”

Slaine suddenly felt like a bully. Inaho was needy and this time Slaine was the one to decide when and where Inaho would get what he asked for. He was unsure if he was allowed to be filled with such confidence but this time he wanted to be the one to make Inaho gasp and moan the way Slaine had done the night before. It was thrilling. Suffocatingly exhilarating...

Slaine grabbed Inaho by the back of his hair and forcefully pushed his lips against Inaho’s. Inaho tried to take a step back from the surprise attack but Slaine held him in such a tight grip the man could not move an inch away from him. There was hardly any room to breathe from the forcefulness in their kiss. Inaho tried to desperately follow Slaine’s lead but the blond bandit was so greedy and intense that Slaine controlled the entire situation. He would not give Inaho any excuse or reason to win this time.

“You’re mine tonight,” Slaine whispered hungrily and saw Inaho’s eyes get a soft expression in them; the desperado had given in to Slaine’s control, just as he had promised.

Slaine’s hands climbed up to open Inaho’s shirt, one button at a time while they kissed each other with their lips and tongues exploring each other’s over and over again. Inaho bit gently down on Slaine’s lower lip as the blond spread the man’s shirt apart to coil his hands around his waist and squeeze his ass cheeks. Inaho instantly let go of the blond’s lip and fell against him, and an intoxicating gasp escaped from the brunet.

“Hahh…” Slaine heard against his shoulder.

Slaine breathed a satisfied sigh and attacked Inaho’s ear with his tongue and teeth. The bandit in his arms shuddered as a sensitive nerve was tickled, and he pulled at Slaine’s shirt when Slaine’s hands became more curious and reached further down between Inaho’s legs from behind. He rubbed the younger man’s sensitive areas with forceful fingertips, properly making him sure of how much Slaine wanted him.

After fondling Inaho’s behind for a while Slaine’s hands finally made their way to the front of Inaho’s pants and opened them slowly while he nibbled at Inaho’s ear. As the front of the man’s pants fell apart Slaine’s hands circled around his waist again but this time dived in under the fabric. He pulled his nails over Inaho’s skin as he squeezed his ass cheeks again and Inaho let out another gasp:

“Ahhh…”

“You like it?” Slaine asked with a husky voice and spread Inaho’s buttox with his hands. Inaho did not reply at first; the man was busy trembling and probably tried to be obstinate. “Inaho…” Slaine whispered into the man’s ear and felt the hands grabbing his shirt squeeze the fabric tighter. “Tell me… Do you like it?”

Inaho nodded silently against Slaine’s neck.

So you like being dominated as well ,’ Slaine declared silently in his mind and smiled confidently. He brushed the tip of his finger against Inaho’s opening between his ass cheeks which made Inaho jerk from the feeling. To ease his passage into the man’s body Slaine raised his hand to cover his fingers with saliva and then continued to tease Inaho’s opening. The brunet unexpectedly thrust his hips forward, forcing a surprised gasp from between Slaine’s lips as their groins pushed against each other. Teeth grazed Slaine’s neck; Inaho attempted to take back some of the control. ‘ No, you don’t!

Slaine pulled Inaho’s head back by tugging at his hair once again. The expression he saw on the brunet’s face made his mind spin; Inaho had a heavy blush on his cheeks and his eyes were glossy from heat. Slaine had never seen such an expressive look on Inaho’s face before and it made the blond feel animalistic. Without delay he pushed the tip of his finger inside Inaho and the bandit closed his eyes and made a loud gasp.

“Ahh!”

Slaine could not look away from Inaho’s face. The way Inaho’s eyebrows came together, and the way the man’s mouth dropped open to moan when Slaine forced his finger deeper into his body, made Slaine want to push him down onto the floor and take him with no consideration for the other.

Calm down…! ’ he thought and collected his thoughts. In order to not lose his self-control Slaine licked Inaho’s jaw down to his neck, and with cruel teeth bit down on Inaho’s neck.

“Haahh!” Inaho exclaimed and arched his back, unintentionally pushing Slaine’s finger deeper into him. “Agh!”

Goosebumps appeared on Inaho’s neck and shoulder, signaling to Slaine how much the man enjoyed it. Slaine slowly realized Inaho had made the suggestion to switch roles because he wanted to release control the same way he had made Slaine lose it. At the realization Slaine plunged his finger into him and Inaho pushed harder against Slaine - stimulating both his own and Slaine’s groin against each other’s. Inaho’s pants had slowly begun to slip further down, giving Slaine’s hand easier access inside the bandit’s body.

“Ahh… Inaho…” Slaine whispered against the brunet’s neck and Inaho’s goosebumps intensified.

The blond moved his finger slowly in and out, making sure Inaho was not uncomfortable in any way necessary. Gradually Inaho’s body began loosening up while both of the men’s heat grew. Slaine added a second finger inside Inaho and moved his hand slowly. Their gasps and low moans filled the quiet air in the room and Slaine’s pants had become to feel tight. While he still pushed his fingers into Inaho again and again he unbuttoned his pants with his free hand. Inaho had dirtied them with his pre-cum from his carnal shaft; his juices had wetted the fabric completely and made it slippery. The moment Slaine had released his heat from inside his pants he shoved his fingers into Inaho hard enough their hips came together again, and quietly he ordered Inaho:

“Move your hips.”

Inaho obeyed and began sliding his wet manhood against Slaine’s. The blond’s breath trembled at getting to feel such sweet stimulation against his aching groin and he released a loud gasp as Inaho’s skin rubbed against his tip:

“Ohh!”

His fingers moved in an out of Inaho with harder thrusts as he grew impatient. He wanted to force Inaho down and bury his heat into his flesh. He wanted to be as cruel as he dared to; he wanted to see Inaho’s face filled with desperate lust and hear his cries of pleasure, brought forth by Slaine’s passion. It was a rare sight for Inaho to show any kind of expression, and now Slaine would pull the expressions out of him.

He could not take it anymore. Inaho was loose enough; Slaine could push into him without it hurting too much. The blond bandit pulled out his fingers and took a hold of Inaho’s shoulders to - with a quick motion - switch places with him and have him being pushed against the chest of drawers instead. They stared at each other for a short while as they tried to catch their breaths. The furniture had the perfect height for Inaho to rest on top of it and Slaine moved his hips close enough to force Inaho get up onto the top of the furniture. The blond carefully spread Inaho’s legs and rubbed his hotness against the brunet’s opening. Slaine closed his eyes for a while to feel the wet skin rub against him. It teased his heat higher. Arms coiled around Slaine’s neck and as he opened his eyes he saw Inaho beg him silently for more.

“Are you all right?” Slaine asked breathlessly.

“Y-yes…” the brunet answered and Slaine nodded and pushed his tip against Inaho’s fleshy bud. Inaho held his breath as Slaine slowly pushed his flesh open and as Slaine’s tip slipped into him his body swallowed it greedily, encouraging Slaine to push in deeper. “Aahh…!”

“Mmh… Inaho…” Slaine moaned and forced their bodies together with a single smooth motion.

Inaho was tight and hot inside. It was a completely new feeling for Slaine and he wondered if Inaho had felt the same way when he had plunged into him the nights before. It felt wonderful; Inaho’s flesh squeezed around him perfectly, enticed him to move - and that was what Slaine did.

“Haahh...”

Inaho’s quiet but sultry voice attacked Slaine’s brain with heat; the blond rammed back into him hearing it and the chest of drawers bumped into the wall behind it and rattled violently. Inaho was surprised by the sudden movement of Slaine’s hips and he squeezed his eyes shut and released a loud moan.

“Mmmh! S-Slaine…!”

Inaho’s fleshy walls squeezed tighter around Slaine’s passion and the blond was about to lose his composure. His hips began moving slowly at first, but for each gasp and moan he heard from Inaho the harder he moved. Inaho’s arms tightened around his neck to find support from the blond observed the other’s face while he moved in and out of him. It was beautiful and handsome - and sexy.

Oh, how he loved his bandit. Slaine was head over heels for him with no regrets dragging behind him.

“Aahh… Inaho…” Slaine gasped as their bodies slammed against each other’s and Slaine’s belt buckle rattled. “Mmph! I love you…!”

Inaho opened his right eye slightly to meet Slaine’s sincere eyes and then he pulled Slaine closer. Their lips locked and their tongues danced together, rubbing greedily against each other as Slaine moved his hips, filling the room with wet noises.

“Mmm…” the blond moaned while his body began sweating incredibly, and Inaho’s skin was becoming wet as well from the heat; both of them were fully dressed in disheveled clothes.

Inaho was a quiet lover; his moans and gasps were hushed. It drove Slaine mad with passion and he felt the need to make Inaho’s noises louder. He pulled his head back from their sultry kiss and took a hold of Inaho’s hips before he began moving his own with hard thrusts. He would make Inaho’s voice louder. He would force his voice out of him.

“Let me hear you,” Slaine whispered and coiled his fingers around Inaho’s wet hardness.

“Haahh…! S-Slaine…!” Inaho gasped with sharp breaths.

“Louder…” the blond bandit urged and rubbed his fingers against Inaho’s tip and changed the angle of his thrusts slightly. He searched for Inaho’s sweet spot, the same kind of spot Inaho had found in Slaine.

After a couple of more explorative thrusts Inaho’s eyes suddenly opened wide and his back arched. His mouth fell open in a silent cry and his insides tightened. Slaine focused all his thrusts against that sensitive spot. The blond felt victorious. It was just a matter of time before Inaho would cry out in lust.

“... Ah!”

It was a short cry. It was not enough for Slaine and so he thrust harder and faster against that spot, and within a second Inaho’s hands grabbed Slaine’s shoulders and squeezed them with an intense strength, and finally…

“HAAHH! SLAINE!”

“Aaahh! There … we go!” Slaine moaned with joy spreading in his body. “More…! Louder!”

Inaho shook from the stimulation which attacked his body. For the first time since they had met Slaine saw Inaho with no control at all over his body. It was such an exciting sight Slaine wanted to see it again and again.

“AAGHH! I…! Haahhhh! Slaine! I can’t-!” Inaho cried in ecstasy. “Don’t-! AAHH!”

“Ohh! Don’t what? Haaah! This?” Slaine asked and rubbed his fingers against the base of the tip of Inaho’s hotness. The brunet tried to push Slaine away but the blond refused to let him go. “Is it too … good here?”

Inaho nodded with a fevered expression and his weakened arms had no effect on the blond. He could not escape the tension building up in his body caused by Slaine’s thrust and hands. Slaine figured he felt embarrassed about their roles being reversed, and the blond chuckled lustily and leaned closer to Inaho to whisper:

“Aahh… W-were you … reminded of how it felt when I … mmh … was about to cum from your thrusts?”

Inaho’s insides tightened harder around Slaine. The brunet stared pleadingly at him with a heated look.

“S-stop!” Inaho cried after failing a desperate attempt to muffle his own voice. “Aaaahhh!”

“Does it embarrass you … ooohh! … to think that I … feel the same excitement now?” Slaine asked and grinned teasingly while he looked down at Inaho in front of him, who helplessly locked between Slaine’s hips and the wall behind him. “Remember how you felt … haaahhh! … and know that I feel the same.”

The chest of drawers rattled loudly against the wall as Slaine moved. He was sure it was heard into the room next doors but right now he could not care less if the girls heard them.

Inaho tightened harder and harder around Slaine’s hardness and the blond rammed into him with hard thrusts, burying himself all the way to the hilt inside the brunet. He immediately pulled out again and thrust back in, over and over again without no mercy.

“Cum for me…” he whispered and began moving his hand faster up and down Inaho’s carnal shaft.

The brunet grabbed Slaine’s wrist to try and stop his hand from stimulating him to the point where Inaho’s eyes seemed to roll upwards, but the man’s strength had left him long ago. His moans were caught in his throat as Inaho got closer to his climax, and Slaine gritted his teeth from the tension growing inside his loins. Their bodies kept slamming into each other’s and the wetness between them was loud and dirty. Before long Inaho’s back arched as much as it could and his fingers around Slaine’s wrist went white.

“Yes! Aaahhh! C-cum! Let me see you cum!” Slaine exclaimed as Inaho tightened hard enough around him that it began to hurt. It was a wonderful kind of pain.

“S-Slaine! Haaahhh! I-! I can’t-!”

Inaho tried to desperately push him away but it was too late. He went silent for just a short moment before he tried to hide his face against Slaine’s shoulder, but the blond grabbed him by the hair and stared intently at Inaho’s face. Finding himself helplessly in his grip, Inaho had no choice but to let Slaine watch his expression as he came. The sweetly loud groan sent Slaine’s mind into a turmoil and his hand was covered with Inaho’s honey as the bandit came. Now all that was left was Slaine to finish and he left Inaho no choice but to let him use his body for his own needs. Inaho tried to bear the intensity of the pleasure bravely, but his nerves were so sensitive he writhed helplessly as Slaine rammed into him.

“Ahhhh!” Slaine cried out in pleasure as Inaho’s insides refused to let go of him; the bandit was still tight enough for it to slightly hurt. Then a electric shock attacked his spine all the way to his loins, and he pushed all the way into Inaho and quivered violently as his vision went completely white. He shamelessly released his heat into Inaho. “Haahhh… Oh…”

Gentle fingers reached up to push Slaine’s sweaty bangs away from his eyes and the blond looked up at the weak but smiling Inaho.

“Are you … satisfied?” he asked Slaine quietly while his breath trembled.

“Yeah… Are you?” the blond asked, and Inaho nodded. “I wasn’t too rough?”

“No…”

Slaine leaned closer to kiss him and released Inaho’s hair which he still had held in a tight grip. They exchanged a weak kiss before Slaine pulled out of Inaho and helped the trembling brunet down from the chest of drawers.

“Are you all right?” he asked worriedly as Inaho walked over to the bed on weak legs which threatened to give way beneath him any second.

“Yes… I just feel … dizzy,” Inaho answered and slumped down onto the bed.

Slaine smiled wryly and walked over to the bed to sit down on the edge.

“You can’t sleep in your clothes,” he said with a quiet chuckle. “Let me help you.”

Slaine helped Inaho out of his clothes. He was joyful of how weak he had made the bandit. Slaine had to be honest that it felt much nicer to be at the receiving end since being the giver did not make him into the mess Inaho was in now, but the dominating role was exciting on a completely different level than he had imagined. The blond bandit could get used to it as well, and he would gladly do it again if Inaho let him.

Slaine slipped out of his clothes as well and snuggled closer to Inaho and put an arm around him. He gave the brunet’s temple a gentle kiss and Inaho was not late to turn around toward him and carefully kiss Slaine’s lips. They exchanged a couple of loving but exhausted kisses, and before long Inaho had been the first to drift off into sleep after a quiet:

“I love you…”

The blond smiled and closed his eyes to begin drifting off into sleep as well while listening to Inaho’s quiet breaths. His first day as a bandit was over, and the next day a new mission would be waiting for him.

Chapter Text

”So this is what we do: You go in there all pretty and like ‘Oh Mr. Governor! You’re sooo handsome!’. Meanwhile we climb over the surrounding wall to get to the window of his bedroom, and when you arrive there and get him into an indecent position we take a picture. Then we’ll bust into his room and save you and then jump out the window and go all nuts with our guns and scare the hell out of them and run like motherfu-!“

“Yuki-nee. That is an illogical plan,” Inaho interrupted her.

Yuki had begun to flare up with excitement that went out of hand the more she talked, and Inaho had had enough of her straight forward foolish plan.

Slaine was trying to suffocate his laughter where he sat like a tailor behind to Inaho on the bed. He had to admit he liked the woman’s intensity; it was like she had adopted all the intensity Inaho lacked – which Slaine found interesting and amusing.

“That was an excellent plan,” Yuki pouted before she sighed and scratched her neck. “Fine – maybe it was bad…”

They were having a meeting in the women’s room – like usual. Inaho was carefully sitting on the edge of the bed – since apparently the couch was too hard for his aching backside – and Slaine rested his chin against Inaho’s shoulder while he sat behind him. The brunet had had difficulties of getting up earlier that morning and Slaine could not help but to feel satisfied; this time it was he who was the reason for Inaho’s sore bum.

“Then how should we do it?” Inko asked after she was finished drawing a map onto the back of a wanted poster of Inaho’s face. She had drawn the map according to Slaine’s description of the little he had seen of the mansion the day before.

“We need to gather information,” Inaho said and thought for a while. “We need someone to go there and examine the place. Rayet, you are least known of us. Can you go and inspect the grounds? You are good at sneaking around,” Inaho said and looked at the red-haired woman who sat on the floor next to the bed.

“I guess I can do that,” Rayet answered with a bored tone to her voice. “When should I leave?”

“Do it immediately. We need the information in order to plan how we will do it,” Slaine’s lover answered and Rayet got up and walked toward the door.

“Take the poster with you to scribble on it,” Nina said but Rayet raised her hat and placed it on her head.

“I’ll just take another poster on my way there,” she answered and disappeared out through the door.

The gang exchanged glances with each other before Inko cleared her throat and said:

“All right, so in the meantime – since the security probably has increased at the mansion – we should plan ahead as much as we can and then polish our plan with the information Rayet gathers.”

***

“You know, the clothes really do something to a person’s character,” Nina said with a wide smile on her lips while she finished smearing red lipstick onto Slaine’s lips. Moments before that she had braided Slaine’s short hair into a pretty coronal braid and fastened the rose hairclip to hold Slaine’s braid in place.

“Don’t you think it’s the makeup?” Slaine mumbled and shut his eyes tightly when Nina dabbed her lipstick covered fingers against his cheeks to give him a womanly blush.

“No, I mean – when you wear a dress you look like a pretty girl, but when you wear the men’s clothes we bought you, you look like a Casanova. The sight makes my ovaries ache,” she giggled and Slaine almost fell off the chair.

“W-w-what!?” he stammered shocked and took a tight grip with his hands of the wooden seat he was sitting on. “W-what is that s-supposed to mean!?”

Hearing someone talk about him like that – and compliment him – was shocking and embarrassing at the same time. Nina only grinned teasingly while Yuki rolled her eyes where she sat on the couch. Slaine looked over Nina’s shoulder to Inaho who was staring at the woman’s back with watchful eyes. He’s mine, Inaho’s stare said.

I wonder if Inaho ever gets exhausted of being that possessive about me?’ Slaine thought and decided to give Inaho a reassuring smile, and instantly Inaho’s expression softened.

“All right, I think I’m finished with the makeup,” Nina finally said. “Inaho, could you tie the laces of his dress?”

Without hesitation Inaho stepped forward. Slaine got up from the chair, thanked Nina for doing the makeup, and then turned around to have Inaho tie the corset on the dress they had stolen from the previous brothel at Woodside. Inaho took a hold of the laces and then pulled at them; instantly the dress tightened and Slaine let out a strained gasp. His ribcage was squeezing tighter in an uncomfortable way.

“Ow!” he complained and threw an irritated glance over his shoulder. “What are you doing? That hurt!”

He heard Inaho’s quiet voice purr close to his ear:

“Payback for last night.”

Suddenly Slaine could not help but to blush and smile. If the girls would not have been in the room he would have pushed his back up against Inaho to tease him.

“Be careful out there,” Inaho then said and eased the tight dress somewhat to give Slaine some room in it to breathe. “Remember: If he tries anything that’s dangerous, yell and we’ll take him down. We’ll be right outside the window.”

Slaine nodded and took a deep breath as the dress tightened around his torso. The blond rested his hands against his belly and felt how small his waist already had become. When Inaho had tightened the laces properly Slaine was ordered to sit down onto the chair once again and Yuki tossed a small gun and a holster to Inaho. The brunet caught it flawlessly and kneeled in front of Slaine.

“You get to bring a small gun with you. It has only room for one bullet so use it only if it’s necessary,” he said and lifted up the skirt of Slaine’s dress to strap the laced garter around Slaine’s left thigh.

Inaho’s fingers tickled against Slaine’s skin, and the blond shivered from the man’s touch. Oh, how he wished they had a little more time before Slaine had to go to work. The blond was feeling submissive in the dress and would have gladly spread his legs for the desperado kneeling in front of him.

That was when he realized the difference of when he was dressed in a man’s clothes and when he found himself in a dress:

I guess Nina is right. Clothes do a lot to one’s character…

The garter with the small gun got fastened with the gun placed behind the thigh, and Slaine was ready to get to work. Before he followed Rayet out of the room he leaned closer and pecked his lips against Inaho’s cheek to leave soft lipstick marks on the other’s skin. When Inaho looked up at him slightly surprised Slaine giggled with his high-pitched voice:

“Don’t clean it off, Mr. Bandit. I dare you to leave it there.”

The girls laughed and giggled while a visible blush crept over Inaho’s cheeks. Slaine could feel victorious once again for having forced a new reaction out of Inaho. With that he left the room to head for the street with Rayet to keep an eye on him if Slaine would get into trouble.

The sky was quickly growing dim and the hour of twilight embedded the streets in darkness. The moment Slaine stepped out of the brothel – after he had been forced to deal with drunken men trying to buy him – he leaned against a wooden post which supported the roof over the brothel terrace. He had to stand there and wait since – according to the information Yuki had gathered from the soiled doves at the brothel earlier that day – someone working for the Governor would show up with a stagecoach if the man was in a mood for devouring a dove – figuratively. The doves who stood outside the brothel to beckon customers in would be taken away to the mansion if the man was in the mood.

Slaine saw Rayet sit down on the bench further down the long terrace and pretended she was asleep, and even if she was there to keep a look out Slaine was slightly worried. Some of the doves at the brothel had gone pale the moment Yuki had asked them about the Governor. They had been reluctant to answer her questions at first since they had been paid well to shush about the Governor’s hunger for whores, but Yuki had dangled the bait in front of them and told them the Governor would leave them alone if they cooperated with her. The information Yuki had gotten was that the Governor could be gentle and respectable but some of the doves had been through abuse on his bad days.

What if he’ll be in a bad mood after what I did yesterday?’ Slaine thought and put his arms around his chest to give himself a supportive hug. ‘I hope Cruhteo, Trillram or Asseylum won’t see or recognize me…

He was sure the Governor would show him into the mansion under the disguise of darkness. There was no way the man would risk revealing his scandalous pastime to his daughter or good friend; Slaine had to trust that no one would see him except the servants in the mansion.

I just hope the maid won’t be there to see me,’ he sighed and looked up at the stars which had begun to show themselves in the sky. He feared the maid he had met the day before would recognize him if she saw him.

He heard the rattle of wheels against the ground and looked over to the direction of the sound. A stagecoach with two men sitting in the passenger seat was approaching and he swallowed hard and tried to smile flirtatiously. His stomach felt like it would turn any minute from the nervousness that bulleted through his being – but he had to play the part:

“Y-yohooo!” he yelled awkwardly with the female sounding voice. “W-won’t you come and protect yourselves from the cold? Our girls are known to be good at warming men up.”

One of the men in the stagecoach asked the coachman to stop. It was an old man who looked nothing like a servant to the Governor.

“Wha’cha price?” he asked with a husky voice and Slaine felt disgusted to have the man stare at him, up and down like he was undressing him with his eyes. His gaze felt like a slithering snake crawling over the blond.

“O-oh! I’m not for sale right now, Mister,” Slaine said with a trembling voice. “I’m just a barker at the moment.”

“I’ll pay ya double,” the man insisted and Slaine frowned still with the awkward smile on his lips.

“N-no, I’m sorry, Mister. I c-can’t,” Slaine insisted back and felt so disgusted he began to grow angry.

Stop staring at me like that! Who do you think you are!?’ he thought angrily.

“Dumb whore…” the man muttered as the stagecoach began moving.

Slaine instantly saw red.

He hurried down from the terrace and picked up a stone from the ground. He lunged it at the stagecoach but the stone hit the horse instead; Slaine was so angry his aim was completely off. A loud and spooked neigh echoed in the area and the horse dashed forward in absolute panic, not listening to the coachman who tried to calm it down. They disappeared down the road and Slaine stared after the stagecoach in shock of what he had done. His terrible aim had turned out to be a perfect one. When he snapped out of his shock he raised his fist into the air and yelled with a high-pitched voice:

“THAT’S WHAT YOU GET FOR BEING DISRESPECTFUL TOWARD GIRLS!”

He ended it with stomping his heel against the dusty ground like an angry child and pouted, and a chuckle accompanied the silence once he had calmed down. He looked over his shoulder and saw Rayet trying to stop herself from laughing. She was biting down on her lower lip but she could not prevent her from grunting; if she opened her mouth she would burst out laughing.

“You’re silly,” she managed to say quietly, covered her mouth with her hand and lowered the hat over her face.

“Hey! He insulted me!” Slaine complained and kicked the dusty ground at the direction to where the stagecoach had disappeared.

“You’re not a girl for real,” the woman reminded him and Slaine turned his pouting face toward her instead:

“I’m trying to be a woman right now and so my roles are getting mixed up, so excuse me for taking that personally! Now I understand what you women go through,” the womanly dressed man grumbled and turned toward the direction of the stagecoach once again to yell: “IT’S OUTRAGEOUS!”

“What’s the ruckus?” Yuki’s voice asked and both Slaine and Rayet looked up at the saloon doors into the brothel bar. Inaho’s sister was leaning toward the door post on inside the saloon doors.

“I’m just-“ Slaine began but Rayet interrupted him:

“He’s being stressed out. A disgusting old man tried to buy him and insulted him.”

Yuki frowned with a saddened smile.

“I’m sorry, Slaine,” she said and suddenly seemed to realize something. “Oh yes! We have forgotten about your name!”

Slaine took a step back from confusion.

“My name?” he asked baffled.

“Your girl name of course!” Yuki said and suddenly smiled teasingly. “By the way, your girly voice is really cute when you yell.” Slaine blushed horribly at the comment but before he had a chance to say anything Yuki continued: “What about Stella?”

“Stella!?” Slaine blurted.

“Suits him,” Rayet declared.

Yuki grinned and looked at Slaine: “Well?”

Slaine sighed and nodded in defeat. So his female persona’s name was Stella. He knew he had to have an alternative name for his act as a dove and since he could not come up with a better name – not that he thought the name was bad at all – he accepted it. For him it felt awkward to have a woman’s name but he guessed he could make do with it.

I’ll get used to it,’ he thought and sighed again.

“I’ll head back and prepare the horses with the others. Good luck, Stella!” Yuki said with a melodic voice before she disappeared into the brothel again.

Slaine got up onto the terrace and leaned against the wooden post again to wait. Each time someone approached Slaine would go into Stella-mode and act flirtatiously, and many of the men who passed him by entered the brothel saloon. As a result from each time he managed to do his job as a barker, he felt less stressed out and began to find his role as a dove again. He acted with more confidence and even joked with the approaching customers. The stagecoach he was expecting had not been seen and Slaine began to wonder if the Governor was not interested in toying with a dove that night. A guilty relief began to spread in his chest at the thought; he knew he had to carry out the mission sooner or later but he was simply happy to have it postponed.

Just as the thought had settled in his mind a stagecoach with one passenger approached the brothel. His chest tightened from nervousness.

“It might be them,” Rayet said quietly and lay completely still except for the exasperated breathing to pretend she was asleep.

Slaine swallowed hard and took a deep breath before he walked toward the stagecoach on the terrace with his hips swaying seductively.

“Hello sir!” Slaine smiled teasingly to the man in the stagecoach, which appeared to be of the finer kind than the ones he had seen thus far. “If you’re thirsty we’ve got plenty of beer and pretty ladies to accompany you!”

The stagecoach stopped in front of him and Slaine met the eyes of a man with short and slicked back brown hair. He wore an expensive looking suit and had a stern expression as he stared down at Slaine from inside the stagecoach.

“You new?” he asked with a strong and manly voice; it was probably the manliest voice Slaine had heard in his entire life thus far.

“Y-yes…” Slaine said quietly and felt worried. The man seemed like a cold character and Slaine did not like that, but he had to keep playing his role. He remembered Mr. Craftman’s reaction at the brothel in Woodside when he had learned Slaine was new and inexperienced as a dove. The blond decided to use that again: “I was told to start off as a barker since I’m inexperienced. Um… W-would you like to come in?”

He sounded ridiculous and Slaine cursed silently. He felt completely thrown off course the moment the man in the stagecoach had narrowed his eyes slightly. Slaine’s newfound confidence had disappeared completely.

Does he suspect something?’ he thought worriedly.

“Do you know who I am?” the man asked and Slaine stared at him for a while; his mind went into overdrive in search for something to answer with.

If I say yes then it might come off as too obvious. If I say no I might blow the entire plan into pieces!

“The owner told me there are customers wealthy enough to be able to rent a dove to their homes for the night,” Slaine said and tried to smile flirtatiously. “Am I right, Mister?”

The man raised his chin slightly without releasing Slaine from his harsh stare.

“And what else did the owner tell you?” the man asked with the low but powerful voice.

He’s cautious…’ Slaine thought and decided to play the inexperienced role he had claimed.

“That if one of these customers would come by I would go with him if he asks me to,” he said quietly and blushed.

The man eyed him for a while and Slaine thought he would actually shrink from the man’s prying gaze. The heaviness in the gaze made Slaine’s worth drop down to be as cheap as dirt. What was the man thinking behind that silence?

“Get in,” the man finally ordered and opened the door, and Slaine looked up at him in surprise.

He wondered if the man was actually working for the Governor and he threw a glance at Rayet who peered at them from beneath her hat. She carefully nodded and Slaine took a deep breath to climb into the stagecoach and sat down on the seat in front of the man. The coachman slammed the door closed and got the stagecoach moving. Slaine sat quietly with a lowered head and threw glances at the man from behind his eyelashes. The blond rested his hands in his lap and squeezed his thighs shut – just like the nervous girl he pretended to be. He felt the small gun push at his skin beneath the skirt, reminding him that he was not completely helpless in a dangerous situation. At least he had some kind of protection with him.

He looked up at the stern looking man again and tried to have a small conversation with him:

“My name is-“ he began but the man interrupted him immediately:

“I do not care what your name is,” he said abruptly and Slaine pushed his back against the backrest from the unpleasantness in the man’s voice.

“I’m sorry…” the blond whispered nervously and slightly frightened.

The man went quiet again and the rest of their trip was spent in silence. To Slaine’s relief, as well as horror, he saw the Governor’s mansion get closer and before long they rode up the driveway and behind the mansion. They stopped in front of the servant door which Slaine had gone through the day before with the maid.

The man opened the stagecoach door and stepped out before he ordered Slaine to follow him in silence. Slaine obeyed and clumsily stepped down the small coach step and then followed the man in through the door with his heart beating painfully in his tight ribcage. He wished to untie the dress in order to breathe properly but soldiered on to the best of his abilities.

My ribs hurt… My stomach’s upset… I don’t like this…

The mansion was completely quiet and dark. Only a few candles lit their way through the corridors and Slaine was relieved for it; his face would not be recognizable in the light. He hoped the Governor’s room would be brightly lit though.

Inaho… Gang… I hope you’re ready and in place!

To his surprise they did not go for the bedroom upstairs; Slaine was shown into the mansion’s lounge where a fire was crackling in the grand hearth. Luckily the room was well lit by lamps and a grand chandelier hanging from the ceiling, but heavy curtains decorated the windows and to Slaine’s horror all the curtains had been drawn shut.

They won’t be able to take a picture from outside!’ he thought and almost panicked on the spot.

On the walls hung heavy oil paintings and the furniture looked like they were worth more than Slaine’s soul. The desk next to a window was so shiny Slaine swore he would be able to use it as a mirror.

“Governor,” the man, who had picked Slaine up, said and stood with a straight back in a perfect stance. His sudden words distracted Slaine’s panic from taking over the blond. “I leave you with the girl, Sir.”

The man bowed and then left the lounge after closing the door behind him, and Slaine looked around in the room. He could not see the Governor anywhere.

“Um… H-hello?” Slaine said with a quiet but high-pitched voice. He had no need to try and sound female; he was so nervous and scared his voice automatically squeaked.

“What’s your name?” a handsome voice said from the direction of the crackling hearth. The owner of the voice sounded slightly drunk.

Great…!’ Slaine thought and swallowed hard.

“S-Stella, Sir…” he squeaked and was suddenly asked to step closer to the fire.

With shaky steps he managed to walk closer to an armchair which’s back was turned against him. Slaine’s breath trembled and was shallower than before; he hardly dared to breathe as he stepped close enough to see a hand rest on the armrest of the chair. Then he saw a deep red robe and blond hair, and then finally the man’s face.

“G-Governor Allusia…” Slaine said barely audibly and gave the man an awkward curtsy; the blond bandit thought he would topple over due to his trembling legs.

The man’s heavenly blue eyes wandered up and down over Slaine’s figure for excruciatingly long seconds before he asked:

“How old are you?”

Is it about my flat chest again?’ Slaine cursed and bit his lip before he lied:

“16, S-Sir.”

“You are a little too young for my taste,” the Governor then said and Slaine spotted the glass of some kind of liquor in the man’s left hand. The man raised it to his lips and took a sip before he stood up from the armchair and placed the glass on top of a small table. Slaine took two steps back and focused on the man’s every move. “But now that you are here, Miss,” the Governor continued. “There is no reason to send you back.”

Slaine wanted to run. He wanted to hurry away from the man as far as possible now that the reality of his situation hit him. Nothing in the mansion had gone as he and the gang had planned.

“Sir… I-I’m not sure if I’ll be able to-“ the blond bandit began but stopped the moment he saw the Governor raise an hand to his forehead in annoyance.

“A whore has no right to say no when offered money,” Governor Allusia grumbled.

Slaine felt insulted beyond any offence he had felt before. He wanted to get angry and yell at the man but he was too frightened to voice a word about his anger; if he did, who knew what the Governor would do. Slaine had to remind himself that if he let anger get a hold of him now he would make the entire plan crumble into dust.

The Governor took a step closer to Slaine and the bandit backed away. Slaine had to come up with something to do about the closed curtains. He had to give Inaho and the others some kind of sign to where he was. He kept backing away from the man while he tried to figure out what to do, and before he had realized it the Governor had masterfully worked Slaine toward the desk not too far away from the window. He knew it was too late to do anything when his back bumped against the edge of the desk. Panic welled up in Slaine; he had nowhere to run.

What do I do? What do I do!? Pull the gun? I can’t do that! It’s only for emergency!

The Governor stood right in front of him. Slaine stared up at the taller man and felt his body freeze. Somehow he found himself so frightened he could not move. It was completely not like him; he always had a levelheaded attitude and character. He never froze! Was it because of the political power the man wielded? Was it because it was Lady Asseylum’s father? Was it because Slaine was about to make the young lady heartbroken?

Snap out of it! Come on, Slaine Troyard!

“I am in a bad mood after a theft on my grounds yesterday,” the Governor warned him as he locked Slaine between himself and the desk. Slaine leaned back go get as much distance to the alcohol reeking man as possible. “Do not anger me further.”

Get away from me!

Slaine pushed the Governor’s shoulders back as much as he could but that seemed to frustrate the man, who took a hold of his wrists. The bandit began cold sweating.

Damn it!

“S-sir!” Slaine exclaimed. “I-It’s too hot in here. Can’t we open a window first? After that I’ll let you do what you want.”

The Governor leaned disgustingly close to Slaine’s face and the smell of whiskey drifted to Slaine’s nose. The blond bandit got a flashback to his and Inaho’s drunken escapades in the desert and the horrible hangover the next day; it was nauseating to remember. He hated whiskey after the hangover.

“Quiet or my daughter will hear you,” the man purred and was about to lean too close to Slaine’s face – probably to steal a kiss from the man who he thought was a dove called Stella.

Slaine turned his face away and felt wet lips against his jaw. A greater nausea welled up in him as he heard the Governor mention Asseylum and now feel the lady’s father’s disgusting touch. If the young lady only knew what her father was doing…

I hope she won’t get completely devastated for what I and the gang are about to do…

No matter how much Slaine wanted to protect the young lady’s happiness he had to become the bad guy and make her cry; this deed was not about her, it was about the oppressed and poor people who needed someone to stand up for them.

“Please, Governor! I will stay quiet but,” Slaine tried again. “I may be a whore but at least show me some kind of consideration. I’m in a tight dress and it’s hot in here.”

The Governor stopped his advances and stared at Slaine for a while – or rather, he stared at Stella. Slaine stood completely still, afraid to move while he waited for the Governor to decide what to do with his request. To Slaine’s relief the man let him go and walked over to the window behind the desk, pulled the curtains slightly apart and opened the window. A cold breeze drifted over to Slaine and eased his inner turmoil.

“Better now, Miss?” he heard the man say from behind him and Slaine looked over his shoulder. He saw the Governor move closer and Slaine nodded.

“T-thank you, Sir…” he mumbled with relief. “Do what you want. Just… No kisses.”

The man chuckled drunkenly and walked around the corner of the desk to stand in front of Slaine once again. The bandit looked up into the wonderfully blue eyes which reminded him about Asseylum’s, but the father’s eyes were harsher and colder than the daughter’s. The man usually radiated an incredible charisma but right now Slaine saw no hint of it anywhere in those eyes. He was simply a drunken man yearning for carnal pleasure and Slaine, in the form of Stella, was his prey.

Now I just have to make a sound to inform the gang where I am…’ he thought and raised himself up onto the desk and waited for the Governor. ‘Give me a valid reason to make a noise.’

“You have a lot of demands, Miss,” the man said and leaned toward Slaine with both hands planted against the top of the desk on either side of Slaine’s hips.

“I have some self-respect,” the bandit – who pretended to be Stella – answered and prepared himself.

The Governor grinned amused and leaned closer. The man’s moist and reeking breath tickled against Slaine’s neck, and within the bat of an eye Slaine felt the moist lips cover his skin and gently suck on it before it turned into a nibble. Slaine pressed his lips tightly together and closed his eyes. He could not look at the man. He did not want to look at the man.

“Mmph!” he heard his shrill voice moan as a nerve was attacked by the man. Slaine hated how sensitive his neck was.

Remember the plan! Remember the plan! This is almost over!’ he reminded himself and tried to ignore the man’s arm which coiled around his waist and pulled his hips closer to his. Slaine could feel the gun press against the back of his thigh from his own weight; he was glad the dress was thick enough to muffle the gun’s clatter against the surface of the desk.

“WOAH!” he suddenly yelled with surprise and felt his back ache. “Ugh…”

He had had no time to react as strong hands had grabbed both of his hips and pulled them close enough to the Governor that Slaine had lost his support with his arms and fallen back against the desk. The impact made his back hurt and he unintentionally had let out a yell. Immediately a hand was pushed against his mouth.

“I told you to be quiet. If you refuse I will close the window,” the man hissed angrily and Slaine hurried to nod to please him.

The bandit hoped Inaho and the rest had heard him. That was the only loud noise Slaine dared to make since it was completely valid to the situation he was in; anyone would have done that.

Hurry up, gang!’ he thought and watched the Governor lean over him.

The man loomed over him like a horrible forthcoming shadow. A hand wandered from above his pelvis and slowly up toward his chest. For a moment Slaine had been ready to kick the man from fearing he would notice Slaine was not a woman, but luckily the Governor had not touched his lower region. The dress helped to hide his secret further due to the thickness of the ruffles and frills, but if the Governor would try to touch him underneath the dress the bandit had no way of knowing what would happen to him.

“Hah…” Slaine gasped to urge the man on but secretly he wanted to vomit from the touch.

He leaned his head back in order to glance at the window and to his relief he saw movement on the other side of it beneath the ledge. If the situation was not as disgusting as it was Slaine would have smiled a joyful smile to see the gang so quick to react.

Thank God, they heard me! Now, Slaine Troyard – distract the Governor!

“Mmh…! G-governor Allusia…” he sighed in Stella’s voice as the man’s hands groped him all over his torso. Slaine raised his hands to take a hold of the Governor’s arms and lifted his knees to press them lightly against the man’s sides. He made the sultriest heated gaze he could possibly muster and looked at the Governor with wet eyes. The man’s eyes widened at the sight of Stella in such state. “Forget about my self-respect,” he sighed and raised himself slightly from the desk in order to get closer to the man’s lips. “Kiss me, please…”

Slaine heard a thump from outside the window and could swear he heard Yuki hiss something about Inaho to stay calm. The Governor was about to look up toward the window when Slaine quickly with panic grabbed the man’s neck and pulled him into a kiss. Despite the situation Slaine could not help but to smile; he felt safer knowing the gang was just a couple of feet away from him and Inaho was more than ready to come to his rescue. Slaine became bolder from the security he felt and he opened his lips just slightly to tease the Governor closer. Slowly he relaxed while still in the kiss, and as he lay down onto the desk again the Governor followed and pinned him down with his body weight.

This is perfect! Take the damn picture now!’ Slaine thought and brushed his hands down the Governor’s neck and back to pull at the robe. He tried to keep the Governor as still as he could so the picture would not get blurry but the man surprised him by grabbing Slaine’s arms. The Governor held them bound in one hand in front of Slaine.

“You are not the one to control the situation,” the man snarled much like an animal and pushed his hips against Slaine’s groin. The blond let out an unintentional gasp.

“Haah! S-sir!” he exclaimed as a tingle shot through him from between his legs. “Don’t-!”

The Governor continued to open the robe and a rattle was heard when the man opened his belt and pants. Suddenly the situation became all too real when Slaine felt the man continue the preparations with letting a hand crawl up between Slaine’s legs.

Will he try to violate me!?

“NO!” Slaine yelled with his male voice and began to struggle. He had been stricken by panic and tried to pull his arms free. “LET ME GO!”

The Governor froze and stared at him confused. The seconds of the man’s realization felt long and Slaine finally managed to get his arms free and tried to push the man off of him. A clatter was heard from the window and a voice – which Slaine was happy to hear – said:

“Let him go, Governor Allusia.”

“Inaho!” Slaine sighed from relief and looked up at the bandit who was accompanied by Yuki and Rayet. They all held guns aimed at the Governor.

Seeing them the Governor yelled:

“GUARDS!”

It did not take long before a gunshot was heard and a bulled whizzed past Inaho’s head and hit the windowsill next to the brunet. Someone was shooting at the trio of bandits outside the window and they got instantly distracted by the unwelcomed company.

“Yuki-nee! Rayet! Take care of the camera!” Inaho said and jumped in through the window.

“Rayet! Run!” Yuki yelled to the red-haired woman, and Rayet hugged the camera close to her chest and began running while Yuki covered her. They disappeared from the window but the sound of gunshots remained.

“Inaho!” Slaine yelled and tried to get away from the Governor but the man took an instant grip of Slaine’s throat and added weight to it. The back of Slaine’s head and neck was aggressively pushed against the desk and immediately he got difficulties to breathe.

“Stop there, bandit!” the Governor yelled to Inaho. “I will crush her – HIS – throat if you move!”

No! Inaho! Run!’ Slaine thought panicked and clawed at the man’s arms but the Governor did not react to the pain and added even more force onto Slaine’s throat. His mind began to spin and the pulse hammered in his skull from pressure as his sight began to blur. It was frightening how quickly his mind was affected by the choking. He tried to kick the man off of him but the awkward position gave him no chance to deal any kind of pain to the man.

“Let him go, Governor, or you will force me to shoot!” he heard Inaho’s voice from somewhere above Slaine’s head.

“Do not dare to pull the trigger, bandit,” the Governor hissed. “If you make as much as a move I will snap his neck. Be a gentleman and wait there; there is someone here who wants to see you – Deadeye Lee.”

The Governor seemed to be prepared. How did the Governor know about Inaho – or Deadeye Lee – being in the city? Who was the person who wanted to see Inaho? Slaine wanted to yell to the brunet to run and forget about him. The blond could not allow Inaho to get hurt or captured.

“I-Inaho…! G-go…!” Slaine’s strained voice – which was barely audible – gasped from between his lips which had begun to turn blue.

Hurrying steps were heard and guards ran into the room. The loud bang of a gunshot attacked Slaine’s eardrums and a low ring began to sound in his ears; he did not know if it was due to the gunshot or him suffocating.

I’ll pass out!’ he thought with muddied judgment.

An orchestra of gunshots began sounding in the room and someone let out a painful groan followed by the sound of a body hitting the floor. Slaine could not keep his attention on what was going on since he was about to black out. His fingers – which were clawing at the Governor’s arms – grew weaker and his body began to relax.

“Get him! Deadeye Lee is behind the chair!” a man’s voice yelled which Slaine swore he recognized.

While gunshots shook the air the hand around Slaine’s throat suddenly pulled him up and threw him to the floor. The impact made Slaine lose his breath but the moment he managed to get air into his lungs he coughed violently. His throat was sore and his head pounded from an explosive headache. His vision was blurry and spinning; he was in a confused state of what had just happened.

A glass vase exploded somewhere above him on a table – probably been hit by a bullet – and sent shards of glass raining down on Slaine. He immediately protected his head with his hands and waited until the dangerous rain had ended. His hands and arms had gotten light cuts from the glass but he quickly shook the glass off of him to look at what was happening.

“HA! I FINALLY GOT YOU, DEADEYE LEE!” he heard a victorious voice yell which Slaine had heard somewhere before, and the room went silent.

“Inaho…” the blond bandit whispered and got up from the floor to see why the room had gone quiet.

What he saw made his mind go to a halt. The Governor had been hiding behind a fallen table and dared to stand up now that the commotion had stopped. The room was a complete mess of broken porcelain and glass, gunshot holes in the furniture and pieces of wood which had been blown off from the woodwork here and there. A man lay on the floor holding his bleeding knee and gasped from pain and the air was thick with the smell and smoke of gunpowder.

But Inaho…

The bandit had dropped his gun which lay on the floor and seemed to have been about to reach for it when he had been stopped. Six gunmen were aiming at him while Inaho stood perfectly still and gasped from being out of breath. He slowly raised his right hand into the air to surrender but did not move his left arm at all.

Inaho…! No!

Slaine’s eyes fell to a man he had seen once before. Calm Craftman – covered in dust – was standing in the middle of the gunmen with a triumphant look on his face, also aiming at Inaho. Slaine followed the direction of Mr. Craftman’s gun to Inaho and that was when Slaine noticed why Inaho had not raised his left arm. His left shoulder was bleeding.

He’s been shot… He’s hurt!’ was all Slaine could think as he watched Inaho’s eyes squint from the pain and a pang of panic and burning hate began to flare up in Slaine’s chest.

“INAHO!”

Without thinking Slaine pulled his small gun from the garter and aimed it at Mr. Craftman who turned his face toward him and looked shocked. Slaine found his aim immediately on the bounty hunter’s head. He was ready to pull the trigger. He was ready to kill the man to save his lover. He would shoot him. He would eradicate him. It was the bounty hunter’s fault Inaho was hurt!

Don’t you dare hurt him! You’ll die for it!

Slaine was just about to pull the trigger in a state of uncontrollable hate when Inaho’s angry voice distracted his aim:

“Slaine! Don’t forget yourself!”

Slaine’s eyes released the shocked Mr. Craftman from the hateful gaze and turned to Inaho who stared directly at him. The other bandit slowly shook his head. Slaine did not understand. Why would Inaho stop him from saving him? Why would he not allow Slaine to kill the man who – according to the blond’s faulty logic – was responsible for Inaho’s wound?

They stared at each other for something that felt like an eternity while Slaine tried to figure out why he was not allowed to protect his lover. If he did not shoot the bounty hunter would arrest Inaho and that would certainly lead to Inaho getting hanged. They would kill him.

Kill…’ he thought and blinked. Suddenly he was reminded of why he had chosen to join the bandit gang in the first place: ‘I don’t want to kill people… What am I doing?’ Inaho did not want him to take a life; Slaine should not murder anyone for any reason. Inaho would not want someone to die for his freedom. ‘Inaho would hate me…

Even if Inaho would be sentenced to the gallows the brunet still insisted on no one dying for his sake. Realizing the bravery of the other man had made Slaine slowly lower his gun, but the second after he jumped from a loud and angry voice behind him:

“Slaine Troyard!”

Slaine turned around in shock and stared into the cold blue eyes glaring down at him with utter disgust, and within a second something hit Slaine’s armed hand. A terrible ache coursed through his arm as he dropped the gun to the floor with a light clatter. Cruhteo lowered his own custom designed gun; he had hit Slaine’s hand with it to disarm him.

“Are you all right, Governor Allusia?” Cruhteo then continued and looked up at the Governor who pulled his fingers through his blond hair.

“I feel all right, Cruhteo,” the other man answered and the Officer’s eyes turned toward Slaine again and stared at him with a piercing gaze.

Slaine felt a shiver run through his body and he took a step back from the man. He was reminded of how cruel his former employer could be and this time he had soiled his master’s carpet twice within a two day’s time. Cruhteo would not let it slide.

“Arrest both of them!” the Governor yelled and Slaine turned to look at Inaho who did no resistance as he was grabbed by two men and a third began to bind his arms behind his back.

“INAHO! NO!” Slaine yelled in panic again and began to run toward his lover to free him. A gunshot echoed in the room and a bullet whizzed past him, but Slaine did not stop.

“GRAB HIM!” someone yelled but Slaine did not care the slightest; he kept on running and almost reached Inaho when he was tackled from his right. He fell to the floor with someone on top of him.

“Don’t resist,” he heard a warm voice say next to his ear when he was pushed face down against the floor and got his hands bound behind his back. “You may be a man but you’re still too pretty in a dress to die a foolish death like this,” the voice continued.

Slaine looked over his shoulder and saw Mr. Craftman pinning him down by sitting on Slaine’s back as he bound his hands behind him. Slaine’s eyes narrowed and he asked with a snarl:

“Would you rather see me hanging from the gallows, Mister?”

Mr. Craftman leaned closer once again to whisper in Slaine’s ear:

“Deadeye Lee wouldn’t have stayed behind and let himself be captured if he did not have a plan. Don’t worry about the gallows; I can smell him plotting from miles away.”

What!?’ Slaine thought confusedly. Had Inaho stayed behind deliberately? Why? ‘To save me?’ He looked up at Inaho as Mr. Craftman pulled Slaine up from the floor and saw relief in the burgundy eyes.

“Take them away!” the Governor ordered and both Inaho and Slaine were led to the door, but as Slaine approached Cruhteo – who stood next to the door – the Officer reached out a hand to stop Slaine from being guided out of the room.

“I am not done with you,” he said quietly with rage burning behind his low voice.

Slaine felt a cold sweat break out on his face. The look Cruhteo gave him could have killed him on the spot if looks were deadly. He threw a glance at Inaho who looked at him with worry, but before Inaho disappeared out through the door he gave Slaine a slight and reassuring nod.

Be brave,’ it said.

When Inaho disappeared out of Slaine’s view the blond swallowed hard and turned his eyes up to meet Cruhteo’s. Fear struck him.

Will he kill me?

Chapter Text

“Why did you steal the camera?” the cold voice asked quietly.

The Governor had disappeared to look after his daughter and see if the young lady was all right after the commotion, and the bandit had been left alone with Mr. Craftman and Cruhteo. Slaine pressed his lips tightly shut and stared at the floor between his boots. He did not say a word to the man and as punishment a strong hit to his stomach made him almost vomit. He coughed and fell to his knees. The impact was painful as he could not use his bound arms to break the fall.

“How obstinate!” Cruhteo growled frustrated and stared at the blond – who refused to honor the man by meeting his gaze. “What did you do with the camera? Answer me!”

Slaine would never tell the man a word about what he and the gang were up to. The blond bandit hoped the others had managed to take a picture since the plan was impossible to recreate, and he decided to keep their crime a secret nonetheless. There was no reason for Cruhteo to know and if he did Slaine knew the man would send out people to look for the gang more urgently. The Officer would protect the Allusia family with everything he could.

A hit against his cheek sent him flying to the floor. Slaine gritted his teeth in order to not give the man the pleasure of hearing him cry.

“This will be over the moment you explain yourself,” Cruhteo said coldly and stared at Slaine who lay on the floor and gasped from the aching stomach and cheek. “Tell me why you stole the camera and why you are with a band of outlaws, and I shall let you go.”

He’s lying…’ Slaine thought and closed his eyes. There was no way Cruhteo would let Slaine go if he confessed his crimes. The man was colder than that.

“I have nothing to tell you,” Slaine said quietly and waited for the punishment for his disrespectful answer.

Before he knew it a cruel boot added pressure to his skull. An indescribable pain shot though him; it felt like his head would be trampled. Slaine could not stay quiet. He could not be brave when his skull was about to be crushed beneath Cruhteo’s boot. The bandit began kicking and screaming the more the pressure grew and he wanted to claw at the man’s boot – but it was impossible since his arms were bound behind his back. Tears sprung to his eyes as he in a panicked state tried to get away and save himself.

“Sir!” someone yelled. It sounded like Calm Craftman. “That’s too much!”

“A master has to punish his dog for its bad behavior,” the blond man answered.

“Stop!” Slaine yelled and relaxed when he realized he could not flee, and he released an unintentional whimper. It hurt so horribly and he was so afraid of having his skull crushed that he could not be brave and stay quiet. “STOP!”

“Tell me why you stole the camera, and explain what you are doing dressed up as a whore in the Governor’s home!” Cruhteo said angrily with a raised voice.

“No!” Slaine yelled in panic. “Release me!”

“Answer me!” his former employer demanded and added even more pressure on Slaine’s head.

“Sir! Stop it immediately!” Mr. Craftman shouted and the pressure disappeared. The sound of steps stumbling beat against the bandit’s eardrums. Slaine released a heavy sigh and groaned. “That is too cruel! He hasn’t even had a trial yet!”

“Silence, bounty hunter!” Cruhteo roared angrily. “He is my subordinate and thus I am in charge of him!”

When Slaine opened his eyes he saw Mr. Craftman stand between him and Cruhteo. He had probably pushed Cruhteo away from Slaine in an attempt to save him but the bandit knew it was useless. Once Cruhteo got angry he would not be calmed down until he had gotten rid of his rage.

Mr. Craftman backed one step away from the Officer who stared at him with needle sharp eyes, threatening to punish him too. Slaine did not want the young man to be treated cruelly; there had been something in Mr. Craftman’s voice that had told Slaine to trust the bounty hunter. The warmness of the man’s voice when he had told Slaine to not worry about getting hanged had been a surprise. The bounty hunter was probably not a bad person at all.

“Mr. Craftman,” Slaine sighed and – with great difficulty – got up on his knees from where he had been lying on the floor. “Don’t meddle, please…”

“But he is taking the law into his own hands!” Mr. Craftman exclaimed and would not move from between Slaine and Cruhteo.

“It doesn’t matter,” the blond bandit mumbled. “I will be hanged anyway.”

“And I will enjoy the sight, insolent dog!” Cruhteo yelled and pushed Mr. Craftman out of his way.

Slaine watched his former lord open the strap which held his officer whip in place on his hip and swallowed hard as he watched Cruhteo grab the handle. The coldhearted man stared at Slaine without as much as a blink during the entire time and Slaine lowered his gaze and waited in defeat.

So he shall whip me…’ he thought and squeezed his bound hands into tight fists. His heartbeat began to get louder in his tight chest and he hoped for dear life the corset would take most of the damage and act as a shield. ‘Don’t beg. Don’t give him the pleasure, Slaine Troyard,’ he thought and took deep but slow breaths to stay calm.

“Please, don’t!” Mr. Craftman said desperately when the whip unfolded but Cruhteo did not pay the man any heed before he pulled the whip back.

Slaine closed his eyes tightly and tried to ready himself for the hit but no matter how much he prepared himself the cutting pain coursed through him at the impact. Right after he closed his eyes, the whip’s sharp snap a painful howl echoed in the mansion. The skirt on the dress was cut open by the whip’s razor sharp lash and an angry bruise was left across Slaine’s thighs. The next lash would cut through his skin if it hit on the same spot again.

“I shall stop if you answer me,” Cruhteo tried again. “Why did you steal the camera?”

The bandit’s lips pressed tightly together and his body slumped forward. The only thing that held him upright was the tight and stiff corset. A second lash cut through the air and hit Slaine’s back, and immediately the blond bandit fell forward in an attempt to escape the pain. He gasped for breath as Cruhteo readied himself for a third whip.

“What did you use it for? To take a picture of you seducing the Governor? What an unsightly thing to do,” Cruhteo snarled and Slaine chuckled quietly while tears gathered in his eyes.

“And it nearly worked. He could not keep his hands off of me,” he said with a whisper. It was a whimsical try to get revenge on the Officer by insulting Cruhteo’s dear friend.

“Disgusting!” the man exclaimed and pulled the whip back once again and a third lash hit Slaine’s back. The laces holding Slaine’s dress together were cut by the whip and the bandit finally got to breathe properly when the corset fell open, but instead a burning pain made his chest tighten and something warm began trickling down his back. “Ungrateful dog! I took you in and gave you a life worth living after your father died, and this is how you repay me; by soiling my pride and honor!?” Cruhteo continued with a voice which reverberated throughout the room.

Slaine gasped and felt tears trickle down his cheeks. He did not cry but he could not stop the tears from flowing anyway. He began trembling as his body fell into shock; even though the room was warm he began freezing like he found himself naked in winter cold. All senses went into high alert and the pain from his back faded just slightly. A heat spread from his wounds over his back which worsened the trembling.

The bandit stayed quiet this time. There was no pride or honor to protect; he was nothing but a bandit – a lawless without the need for such things. To try and protect something that was not there was useless, and so he did not utter a single word to the Officer threatening him with the whip.

“Going silent again, I see,” Cruhteo grumbled and pulled the whip back a fourth time.

Slaine gritted his teeth and waited. He held his breath and tensed every muscle in his body, and just as he had gathered his thoughts in anticipation of the lash a shrill voice screamed:

“No! What are you doing!?”

The whip never snapped through the air and it never cut a wound onto Slaine’s back. The blond opened his eyes in confusion and looked up at the direction to where the shrill voice had come from. In the door opening stood a shocked young lady with her hands over her mouth. She stared at Cruhteo and Slaine; her heavenly blue eyes wandered from the Officer to the bandit and back without understanding what was happening.

Slaine wanted to hide. He must have looked so pitiful in her eyes and having her see him in a state like that was painful; Slaine wanted to protect her happiness and joy as much as he could but now he would be the cause of two heartbreaks for her.

“S-Slaine?” Lady Asseylum asked and stared at the bandit. “Is that you?”

“My fair lady, you should not be here,” Cruhteo said with concern. The Officer cared about her – even adored her – to the point where he would do anything to protect her.

“What have you done!?” the young lady shouted the moment she saw the angry wounds on Slaine’s back. “Officer Cruhteo, this is cruel!”

She ran up to Slaine to reach out her arms and pull him into her embrace – just like the compassionate and beautiful human being Slaine had always thought she were – but he could not soil her kindness by letting her hold him. In an instant he pulled away from her.

I will be responsible for breaking your heart…

“Don’t … my lady…” he whispered with a trembling breath.

“Slaine,” she chirped and made a new try to hold him.

“Lady Allusia, do not touch him,” Cruhteo said desperately as Slaine failed to stop her from putting her arms around him.

“L-Lady Asseylum, please!” Slaine said shocked the moment he felt her warmness against his aching body. If only his arms were not bound he would have been able to stop her from disgracing herself by holding a bandit in a safe embrace.

The girl would not let him go. She hugged him securely and tightly.

“How can you do something like this to my friend?” Asseylum asked Cruhteo, who took a couple of steps back from shock and did not know what to say. Asseylum’s hand caressed Slaine’s neck compassionately. “Does it hurt, Slaine?”

“He is a bandit, my lady. He is not your friend anymore,” Cruhteo tried. “He will be sentenced to jail.”

You’re lying…’ Slaine thought. He knew Cruhteo would do anything in his power to have Slaine sentenced to death.

“Do not treat me like a fool, Cruhteo!” Asseylum shouted with tears in her eyes. “You know as well as I do that the prisons are overfilled after the riots. New prisoners will be executed!”

The life in west did not put much value to a human life. The conditions of life had never been better but they were yet cruel. Death was a close acquaintance which followed everyone closely and was an everyday visitor in towns. Especially to a gunman – lawman or outlaw – Death was someone who could be waiting behind all corners. The moment Slaine had become an outlaw he had accepted to hold hands with Death. The blond wondered if this was the time Death would pull him away from his path – and it broke his heart that the fair lady was trying to protect him.

“It’s all right, Lady Allusia,” Slaine said quietly. “I knew the consequences the moment I decided to stray from the law.”

“But why, Slaine!? Why are you straying from the law!?” the girl cried and hugged him tighter.

“Because someone has to,” Slaine whispered apologetically and thought: ‘I can’t tell her about my reasons.’ “Please, let me go, my lady.”

“Daughter! Get away from him!” The Governor’s voice attacked Slaine’s ears and shortly after, Asseylum was pulled away from the bandit. Her father hugged her tightly and held her in a protective embrace. “Here you were, girl. Are you all right? You surprised me when you disappeared from your room.”

It was bittersweet watching the father and daughter together. Slaine was happy for the young lady to have such a caring father, but he felt sorry for her not knowing what kind of monster the man could be – and he was sad for her due to what Slaine and the gang would do.

“But father! He is my friend!” Asseylum insisted but her father shook his head.

“He may have been that but now he is nothing but a bandit; an outlaw who runs from justice,” the Governor said and looked at Mr. Craftman who had been standing in silence and watched the scene of the two childhood friends play out in front of him. “Take him away to confinement and collect your bounty once both bandits are behind bars.”

Mr. Craftman slipped his arm under Slaine’s and helped him up from the floor without hesitation; the bounty hunter seemed afraid of the Governor and Officer Cruhteo after what the man had done to Slaine. Asseylum yelled for the bounty hunter to stop and leave Slaine alone but neither Slaine nor Mr. Craftman uttered a word to her as an answer. The bandit hung his head from exhaustion and tried to bite back the pain from his wounds, but occasionally – during their walk through the mansion – he gasped when he could not battle against the pain in silence.

“Slaine was your name, right?” Mr. Craftman asked but Slaine did not answer him. “I’m still shocked that you’re actually a man. You’re really cute and pretty as a woman; I almost fell in love with you at Woodside.”

Slaine smiled slightly at the man’s clumsy try to engage into small talk.

“And yet you bought me gin and tried to get me to bed. Is that what you do with all women you find interest in?” the blond bandit asked exhaustedly but amused.

“Don’t hold it against me,” Mr. Craftman said and smiled awkwardly. “While I was chasing Deadeye Lee I wanted to have some fun for a night; you were a dove at a brothel so what was I to do? Besides, I wouldn’t have treated you roughly.”

Slaine raised his head to smile brighter and let the man see it. Mr. Craftman blushed immediately.

“Well, that is some comfort; that you wouldn’t have been rough if we would have gone all the way,” he said gently and Mr. Craftman averted his eyes and bit his lower lip.

“W-would you have gone all the way?” the bounty hunter asked and Slaine chuckled quietly:

“Would you have wanted me to?”

The bounty hunter shook his head in a hurry and blushed all the way to the tip of his nose.

“N-n-no, of course not! I’m a ladies’ man!” he insisted stammering.

“Good,” Slaine sighed and looked out through the open front doors at the wooden prison wagon which stood and waited for them on the courtyard. He could see Inaho slumped against the wall behind the bars in the wagon. “He wouldn’t have liked it,” Slaine said while he stared at the lonely silhouette of his lover.

“Who?” Mr. Craftman asked and followed Slaine’s gaze to Inaho, who had noticed them and studied them as they approached. “W-wait… Are you two…?”

Slaine did not answer him.

“Slaine,” Inaho said and looked worriedly at the blond bandit through the bars. He looked like he was ready to jump out through the door the moment Mr. Craftman opened it. “Are you all right?”

“Somewhat,” Slaine smiled at him tiredly while Mr. Craftman unlocked the wagon door. “And you?”

“Somewhat,” the brunet answered back.

Mr. Craftman looked saddened as he opened the wagon door and stepped aside to have Slaine step up into the small mobile cell. He looked up at Inaho and narrowed his eyes.

“You know,” he mumbled quietly. “If you won’t escape from jail again and take him with you I won’t forgive you,” he said and nodded toward Slaine while he tried to stare Inaho down with a dominating glare. “You hear me, Deadeye Lee?”

“I’ve told you countless times my name is Inaho,” the brunet complained with his usual monotone voice, and Mr. Craftman sighed heavily.

“As long as you’re an outlaw I will call you Deadeye Lee,” the bounty hunter grumbled. “Whatever escape you’re plotting – since believe me, I know you are just as we speak – make sure to include the pretty lady guy here.”

“Stop giving people nicknames. It’s rude,” the brunet scolded.

Slaine could not help but to chuckle quietly while listening to them bicker. It was obvious they had been loggerheads for a while now and Slaine wondered how far their history reached. The bounty hunter had turned out to be a surprisingly friendly one and before the blond bandit got onto the wagon he leaned in to gave Mr. Craftman’s cheek a kiss. The bounty hunter looked like his ears would blow out steam while Inaho stared daggers at him.

“A thank you from the soiled dove Stella, for not being a brute,” Slaine said quietly and got onto the wagon.

His wounds burned with pain the moment he exerted his muscles to raise himself onto the wagon and tears sprung to his eyes once again. A muffled cry escaped his lips and he was about to collapse as he got disoriented by the pain. Slaine fell to his knees but Inaho was quick to lean his left shoulder against him to hold him up.

“Do your injuries hurt a lot?” Inaho whispered and Slaine nodded and took a deep breath.

“Cruhteo whipped me. The dress is torn and I think I’m bleeding from my back,” the blond whispered back and buried his face against the crook of Inaho’s neck to find comfort. The smell of gunpowder and sweat filled his nostrils. “How is your bullet wound?”

“Nothing I can’t handle,” was the answer and the door to the wagon closed and was locked.

The wagon began to move and Slaine sighed heavily. He wanted to put his arms around Inaho’s neck but since they both were bound they could only lean against each other and support each other to not fall to the wagon floor from exhaustion. Slaine felt Inaho’s breaths tickle his neck and the warm caresses of the man’s breaths made it tingle in Slaine’s exhausted body.

“Inaho…” Slaine whispered as they moved out through the gates to the mansion grounds. Inaho looked up at him and waited. “I love you…” the blond whispered and kissed him gently.

Inaho leaned closer as he kissed Slaine back and their lips opened for each other. Quiet sighs escaped them as they kissed themselves drunk on wonderful feelings. Even if Inaho was plotting a way to escape Slaine would not take any risks. If their escape would fail Slaine wanted to make sure Inaho knew how much he loved him.

If this is our last night alive at least we get to spend it together,’ the blond thought and caressed Inaho’s tongue with his to let Inaho know Slaine wanted a deeper kiss.

“Mmh…” the blond moaned quietly and swallowed hard to gasp for air. “Inaho…”

“Slaine…” the brunet sighed and pulled away from Slaine. “We will escape. Don’t worry.”

Slaine shook his head slowly.

“I won’t take any chances,” he whispered back and immediately locked their lips into a kiss again.

They refused to let each other go during the entire way to the awaiting arrest in town. They stopped kissing when they arrived and listened to Mr. Craftman speak with the lawman who was steering the horse. They learned the entire building had been emptied of captured outlaws in case Inaho would try something that would result in all the outlaws escaping; Deadeye Lee was apparently known for that. Slaine could not help but to chuckle hearing what his partner in crime and love was known to do. The moment he looked at Inaho he saw the bandit observe the surroundings of the area through the bars. His mind had already gone to work with his plan of escaping.

I hope you are as good as they say. I’m not ready to give you up,’ Slaine thought and took a deep breath. He was getting nervous.

They were taken out of the wagon and led into the jailhouse and deeper all the way to the confinement cells – Inaho by the lawman and Slaine by the bounty hunter. Neither Slaine nor Inaho made any kind of resistance and they followed their capturers’ lead under silence. To Slaine’s dismay they were separated and put into different but neighboring cells. For Slaine it was a slight comfort that he could at least touch Inaho through the bars separating them. Barred open windows were the only thing that let in fresh air into the cells, which reeked of something which Slaine did not want to know what it was.

When the cell doors closed behind them they were asked to stand with their back against the bars so their hands would be unbound from their restraints. As they had been freed Slaine turned around to look at the lawman and bounty hunter with pleading eyes.

“Could you give us some hot water, salt and pliers?” he asked and the lawman stared at him for a short while before grinning like a fool.

“Why? Will you try to pry your way out of here?”

Slaine sighed and hung his head. He was so tired and his wounds hurt but he could not rest. He threw a glance at Inaho who pressed a hand against his wounded shoulder in an attempt to stop the bleeding.

“No, he has been shot. I need to get the bullet out,” Slaine answered with a slight demand to his voice. “Someone can stay here and keep an eye on us if you are afraid of some pliers being misused.”

The lawman looked like Slaine had slapped him over his cheek. He was about to step forward and say something when Mr. Craftman stepped in front of him.

“I’ll stay here and keep an eye on them,” he said and gave the lawman a glare. “I won’t ask for extra payment and you get some free time.”

The lawman did not say anything but instead stared at Mr. Craftman in an attempt to stare him down, but when he realized Mr. Craftman was stubborn about it he left the room with a:

“I’ll be back soon.”

Mr. Craftman leaned up against the desk where a guard would sit and all three of them waited in silence. The silence was heavy and uncomfortable; Slaine felt like it was the silence before an execution.

Will we die tomorrow?’ he wondered.

He had gotten away easily from Cruhteo’s punishment but no matter what they said the punishment from the law was the worst. Since Inaho was the infamous Deadeye Lee, Slaine was sure they would get a quick trial in the morning in order to not give Inaho time to escape.

And since I am with him I will probably get the same sentence.’

Slaine looked at Inaho who leaned against the wall in his cell with closed eyes while still holding his bleeding wound. The man looked tired.

He will drag me down with him,’ Slaine sighed and took a hold of the bars to rest his head against them and find support for his tired body. He could not help but to smile. ‘But I don’t mind it. Wherever he goes, I will go too – even if it means we will have to climb the stairs for the gallows together.’

The lawman came back with a pot of hot water and small pliers, as well as a little bottle of salt. A chair was moved to the bars of Slaine’s cell and the utensils were placed on top of it. It was probably a precaution of not giving the bandits any objects that could be used as weapons; the hot water would have been a perfect weapon to scorch someone with and the metallic pot would have been able to knock someone out if it was swung hard enough.

“Inaho,” Slaine said quietly as Mr. Craftman and the lawman exchanged some quiet words which the blond did not care to listen to. “Could you come over here?”

Inaho opened his burgundy eyes to look at Slaine. The man was worse off than Slaine had thought, probably due to blood loss and pain. The blond wondered if Inaho’s shoulder joint had been hit. The brunet walked over to Slaine and the blond asked him to sit down onto the floor in case the pain would be difficult once the bullet was dug out. Slaine wished the bars would not be in his way but he had no choice but to work through them. The lawman left the room to leave the guarding duty to Mr. Craftman, who observed the bandits’ interaction in silence.

“Does it hurt?” Slaine asked quietly as he salted the hot water and stirred it with the metallic pliers. Inaho did not answer his question but asked Slaine instead:

“Have you done this before?”

Slaine smiled tiredly and chuckled.

“Don’t you trust me?” he asked and ripped a piece of fabric off from the hem of his dress to dip it in the hot water and let it soak there for a while. Then he continued to help Inaho open his shirt to expose the wound. “My father was a doctor. I helped him plenty of times with these kinds of wounds.” Inaho looked up at the blond and tilted his head slightly, and Slaine chuckled. “Is it that hard to believe?”

Slaine took the rag from the water to cool it off before he could squeeze some of the water out.

“What were you doing with Officer Cruhteo as a gunman if you are the son of a doctor?” Inaho asked quietly but hissed from the pain when Slaine dabbed the hot cloth against his wound on his shoulder.

Slaine’s tired smile faded as he watched the blood soak into the rag.

“He was killed by bandits for saving the life of a member to a rivaling gang,” the blond answered quietly. The feeling of loss was still there; Slaine had not been able to escape from it. “He was shot right in front of me four years ago and I couldn’t save him. I was 14 at the time and was placed under Cruhteo’s care.”

He saw Inaho watch him, studying his facial expression while Slaine concentrated on washing away the blood.

“What kind of doctor was he?” the bandit asked and Slaine’s smile spread on his lips once again thinking back to what kind of person his father was, and answered:

“The best kind.”

The blood was cleaned away but some more of it quickly trickled out of the wound. Slaine tore off another piece of cloth from his dress to let it soak in the hot saltwater, and tore a third piece off from the dress to roll it into a roll of cloth. Then he took the small pliers and looked at Inaho’s wound.

“This will hurt. Bite onto this,” Slaine warned and offered Inaho the little cloth roll, and the brunet did as he was told. “Please bear with it…” Slaine carefully pushed the pliers into Inaho’s wound and the brunet squeezed his eyes tightly shut and let out a strained gasp. The bandit tensed up from the pain and Slaine knitted his eyebrows. “Don’t tense up. Try to relax,” he instructed calmly.

It was hard to find the bullet but after a while of trying Slaine finally felt the pliers grab onto something and he carefully pulled them out. A blood soaked bullet followed with the pliers. Slaine threw the pliers and the bullet to the floor to quickly take the second soaked cloth from the hot water and push it against Inaho’s wound, and added pressure to stop the bleeding.

“Are you all right?” the blond asked worriedly as he looked at Inaho’s pale face. The other bandit was cold sweating from pain.

“Yes,” Inaho answered stubbornly and took deep breaths. “Your hand was steady with the pliers.”

Slaine chuckled.

“I learned from the best,” he whispered and felt relief spread in his being. He had been worried about Inaho’s bullet wound since the risk of it getting infected was high. “We need to clean the wound regularly so it won’t get infected. I’m sure you will be all right.”

Inaho nodded and sighed as the pain seemed to fade somewhat. The brunet relaxed more and more and Slaine patiently waited for Inaho to collect himself. Once Inaho’s shoulder had been cared for and wrapped in pieces from Slaine’s dress the brunet caressed Slaine’s cheek with a slightly trembling hand and looked at him with a soft expression.

“Thank you,” he whispered. “I should treat your wounds as well. Do they hurt?”

“They do, but I can manage. They just have to be cleaned,” Slaine answered and looked up at Mr. Craftman who had been standing silently watching them. The man’s expression was deep with thought and he rested his hand against his chin. “Could you change the water so I can clean my wounds as well?” Slaine asked quietly and Mr. Craftman nodded.

“Sure,” he said and walked up to the cell to take the pot with the bloodied water. “I’ll take the pliers as well.”

Slaine reached for the pliers. That instant, when he turned his torso toward them, his wounds burned horribly and he let out a groan. His body was reminded that it was injured and he took a deep breath. He made a second attempt by shuffling closer to the pliers and once he grabbed them he gave them to the waiting bounty hunter. Mr. Craftman’s expression was painted with pity as he watched the two injured bandits in their cages.

“Thank you. Don’t move about too much with those cuts, all right?” the bounty hunter said and disappeared with the pot and pliers out through the open door.

Slaine tried to relax his body in order not to exert his back muscles too much and prevent the wounds from aching more than necessary. He held the broken dress together with his arms to shield himself from the slight cold which had begun to emerge from the darkness outside. The nights were chilly.

What an adventure…

He thought back to how intense the last days had been after he met Inaho. He had never been through something as nerve-wracking and fun until Inaho and his friends stepped into his life.

I’m glad I decided to follow him after we fell off the train,’ Slaine thought happily. The life he had had the couple of past days had been colorful, joyful, fun and completely new to him; he felt at home with the gang.

A touch to his shoulder made his body jump and he looked up at Inaho who gave him a reassuring look.

“I will get us out of here. Don’t worry,” he said quietly and Slaine smiled and nodded.

“I trust you.”

Inaho put his hand behind Slaine’s neck and pulled his face closer, and they kissed through the bars. Slaine surrendered to the gentle kiss they shared and kissed his lover back until Inaho paused to whisper:

“When Calm gets back with the water, ask him to leave us alone. If I do that he will get suspicious.”

Slaine wanted to know why but before he had time to ask Inaho kissed him again and pried Slaine’s lips open with his tongue. The blond accepted the deep kiss and was consumed by it. It felt odd how they could act out their love in such a strange place like a jail but Slaine decided not to question it, just in case it was their last night together. He was so thankful for Inaho and his gang. The handful of days he had spent with them had been a hectic and fun time – something Slaine would never forget.

They kissed for so long that Slaine had lost track of time. Inaho was good at making Slaine’s mind wander away from everything around them, even from the pain which ached and burned on Slaine’s back. Slaine was sure they would be kissing each other for as long as…

“Ahem!”

Someone cleared their throat and interrupted their kiss; both Inaho and Slaine looked up to see who it was and Mr. Craftman was standing at the door with the pot in hand. The man wore an awkward blush on his cheeks as he waited for the couple to stop kissing, and Slaine got a just as awkward blush on his cheeks.

“T-the water is ready,” the bounty hunter mumbled and tried to look at everything else but the two bandits who had frozen in their previously passionate pose.

After Mr. Craftman had made his presence known he walked over to the cells and put the pot down on the chair again, still not throwing as little as a glance at them.

Inaho told me to ask him leave,’ Slaine reminded himself and smiled awkwardly.

“Um… T-thank you,” he said. “C-could you – you know – leave us alone for a while?”

Mr. Craftman suddenly looked at Slaine and Inaho with an arched eyebrow and got a cynical look in his eyes.

“Really? You’re gonna do it here of all places?” he asked with surprise and shock.

Slaine pouted and blushed to the tips of his ears.

“So what if we do? And besides, can’t a lady lick her wounds in peace?” he scolded stubbornly. He was too exhausted for conflicts. “I don’t want to have someone stare at me when my wounds are treated, and we don’t have anything to use as a weapon, so what’s the deal?”

Mr. Craftman cleared his throat out of awkwardness once again.

“I b-believe it will be Deadeye Lee w-who licks your wounds if I leave you two alone,” he stammered and took a deep breath. He looked like he had walked in on something private he should not have interrupted.

Slaine got frustrated, angry and annoyed at the constant precautions and disagreeing. He had been stressed out the entire day and enough was enough. His eyes sharpened angrily as he glared straight on at the bounty hunter.

“Listen, Mister! If I want Inaho to lick my wounds then let him do that. This might be our last night together!” he said fiercely. “I’m tired, wounded and in a cell with a possible death sentence waiting for me tomorrow morning. I should be allowed to do the hanky-panky with my partner whenever the hell I want before that!”

He caught Inaho staring at him with wide eyes like the bandit was unsure if Slaine would explode or not. Mr. Craftman had a similar expression on his face and he looked nervous about Slaine’s sudden crankiness.

“F-fine. I’ll leave you to it but – uh – stay quiet about it. I’ll be outside,” he said with a crimson face before he hurried out of the room and closed the door behind him.

Slaine released a heavy sigh and turned around, ripped a fourth piece of fabric from his dress and handed it to Inaho so the brunet could clean Slaine’s wounds on his back with it. He heard the brunet salt the water and soak the cloth in it.

The room fell into an awkward silence for a while until Inaho raised the cloth from its hot bath and waited for it to cool. The sound of dripping water was the only thing that sounded in the room before Inaho asked:

“… Was all that an act?”

Slaine sighed and leaned forward, supported by his arm.

“No…” the blond muttered. He had been serious about his grumpiness. “So what’s the plan?”

Inaho wrung some water from the cloth and gently dabbed it against Slaine’s wounds to clean them. Slaine cursed from the pain under his breath.

“Wait until the gang makes some ruckus outside,” Inaho whispered. “They’re outside the window right now.”

“How do you know they’re-!?” Slaine exclaimed surprised but Inaho pushed the hot cloth harder against Slaine’s wound to stop him from continuing. “Argh! Damn it, it hurts!”

“Be quiet…” Inaho whispered.

A knock was heard from the door and both of them looked up at it.

Are you two all right in there?” they heard Mr. Craftman’s voice.

“Oh, just shut up!” Slaine yelled back – frustrated and tired from the long and stressful day, and a squeaking voice answered from the other side of the door:

Sorry!

“You’re pretty sassy when you’re mad, aren’t you?” Slaine heard a female whisper say from the window to his cell, and he looked up only to see a grinning Nina peek in through the bars. “I think you’ve gotten yourself more than you can handle in that one, Inaho. Why don’t you leave him to me?”

Inaho glared at her – just like the silent angry type Slaine had learned he was.

“Are you ready?” Inaho asked with a whisper and Nina scoffed playfully and disappeared from the window. Within a couple of seconds a hand dropped something into the cell and Inaho quickly pushed the cloth against Slaine’s wounds again.

“OW! What are you doing!? Be gentle!” Slaine cursed but that was when he noticed his yell had drowned out the clatter from the two objects that fell from the window to the floor.

It was a single bullet and a wooden stick.

A stick and a bullet? But we don’t have a gun…’ Slaine thought confused.

“Sorry for the pain,” Inaho whispered next to Slaine’s ear. “I’ll make it up to you when we are safe.”

“You better,” Slaine growled quietly and let Inaho finish cleaning his wounds, who this time did it gently and lovingly.

Once Inaho had finished Slaine felt lips against his shoulder and teeth nibbled at his skin. A pleasant shiver ran down his spine and he sighed and relaxed for each nibble which climbed from his shoulder to his neck. A warm tongue licked his sensitive skin and Slaine forgot where he was when it tickled his ear.

“Ahh…! Inaho…” he moaned but was brought back into reality when he heard frantic giggling outside the window.

He was about to yell something to the girls out of childish anger and frustration when Inaho covered his mouth with a hand.

“Don’t yell… Keep moaning,” the brunet whispered and went back to nibbling and kissing Slaine’s neck. “Make sounds like you’re in the mood.”

Slaine pulled Inaho’s hand down from his mouth while he blushed.

“W-why?” the blond whispered confused and scowled.

“You told Calm you wanted to make love to me one last time, did you not?” Inaho asked and bit down onto Slaine’s neck again.

“Ah!” the blond gasped and took a deep breath to collect himself and whispered: “Are you serious? Aren’t we supposed to escape?”

“That’s what we are doing,” Inaho whispered back. “I need your help.”

What on earth is going through your mind!?’ Slaine thought but nodded, and Inaho gave him a grateful nibble on his earlobe.

“Hahh!” the blond exclaimed surprised and began breathing heavily. “What do you want me to do?”

Inaho instructed him to get up from the floor, and as Slaine turned around so they could look at each other the brunet pulled Slaine into a deep kiss again, and whispered between his kisses:

“Take my shirt off.”

Slaine felt confused but his anger and frustration began to subside as his mind got occupied with lust. They pushed against each other through the bars and exchanged heated kisses and moaned. In the midst of it all Slaine slowly undressed Inaho’s torso from his open shirt.

“Soak it in the water,” Inaho instructed between the kisses.

“Why…?” the blond sighed.

“It won’t tear as easily when it’s wet.”

Slaine nodded before he turned toward the pot which’s water had cooled quite a bit. As he carefully bent over to soak the shirt in the crimson water he felt a hand wander up beneath what was left of his skirt and fondle his behind. Slaine’s legs trembled from the sudden attack.

“Aahh! W-what…!? Mmh!” Slaine moaned and could not help but to release a chuckle. The entire situation was bizarre but he loved it. “N-now what, Mr. Bandit?” he sighed with a lusty blush on his cheeks. His aching wounds were filtered away by his lust induced mind.

“Give it to me,” Inaho whispered and pulled his hand away from under Slaine’s skirt.

With the feeling of disappointment Slaine handed the dripping shirt to Inaho who went to pick up the bullet and stick from the floor. He quickly put the bullet into his pocket before it got soaked and then tied his wet shirt around two of the bars to his cell, right next to Slaine’s. He put the wooden stick into the loop of his shirt and then twisted the stick around until the shirt tightened around the bars.

“Help me with this. I can’t use too much force due to my left shoulder,” Inaho instructed and Slaine nodded and reached his arms through the bars dividing their cells. “Don’t stop moaning.”

Both took a hold of the stick and helped each other to turn it around, and the shirt tightened more for each turn until the bars began to bend closer together. They both gasped and huffed from the work they had to put into it and Slaine found it amusing how their sounds from their hard work were disguised as something completely different. It was a ridiculous way of executing their plan but somehow it worked; Mr. Craftman had left them alone.

“Aghh!” Slaine gasped as the shirt was tight enough he had to put in more force in to turning the stick, and his wounds burned. “D-damn… Inaho…! I can’t-!”

Inaho suddenly smiled at hearing Slaine moan and gasp like that and surprised Slaine with:

“Cum for me, Slaine...”

Even if Slaine knew Inaho was just playing the part Slaine was so shocked from hearing it he lost his grip of the stick which began to unwind and it managed to hit Inaho on his chin. The brunet stumbled back and let out a surprised sound:

“Ah!”

Slaine quickly gathered his mind and took a hold of the stick to prevent it from unwinding completely, and began turning it again while he grumbled:

“That’s what you get… Hnng! … for teasing me like that…”

When Inaho had shaken the shock away and rubbed his hurting chin he helped Slaine to turn the stick again, and suddenly Slaine began laughing quietly.

“You know… Aagh! This way of escaping… Mmmh! … It’s really fun…” he whispered between his loud huffs and moans.

The bars made a creaking sound as the metal tried to fight against the two sweaty bandits.

“We will have … more fun once we get out of here,” Inaho said with a strained voice.

“I don’t doubt that…” Slaine sighed and Inaho stopped him from turning the stick around further.

“Can you hold it like that?” he whispered and Slaine nodded while sweat poured down his face.

“Hurry…” the blond gasped and put all his power into holding the stick still while Inaho pressed himself through the slightly wider gap between the bars. “Argh…! H-hurry! I can’t…!”

Inaho managed to struggle out of his cell from between the bars they had just forced to bend. Slaine released the stick and let out a loud yelp the moment it began unwinding with a violent speed. The brunet quickly continued with placing the bullet into the lock to Slaine’s cell and removed his boot.

“Back away,” he said quietly and Slaine nodded while gasping from exhaustion and backed away from the cell door.

Inaho raised his boot and suddenly whistled out loud, and immediately guns went off outside the jail. The girls became busy outside. Slaine heard guards and civilians yell and scream on the outside and that was when Inaho slammed the heel of his boot against the percussion cap on the rear end of the bullet. A loud bang rang in Slaine’s ears and a little gust of smoke filled the room. Inaho opened the cell door and quickly pulled his boot on again.

“Come on!” he said in a hurry and Slaine hurried after his lover who just had busted them out of jail.

They hurried up to the door and Inaho did not hesitate to kick it open. He took a hold of Slaine’s wrist and pulled him along as they ran out through the door and passed a shocked Mr. Craftman who was fumbling around with his gun.

“HEY! STOP!” they heard him yell behind them but Inaho kept running with Slaine in tow.

“Keep running no matter what,” Inaho instructed Slaine who tried to keep up with the brunet.

A loud commotion was heard outside and horses neighed and the ground shook.

“What on earth are they doing out there!?” Slaine yelled to drown out the ruckus from outside.

“Whatever they can!” Inaho answered and opened a second door.

They got out into the lobby of the building where guards were protecting themselves behind the windowsills with guns held high, waiting for a perfect time to shoot into the street at their targets. When they noticed the two bandits come running they turned to aim at them instead.

“Inaho! They’ll shoot us!” Slaine yelled with tears in his eyes from panic, and the first shot went off from their right and grazed Inaho’s arm which was holding Slaine in a secure grip.

“Don’t stop running!” Inaho reminded the blond and bravely kept his eyes at the open door. “Yuki-nee!”

The sound of galloping was heard from outside and something was thrown into the building through a window. The glass shattered and rained down on one of the guards beneath the ledge who immediately raised his hands over his head.

“TNT! RUN!” someone yelled and frightened screams were heard all around them.

The guards forgot about the bandits and ran toward the door while the fuse to the dynamite burned shorter. Before long the building had been emptied and both Slaine and Inaho managed to run out into the street. They met Yuki on her Mustang and Inaho pushed Slaine toward her.

“Get up behind me!” Yuki said hurriedly and reached out a hand to Slaine, who quickly grabbed it without question and was hoisted up behind her. He hugged her tightly around her waist as she slapped with the reins and her horse began running.

“What about Inaho!?” Slaine exclaimed and looked over his shoulder.

Rayet was riding toward Inaho with an outstretched hand with Inko and Nina behind her with two horses in tow.

“Don’t worry about Nao. We’re a team – remember?” Yuki said with a smirk and Slaine saw Inaho get hoisted up behind Rayet and followed them.

The second later an explosion was heard and the wooden walls on the sheriffs building blew apart and a heavy dust cloud spread across the street. A shock wave sent the dust toward them and blinded them for a short moment, but they kept riding at full speed straight ahead toward the pitch black desert. Slaine’s heart was beating wildly in his chest and he trembled from the adrenaline that pumped through him aggressively.

We could have died back there!’ he thought and was amazed of how much the gang trusted in each other; it was like they were reading each others’ minds; a sign of long experience with each other. Slaine remembered when he had confronted Inaho about the murders he had heard about right after they had fallen off the train. The murders had turned out to be completely off from the truth and when Slaine realized this jailbreak was going to be one of those distorted headline news he burst out into a confused laughter. ‘Inaho and the gang are crazy! I love it!

***

Days later the news spread about the Governor’s secret hobby with a picture as proof where the Governor pinned a helpless dove against his desk. Riots covered the streets once again but this time the victory belonged to the people; Governor Allusia was forced to abdicate and Saazbaum – who was his Lieutenant Governor – took over until the next election for a new Governor would take place. Saazbaum was quick to lower the taxes to humane levels in order to please the people and calm them down; the riots were quickly over and many began pushing the idea that Saazbaum would take Allusia’s place as the Governor of the state. The Allusia family found shelter at their home ranch which was owned by the previous Governor’s father; Rayregalia Vers Rayvers, and were not heard from for a long time.

Slaine’s career as a bandit had been a success for the blond. He had gotten two nicknames which had begun to spread in the Wild West and no one knew the two nicknames were for the same person. The nickname Gentleman Jack told a tale of a handsome young man who knew the art of speech and manners, who could fool any lady into anything he wanted – which automatically made men jealous; Mr. Craftman was one of those men who had sworn to hunt Slaine down out of pure jealousy. The second nickname – The Widow Maker – was surrounded by mystery; the only thing people knew about this young lady was that she would make wives into widows if their husbands were not cautious.

None of that was true of course but people loved to talk and “bullshit”, as Yuki so finely put it.

***

He woke up to the slight rocking and bright light. The blond bandit opened his eyes and saw the bright white canvas shield him from the sun. It was early morning. He looked down at the heaviness on his chest only to accidentally bury his face into brown hair, and he blew it away from his nose so he could breathe properly. It made the other man wake up.

“Good morning…” Slaine yawned and watched Inaho look up at him with drowsy eyes.

The brunet’s hair was splayed in every direction.

“Good morning,” the bandit – who was sleeping in Slaine’s arms – said with a husky morning voice.

Oh yes… We were drunk last night all thanks to Yuki…’ Slaine remembered and frowned. It had been three months since their escape from Salt Lake City and they had found their way to New Mexico where they had made a stop at a deserted cabin next to a lake. Inaho’s sister had made a bet last night about who could hold their breath the longest – a silly game she used only to trick everyone into a drinking game. Slaine had – of course – lost immediately and had been forced to drink a shot of whiskey, and after that it all went out of control for the entire gang. He did not feel sick but his body was heavy.

“Are you all right?” Slaine groaned and rubbed his sleepy eyes.

“Yes… I think so…” Inaho mumbled and raised himself from on top of Slaine where he had been asleep throughout the entire night.

The canvas had been stretched over the wooden edges as a tent but the moment Inaho sat up the canvas was pulled off and Slaine squinted in the bright light. When the blond sat up and looked around he saw…

“Water!?” he exclaimed and looked around the lake surrounding them. The desert sand Slaine hated so much had been replaced by water.

“Looks like we decided to go rowing last night,” Inaho mumbled and rummaged around the bottom of the wooden skiff they had been sleeping in and found a pouch of water, and watching him Slaine noticed they both were completely naked.

While Inaho had a couple of gulps water Slaine remembered back to last night. He and Inaho had been on the mood but the drunken girls did not leave them alone for some private fun time, and so Inaho had gotten the idea – which had been considered bright at the time – to row out in the abandoned skiff which they had found next to the cabin.

Slaine slapped his hand over his face and groaned.

“The oars?” he asked and did not dare to look for them.

“Gone,” Inaho answered and Slaine released a frustrated huff.

“Anchor?”

“I can’t remember there was one.”

“So we’re drifting in the middle of nowhere?”

“No,” Inaho answered and Slaine dared to open his eyes. Inaho reached down into the water at the bow and raised a rope from beneath the surface which was tied to a metal loop at the stem. “It seems like we are tied to the shore.”

Slaine took a closer look at the shore which was not too far away and he let out a relieved breath and slumped back against the bottom of the boat. The boat was completely still except for the light rocking from the small waves.

“Thank god…” he sighed and rubbed his eyes again. “We were not complete idiots last night.”

A shadow covered him and Slaine opened his eyes to see Inaho lean over him and held out the pouch of water he had been drinking from.

“You need to drink,” the brunet reminded him and Slaine agreed by accepting the pouch and gulped down the remaining water. “We should return to the shore,” Inaho then continued and was about to crawl on all four over to the bow again and begin pulling them closer to the shore, when Slaine hurried up and grabbed Inaho’s hips.

The boat rocked from his move.

“Not so fast. I think it would be a better idea to use the privacy we get out here,” the blond purred.

He pushed his groin against Inaho’s behind and leaned over the brunet’s back to kiss his neck.

“Are you taking advantage of my position right now and be the top?” Inaho asked and Slaine chuckled:

“Why not? You got to top me last night. It’s only fair I get to do it now.”

“You’re getting smugger for each day,” the brunet noted and Slaine grinned.

“It’s your fault,” he whispered and rubbed his growing hardness between Inaho’s ass cheeks and hugged him only to have Inaho support the both of them. “If you don’t like my smugness you should stop being such a tease and spoil me with a tempting view like now.”

Inaho looked over his shoulder with a gleam in his eyes:

“You noticed.”

Slaine leaned closer to Inaho’s lips and whispered:

“Of course. I’m starting to learn your tricks, Mr. Bandit.”

As Slaine was about kiss him Inaho took advantage of his relaxed state and grabbed Slaine’s right arm. He pulled him off of him by tilting his body to the side and pinned Slaine down against the wooden planks. The boat rocked violently and made the water splash around them. In the midst of Slaine’s confusion he pushed the blond’s thighs apart and grinded their groins together, which had Slaine release a loud gasp.

“Ahh!”

“You haven’t learned all of them yet,” the brunet said quietly and leaned closer for a kiss and sucked on Slaine’s bottom lip.

The blond felt like he had lost a game and groaned when Inaho pulled back from the kiss.

“You’re so unfair,” he said with a frowning smile. “You always win.”

“You won two days ago,” his lover reminded him and Slaine chuckled:

“You let me win. Admit it.”

“Does your pride allow that?”

Slaine’s smile faded as he was caught in Inaho’s hungry eyes, and he whispered:

“Not when I’m up against you…”

“Then try harder next time,” Inaho encouraged and positioned himself properly between Slaine’s legs and began pushing his tip against Slaine’s opening.

The blond sighed in defeat and leaned his head back against the wooden boat as he felt Inaho slip into him. His body did not resist the other after their night’s activities and Inaho could easily push his length inside him, all the way to the hilt.

“Aahhh! Inaho…” Slaine moaned and wanted to raise his arms around Inaho’s neck but the brunet held them pinned against the bottom of the boat; it was his lover’s sign of victory.

The boat rocked from Inaho’s hips moving and hitting Slaine’s buttocks. All the blond could do was to lie there and take whatever Inaho felt like doing to him and he did not mind it. During the past three months time the duo had become inseparable, always competing about who got to top who and mostly it was Inaho who was the winner. At times they went far enough to compete about the top position with who stole the most money during a robbery. Again, Inaho was always the winner and it spurred Slaine into trying harder for each time. It had resulted in him becoming better and better at his job as an outlaw, and Slaine was confident he would climb to the same level of experience as Inaho in no time.

I’ll get you then!’ the blond swore silently and gasped loudly from a sudden thrust.

“Slaine…” Inaho sighed lustfully and looked at the blond with an intense look before he pulled out and rammed into the blond again.

“Haahh! Mmmhh!” Slaine moaned and closed his eyes as a pleasurable shiver ran through him.

“Don’t let your determination to win falter,” Inaho gasped and thrust into the blond again.

“Aagh! Haahh… Does it thrill you when you win like this…?” Slaine asked with a teasing smile on his lips.

“Ahh… Yes,” Inaho moaned and began moving his hips faster, slamming into Slaine hard enough the boat rocked noticeably and splashed quietly against the surface of the lake.

“Mmph! Inaho…! Ohhh! R-right there!” the blond cried as Inaho found the sweet spot which sent electric bolts through him and nearly shook him to the core.

Inaho slowed down and rubbed his tip hard against Slaine’s sensitive spot, and goose-bumps spread across Slaine’s arms as his insides burned with heat. He arched his back from the intense pleasure and cried out loud enough his voice echoed in the silence of the early morning.

“I-Inaho…! I-“ he gasped and looked at his lover with wet eyes. “I want … haaahhh! … To ride you… Please! Hnnggh!”

Inaho pushed deep into him and kissed Slaine’s lips before he pulled out and lay down on the wooden bottom. Slaine was quick to get up and straddle Inaho’s hips as his insides burned for attention, and without hesitation he pushed Inaho inside him and lowered himself over the brunet’s hips with satisfaction.

“Ahh… Careful…” Inaho sighed and grabbed Slaine’s thighs. “Don’t rock the boat too violently... Haahh…”

Slaine closed his eyes to feel Inaho inside him and supported himself by leaning slightly back against his arms which were supported by Inaho’s thighs. He slowly began rocking his hips and felt Inaho’s hardness push against his inner walls. Slaine shivered again and moaned together with Inaho – first quietly, but when his need to cum grew he moved faster and harder, and both of their voices got louder the closer they got to orgasm.

“I-Inaho! Aahhh! It’s so good…!” Slaine whimpered loudly and felt tears of pleasure in his eyes. “I wanna … aaagh! … Cum!”

“Me too!” Inaho gasped and helped to slam into Slaine by moving his hips as well.

The wet sound of their bodies slamming into each other filled the air around them and Slaine threw his head back as the tension built up inside him, and within seconds his body released his passion over Inaho’s stomach. He bit down onto his lower lip to try and stay silent but when Inaho continued thrusting up into him Slaine’s abdomen would not relax. He leaned forward and supported himself against Inaho’s chest with his arms and gritted his teeth in order to let Inaho cum as well. When the brunet was close his hands squeezed Slaine’s buttocks hard enough it hurt pleasurably and finally Slaine was filled with Inaho’s honey.

They both gasped exhaustedly. The morning rounds were always quick but nonetheless earthshakingly satisfying for Slaine. His fingertips tingled and he chuckled.

“I … guess I got to top you in a way…” he gasped and pushed his bangs away from his face to look at the satisfied Inaho underneath him.

Inaho simply nodded as an answer as he relaxed and Slaine was just about to get off of him when he heard:

“Oooooh Inahoooo! Mooore!”

It was Yuki’s teasing voice and Slaine was struck by such panic to hide that he unintentionally leaned too close to the edge of the boat and it began to tilt.

“Slaine! Don’t-!” Inaho warned but was not allowed to finish before the entire boat flipped over and both fell into the water.

"WOAH!"

Slaine broke the surface and coughed as he had swallowed some water. He splashed around for a short moment to find his bearings after the shock subsided and then swam up to the boat which floated upside down in the water, and he grabbed the edge of it.

“Inaho!” he yelled and looked around, and the brunet emerged from the other side of the boat with a tired look in his eyes. “Are you all right?”

“Yes… Are you?”

Slaine sighed from relief and nodded.

“Yes.” He then looked up toward the shore and saw Yuki laugh on the front porch of the cabin. “I’LL GET YOU FOR THIS!”

“How could I not do that when you woke the entire house from all the way out there!” she laughed and dried tears from her eyes. “You want some help!?”

“We can’t really swim all the way there, now can we!?” Slaine yelled angrily; he was boiling from anger for being so brusquely interrupted from the afterglow of the sex.

“All right, all right! I’m sorry!” Yuki yelled and walked down to the shore and took a hold of the rope to the boat. “I’ll haul you in! Just stay put!”

“It’s not like we have a choice,” Slaine muttered and got help from Inaho to climb up onto the keel of the boat.

Slaine was silent half of the way with his arms folded over his chest and glared daggers at Yuki who was working to bring them in to the shore. A hand patted him on his head and he looked over his shoulder at Inaho who waited expressionlessly for Slaine’s attention.

“What?” the blond grumbled but was surprised by a kiss, and Inaho whispered:

“I love you.”

Immediately Slaine’s heart began to flutter. He felt his anger disappear quickly, not leaving a trace of it behind, and he smiled brightly.

“I love you too.”

-fin-

Chapter Text

The breeze kicked up sand from the ground and a party was taking place in the saloon close by, leaving the streets of Albany, Texas, completely empty of people. The night air smelled slightly of gunpowder after a spontaneous shootout had been had on the open street between two drunks; one being so drunk he hit everything else but his target while the other had had better luck. The loser lay dead on the ground, waiting for the undertaker to collect his body and burry it six feet under the cold harsh ground.

“Do you think he has loot?” a female voice asked and made great care to not speak too loud in order to alarm anyone, and loud enough to be heard in the cheering drunken town. Her blond ponytails dangled over her cheeks as she leaned over the dead body to take a closer look.

The dead man could not have been older than 25 to 30 years, and he had a terribly kempt hair and beard. His clothes did not look tempting enough for anyone but a desperate naked man, and his skin was greasy and dirty. Vomit was drying on the man’s coat.

“Dear lord, he reeks!” another female voice complained and held her nose to block the horrid smell of urine and probably something else too. “I think he’s pissed himself.”

“Should we check if he has any loot?” the first female asked.

“I’m not touching that!” the second exclaimed but was quickly hushed by the other four, and then continued to whisper: “You check him.”

“Nuh-uh! I’m not putting my hands on it either!” the first woman cried and was hushed by the others as well.

“Can’t we just leave him?” the red-haired woman asked and lowered her hat over her eyes to hide from possibly prying eyes.

“Of course we can’t, Rayet! Slaine, you have handled dead bodies before right? Your pops was a doctor, wasn’t he?” Yuki asked and looked at Slaine who stood there pale in his face and stared at the haunting body.

“Eeh? W-what? I’m not touching him either!” Slaine said and took a step back. “I mean, I have seen lots of dead bodies before but I haven’t seen anyone as … uh … unclean as that.”

Nina kept leaning over the dead body to study it and then raised herself up and brushed her ponytails behind her shoulders.

“He looks like a gambler to me,” she said. “Either he’s got lots of stuff in his pockets or then he’s as broke as a horse.”

Inko thought for a while with her hand against her chin, and then asked:

“What about sticks? We can check him with sticks.”

“Don’t you think it’s quite disrespectful to poke a dead man with sticks?” Slaine said with a wry smile.

“It’s disrespectful to loot dead meat as well, if we’ll talk about moral,” Yuki shot back. “But if we’re not gonna loot him, someone else will – like the undertaker. That’s the rule.”

Suddenly Inaho stepped forward, apparently tired of the others’ discussion. He crouched next to the dead man and did not hesitate to start rummaging around in the man’s coat and pockets. What he found was bullets to the man’s Colt Single Action Army revolver, a pouch with something metallic that rattled and a small cigar case.

“I can’t believe you touched him, Inaho,” Nina sighed with disgust and cringed.

Inaho opened the leather pouch and turned it upside down above his hand, and coins landed in his palm. He silently counted the coins while the others slowly gathered around him to take a look.

“How much is it?” Slaine asked and waited curiously along with the others.

“26 dollars and 30 cents,” the bandit said – as seemingly emotionless as always.

“Woah! Are you serious?” Inko said with wide eyes.

“So he was a jackpot after all?” Yuki said surprised and got a bright smile to her face. “Now we can have some proper food! I’m starving.”

An accident had happened a couple of days ago where the money the gang had collected disappeared along with Slaine’s horse that had been carrying the money. All their horses had ripped themselves free and begun to run as they had been spooked by the intense gun fight that had exploded with a rivaling gang. The rivaling gang had emerged from nowhere in the middle of the night as Slaine and the others had been camping in the desert close to Fort Griffin, Texas. Rayet and Slaine had been complaining about staying in that area since the rumors were that it was a dangerous and lawless place, but after a long discussion with the others, they had decided to stay anyway. According to the rivaling gang they had been trespassing on their area and they had demanded payment. Yuki had called it “bull crap” and continued with insulting the men in the rivaling gang in her usual hotheaded manner, and a gunfight had broken out. As Slaine’s horse had begun running along with the other horses, one of the rivaling gang members had rode after them and then disappeared with them. Slaine and the others had won the fight though, by taking down two of the other gang members with shooting one of them in the leg, and the other in the shoulder. The gang had quickly disappeared as they had realized they were facing some skilled bandits, and Inaho had declared them to be a young gang that did not know how to pick enemies. Slaine and the others were in the gang that was considered to belong to the notorious bandit Deadeye Lee after all; they were one of the big bosses.

Despite that, they were now broke and starving due to sheer bad luck. Everything they now owned were the clothes they wore and their guns in their holsters.

“Can we get a room at a hotel?” Nina asked with a pretty voice, fluttering her eyelashes in a pitiful beg. “I would love to have a bath.”

“No, we have to save money first until we have enough to afford to pay for a room without going hungry later on,” Inko scolded and Nina got a dishearten look on her face.

“Well, it was worth a try,” she sighed.

“Look at that gun. It’s the same as yours, Nao,” Yuki said and pried it from the dead man’s hand. “You can dual wield guns now,” she continued excitedly and pretended to pull the gun from her holster and shoot an invisible target.

Inaho held out his hand without looking at his sister while he popped the lid open to the cigarette case with the other hand. Yuki sighed annoyed of not being allowed to play with the gun, and slapped the pistol into Inaho’s hand. It quickly disappeared beneath Inaho’s coat.

“Gold,” the brown haired outlaw then said and poured out the content inside the cigar case. Gold filled teeth rolled out onto Inaho’s palm.

“Gummy! Really?” Inko exclaimed and stared at the teeth. “Five gold teeth. Hey, don’t you think we can get a room with those? I doubt a room in this town is that expensive. We have 26 dollars and 30 cents that will keep us fed for a couple of days.”

Suddenly the woman who had been scolding Nina for wanting to spend money on a hotel room had made a 180 degree turn and asked for a room as well. Nine glared at her with folded arms behind Inko’s back.

“I must admit I like the idea of getting a room. A bath would have been nice. I feel really dirty,” Slaine said with a frown and tried to dust off his dirty clothes. Inaho looked up at Slaine and stared at the blond. Slaine raised his eyebrows and looked at Inaho with begging eyes – eyes he knew Inaho could not resist. “Please? I mean, you’re as dirty as me and you have touched that unclean body. You need to wash yourself; we all have to.”

Inaho hesitated.

“Until we have a proper amount of money we have to keep-“ Inaho began but Slaine leaned closer to whisper with a devilish grin on his lips, and interrupted him with:

“I can wash you.”

Without a second thought Inaho poured back the gold teeth into the cigar case, collected all the loot and got up to walk toward the buildings on the main road.

“I think I saw a sign for a hotel somewhere around here,” he said and Slaine chuckled proudly.

“Damn you, kid,” Yuki said with a smile and patted Slaine’s back with such force Slaine almost lost his balance and nearly had a date with the dusty ground. “You have him on a leash, don’t ya?”

Slaine answered with a satisfied smile:

“Of course.”

The room Slaine and Inaho got was small but comfortable. There was a small wooden bathtub in a back room and Slaine immediately requested it to be filled up. He could not wait to get clean. A disgusting smell of sweat and dirt had followed him and everyone else around ever since they had left Fort Griffin; they had not bathed for about a week, if Slaine had kept count of the days correctly.

Even if it was unusual for people to bathe more than two days a week – sometimes even less than that – Slaine had always thought of it as important to bathe every other day to stay healthy, or at least have a sponging if a bath was not available. As the son to a doctor Slaine had seen plenty of reasons to bathe; skin infections were nasty and sometimes deadly, and cuts and bruises could get infected as well. Once – when he had been ten years old – a man had come to his father with a black leg; the man had accidentally cut his leg while tending to his cattle and the skin and flesh had begun to turn black and rot. The man had been forced to amputate his leg to survive and Slaine got shivers to this day just from thinking about it.

The two women filling the wooden bath did not seem to mind Slaine’s and Inaho’s smell though; they were probably used to dirty guests – which was standard in the West. Instead Slaine had to keep smiling and being polite and gentlemanly since they were watching him with suggestive eyes. They seemed to have forgotten about Inaho’s presence, and the brunet did not seem to mind it either as he was absentmindedly washing his hands in the washbasin on a small table. All Slaine wished was for the women to hurry up and leave.

“The bath is ready, sir,” one of the ladies said and Slaine flashed her his Casanova smile.

“Thank you, my ladies. It is much appreciated,” he answered with a smooth voice and the women smiled with blushing cheeks and curtseyed. One of them pulled her dress up just slightly more than was considered acceptable, revealing some of her naked skin on her ankles, and Slaine pretended not to notice it.

“If you need anything more, just call for us,” the other said, and then they hurried out of the room. Before the door closed Slaine could swear he heard them begin to giggle, and he sighed heavily.

“Finally…” he mumbled and looked up at Inaho who was already undressing. The brunet threw the clothes on the floor as he walked toward the bath, leaving a trail of fabric behind him. Slaine chuckled and began to pick them up from the floor. “Inaho…” he said with a scolding sigh and folded them one by one. “I know the clothes are dirty but you shouldn’t throw them to the floor.”

“The clothes are not a priority,” Inaho answered and slipped into the warm water and then watched Slaine fold his clothes. He was waiting.

“Impatient are we?”

Slaine put the pile of clothes onto a chair and then began to unbutton his vest, when he heard:

“Don’t. Come over here.”

The blond bandit chuckled quietly and let go of the buttons to his vest, and turned toward Inaho. He arched an eyebrow and silently asked Inaho what the brunet was up to. Inaho did not answer in any way, and so the blond decided to comply with the bandit’s request and walked over to the bath. Inaho moved to the edge of the bathtub and reached his hands out to begin unbuttoning the blond man’s vest, and with quick and practiced fingers he made the vest fall to the floor. Next were the buttons to Slaine’s shirt, and after a short moment, it fell to the floor as well.

Inaho enjoyed undressing Slaine and he did not seem to get enough doing it. Slaine wondered why the man was so keen to help him slip out of his clothes, but then again, he too enjoyed it. Feeling Inaho’s fingers tickle against his skin as the brunet peeled away the layers of clothing was exciting.

Slaine finally stepped out of his pants and kicked them aside, and slid down into the water as well. The bathtub was cramped with two men sharing it but neither were bothered by it; it just gave them an excuse to keep the distance between them inexistent.

Slaine reached out his arms to put them around Inaho’s neck and reach for the soap and sponge on the stool next to the tub. At the same time, the blond leaned close enough to the bandit to seductively lick the man’s lips and gently nibble at them. Inaho pushed their lips together, wrapped his arms around Slaine’s waist and pulled the man closer, forcing Slaine to straddle his hips. The blond eagerly spread his knees and placed himself in Inaho’s lap, and Inaho lowered his hands down Slaine’s back and over the curve of his behind to grab the fleshy buns with nails dragging over the skin. Slaine arched his back from the pleasant pain.

“Mmph…” he sighed with their lips locked and their tongues playing with each other.

Slowly and slightly absentmindedly he pushed the sponge into the water while they kissed, and then rubbed it against the soap to lather it up. He then playfully – in a slow and circling motion – rubbed it over Inaho’s shoulders and upper back while his other hand buried itself into Inaho’s dirty hair. It had been several days since they had gotten the chance to be this close; the constant company of the girls allowed little to no time for intimacy and play. Now Slaine felt like throwing himself in the moment and using it to the fullest to quench his thirst and hunger for his lover.

“Hahh! I-Inaho,” he gasped out loud as Inaho’s hand had reached for his hardening flesh between his legs.

They pushed their groins together, rubbed them together in Inaho’s hand in the hot water, and teased them to harden further until they throbbed with need. Slaine moved his hips slowly and bit his lower lip with pleasure. He wanted more. Something hotter.

“I want you…” Slaine sighed and leaned his head back to gasp from Inaho’s teasing between their legs.

“Slaine…” the blond heard Inaho gasp with a sultry breath and Slaine dropped the soap and sponge into the water from Inaho’s sudden move. The brunet pushed him off his lap and roughly made Slaine turn around, forced him down against the edge of the wooden tub and then raised his hips so Slaine had to support himself on his knees. His behind was perfectly above the water level.

Slaine smiled coyly and threw and heated gaze over his shoulder at Inaho. He narrowed his eyes just slightly to give his lover the perfect bedroom eyes he knew Inaho found attractive, and within just a couple of heartbeats he felt Inaho push against him, slowly but forcefully entering him.

“Aahh…” Slaine sighed and grabbed the edge of the bathtub with both hands to stop himself from falling over when Inaho was to push deeper into him. “Hurry… Fill me up,” the blond gasped and felt Inaho push hard enough Slaine’s fleshy resistance gave up and let the tip slip inside. “Ah!”

Slaine’s mind began spinning from the animalistic heat that raged inside him, and he gritted his teeth and breathed heavily. He felt so hot. So wanting. So needy.

“Mmmh… Slaine…” Inaho whispered and took a hold of Slaine’s hips and pulled them back; Inaho’s entire heat pushed inside the blond, and Slaine felt his eyes roll back from the tightness that allowed all the sweet spots be teased by Inaho’s hardness. “Hhaahh…”

Slaine’s mouth dropped open as he let out a moan and grabbed the edge of the tub hard enough his fingers felt like they would break. It was tight and hurt, but since he was so used to it – especially after the months of training in Inaho’s hands – he found the pain pleasant and knew it would quickly subside.

“Aagh… I love how you … mmh… feel, Inaho…” the blond bandit sighed and began moving his hips slowly, feeling Inaho move inside him. “Haahh…!”

Inaho dragged his nails across Slaine’s back and the blond arched his back again, accidentally pushing Inaho’s hardness even deeper than before. A sharp breath escaped from between his lips and then a begging moan. He wanted more. He released the edge of the tub with one of his hands to reach behind him and take a hold of Inaho’s hip, pleading for him to move harder.

Inaho was not late to fulfill Slaine’s wish and he quickened up his pace. The water splashed around in the tub as the young men indulged themselves in a quick and heated carnal unison. Their bodies slammed together and made obscene noises whilst their moans and gasps urged them to go at it harder. Slaine had to shut his eyes tightly as his abdomen began to tense up; a horrible cramping feeling made him almost lose his breath. He had reached the limit faster than he had expected.

“I-Inaho…! I’m… Aaahh… Haahh! I can’t…!” he gasped with a strained voice.

“Cum…” he heard Inaho purr somewhere behind him with ragged breaths.

“B-but the … the water! Hnngh!” Slaine cried and suddenly worried about the bathwater being dirtied, and desperately tried to hold his orgasm back with tears springing to his eyes.

Inaho was quick to react and closed a hand around the tip of Slaine’s throbbing flesh and kept pounding into the blond young man. Slaine’s skin crawled with intense pleasure and goosebumps spread across his body, dashing forth from his spinal cord. His thighs and loins began to tremble and he tightened around Inaho’s flesh. His breaths became shallower and faster before they were caught in his throat and his body released the ecstasy into Inaho’s hand with violent shivers running over his body.

“AAAGHH!” he cried as his mind blanked out. Inaho kept moving mercilessly, forcing Slaine’s extreme pleasure to last longer, and the blond kept trembling violently; his sensitive flesh was cruelly teased. Slaine slumped against the edge of the tub and looked over his shoulder to silently ask Inaho to stop. His mind spun faster watching Inaho stare at him with a commanding stare while moving his hips with an even rhythm, licking his hand clean from Slaine’s liquefied passion. He owned the blond during that moment, captivating Slaine into submissiveness. “Haahh… I-Inaho…” the blond moaned heatedly as he tried to stop his spinning mind from making him delirious. “Mr. Bandit…” he sighed with a teasing smile and watched Inaho reach out a hand toward him.

Yes… Grab my hair…’ Slaine thought and excitedly let Inaho burry his fingers into his hair and pull him up from the leaning position against the edge of the tub. Slaine arched his back and followed Inaho’s command, raising himself up and leaned his back against his lover while he desperately tried to find support from the wooden edges on either side of him. His back hurt and so did his neck and scalp – but he loved it. ‘Command me.

He felt Inaho’s other hand grab his hip, and the brunet continued plowing into him, forcing cries and begs out of his obedient lover. Inaho’s breaths collided with Slaine’s right ear and it sent a tingle down a sensitive nerve on the blond’s neck. Slaine could do nothing to protect himself from it and endured the sweetest torture his lover subjected him to.

“Aaahhh! T-too … much!” Slaine cried as Inaho grinded his hardness against Slaine’s inner walls with force. The pleasure was too much and Slaine tried to escape by moving his hips further away from the brunet, but Inaho pulled them quickly back and buried himself into him yet again. “HAAHH!”

The thrilling silence of the demanding Inaho was sweetly humiliating. All Slaine heard were the man’s gasps and moans but no words. Inaho ruled him masterfully without words while using Slaine’s body to pleasure himself. Slaine had already gotten his release, and he was now forced to endure whatever Inaho decided felt good in order to let the brunet find his release as well.

Use me… All of me…’ Slaine thought, drunk with pleasure.

After something that felt like an eternity Slaine heard Inaho’s breaths and moans change. They began to sound ragged and strained and he knew Inaho was close to an orgasm.

“Ohh… Cum inside…” Slaine gasped and reached his hands behind Inaho and squeezed his buttocks hard. Inaho groaned. “Gimme lots of it… Aagh!” the blond purred breathlessly.

Inaho pushed harder and bit down on Slaine’s neck as he buried himself inside Slaine, all the way to the hilt each time. Slaine squeezed his flesh tighter around him, beckoning Inaho to fill him, and within moments of pain Inaho’s bite caused him, Inaho rammed into him and stopped moving. Slaine could feel Inaho’s flesh twitch and pulsate inside him as the man emptied the warm seed into him. Inaho gasped and held his breath, released it in another gasp and then slowly eased the pressure of his teeth against Slaine’s neck. Slaine sighed satisfied, obediently waiting for Inaho to completely empty his passion, and then smiled happily.

“That was … incredible,” he sighed and felt Inaho release his hair. Slaine slumped forward and stood on all four in the tub, pushing his body against Inaho to let the man stay inside him for a little while longer. Inaho’s flesh had begun to grow softer. “I think you came a lot,” Slaine then chuckled breathlessly and looked over his shoulder.

Inaho nodded with closed eyes and took a deep breath to relax, and then slowly pulled out of his lover. Slaine moved out of the way to let the man soak himself in the now lukewarm water and turned around to lean against Inaho’s chest. He raised his hands up to Inaho’s cheeks and stroked the soft skin for a little while before planting a kiss onto the man’s jaw, and they continued to leisurely wash each other.

As Inaho had sent their clothes to be washed, wrapped in a blanket since neither of them had any other clothes to wear, he returned to the bed where Slaine was lying on his stomach and smiling tiredly with his arms around a pillow. Inaho brushed the wet blond hair from Slaine’s face with a loving caress and Slaine released a long sigh of fulfillment.

“I have missed the feeling of a bed,” the blond said quietly and smiled.

“We have been traveling a long time,” Inaho said and counted the days in his head. “18 days to be exact.”

“Can’t we stay here a little while? Just two days or so. I think we all need to relax and recuperate for a while,” Slaine said and rolled onto his back. The scars from Cruhteo’s beating a couple of months ago glowed pink against his smooth skin. The cuts had been deep and the redness would not disappear until the scars had healed properly, which would probably take at least a year more.

“I think we can afford that,” Inaho answered. “The rooms were cheaper than expected and we all are tired. We should plan what to do next; we can’t reach Mexico without horses and supplies.”

The rumors about their gang had been spreading like wildfire in the states and lawmen and bounty hunters were tracking them wherever they went. The gang had been chased to the deadly city of Tombstone in Arizona by lawmen, and the moment they had gotten close to the city the lawmen had pulled back out of fear of entering the lawless city. Within the same day as the gang entered Tombstone with hopes of getting some rest, bounty hunters had caught their attention and began to chase them instead, and the gang had fled to the southern Texas. Inaho and the others had slowly begun to realize the West was getting too small for them; they were known everywhere by now, and their last hope of escaping the gallows had been to cross the border to Mexico and disappear. Slaine had suggested to save enough money to be able to buy a small patch of land in Mexico and live their life as farmers, and that had been their plan. Now, they were broke; all their money which they had saved up for that goal, had disappeared beneath their noses during that shootout with the rivaling gang a while ago, and now they had to begin from scratch again.

“What do we do?” Slaine asked, feeling troubled. “We have been through so much bad luck recently and been forced to become fulltime longriders. It feels like we’re getting cornered by fate.”

“Horses are our top priority. Once we get hold of a few we can rob a couple of banks and trains,” Inaho said with the characteristic look of when he began constructing a plan.

Slaine smiled a wry smile.

“I wonder if we’re able to do it. It feels like we are fighting a losing battle. Everywhere we go there’s either lawmen of bounty hunters surrounding us. One small slip and we are forced to greet the gallows,” the blond said and sat up in bed. He looked at Inaho with tired eyes. “I would hate to see you all with a hemp necktie.”

“It’s not time for that yet,” Inaho answered and kept Slaine’s gaze locked in his to show his determination on not giving up. “Are you afraid?”

Slaine chuckled and leaned close to kiss the man.

“Not for my own life, but for yours. I can’t survive without you. I wouldn't hesitate to follow you to the end of the world if I had to,” the blond whispered and kissed the outlaw once more.

Their kiss was interrupted by a sudden knock on their door. The knocking continued and sounded urgent, and Inaho wrapped the blanket tighter around himself and walked over to the door. Slaine wrapped the bed linen around himself before Inaho opened the door, and the moment the brunet let it slide open, Yuki stood in the doorway with a serious look in her eyes.

“Boys. We’ve gotten ourselves an opportunity to steal some ballast,” she said quietly and a brash smile slowly spread on her lips.

Chapter Text

Slaine watched through the hotel window how the evening hued street slowly filled up with people. The town band was already leisurely playing on stage and the mayor and sheriff were speaking with the towns people passing by. The festival was about to start. The town was a simple town consisting of traders and farmers, and due to the Texas and Pacific Railroad that had reached the town the shipping business was at its top. That meant the city was prosperous and for Slaine and the rest of the gang that meant money.

Yuki – as the snoopy person she were; with eyes and ears everywhere – had taken a round in the saloon during their first evening in town. She had gotten information about a seasonal festival taking place in the town two days later and been eager to let Inaho, Slaine and the others know about it. She had heard that during this festival a dance contest was going to take place and the winning couple would get a prize of 200 dollars. Everyone in the gang had agreed to set their eyes on the money. That amount would surely help them to at least get enough land in Mexico to be able to buy land on the other side of the border; the prices of acres in Mexico was said to be lower than in the United States. The 200 dollars probably would not cover the cost of a house and equipment, but at least it was a start on an otherwise long journey.

Due to the gang deciding to somehow get their hands on the money Rayet had proposed they would steal the money like they always did. Since a marshal and his men had entered the town, and a sheriff and paid lawmen were guarding the money, it would be a suicide mission for the gang to start a ruckus in the usual manner, and thus another plan had to be developed. Slaine had pointed out they should actually try to win the money fair and square, by participating in the contest. That way they would not risk to get caught since a commotion was avoided, and they did not have to reveal who they actually were. If they won they would get the money under peaceful terms.

The girls had been quick to let him know they did not know how to dance and that Slaine had to teach all of them. Slaine was not sure how honest the girls actually were since he had a hard time believing they had never danced before, but since they insisted that it was the case, the blond had given each of them dance lessons throughout the two days. The girls had ended up giggling and whispering in a corner after that, and Slaine had had a feeling he knew what they had been whispering about due to the blushes on their cheeks during the lessons.

Inaho was the only exception to not attend the contest. The brunet got the job of trying to figure out how to get to the money in case no one in the gang won, and thus he had to stay on the sidelines and keep an eye out for gaps in the security around the money.

“We need to avoid drawing our guns,” Inaho had said. “Attention is dangerous for us; you all have to make sure you dance well in order to win. That is the safest plan. I will go in only if I have to.”

And so that was what had been decided, and now all the girls stood in cheap but classic blouses and skirts, and their hair had been either braided or pinned up in pretty buns. Slaine stood among them in the same getup. The clothes had been bought with the rest of their money; for once they had been honest and not stolen any of what they wore.

“Why do I have to be a girl again?” Slaine sighed and carefully rubbed his eye after some coal, used to just slightly darken his eyelashes, had gotten into his eye.

They had been carefully darkening their eyelashes with oil mixed with coal dust to make especially Slaine look slightly more female. Makeup was exclusively used by soiled doves – or painted ladies as they were also called – and since this was a festival the gang had to look more as common ladies than anything atrocious as doves. The soiled doves would get busy during the evening with the men and were not to be shown on the streets this early.

“You can’t go as Gentleman Jack, Slaine,” Yuki said and looked uncomfortable in the white blouse and blue skirt; she was not used to womanly clothes and preferred men’s clothes if she was to choose. “Everyone knows Gentleman Jack simply out of fear that he strikes and charms away a woman from her husband. Stella isn’t as known as Gentleman Jack, who is said to steal women’s hearts like a wolf steals sheep. Besides, no one suspects a woman.”

“That is a pretty unromantic way to describe the bandit me,” Slaine muttered as an answer. “And I don’t mean to steal women’s hearts. They willingly throw them at me for no apparent reason.”

Yuki rolled her eyes. She always did that when Slaine expressed confusion about why he had gotten the nickname and reputation as Gentleman Jack. Slaine did not understand it. All he did was to treat a woman like a lady, and that was all it took to have a woman flirt with him.

I don’t get it…’ he thought and sighed heavily. ‘But it’s quite easy to play a woman,’ he then continued quietly in his mind while looking at the burgundy colored skirt he wore. The clothes had been bought as an investment to get a hold of the money during the contest; they had been a necessary must.

Slaine had to admit pretending to be a woman was fun. He had heard from the gang that he was a natural at acting like a woman, probably due to his soft personality and features. Either way, Slaine found it fun in his own way; Inaho would turn jealous seeing another man flirt with Slaine, and would quickly have Slaine remember who he belonged to. The blond always enjoyed those moments and just thinking about it made him chuckle.

“What’s so funny?” Nina asked and tilted her head slightly.

Slaine blushed as he had been caught chuckling to a silly thought.

“Um… N-nothing,” he stammered with a wry smile.

“He was probably thinking about a dirty thought involving a jealous Inaho,” Rayet grumbled and walked past the others to open the door and head out to find a dancing partner.

Everyone took a deep breath.

“Let’s hope no one recognizes us. Good luck out there,” Inko sad and seemed somewhat nervous.

“Remember: Keep your eyes and ears open to any sign that might mean danger to us. If that happens, signal to each other to retreat,” Inaho instructed and watched the others follow Rayet out of the room.

Slaine looked over his shoulder at Inaho with a small smile and said silently:

I love you. See you later.

After getting a nod as an answer, Slaine headed out to the streets to participate in the festivities along with the girls while pretending to be one of them. They walked up and down the streets which were filled with marketers trying to sell anything from hairbrushes to farm animals. They stopped to pat the horses and cows for a short while, while the seller – who had probably secretly stolen them from the other side of the border – tried to convince them to talk to their possible husbands about buying a fine horse or maybe two cows.

Slaine felt insulted; how dared the man treat Stella like she belonged to someone? Slaine never got used to how men and women treated his female alter ego, and somewhere on the line he had begun to feel protective about Stella. Even if he knew he and Stella were the same person he still felt like they were separate characters due to him and being so different, and after a while Stella had become a dear part of his life. He thought of it as weird and an honest truth.

The man kept talking to them in an arrogant manner, degrading them as women with his choices of words and acted brash when he spoke about his wealth. Slaine got the feeling he tried to clumsily brag about how successful he was when in fact the man was probably yet another bandit stealing cattle from Mexico. Slaine wondered if the man had ever managed to attract a woman who he did not have to pay for; the way the man acted was polluting the air with unpleasant anger, and the man’s hygiene was horrible. His teeth looked like they were rotting and his skin was damaged from sloppy shaving.

“Why don’t you try to sell your ponies and cows to someone who looks the part? Do we look like rich women to you or are ya just blind?” Yuki had growled at the seller after she finally had gotten tired of the man’s disrespectful way of talking to them.

The man’s face had turned bright red from anger and Slaine and the others were quick to distract both of them from starting a public argument. It would attract unnecessary attention to them and thus make it dangerous for the gang.

“Calm down,” Slaine whispered to Yuki as he pulled her away, while Nina had put her cute smile on and flirted discreetly with the seller to avert his attention from Yuki. Rayet and Inko stayed behind to keep an eye on Nina in case the man would try something. “Be levelheaded.”

“I can’t believe that brute,” Yuki hissed like an angry rattlesnake. “Calling us for g’hals and pieces of calicos. That’s disgusting. He acted all like he was a gift sent from God to women, when in fact he had teeth so crooked he could eat corn on the cob through a picket fence.”

“Calm down,” Slaine reminded her softly. He understood her anger all too well. “We can’t start such commotion right now.”

“I know. I couldn’t help it though. He wouldn’t leave us alone,” Yuki answered while smiling wryly and followed Slaine through the crowd.

“Well, everything turned out fine,” Slaine tried to assure her after they got out of the area of cattle sellers. They stopped next to a seller who sold penny candy in different colors. Some poor kids were watching the glass jars filled with candy with watering mouths from afar, while others had gotten money from their parents to buy a small paper bag with a couple of candy pieces inside.

“I won’t do that again,” Yuki promised with a sigh and rummaged around in the sleeve to her blouse to get a hold of the small bag she had made for the few coins she had gotten handed to her in case she needed money during the festival. She picked up a 10 cent coin and walked over to the candy seller and bought a small bag from the friendly lady. She took a red candy to taste it and offered the bag to Slaine. “Want some? As thanks for interrupting my hotheadedness earlier.”

Slaine accepted the gesture and picked a yellow candy from the bag, and then watched Yuki walk over to the kids who had been staring at the candy jars.

“Here ya go,” Yuki said smiling and held out the paper bag with the rest of the candies to the kids. They hesitated to take it and Yuki leaned slightly closer with the bag. “It’s all right. Just take ‘em. No strings attached.”

A little boy reached out his hand and took a hold of the bag. The boy was not older than seven years old, and he wore dirty clothes – just like the other children who stood around him and stared at Yuki with slightly frightened eyes.

They must be orphans,’ Slaine thought saddened. Orphans were not treated gently most of the time. The word of orphans was that they would steal and beg, and thus all of them – even the innocent ones – were treated cruelly by most people.

“Thank you, Miss,” the boy said quietly, and the children next to him thanked Yuki as well.

“No problem, chap. Share it with your friends as well,” Yuki smiled and left the children and walked over to Slaine.

“That was nice of you,” Slaine said as they began to walk down the street again. He noticed Yuki had a sorrowful smile on her lips and could not help but to worry, and asked: “Are you all right?”

Yuki nodded.

“Yeah. Just made me remember when I saw those kids, how Inaho and me had to stand and stare at candy just like them, never affording anything,” she said quietly.

That was when it suddenly hit him: Slaine had never asked Inaho or Yuki about their past. He knew nothing about them or the other girls.

How long have we been together now?’ Slaine wondered and felt ashamed of never asking them about their past.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “About your parents, I mean. And … for never asking about your past… I suddenly realized I don’t know you all that well despite we have been in the same gang for a while now.”

Yuki looked at him with surprise and then smiled warmly, patting Slaine on his head.

“Thanks. It’s appreciated,” she said and grabbed his hand. “And don’t worry about it.”

She began pulling him along and together they walked down the street and looked at everything that was being sold. There were people everywhere; the entire town had probably found their way to the festival. The streets were crowded and it was hard to have a look at everything that lay on the sellers’ tables.

Suddenly something caught Slaine’s attention in the corner of his eye. He turned to look to his left and saw a man in a navy blue frock coat. On his chest was a silvery star inside a circle; the United States Marshal badge. Slaine felt the warmth spill out of his fingertips seeing the badge. It was not the badge of a simple towns marshal; it was the badge of a high position of hierarchy. The man had dark blond hair that was combed neatly. He stood proud and had a chilling smile of arrogance on his lips. Something told Slaine to stay away from that man. The blond watched the marshal speak with a man who had dark and flowy hair which was combed back, and he looked just slightly older than the other. The dark haired man wore a black frock coat and his chest was decorated with a…

“Come here,” Slaine whispered urgently a pulled Yuki away from the street and in between two buildings. “There’s two U.S. marshals here.”

Yuki stared at him with knitted eyebrows and then looked out at the crowd.

“Are you sure?” she asked quietly.

“I saw two men wearing the United States Marshal badge. I’m very positive I saw two men with a badge each,” Slaine guaranteed her.

“But why would two federal marshals be here and in the same territory?” Yuki wondered out loud with a whisper. She looked worried. “Aren’t deputy marshals and sheriffs supposed to do the hard work and those lazy buggers handle the administrative work?”

“I’m not sure why both of them are here,” Slaine whispered and took a deep breath. “I have a bad feeling about this.”

Yuki stared out into the crowd for a while and then looked at Slaine and smiled.

“I don’t think it’s that dangerous. I doubt they are interested in dancing so we don’t have to worry about them there, and I bet they are here to engage in the festivities after a long time at the border between Mexico and the states,” she then said and waved her hand in a calming manner. “It’s all fine, I’m sure.”

Slaine nodded slowly and wanted to trust her, but he was not convinced. There had to be a very good reason to have two U.S. marshals in the same town along with the sheriff. Of course, they both could have been on separate missions in southern Texas and met by chance; the West was small after all.

A reason to why the gang had managed to run for so long without getting caught was due to the sheriffs’ responsibilities over their territories. The moment the gang had hurried from one county or town into the next, the sheriffs could not follow since they had no authority outside of their territory. The U.S. marshals on the other hand had authority across the town and county borders; their duty was spread across the entire are of United States.

The area they were in was known to be a somewhat lawless place. Fort Griffin was such an area and the two marshals who were in town had probably chased different outlaws in that area, or they were in town to take care of a prisoner transport from Albany to wherever they came from.

It must be something like that,’ Slaine thought and breathed a heavy sigh to relax.

“I think the dance starts soon,” Yuki reminded Slaine, and they both hurried to the town’s square where a puncheon floor had been prepared for the contest.

Nina, Inko and Rayet had found their way to the square as well and were waiting in a small crowd of women and girls next to the stairs to the dance floor. It seemed like they had gotten away from the disgusting seller without any problems, and they were in good spirits – except Rayet. All the women and girls were waiting to be asked to dance by the men in the other crowd opposite of them. Slaine and Yuki hurried over to them and waited for the town’s clock tower to hit 07:00 PM. Once the bell rang the mayor cleared his throat and yelled to the excited crowd:

“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the dance contest here in Albany! I know many of you have come from neighboring towns to seek out your luck in this contest, and I wish all of you attending tonight the best of luck!” The man took a deep breath before he continued: “The men shall ask the beautiful ladies to dance, and if the lady accepts you both will walk up the stairs onto the dance floor. Once everyone attending has a partner, the contest starts. The jury will be walking among you and if you feel a tap on your shoulder you have been chosen to exit the contest. The last couple standing shall win the fantastic prize of 200 dollars!”

When the mayor had finished explaining the rules he asked the men to ask the ladies to a dance. Slaine waited nervously with the girls and swallowed hard to stay calm. The men looked at them – some with gentle and respectable smiles on their lips, and others with eyes of hungry wolves. Slaine hoped his dance partner would be a decent man and not a disgusting brute like the one they had just recently met.

A young man with clean and fine looking clothes and dark hair that had been kissed by the sun was watching him, and Slaine decided to have him as his dance partner. He gave the man a smile and pretended to be shy about noticing him looking at him; Slaine – or – lowered his eyes and threw a coy glance at the man from underneath his eyelashes, and bit his lip out of pretended nervousness. The young man stepped over to Stella and with a charming voice asked her to dance. Slaine accepted and took the man’s hand with a smile, and together they ascended the stairs onto the dance floor.

“You look lovely, Miss,” the man said with a warm smile, and the tone of the man’s voice made Slaine feel calm and safe. “I am grateful you accepted me as your partner. May I ask what your name is, my lady?”

Slaine smiled and felt the man take a hold of his right hand to raise it up, and an arm was placed around his waist. The man’s touch was gentle.

“Stella, Sir,” Slaine mumbled with a higher and softer pitch to his voice. “And who are you, mister?”

“Stella is a beautiful name. My name is Harklight, Miss,” the man named Harklight answered.

The man looked at Stella with such sincere eyes Slaine could not help but to blush. His gaze was caught in the man’s and they stared at each other for something that felt like an hour. Slaine was expecting something to happen from the look in the man’s eyes, and he waited for it. He did not know what was supposed to happen but whatever it was it waited right there in the man’s eyes.

What are you thinking?’ Slaine wondered curiously. He wanted to know what the man was thinking for him to have such a captivating gaze. It gave Slaine the feeling the man was vigorous, determined and collected by nature – a trait Slaine found attractive. ‘Similar to Inaho and yet very different,’ he silently declared.

“Excuse me, boy,” they both suddenly heard from their left and Slaine’s and Harklight’s gaze was broken as they both looked at the man standing next to them. A chill went down Slaine’s spine seeing the man who stared at Harklight with a horrible grin on his lips. “I would like to offer this fine young lady the dance tonight,” the blond haired marshal said.

Slaine began cold sweating and looked at Harklight. He knew Harklight could not refuse the marshal’s demand and with a downfallen look Harklight excused himself. The moment the young man let go of Slaine’s hand and waist to leave the dance floor, Slaine was about to run after him.

“Sir Harklight!” he yelled after the man and Harklight stopped on his way down the stairs but did not look back at Stella. The man stood there for a short moment before he disappeared into the crowd with hurrying steps – clearly upset for not being able to dance with Stella.

“Oh, forgive me, my lady,” the marshal said with a disgusting melodic tone to his voice, and Slaine felt a hand grab his wrist that forced him to turn around to look at the marshal. The man’s eyes narrowed as they bore into Slaine’s; they were nothing like Harklight’s warm gaze. These eyes were cold and selfish. “Consider it as an honor to dance with a U.S. marshal, button.”

“B-button?” Slaine asked nervously. “Forgive me, Sir, but I feel offended to be called something like tha-”

The man leaned close to Slaine’s right ear and a whisper, thick with scorn, interrupted him as it said:

“Shut your cock holster. I do not care about your petty feelings, my fair calico queen.”

Slaine’s entire mind went blank from hearing that whisper and he began trembling. This man was a horrible man. That was for sure. The man had insulted Stella two times with the same breath and both times referred to Stella as a prostitute.

“Y-yes Sir…” Slaine mumbled once he caught a hold of his mind and made it work again by force.

“I shall call you missy, but you can call me Officer Marylcian,” the marshal then continued with that disrespecting smile on his lips.

Once the music began the man put his arm around Slaine’s waist, pulled him too close for anyone to find it acceptable, and grabbed his hand far too tightly. Slaine could do nothing but follow the man’s lead once they began dancing.

Each step they took shot a chill down Slaine’s spine.

Each time he felt the man’s step between Slaine’s feet the blond bandit wanted to push the marshal away.

Each time their eyes met Slaine wanted to run.

The bandit forcefully tried to keep his eyes away from the marshal, who stared at him so intently with a disgusting sneer that it made Slaine feel like the man was violating him. Instead Slaine looked around at the others. He saw Rayet dance with an older man and they seemed to keep it on friendly terms, while Nina danced with a young man who stared at her with stars in his eyes. Inko was dancing with a middle-aged man and Yuki…

The other marshal!’ Slaine thought and watched Inaho’s sister and the second marshal dance together. Yuki was pale in her face and seemed nervous. ‘This is bad. I know it!’ Slaine began to feel panicked and looked around to see if he could spot Inaho anywhere in the crowd watching them dance. The brunet was nowhere to be seen. ‘Inaho! You need to help us! Where are you!?

“S-sorry, Officer Marylcian, but I think I s-should go. Thank you for the dance,” Slaine said and let go of the man’s shoulder and hand to get away from him, but the man would not let him and tightened his arm around Slaine’s waist instead. “Let me go!”

The man chuckled coldly and leaned closer, eyes narrowing like those of a devil, his breath brushing Slaine’s lips and cheeks like an ominous breeze before a storm, and he grinned widely to whisper:

“I am very sorry, Miss Slaine Troyard, but you’re not going anywhere.”

Chapter Text

Slaine stared at the man and halted. His breath was caught in his throat and a shiver ran through him. The marshals knew the gang was in town, and without a doubt they were there to arrest them after tracking them.

“Oh no, continue dancing with me,” Marylcian grinned as he had leaned back again, and he forced Slaine’s stiff body into movement again according to the music. “Not a word to your friends about this or I will have to cut your throat.”

The blond bandit barely dared to breathe and clumsily followed the marshal’s lead. Slaine looked around once again to see if anyone of his gang had noticed what was going on. Inko and Nina were having a pleasant time dancing with their partners and had not noticed anything, but Rayet was staring at the pale Yuki and her dancing partner with an observing gaze. Then suddenly Rayet’s eyes turned to Slaine, and Slaine hurried to silently word:

Run!

Rayet began to guide her dancing partner toward the stairs leading down from the dance floor and Slaine prayed she would have enough time to run and hide once she decided to escape.

“Now, missy. Where is the leader of your gang?” Marshal Marylcian suddenly asked with an amused voice.

Slaine hurried to avert his gaze from Rayet to protect her whereabouts and kept quiet; Slaine did not know how to answer the man and he was not sure his voice would come out even if he tried. He was panicking. The marshal let go of Slaine’s hand and grabbed the bandit’s jaw instead to force Slaine look up at the taller man. He still had a strong arm around Slaine’s waist, making it impossible to flee. Marylcian’s eyes burned with excitement and joy over the power he had over Slaine.

“I asked you a question, missy. It is quite rude of you to not answer a marshal of the United States when he speaks to you,” he hissed and seemed to wait for Slaine to give him an excuse to mistreat him.

Slaine glared at him with eyes narrowing with disgust as his panic turned into desperate anger.

“You can ask me as many questions as you wish. I have no answers to give you,” Slaine snarled quietly from behind gritted teeth.

“Oh?” Marylcian’s smile and eyes widened with greater joy than before. “I wonder…”

The man let go of Slaine’s jaw and reached underneath the man’s frock coat and a dazzling silver pistol with detailed engravings was pulled out from beneath it. All of Slaine’s warmth escaped him seeing it. It was a Remington New Model Army revolver. The outlaw did not know what to do the moment he saw it as his entire mind blanked out completely. He saw the marshal raise it and pointed it at Rayet who had managed to get to the stairs.

“I will shoot one of your friends for each question you refuse to answer,” Slaine heard the marshal say. “You have only four chances – or rather…” Slaine saw Marylcian slowly begin to pull the trigger back, and the bandit threw a glance at Rayet who had noticed the marshal’s gun and turned pale. “Now you have three chances left. You have already used up one of your chances, Miss Troyard.”

Slaine understood what the man was about to do.

“NO!”

Without a second thought Slaine grabbed the man’s arm holding the gun. The bullet was shot and people around them began to run and scream. Slaine heard a thump from the stairs and looked over his shoulder to see Rayet who had collapsed and rolled down the stairs. She lay on the dusty ground, unmoving.

“RAYET!”

Inko and Nina hurried to pull their guns from beneath their skirts but some men – who had been joyfully dancing with their respective dance partners – jumped them before they had had the time to do anything else. The marshals’ men had been among them the entire time, pretending to be common townspeople. The girls were wrestled down onto the wooden dance floor and disarmed. Yuki hurried to throw a blow toward the dark haired marshal who had been dancing with her but her fist was caught by the man before it had hit him. Instead Yuki kicked the man’s shinbone and the man was about to double over from pain. Inaho’s sister hurried to run the moment the marshal let her go but her blouse was caught by one of the gunfighters accompanying the marshals, and she was pulled into the man’s arms and captured.

“Let me go, you damn bull!” she yelled angrily and thrashed in the man’s arms. The marshal who she had kicked took out a pair of handcuffs and was about to cuff Yuki when a shot was heard from a distance and the marshal’s hat flew off. The dark haired marshal stopped his movement immediately.

“Hold it!” they all heard a voice yell from somewhere. It was Inaho’s voice and relief washed over Slaine.

“What in the…?” Marylcian said quietly, still with Slaine in his grip and the gun held high. The man looked around slowly in the town where people ran in panic, and that disgusting smile spread on the marshal’s lips once more as he tried to find Inaho with his gaze. “Deadeye Lee!?” the man then yelled and laughed amused. “You dare not to face us like a real man? Hiding in the shadows is the way of a coward.”

“Let them go. I am aiming at your head right now, officer!” Inaho continued from somewhere hidden. “You have ten seconds to let them go!”

“You better do as he says,” Yuki hissed with her black disheveled hair hanging in front of her face after her violent struggle. “He can shoot a flea from a dog’s back from 80 yards with his revolver.”

Marylcian glared at her for a moment.

“Marshal Marylcian, I think we need to do as he says,” the other marshal said calmly.

“No way, Barouhcruz!” Marylcian yelled and looked at the other. “We have his gang! We only need to lure out that pesky bandit leader!”

Suddenly a gunshot was heard and Marylcian’s black hat flew off his head as well and landed close to Barouhcruz’s somewhere behind Slaine. The blond marshal’s face screwed up from anger due to the humiliation of losing his hat like that and Slaine thought the man would pop a blood vessel any moment.

“I’m warning you, officers!” Slaine heard Inaho’s voice yell. “Four seconds left!”

“You damned stray dog!” Marylcian yelled and Slaine chuckled, glaring at the man who had a tight grip around his waist.

“Three!” Inaho counted from his hiding place.

“Mr. Marshal, sir,” Slaine said quietly. “If you won’t let us go I am sure Deadeye Lee will be kind enough to help you with that … sir.” The blond bandit grinned.

“Two!”

Marylcian glared at Slaine and the blond bandit glared back at him with a sharpened gaze. Within a couple of breaths the marshal clicked his tongue in annoyance and released Slaine’s waist.

“Let them go…” Marylcian growled to Barouhcruz and the gunfighters, and they did as ordered.

Slaine turned around to hurry over to Rayet but the moment he directed his eyes toward the spot where she had collapsed the spot was empty. Slaine stopped in his tracks, looking around as to where the woman could have disappeared. In the corner of an alley, next to a store deep in the shadows, Slaine saw a familiar face. The man’s concerned eyes stared back at him and gave Slaine a nod. In the man’s arms lay a limp Rayet, bleeding from her right leg where the bullet seemed to have hit her. She must have hit her head and fallen unconscious when she fell down the stairs from the shot.

Harklight!’ Slaine thought and was about to run over to the man when Harklight signaled for him to stop by shaking his head and nodding toward the marshals and gunfighters. He raised a finger to his lips to ask Slaine to stay quiet. ‘Don’t reveal your position for them?’ Slaine thought and suddenly understood Harklight was helping them by taking care of Rayet. ‘Who are you…?

“Come out of your hiding, Deadeye Lee!” Slaine heard Marylcian’s disgustingly melodic voice echo in the now empty town. The townspeople had hurried inside the buildings and their homes, hiding from a possible gunfight that would take place on the streets. “Or do you fear me!?” The man laughed amused.

Yuki hurried down from the dance floor and pulled Slaine along, and Inko and Nina were close behind.

“Pull your gun, Slaine. Things will turn ugly,” Yuki said quietly as they ran.

“You know those marshals?” Slaine asked as he reached down to lift his skirt up and pull his trusted Smith & Wesson Model 3 from its holster. All the girls did the same. “What about Rayet?”

“We have never encountered them before,” Yuki said. “But the moment I heard the name Barouhcruz I understood who they are; they are the infamous duo of the feds who take on only the most notorious outlaws; the hot blooded Marylcian and the levelheaded Barouhcruz. The first is known for his brutality and the other keeps an eye on him to hold him back. The only reason they get away with what they do is because they get the job done which everyone else fails at,” she continued. “Rayet will manage; she’s a tough girl. We can’t all get caught because of one person; we’ll save her once we’ve get to safety first.”

“So there’s no turning back now then,” Slaine said and felt his breath become strained from the running. He noticed they were running toward the city border. “To have two federal marshals after us like that…”

“These guys are famous for setting traps. I doubt this is the last thing we see from them. We can’t run without horses since they will follow us across the city border, unlike a sheriff,” Slaine heard Inko say from behind him.

“We need to get horses but I haven’t seen any yet,” Nina said and ran up next to Yuki. “Inaho can’t keep them off our backs for too long.”

“They must have ordered the townspeople to keep their horses away from the main street just to haul us in if we try to escape,” Yuki said, obviously troubled.

A gunshot was heard and Slaine stopped immediately. He turned around to see what was happening and raised his gun. The moment he directed his eyes toward the roof of the local bank he saw Inaho shoot a gunman who was trying to climb up onto the roof. On the ground a man already lay screaming from pain. A third one had managed to climb up from the other side without Inaho noticing since the bandit was busy dealing with those who tried to climb up from the front of the bank.

“Inaho!” Slaine yelled and took aim on the man who slowly sneaked up behind Inaho, and he pulled the trigger.

The man was shot and fell down on the roof screaming from pain.

“Damn it! They’ve found him!” Yuki cursed and took an aim as well to begin incapacitating the gunmen surrounding the bank, but her aim was off compared to Slaine’s who had an aim that was almost comparable to Inaho's expert aim.

The blond bandit disarmed five gunmen before he had to reload. He had stuffed bullets into a piece of cloth tied to the holster beneath his dress, and he quickly began to reload.

Only one reload,’ he thought with panic as he emptied the cylinder and began filling it up again with quick and practiced fingers.

None in the gang had expected the evening turning into a full-blown gunfight with U. S. marshals and thus none of them had enough bullets to engage in one for a long period of time. Not even Inaho.

“We need to save him or he will be caught when his bullets run out!” Inko yelled and began running toward the bank.

“IDIOT!” Yuki screamed after her. “Come back here, Inko!”

Slaine set after her to catch her even if he wanted to follow her impulse and throw himself into the gunfight in order to save Inaho, but he knew it would only result in them being arrested as well. The rule of the gang was to leave those behind who were lost in one way or another, and later on track them down to save them. Even if it hurt Slaine to leave Inaho like that it was still better to save him later on. If all of them got caught there was no one to save them and they would end up hanged.

Did he know about the horses and let them find him on purpose to buy us some time?’ Slaine thought and reached Inko and grabbed her around her waist.

“NO! Let me go!” she screamed and began kicking.

“Please, Inko! We need to run!” Slaine said urgently and struggled to keep her still by hugging her close. “Nothing good will come from us being captured as well!”

“But we can’t just leave him!” she screamed, clearly distressed about Inaho’s situation.

“I know it hurts,” Slaine said and began dragging her back. She did less and less resistance. “But we have to run. Who will save him if we all are captured?”

With those words Inko calmed down and Slaine took a hold of her hand instead to pull her along as they began running again.

They had run for just a couple of seconds when they heard:

“GET DOWN!”

It was one of the gunfighters and Slaine, Inko, Yuki and Nina looked toward the bank to see what was happening. They all were unusually worried about what was going on since the seriousness of dealing with a notorious duo of U. S. marshals was heavier than they were used to.

“It can’t be…!” Nina said with utter shock and covered her mouth with her hands. Her eyes were widened. “Dynamite!”

Slaine lost his breath. Someone had thrown dynamite into the bank. He saw Inaho lower his gun like he had given up fighting and the brunet stared down at the roof of the bank he was standing on, waiting for the blow.

“No…” Slaine whispered and a deafening explosion rumbled in the town and shook the ground. The bank walls bulged outwards and the planks gave way and broke. The roof caved in and Inaho disappeared from Slaine’s view. Dust clouds sprung forth from the blast and spread across the street like a sandstorm obscuring their vision. “NO!” Slaine yelled loud enough his voice echoed in the silence. The rubble stood still for a short moment before the weight made them collapse. A lonely piece of wall fell down onto the street. All that stood left was the strengthened back wall of the bank and a couple of wooden posts that had been functioning as support for the roof.

“Got him!” he heard Marylcian yell from somewhere inside the dust cloud, and the entire area went quiet except for voices yelling orders.

“Arrest him if he is still alive!” Barouhcruz yelled. “If he died, collect his corpse!”

Slaine could not move. Neither could the girls. They could only stare at the explosion site and hope that Inaho was still alive after the blast. Their hearts beat in their chests from fright of hearing bad news while their ears were listening carefully to hear about the bandit’s condition. Time had completely come to a stop and Slaine could not comprehend the situation at all. Everything suddenly felt so surreal.

“He’s alive!” they suddenly heard and a thump was heard from behind Slaine. Yuki had collapsed onto her knees, crying from relief.

“W-what do we do…?” Nina asked with a quiet tremble.

“We … have to run…” Slaine said quietly with his legs shaking. “He will be all right… It’s Inaho after all…” He turned toward Yuki and took a hold of her shoulders. “Please, Yuki. Get up. We have to run.”

The woman was in shock from nearly having lost her little brother and all she could do was to shake her head with tears running down her cheeks. Slaine understood there was nothing more to do and he turned his attention toward Inko and Nina.

“Find a man called Harklight. He is taking care of Rayet. He was hiding with her after she lost consciousness earlier, and I think we can trust him,” he said and looked at Yuki. “I will stay with Yuki and Inaho.”

“You will let yourselves be arrested!?” Nina asked and shook he head violently, her ponytails swaying. “We can’t leave you!”

“Yuki will need help if Inaho is injured; she can’t carry him alone once we escape, and she’s in no condition to run right now. Come for us when you can,” Slaine said urgently. “Now hurry up and run before they will use Inaho as a hostage and pull us all in. Disappear from the marshals’ sight.” He held up his gun to them and took Yuki’s as well. “Take these. They will just take them from us and we will probably never see them again.”

Nina took the guns and hugged them tightly against her chest, looked at Slaine and Yuki for a while before she whispered them good luck and grabbed Inko’s arm and began to run with her. Slaine sighed and compassionately rubbed Yuki’s shoulders to calm her down. The woman was crying with her entire body trembling and Slaine could understand her shock. She cared about Inaho in a completely different level than even Slaine could. The blond outlaw was sure she would not survive losing Inaho and would follow him to his grave if she had to in order to stay with him.

“Foolish Yuki…” he whispered with a wry smile and dried her tears with a gentle hand. “Look at what you did. We’re getting caught in a pretty anticlimactic way.”

“I’m sorry…!” she cried and leaned forward on her arms supporting her. “I just… If he would have…”

Yuki seemed to not be able to find words in her state and Slaine caressed her cheek.

“I know…” he whispered, listening to steps coming closer from behind him. “I know, Yuki…”

A gun cocked behind his head and Slaine slowly raised his hands into the air to show whoever was aiming at him that he was unarmed.

“Surrendering, are we, Miss Slaine Troyard?”

The slithering words of a snake licked at his ears and a shiver ran through Slaine’s spine.

“Congratulations, sir,” Slaine said and looked over his shoulder to drill his gaze into Marylcian’s grinning eyes. “You caught Deadeye Lee and half of his bandit gang.”

“Why thank you,” the man sneered. More steps were coming closer and Slaine saw Barouhcruz and a couple of gunmen in the corner of his eye. “I will make sure to have my fun with all of you before we turn you in.”

Slaine wanted to throw a curse at the man after he threatened them like that but he figured it would be better to stay silent. He and Yuki were cuffed with their hands behind their backs. Two gunmen took a hold of Yuki’s arms to raise her up and bring her along, while Marylcian locked his arm with Slaine’s like he was a proper gentleman walking through town with his lady. It was a clear insult toward Slaine who was dressed in women’s clothes.

Mocking a prisoner like this… What a warped man,’ Slaine thought and wanted to pull himself free but refrained from angering the man by trying. If these marshals were as notorious as Yuki had claimed, they were in a tight spot. Slaine wondered what the marshals would do to them and he hoped he did not have to find out either.

As they arrived to the town square Inaho came into view. The brunet had been chained up against a wooden pillar holding up the terrace roof in front of the saloon. He lay slumped on his right side on the ground, his hands cuffed behind his back and a chain leading up to the pillar. The young man’s breaths were strained and blood ran down his face from a wound on his forehead.

He must be really hurt,’ Slaine thought with a worried frown and threw a glance at Yuki who looked up at her brother. He knew what she would do and she was quick to act accordingly: She tried to run up to him but was held back by the men holding her, and she began to scream at them to let her go. The men did not release her and Marylcian laughed amused.

“So touching. What a wonderful display of sibling lov-“

Marylcian was interrupted by his shoulder being grabbed by a strong hand. Slaine looked up to see Barouhcruz give Marylcian a stern look and then heard the man say:

“It is unsightly to mock a woman worrying for her family, even if she is a bandit.”

Marylcian stared at Barouhcruz for a couple of seconds before he clicked his tongue and ordered Yuki and Slaine to be chained up against the post as well. Yuki was quick to lie down in front of her brother to look at him and try to speak to him and Slaine slumped against the elevated terrace floor behind Inaho.

“Tomorrow we shall travel to Utah where you will get your punishment,” Marylcian said with that disgustingly melodic and lean voice. “You may sit out here and contemplate on what you have done until morning.”

Slaine looked up at him with a start. Sit outside in the middle of February? Not even Texas was warm enough for that.

“We will freeze to death before morning!” Slaine said angrily but the marshal laughed again, as amused as ever.

“Who cares, my dear Miss Slaine Troyard? You’re worth a lot even when dead,” the man said and Slaine gritted his teeth from fury. “We were told to take you in alive, but I guess we can just excuse ourselves with a usual ‘oops’ without worry.”

“What about water?” Slaine asked and the marshal shrugged with his horrible smile.

“You tell me. Do you see water anywhere nearby?” the man asked and grinned wider.

Slaine glared at him and Marylcian glared back for a while before he snorted pleased and walked inside the saloon. Four gunmen stayed outside to keep an eye on the bandits while the rest joined the marshals to celebrate them capturing the notorious Deadeye Lee, and Slaine turned to look at Inaho.

“Inaho…” he whispered and shuffled closer to take a look at Inaho’s injury. “Are you hurt anywhere?”

“My ribs…” Inaho huffed back with a strained whisper. “My memory…”

“Did you hit your head?” Slaine asked quietly and Inaho nodded. “Are you disoriented and dizzy?” Inaho nodded again. ‘Concussion,’ Slaine thought and frowned. “Whatever you do, don’t think too much. Stay calm and don’t concentrate or anything too hard. Leave that to me and Yuki.”

Inaho nodded with his breathing still strained.

If Inaho had hit his head hard enough it meant he could have bleedings in the brain. Slaine had learned this from his father who had been studying medicine for his entire life. The moment his father learned there was new development on the field he studied it, and with that Slaine had learned about a lot of medical conditions, including what a concussion was. Inaho had to stay calm and rest since a concussion could be fatal. Concentration and other functions that meant exerting his mind had to be kept at minimum for him to recover as quickly as possible.

Hopefully he has no bleedings in the brain… Don’t die on me…’ Slaine thought.

“Why didn’t you run…?” Inaho asked and suddenly held his breath, probably to prevent himself from releasing a sound from a sudden flash of pain.

“Of course we couldn’t when we saw that explosion!” Yuki said and stared at her brother with tears in her eyes. “I thought you died.”

“So you did let them find you on purpose to buy us some time, after all?” Slaine asked with a wry smile and pushed himself up from his slumped position and leaned over Inaho to look at him. Inaho kept his eyes closed and furrowed his brows slightly from the pain. “Thank you, and I’m sorry… At least Inko, Rayet and Nina got away.”

Inaho nodded and stayed quiet for the rest of the evening. Slaine and Yuki lay on either side of him on the dusty ground to protect both him and themselves from the crawling cold when the temperature began to drop rapidly after the sun had set entirely. By the time the saloon had gotten loud with cheers and screaming – indicating that everyone in the saloon was drunk – Slaine had begun to tremble from the cold. He watched his breath dance in front of him as he exhaled. The temperature had dropped considerately.

We won’t survive until morning…’ he thought and listened to Yuki’s trembling breaths. Inaho lay silent, probably sleeping from the exhaustion the pain and concussion caused him. ‘We need to keep him warm,’ Slaine then thought and raised his head to look at Yuki who shivered. Her breath shook the moment she exhaled.

The hypothermia had kicked in.

“Yuki…” Slaine whispered, silently to not wake Inaho. “Don’t fall asleep.”

“Like I would be able to sleep in this cold,” she answered silently. “This is torture…”

Good… She’s still shivering…’ Slaine sighed and lay down again, curled up as close to Inaho as he possibly could and tried to warm his lover as much as possible.

He knew once they stopped shivering the end was near. If he could save Inaho in any way by sharing the last of his body heat then Inaho would be saved by the others later on. He decided not to say anything to Yuki about the signs of exhaustion due to exposure to the cold. If she knew she would be worried and overthink her symptoms.

It is always easier to die without knowing what is going on. Tell them to go to sleep, and then hold their hand and wait until the moment when they will never wake up again. This might seem cruel, but who in their right mind is ready to die?” his father had told him when the 11 year old Slaine had witnessed his first death in his father’s working room. The woman who had passed away had been ill with pneumonia and – at remembering that – Slaine wondered for a moment if they would fall for pneumonia as well, just like that woman, if they survived the night.

Instead Slaine kept silent and listened to his body’s reactions to the cold, waiting for that moment when he would stop shivering and develop tunnel vision and fall asleep against his own will. He was still in his right mind; he was not ready to die. It would have been a relief to tell anyone who would listen that they were soon to fall asleep forever. To just have someone knowing and caring for them when they died would have been a small relief and comfort. Despite that he kept silent in order to not cause Yuki any distress, and that silence felt cruelly lonely.

Ah… This is no good…’ he thought as he began to feel his body grow limp. ‘I’m falling asleep…

A loud bang was heard from the saloon and Slaine jerked from the sudden noise and opened his eyes wide as adrenaline began to course in his veins from shock. He turned toward the door and saw a staggering Marylcian exit the saloon. Yuki and Inaho had woken up as well and all three directed their attention toward the drunken man.

“So you’re still alive, I see!” the man yelled out loud and laughed. “What hardy bastards you are.”

“Get back in there and drink until you drop, you burned boot!” Yuki cursed and the man narrowed his eyes.

“Yuki…!” Slaine scolded. He was sure the man would not let that slide.

“Never miss a good chance to shut up, missy,” Marylcian slurred and got down from the terrace.

He walked toward them.

“You know what they say: Always tell people what you feel, because opportunities are lost in the blink of an eye but regrets last a lifetime,” Yuki hissed and Marylcian smiled like a snake as he walked closer to them.

“Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out,” the marshal chuckled and stopped in front of Yuki. “You can’t unsay cruel things, missy.”

Slaine kept an eye on him. He had a bad feeling from the look in the man’s eyes. They were gleaming with a disgusting desire as they watched Yuki glare back at them. She admitted defeat and did not utter a word during their staring challenge and Slaine released a relieved sigh from her staying silent. She was too hotheaded at times and this was a bad time for angering the man standing in front of her. Slaine still had the feeling the man had come out for a reason though, and no matter what anyone of them would have said it would not have changed the outcome anyway; the man was after Yuki.

"I shall teach you to choose your timing better, missy," the marshal finally said.

“It don’t take a big person to carry a grudge, I see,” the woman finally growled and Marylcian laughed again before he leaned down to grab Yuki by her blouse and dragged her along a couple of feet away from Slaine and Inaho, as far as the chain would reach. “LET ME GO!” she screamed as he pushed her down against the ground.

Inaho was about to move and Slaine quickly got up on his feet. The cold made him stiff and dizzy but in order to protect Inaho from exerting himself in his current state he hurried to aim a kick against Marylcian’s face and got a perfect hit. The man fell backwards and let out a pained cry while he covered his face with his hands, and Yuki hurried up from the ground to defend herself and Slaine.

“You goddamned bastard!” the marshal screamed and got up from the ground with dust falling off his coat. His eyes burned with fury. “How dare you!?”

“When you're throwing your weight around, be ready to have it thrown around by somebody else,” Slaine said with a strong voice which he forced forth from his cold lungs.

“A battle of wisdoms, I see…” Marylcian hissed and dried blood from his nose and spit blood from his mouth after Slaine’s kick. “Then let me counter you with a good wisdom, brat,” the man then continued and walked toward Slaine. “You don’t learn much when everything goes right. How about me teaching you a good lesson right now, Miss Slaine Troyard?”

The man looked behind Slaine and nodded. Hurrying footsteps was heard and Yuki screamed angrily at them to let her go. The moment Slaine looked over his shoulder to see what was going on and saw Yuki being held by two gunmen, a harsh blow landed in his stomach and stars danced before his eyes as he fell to his knees on the ground. For a moment he was about to vomit but the nausea quickly subsided. His body began to tremble from shock instead of cold as his temperature had gone up from moving about.

There’s something good with all of this…’ he thought relieved; he had prolonged his life for a couple of minutes at the least.

He gasped from pain and looked up at Marylcian who waved a hurting hand in the air and cursed after hitting Slaine with it. Slaine bit his tongue; to anger the man by continuing to throw insults at him would only result in the situation worsening. Instead Slaine decided to take the beating and let the man feel satisfied in order for him to let them be. He listened to Yuki struggle with the gunfighters holding her before he got tired of it.

“Keep quiet, Yuki!” he suddenly yelled with a raspy voice; the cold had weakened his power of speech.

“But Slaine-!” she began but Slaine turned around to glare at her.

“Just stay quiet already!” he yelled and Yuki got silent and stared at him with surprise. “Enough…” Slaine then whispered.

“Learned your lesson already?” the marshal asked with pretended disappointment. “There is no fun in that.”

Slaine looked up at the man and sighed. His breath turned into mist and weakly obscured his vision of the man.

“If you have something else to teach me, then do that and leave us alone,” Slaine said quietly.

Marylcian strode up to him and grabbed him by the hair. Slaine felt the braided hair loosen at the man’s brutal grip and he held his breath to keep himself from letting out a sound of pain. Instead he glared at the man who studied him for a while.

“You know, Troyard – you seem to be a lot of fun,” the man said quite sincerely with his drunken breath stinging Slaine's nostrils when the man leaned closer. “I will regret turning you in.”

“Don’t you have enough toys already, Sir Marylcian?” Slaine asked and stared at him with narrowed eyes.

“Oh, a man of my caliber can never have enough toys,” the man hissed with a sneer. “Things gets easily dull when you have seen and done as much as I have on my hunts for bandits like Deadeye Lee. Why won’t you entertain me for a little while?”

“I doubt a legendary marshal like yourself needs boring toys like me,” Slaine said and shuddered from the cold and his breath trembling. “I’m too cold to entertain anyone.”

The drunk man in front of him snickered.

“What’s this? Is the missy cold?” he sneered and brushed Slaine’s cheek with a bloodied finger, smearing Slaine's cheek with the blood he had dried from his upper lip after Slaine's kick. “Shall I warm you up, perhaps?”

“That is not necessary nor entertaining for you, sir. I bet the women inside the saloon can entertain you better than me,” the bandit said and kept staring at the man while he tried to control his shivers.

The marshal snorted and whispered silently enough only Slaine could hear him:

“It is either you or the woman. You decide. I won’t settle for anyone else.”

Slaine’s body froze, not from the low temperature but from fear. What was he supposed to do? Was the man serious? It was nothing unusual for a man to lie with another man out of sheer pleasure and thus it was not a surprise when Slaine heard about men having mutual solace – much like him and Inaho – but he had never heard of a man forcing down another man like the U.S. marshal now threatened to do.

Would I be able to do it without damaging my pride or sanity?’ he thought and swallowed hard while he stared at the grinning marshal who held a tight grip of his hair. The man was not in a hurry; he let Slaine take his time do decide what to do and somewhere deep back in Slaine’s mind the outlaw wished the man would make the decision for him. It was too hard to decide since neither he nor Yuki should be put through such trauma.

“I have all night, bandit,” Marylcian whispered with a smug smile.

If I can trade for something…’ he thought. If he got something out of it that would save them from freezing to death… If he was able to save Inaho and Yuki, as well as himself, would that be a fair trade? He could not ask for too much like returning to one of their rooms at the hotel which was already paid for and stay there under guards' supervision; the marshal did not look like someone who was keen of bargaining at all, but blankets or furs would not be much to ask for and would be helpful.

“Fine. If we get something to keep us warm throughout the night, then we have a deal and I will let you have fun,” Slaine whispered with trembling lips and the man raised an eyebrow.

“Bartering are we? What if I say no?” the man asked amused.

“I will entertain you as much as I possibly can if you allow us to survive the night,” Slaine pushed on with his breath shivering, not releasing the man with his gaze.

The marshal snorted amused and his lips turned into a wide smile. He released Slaine’s hair to see how sincere the bandit was and Slaine waited obediently without moving an inch. Marylcian leaned closer and Slaine held his breath as his freezing body began crawling with a disgusting sensation. The man’s breath reeked of cheap whiskey, probably forty-rod or something similar.

“Deal…” the marshal whispered and put a hand beneath Slaine’s chin to raise his head, and cold lips covered Slaine’s.

The bandit felt nauseous and the crawling sensation in his skin intensified as the man caressed his hands down Slaine’s shoulders. He heard Yuki yell something but Slaine could not concentrate on anything enough to understand a word of what she said; his mind spun around with thoughts of escape and fear, disgust and horror and yet he managed to control himself enough to sit completely still.

“Marshal Marylcian!”

A voice echoed in the night and Slaine’s lips were released as Marylcian looked up at someone behind Slaine at the saloon door.

“Don’t disturb me, Barouhcruz!” the man yelled back.

“Release the prisoner immediately! You are a U.S. Marshal and such acts does not fit for a man of your status. It is unsightly of you to touch our prisoners,” Marshal Barouhcruz continued.

Slaine breathed out a relieved sigh and lowered his gaze to stare at the ground with his heart beating away like a sledgehammer inside his ribcage. He hoped dearly Barouhcruz would save Slaine’s pride and honor by not having him succumb to horrors such as being pushed down by a unfamiliar man and be mounted by him.

“Don’t be such a dandy marshal,” Marylcian complained and stood up, ready to argue for his supposed right to put his hands on whoever he wished. “We made a deal here and so it’s mutual.”

“What deal?” the other man asked.

“To give them something to stay warm during the night of course!”

Slaine had never thought he would hear a marshal of the United States say something he would be happy to hear, but the moment he heard Barouhcruz speak again Slaine’s heart skipped with relief:

“Calm yourself and get to bed, Marshal Marylcian. You are too drunk to know what you are doing right now. You shall regret touching a bandit in the morning if you do it now.”

After something that felt like an eternity of trying to stare each other down, Marylcian finally snorted and strode off toward the saloon door. Slaine almost fell over from relief but suddenly heard a loud thump and looked over his shoulder. Inaho had kicked the marshal’s feet hard enough when Marylcian walked past him that the man had lost his balance and lay face down on the ground.

“Never touch … anything that’s not yours…” the desperado said quietly and shivered from the cold, and a small smile spread on Slaine’s lips.

Inaho…

Marylcian hurried up from the ground and was about to revenge his hurt pride when Barouhcruz ordered his men to grab a hold of him. The drunken marshal threw curses at both the lawmen and outlaws and was dragged back inside the saloon. Yuki was released and she quickly stepped between Inaho and Barouhcruz, ready to protect her brother.

“At ease, bandits,” the marshal said with calm and stared at them. “I shall bring you blankets.”

As he disappeared in through the door Slaine pushed his freezing body up from his kneeled position and walked over to Inaho, only to kneel next to him.

“Idiot…” he said smiling. “Thank you for honoring my pride.”

“Are you all right, Slaine?” Yuki asked and sat down on the ground next to them. Slaine nodded. “What happened there?”

Slaine sighed.

“He wanted either you or me,” the bandit said and shook his head. “I tried to bargain for either blankets or furs to keep us warm throughout the night.”

“By selling yourself…?” Inaho asked with a strained breath, still weak from the broken ribs but also the cold.

“I’m sorry,” Slaine said and frowned as a bad taste spread in his mouth. “I didn’t exactly enjoy it. He didn’t give me a choice.”

“I will have to replace the sensation of his lips with mine … once we are out of here…” Inaho whispered and Slaine released a disheartened chuckle.

“If we survive this, I look forward to that,” he answered.

“You two…” Yuki sighed exasperatedly and smiled while shaking her head.

The saloon door opened and they all looked up at Marshal Barouhcruz who stepped out onto the terrace with blankets in his hands. The man looked at them for a while with a superior stare but then ordered the guarding gunmen to show them inside the saloon door. Without resisting the bandits were shown inside the saloon where they were placed next to the door; the chains were wrapped around a wooden post inside the lively saloon instead. The marshal offered them a thick wool blanket each to keep the bandits warm once the fire in the burning hearth was put out for the night, and thus they were sheltered from the ruthless exposure to the winter cold outside.

It was impossible to sleep in the loud saloon but Inaho was quick to doze off where he lay on the floor, his back against the saloon. The young man must have been drained from the pain and cold. Drunken people tried to anger them with throwing insults at their direction but neither Slaine nor Yuki gave them any attention. They were all exhausted and simply wanted to rest. Slaine leaned his head against the wall and closed his eyes. His body slowly regained its heat and he stopped shivering faster than he expected. He dared to relax and find a comfortable position. Once morning was dawning people began to leave the saloon or fall asleep on the tables before they were chased away by the saloon owner. The silence which followed was pleasant and Slaine dozed off into a half-awake slumber, listening to the last cracklings from the fireplace before they turned into hisses when the saloon owner extinguished the fire with a bucket of water.