Keith Kogane sat in the local Sheriff’s Office, his chair tipped back on two legs and his boots propped up on the desk, ankles crossed. Today had been even quieter than usual, and Keith was bored out of his mind. The cells on the other side of the room were empty for once, not even a drunkard sleeping off a hangover inside, let alone any dangerous criminals.
The front door opened, and Keith perked up, hoping it was a citizen in need. Hell, he’d take a request to rescue a kitten from a tree at this point.
Unfortunately, the newcomer was none other than the sheriff himself, Takashi Shirogane. Keith slumped back down in his seat.
“Mornin’, Keith,” Shiro smiled.
“Mornin’,” Keith mumbled back.
“Did I miss anything while I was out?”
Keith waved a blasé hand at the empty jail cells.
“Good,” Shiro nodded. “It’s nice to have some peace and quiet now and then.”
“I guess,” Keith shrugged.
Shiro opened his mouth to reply when the door suddenly burst open.
“Sheriff!” a man stumbled inside, his chest heaving as he tried to catch his breath. “Bandits are robbing the bank! It’s McClain!”
“Of course it is,” Shiro sighed. “I knew he’d been too quiet lately. Let’s go, Keith.”
Keith nodded. He grabbed his holsters and shoved his hat onto his head before following Shiro outside. As they raced across town, Keith’s heart seemed to beat in time with his horse’s gallop.
Lance McClain was an infamous bandit. Wanted posters depicting his confident smirk were plastered all over town, offering a handsome reward for his capture. Keith himself had encountered McClain numerous times, but the wily outlaw always managed to escape in the end.
Shiro and Keith arrived at the bank just in time to see three figures ride away, their saddlebags stuffed full of what was presumably their loot. Keith recognized two of them as Nyma and Rolo. Though not as famous as McClain, the two had made a name for themselves as a pair of bandits that always worked together.
The third party was, of course, Lance McClain himself. As Shiro and Keith gave chase, the bandit turned in his saddle to look back at them. McClain pulled down the blue bandana that covered his nose and mouth, and shot Keith a wink.
Keith spurred his horse to go faster.
They galloped across the endless desert when the trio in front of them suddenly split up, Nyma and Rolo heading one direction and McClain heading the opposite way. Shiro cursed.
“I’ll get McClain,” Keith said before the sheriff could speak.
Shiro eyed Keith for a long moment and then nodded. “Be careful.”
Keith tipped his hat with a slight smirk and shot after his quarry. McClain had a good head start, but Keith was the best rider west of the Mississippi. Probably east of it too. It wasn’t long before he began to gain on the outlaw.
Perhaps realizing this, McClain veered off course, his straight path curving until he was headed toward the rocky mountains rather than the open desert.
Keith followed, scowling when the bandit disappeared between two cliffs. Slowing down, Keith managed to urge his horse through the narrow canyon. They soon came upon McClain’s horse, its saddle empty.
Narrowing his eyes, Keith dismounted. He gave his horse a small pat and cautiously began to search the area for any sign of where McClain may have gone.
Pressed flat against a large rock that jutted out over the canyon, Lance watched with amusement as the deputy sheriff tried to make sense of the tracks Lance left behind. He’d had enough time before Kogane caught up to him to do a little jig in the sand, resulting in footprints that went every direction except the one he’d gone. Unfortunately, due to Lance’s vantage point, the wide brim of Kogane’s hat hid his no doubt adorably frustrated expression.
Well, there was only one way to remedy that, wasn’t there?
Silent as a snake, Lance slunk down the canyon wall. Leaning behind where Kogane still crouched, he placed his lips right next to the deputy sheriff’s ear.
Lance jumped back barely in time to avoid the punch Kogane threw as he leapt to his feet.
“Hey now,” Lance drawled, “that’s no way to greet a fella.”
In lieu of answering, Kogane lunged at him again. Lance evaded the next few swings before catching Kogane’s wrist. When Kogane failed to break free of Lance’s hold, he used it to his advantage to topple them both to the ground. A scuffle ensued, kicking up dirt and dust until Kogane finally pinned Lance beneath him.
“You’re under arrest,” Kogane panted. He reached for his belt only to pause in confusion.
“Looking for this?” he asked, holding up the lasso that normally hung at Kogane’s waist.
Before Kogane could react, Lance flipped them over and wrestled the smaller man onto his stomach. Lance forced Kogane’s arms behind his back and looped the rope around his crossed wrists.
“There,” Lance cinched the knot with a smile, “much better.”
“Let me go!” Kogane snapped.
“Hm, no, don’t think I will,” Lance said. He flipped Kogane onto his back and leaned down so their faces were mere inches apart. “I reckon I like you like this.”
Pretty, violet eyes glared up at him, accompanied by a faint blush.
“Aw, what’s the matter, cariño?” Lance reached up to brush a stray lock of hair from Kogane’s face. “Shy?”
“Don’t touch me,” Kogane snarled. He tried to jerk away, but Lance caught Kogane’s chin between his thumb and forefinger, firmly keeping his head in place with a chastising tut.
“Way I see it, you’re mine now,” Lance said. “Which means I can do whatever I like with you.”
Kogane’s blush deepened. “You-”
Lance swiftly cut him off by covering Kogane’s mouth with his own. He pried Kogane’s soft lips apart with his tongue and delved deep inside, exploring every inch until Kogane’s muffled protests transformed into soft moans.
Finally, Lance pulled away. He stared down at the vision beneath him, taking in the hazy, lust-filled eyes, pink cheeks, and parted lips. As they both caught their breath, Lance felt a smirk spread across his face.
“That was fun,” he said. “So fun, I think I’ll want to do it again later. Guess you’re comin’ with me.”
Kogane’s eyes widened. “What?”
“You heard me,” Lance rose to his feet, pulling Kogane up with him. “Now come on.”
Kogane dug his heels in as Lance tried to drag him over to the horses, spitting curses the whole way. Lance quickly grew tired of it. He removed the red bandana Kogane wore around his neck and tied the middle into a thick knot.
“Hey!” Kogane said. “What are you-mmph!”
Kogane thrashed around, his voice muffled by the cloth shoved between his teeth as Lance tied the bandana tightly behind his head.
“Beautiful,” Lance grinned. “Red really suits you, cariño.”
“Mmph!” Kogane scowled.
“I bet blue would look good on you too,” Lance said, reaching up to tug off his own bandana. “Whadaya say?”
Kogane frantically shook his head, but Lance ignored him in favor of folding the blue cloth into a long strip to tie over Kogane’s eyes.
“There,” Lance said, admiring the combined gag and blindfold.
“Mmmph,” Kogane moaned.
“You’re right, we should get going if we want to make it back to camp before dark,” Lance nodded cheerfully.
Lance grabbed his captive around the waist and tossed him over his shoulder, delighting in the surprised squeak. Lance walked the rest of the way to the horses, and set Kogane down so that he could tie the two mounts together. Leaving Kogane’s horse behind would only result in the poor thing’s death. Once done, Lance manhandled Kogane to sit side-saddle in front of Lance and they were on their way.
They rode through the canyon and back out into the open desert. Every so often, Kogane would squirm in Lance’s arms, and Lance had to hold the reins with one hand so he could give Kogane’s hair a sharp tug.
“None of that now,” he warned. “You don’t wanna fall off a moving horse, do you?”
Kogane grumbled, but ceased his movements for the time being.
Finally, just as dusk began to turn the sky a pretty orange-pink, they arrived at Lance’s camp. Lance dismounted from his horse and pulled Kogane down from the saddle. The deputy sheriff let out a muffled yelp, but Lance easily caught him. With one arm behind Kogane’s back and the other beneath his knees, Lance carried his captive over to the fire pit.
Setting him facedown on the bedroll, Lance grabbed a nearby coil of rope and began to lash Kogane’s ankles together. He then attached the end to Kogane’s bound wrists, completing the hogtie.
“There we go,” Lance grinned. “You just stay there and look pretty while I make us some dinner.”
“Mmph,” Kogane said, struggling against his bonds.
Lance started the campfire and gathered the necessary ingredients for stew. As he worked, Lance listened gleefully to the little moans and whimpers over the crackle of the fire. Once the pot was bubbling, Lance returned to Kogane’s side.
“How’re ya doin’, darlin’?” Lance asked.
He idly ran a finger down the length of rope that attached Kogane’s ankles to his wrists. Kogane squirmed in place with a whine.
“Food’s ready,” Lance continued. “You gonna behave?”
A nod. Lance crouched down to undo the hogtie and help Kogane into a sitting position. He then removed the blue bandana to reveal two violet eyes that glared balefully up at Lance.
“Aw, don’t be like that, cariño,” Lance cooed. “Why don’t we have some fun, hm?”
He pulled off the gag to capture Kogane’s lips with his own, only to jerk back at a sudden jolt of pain.
“Ow, what the fuck, Keith?!” Lance yelped.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Keith demanded. “This was not part of our arrangement!”
Lance shrugged, tenderly poking at the bite on his lip. “Just thought I’d spice things up a bit. You certainly seemed to be enjoying yourself.”
Keith’s cheeks turned pink.
“That’s besides the point,” he said. “Shiro is already suspicious. There are only so many times I can tell him I failed to capture you.”
“Well, this time I succeeded in capturing you,” Lance said. “So I don’t really see the problem.”
“The problem,” Keith gritted out, “is you kidnapped an officer of the law. What if Shiro tracks us down? He’ll shoot you on sight.”
“Aw, are you worried about me, cariño?”
Keith scoffed and turned away.
“We were supposed to meet up, have some fun, then go our separate ways,” he said firmly.
“We always do that,” Lance pouted. “Maybe I wanted more than a quick roll in the hay for once.”
Keith paused, looking back at Lance from the corner of his eye. “You...did this so we could spend more time together?”
Lance cleared his throat, his cheeks oddly warm. “Well, that, and I wanted to tie you up.”
Keith rolled his eyes, but a smirk graced his lips. “You could’ve just asked.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Lance winked. “Now, dinner?”
After they ate, Lance and Keith huddled together on the bedroll and admired the blanket of stars above them. Keith rested his head on Lance’s chest as Lance stroked his long hair.
“You could run away with me,” Lance said, his voice hushed in the night. “We could be partners. Explore the unknown. Discover the wild frontier.”
Keith’s arms tightened around Lance’s waist.
“You know I can’t do that,” he replied just as quietly.
Lance sighed. “I know.”
Before Lance could get too lost in thoughts about the unfairness of life, a hand gently cupped his cheek, turning him to face Keith.
“Don’t think about that now,” Keith whispered. “We still have tonight. Let’s make the most of it.”
Keith got up and took Lance’s hand. With a secretive smile, he led Lance into the nearby tent. Spreading the bedroll and blankets across the ground, Keith laid down on his back and tugged Lance on top of him.
Lance bracketed Keith’s body with his own and eagerly met his waiting lips. Before, their kisses were always rushed, worried that someone might see even in the most secluded of hideouts. Now, however, that concern wasn’t there, and Lance was able to take his time, languidly tangling his tongue with Keith’s to draw out every lovely sigh and hitch of breath he could.
Slowly, the tension built. Lance grew more assertive, running his hands up Keith’s body until his found his wrists and pinned them above Keith’s head. Keith groaned into Lance’s mouth, and Lance felt Keith’s legs lift up to wrap around Lance’s waist.
Lance finally had to pull back to take a breath. Keith made a noise of protest, but judging by the color of his face, he needed a break too.
“So,” Lance grinned down at Keith, “what was that you said? I just had to ask?”
Confusion marred Keith’s face for a moment before those gorgeous eyes lit up.
“Yup,” his lips curled into a sly smirk. “Just ask.”
Lance leaned down so his lips brushed the delicate shell of Keith’s ear.
“Can I tie you up, cariño?” he murmured. “Pretty please?”
A shudder ran down Keith’s body, and Lance could feel his pulse quicken in his grip.
Lance retrieved the rope while Keith stripped down. He returned to the tent to find Keith sitting on the bedroll with his legs tucked beneath him. Keith looked up with hooded eyes and silently placed his forearms parallel behind his back.
Lance sat down behind Keith and bound his wrists together. He swept the long black hair aside to press a kiss to the nape of Keith’s neck.
“Is that alright?”
Keith tested the rope and nodded. Lance peppered more kisses along his shoulder and down his spine, relishing the little hitches of breath. Smiling, Lance then guided Keith to turn around so he could sit on Lance’s lap before kissing him properly.
Their kisses grew deeper and deeper, and Lance reached up to push his fingers into Keith’s hair for a better hold. Keith moaned low and soft into Lance’s mouth, and his hips rocked against him.
Lance pulled away, though he kept his grip on Keith as he admired the other man’s flushed cheeks, shiny lips, and lust-filled eyes.
“You look so beautiful like this,” Lance said. “I reckon wearing that pretty, red bandana would be even better.”
Keith’s blush darkened, but he offered Lance a little shrug and a nod. “Alright.”
He opened his mouth for Lance to tuck the knotted cloth behind his teeth, then turned back around so Lance to tie the ends behind his head. Lance wound his arms around Keith’s waist, drawing him close so his back was pressed flush against Lance’s chest. Lance brought one hand up, reveling in Keith’s shiver as Lance’s blunt nails scraped lightly up his torso.
Grasping Keith’s chin, Lance turned the other man’s head to get a better look at the bandana between his lips.
“Perfect,” Lance said.
“Mmph,” Keith agreed, looking up at Lance through long, thick eyelashes.
He tilted his head to the side, and Lance obligingly latched on to the pale column of Keith’s throat, kissing and nibbling at the sensitive skin. Lance released Keith’s chin to caress his chest. Keith’s muffled gasps and whimpers were music to his ears as Lance pinched and massaged his pale pink nipples.
Once they were both good and riled up, Lance forced himself to pull away.
“Just a second, cariño,” he said at Keith’s questioning whine.
Lance hastily stripped off the rest of his clothes, then rummaged in his pack for the small bottle of oil he kept for just this occasion. Kneeling back down behind Keith, Lance held him close once again.
“You ready?” he asked.
Keith nodded. His eyes fluttered shut as Lance began to carefully stretch him open.
“Mmmmph,” Keith moaned softly, arching his spine as he pressed his rump more firmly against Lance’s hand.
“So impatient,” Lance teased.
He released the other man and laid down on his back. Keith paused, looking over his shoulder to blink down at Lance.
“Well?” Lance nodded down at his lap. “Get to it.”
Clarity lit up those violet irises, and Keith eagerly shuffled backwards until he was straddling Lance’s thighs. Once he was in position, Keith carefully sank down. Lance let out a low groan as Keith’s heat engulfed him.
“That’s it, cariño,” Lance gasped when Keith began to roll his hips. “You feel so good.”
Keith let out a pleased hum as he gradually began bouncing up and down. Lance gripped Keith’s bound wrists with one hand and slid the other up the smooth expanse of Keith’s back to tangle his fingers in the long strands of inky, black hair. He pulled until Keith’s head tipped back, and Keith rewarded Lance with a muffled keen as his bouncing grew more frantic.
The heat in Lance’s belly burned brighter and brighter until finally exploding in a vision of stars. Keith came not a moment later, his spine a graceful arch as he shuddered with one last muffled cry.
Lance carefully pulled out, scrambling to catch Keith when his shaky legs suddenly stopped supporting him. He gathered Keith in his arms and pressed soft kisses to Keith’s face.
“You did amazing, cariño,” Lance grinned. “They aren’t kidding when they call you the best rider west of the Mississippi.”
Keith shot him a withering look, but he was too spent for it to be anything but adorable.
“Mmph,” he said, squirming pointedly.
“Aw, already?” Lance pouted. “But you look so good like this.”
Another unimpressed look.
Lance untied Keith and removed the gag. Once free, Keith quickly cuddled back into Lance’s embrace. Lance grabbed his blanket and tucked it around both of them.
“Did you have fun?” Lance asked, pressing more kisses to the insides of Keith’s wrists.
“Mmhm,” Keith smiled and cupped Lance’s face to pull him in for a proper kiss. “Did you?”
“With you, cariño?” Lance smirked. “Always.”
Keith chuckled, low and smokey. Bundled together beneath the blanket, the two men exchanged more lazy kisses until the call of sleep grew too strong to fight. Keith rested his head on Lance’s shoulder, and Lance wrapped an arm around his waist, idly brushing his thumb over Keith’s hip bone as they simply basked in each other’s presence.
They laid together in silence for a long time before Lance finally spoke the words that weighed on his mind.
“You could stay.”
He would have thought Keith had already fallen asleep were it not for the barest twitch of his fingers. Lance grasped the pale hand curled loosely on his chest.
“I don’t want to talk about this right now,” Keith muttered. He buried his face into Lance’s neck. “Can we please just...be?”
Lance sighed and cupped the back of Keith’s head to draw him closer.
When Lance woke up the next morning, Keith and his horse were already gone.
Lance was disappointed, but not surprised. They were on opposite sides, after all, and while Lance knew Keith cared about him just as strongly as Lance cared about Keith, he couldn't just drop everything to be with Lance.
Still, it was a nice fantasy.
"McClain! Are you listening?"
Lance snapped out of his thoughts and turned to Sendak's scowling face. In an effort to cover up his inattention, Lance waved a flippant hand at the other bandit.
"Yeah, yeah, I understand the plan," he said. "This ain't my first time doin' this. You guys came to me for help, remember?"
Ignoring Sendak's outraged spluttering, Lance gave himself a little shake. Now wasn't the time to be sulking about something that happened weeks ago. Keith made his choice, and Lance had to accept it. He had to focus on this job if he wanted any chance of meeting up with Keith again. A sloppy outlaw was a dead outlaw.
Lance didn't usually team up with Sendak's posse. He preferred to work alone, or occasionally with Nyma and Rolo if the job required more hands. Sendak himself had approached Lance with the offer, saying they needed another gunman and that Lance was the best.
Lance almost refused. He knew from past experiences that Sendak was an asshole who would turn on Lance the second it became convenient. However, Lance was running low on funds and this job would pay handsomely.
"Here it comes!" One of Sendak's lackeys shouted.
Right on schedule, a train appeared from around the mountain. As it drew closer, Lance tugged his blue bandana up to cover his nose and mouth, trying not to think about how the fabric still carried a faint hint of Keith's scent. Lance settled his hat more firmly on his head, grateful for the wide brim that protected his eyes from the desert sun.
"Let's go, boys!" Sendak hollered.
He snapped his reins and shot off, the others and Lance hot on his heels. Their horses raced parallel to the tracks, picking up speed so that once the train reached them they would be about even with it.
Sendak went first. He jumped from his saddle to land on the balcony of the caboose. His three lackeys followed, with Lance bringing up the rear.
As he leapt from his horse onto the moving train, Lance couldn't help the wide grin beneath his bandana. Being a bandit was a dangerous job, but oh so thrilling.
He followed Sendak's posse through the train cars. Their target was a compartment towards the front which, according to their intel, some rich landlord reserved just for him and his family.
On the way, they ran into a few train workers. Lance hid a grimace as Sendak's team brutally knocked them out. At least they didn't kill them.
The group walked through a passenger car full of common folk, who all shrunk away in fear. Sendak looked like he was considering robbing them too, but must have decided they weren't worth the time, and quickly continued on. Lance was glad. He had no qualms relieving the wealthy of a few items they wouldn't even miss, but taking from the poor was another thing altogether.
Before he could feel too relieved, one of Sendak's men returned from scouting ahead.
"What did you see?" Sendak asked.
"There's just one guard," the lackey answered. "Shirogane's deputy."
"Kogane," Sendak cursed as ice gripped Lance's heart. "That little varmint has been a thorn in my side long enough. You said he was alone?"
The bandit nodded.
"Good," Sendak said. He drew his machete from its leather sheath. "Let's teach him a lesson he won't soon forget."
The men cheered and followed their leader to the next compartment. Lance walked behind them, his mind racing despite the lead in his stomach and feet.
It hadn't even occurred to him that Keith might be on this train. His duties rarely took him out of town. However, there was no denying Keith's skill, and if the elite passengers had demanded extra security, he was the obvious choice.
The group of bandits barged into the first class carriage, weapons drawn.
"This is a hold up!" Sendak barked. "Put your hands...where's Kogane?!"
Several frightened eyes stared back at the bandits, but none were Keith's.
Sendak whirled on his lackey.
"He was here, I swear," the man insisted. "I saw him just a few minutes ago."
"Idiot," Sendak growled. "He must have spotted you. Be on the lookout."
He directed two of his men to start collecting the family’s money and jewelry while the rest of them searched the compartment for the missing deputy.
Suddenly, one of the lackeys let out a cry as a shadow fell down from the ceiling to land on top of him.
Keith didn't waste any time. He used the butt of his large hunting knife to knock the man out before flipping the blade in his grip and lunging at another bandit nearby. By the time Sendak spun around, two of his men were already incapacitated.
“Kogane!” Sendak growled.
Keith shot a look at the family huddled together in the corner.
“I’ll hold them off,” Keith said. “Get out of here! Now!”
An older man who Lance presumed was the rich landlord, ushered his wife and children towards the exit. Sendak’s remaining lackey tried to block their path, but Keith swiftly kicked the bandit’s leg out from under from, knocking him flat on his face. The family fled to the adjacent train car.
“Leave them!” Sendak ordered when the bandit moved to follow. “Take care of Kogane!”
The bandit obediently turned to Keith. Keith held his knife at the ready.
Lance watched, heart in his throat, as Keith grappled with the bigger man. A hand clamped down on Lance's shoulder.
"What are you waiting for, McClain?" Sendak barked. "Shoot him!"
Lance saw Keith's eyes widen.
"They're moving around too much," Lance argued. "The bullet could hit either one of them."
"What the hell am I paying you for?" Sendak roughly shoved Lance to the side and stormed towards the two.
Keith managed to headbutt the large bandit and push him away. The bandit stumbled to the floor, clutching his head with a groan. Before Keith could finish the job, Sendak was upon him. Keith didn't have time to move as Sendak swung his machete down.
Sendak froze. The machete fell from his grip with a clatter, followed by Sendak himself. Behind him, Lance lowered his smoking pistol.
Keith stared at Sendak's prone form, then back up at Lance.
"Thanks," he said breathlessly.
Lance tugged down his bandana and grinned. "Anytime, cariño."
The bandit Keith headbutted earlier jumped to his feet and charged at Lance.
Lance hurriedly raised his pistol, but the man suddenly fell down with a cry, Keith's knife embedded into his back.
Lance blinked over at Keith.
Keith smirked. "Anytime."
Lance and Keith jolted as the train suddenly screeched to a halt. They both ran to the window to see a handful of law enforcers riding closer.
Keith turned to Lance. "You need to go."
Lance nodded. He started toward the exit, then paused. Before he could second guess himself, Lance turned around and walked back to Keith.
Lance tugged Keith close and kissed him. Keith quickly pulled away.
"What are you doing?" he hissed. "You have to get out of here!"
"Come with me," Lance urged.
Keith's eyebrows pinched together. "Lance…"
"We could be together," Lance cupped Keith's face. "Forever."
Keith stared up into Lance's eyes, turmoil roiling behind his own violet gaze.
"Keith!" Sheriff Shirogane burst into the compartment. "Are you okay?! We came as soon as we could."
Shirogane paused, staring at the bodies of Sendak's crew, then up at Lance and Keith.
Lance cleared his throat and took a step back.
"You got me, officer," he said. "I'll go peacefully."
Keith blinked. "What?"
Shirogane walked over and set a hand on Keith's shoulder.
"Good job, Keith."
Keith glanced between Lance and Shiro, his expression baffled. Two more officers entered and Lance allowed them to bind his wrists. Shirogane pressed a handkerchief to Keith’s cheek.
“You’re bleeding,” Shirogane said to Keith as the officers lead Lance off the train. “Let’s get you to a doctor.”
Keith forced himself to sit still while Coran treated his wound. He didn’t even feel the pain. All he wanted was to run out of the doctor’s clinic and find Lance, but he knew that wasn’t an option. Not yet. Not until he could think of a plan to break Lance out of jail that wouldn’t just get them both arrested, or worse.
A knock on the door interrupted Keith’s swarming thoughts and Coran’s mindless chatter. Shiro poked his head in.
“Evenin’, Doctor Smythe,” Shiro said. “How’s he doing?”
Coran waved the sheriff inside. “Just a few bumps and bruises, nothing to worry about.”
“Good,” Shiro smiled and ruffled Keith’s hair, chuckling when Keith smacked his hand away. “Mind if I have a word with him?”
“Of course not,” Coran stood up and started toward the door. “I’m all done so you’re free to go whenever you like, Keith.”
“Thank you, doctor,” Keith said.
With a jaunty wave, Coran left the room. Shiro plopped down into the newly vacated chair.
“The Bolsons are safe and their valuables have been returned to them,” he said. “They wanted to thank you for protecting them.”
“McClain is behind bars,” Shiro continued. “Iverson is watching him until I get back.”
“What...” Keith paused to lick his lips. “What will happen to him?”
“You know the law as well as I do, Keith.”
Lance was a bandit guilty of a multitude of crimes. His sentence would be execution. Keith bowed his head, curling in on himself. He had to get Lance out. But how?
Shiro studied Keith’s tense form for a long moment.
"Y'know," Shiro said quietly, "I've always thought that this town was too small for you. You're always happiest when we're riding out in the wild, like it's a part of you."
Shiro’s words snapped Keith out of his spiral. He looked up with a frown. "What are you saying?"
"I know you care about this town, Keith," Shiro said, "and you’ll always have a home here. But if you wanted to leave, it would be okay. I’d be okay.”
Keith stared back at him.
Shiro got to his feet and stretched with a loud yawn.
“Come to think of it, I’m pretty beat. I don’t suppose you’d be up to covering my shift?” Shiro held out a ring of keys. “Only if you want to, of course.”
“I...yes!” Keith shot up and grabbed the keys. “I mean, uh...no problem.”
Shiro smiled and gave Keith’s shoulder a squeeze. Before the sheriff could walk away, Keith flung his arms around the bigger man.
“Thank you,” Keith whispered.
Shiro’s surprise melted into fondness as he returned the hug. He gave Keith’s hair one last ruffle, and then he was gone.
Keith went to his small house first to gather what he needed. He led his horse to the Sheriff's Office and went inside.
Iverson sat at the desk, scowling at Lance with his good eye. Lance lounged on a cot in one of the cells, his hat tipped low over his eyes. He didn’t move when the door opened.
“You can go,” Keith told Iverson. “I’ll keep watch.”
Iverson looked skeptical, but nodded. Once the door shut behind him, Keith flew to the cell.
Lance, having jumped up as soon as he heard Keith’s voice, reached out through the bars to gently cup Keith’s face.
“Keith,” Lance breathed. “I was worried I wouldn’t get to see you again before they hanged me.”
“No one is hanging you,” Keith said firmly.
Keith pulled the keys out of his pocket. The cell door swung open, and Lance pulled Keith into his arms.
“Thank you, cariño,” Lance pressed a kiss to the corner of Keith’s mouth. “What will you tell them when they find out? Oh! I could tie you up again. You could say I escaped my cell and overpowered you.”
“Actually,” Keith bit his lip, “I was kind of hoping I wouldn’t be here when they find out.”
“What?” Lance blinked. “Where will you be?”
Keith gave him a look. Lance’s eyes widened and he gripped Keith’s hands.
“Really?” Lance asked. “You mean it?”
Smiling, Keith nodded. “You said we could be partners, right? Explore the wild together?”
Lance brought Keith’s hands up to his lips, kissing his knuckles. “All you have to do is ask.”
As the sun set over the western horizon, Keith flew across the endless desert. Riding next to him, Lance let out a whoop as his horse jumped over a fallen cactus. Keith felt his own face split into a wide grin.
He’d always been happiest out in the wild.