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Whitecross

By @GreyySeal

Part One - Salvation

That winter had been particularly rough for the cowhands. They were constantly moving the cattle to different pastures, to entirely separate pieces of the Lagrans’ property, and were harshly punished for the accidental deaths of two calves in the herd of thousands. The son of the Lagrans, a young scholar by the peculiar name of Lotor, took pity on the cowhands and would provide them with extra warm clothing as well as general company, someone to share news with as well as listen to talk about how things were going back home. Lance enjoyed his company, but was a bit jealous; Lance was a bit sweet on Lotor’s betrothed, a wealthy oilman’s daughter named Allura. Lance, however, respected and admired Lotor, and refused to make any sort of move.

Lotor had left the group that morning to beat the storm home, and the cowhands continued their journey moving the cattle. They were close enough to see each other, but out of earshot, until the storm crept up on them in the early afternoon. The blizzard was vicious and they lost sight of each other, and each were glad for Lotor’s kindness. Lotor’s mercy, however, would not be enough to stop what happened next.

Shots rang out, a couple whizzing by Lance’s head. His horse, a sturdy bay Morgan, snorted and raised his front hooves a few inches above the ground. Lance steadied him and turned the horse to try and see where his attackers were. He could suddenly see two dark masses rush out of the wall of wind and snow, and shots went off. Both he and his horse were struck, Lance falling to the ground with a bullet in his thigh. He cried out in pain and stayed low, his teeth clenched, in order to avoid the robbers coming back around to finish the job. He ripped a bandana from his horse’s saddlebag, pained by the loss of the beast. He was thankful, however, that if his horse had to go, it was a quick death. He took his Colt revolvers, one from his hip and the other held in holster half way down his uninjured thigh, and waited for any sign of the men who attacked him. He winced as he heard the screams of the other cowhands, louder than anything he had heard aside from a thunderstorm that passed over his head a few years earlier. He then opened his mouth without thinking, both guns cocked and ready to fire. His hat was beside him, slightly crushed from falling off his horse.

“Leave them alone! Come back here you *********** he screamed, his voice cracking in pain. “Finish the job!”

It didn’t take long three men to return, and Lance quickly shot them down, tears blurring his vision. He leaned against the body of his horse and took as much as he could from the saddlebags, including a Winchester rifle, and held it to his chest. He picked up the bandanna before making a tourniquet for his leg, breathing heavily. He fired into the air, but he heard nothing except for the panicked sounds of the herd, and the wind howling in his ears. As his adrenaline died down, he felt his eyelids grow heavy, and his world faded into black.

When Lance woke up, he was in the back of a wagon with blankets pulled up to his chest. He was surprisingly warm, but felt weak. A man sat beside him, wearing a simple light shirt, dark brown pants, a heavy jacket, and a dusty Stetson hat that probably used to be white. He wore old grasses that sat upon the bridge of his nose, and his deep brown eyes looked across the darkening landscape. His skin was the color of the milk chocolates his grandmother used to make, and he looked just as sweet. It took a minute before Lance realized that the stranger could have been dangerous. As soon as the man’s eyes met his, however, Lance felt a little safer; they were firm, but held no malice.

“He’s awake,” the man announced, causing the two men who drove the wagon to look back. One of them, the one holding the reins, seemed to relax, and the other, riding shotgun, seemed to bristle. The man who had spoken reached down, placing a hand to Lance’s forehead. “Easy there, tiger. Found you while we were moving around. You’re not running a fever, so you should be just fine.”

Lance slowly sat up, grimacing as his thigh sent waves of pain through him. He looked up and saw a wagon close behind them, driven by a large man with dark skin and a much smaller young woman. He seemed confused, but the man in front flashed a warm smile.

“We don’t mean to scare you, but we’re a bunch of outlaws. Lucky for you, the people who attacked you aren’t too fond of us, and us of them,” the man chirped, his sharp eyes combined with his jet black hair and pale complexion making it obvious that he was of some Asian descent. The man beside him appeared to be similar, though his hair was longer, and his eyes seemed a little more round, and more angry. “We won’t hurt you. You’ll stay with us until you’re good enough to walk again, and then we can drop you off in the next town, unless you’d like to stay.”

The grump riding shotgun obviously wasn’t pleased, but he didn’t dare speak up; it was clear the driver was the leader of the group. Lance simply nodded along, listening as the man sitting beside him introduced the group. The man in the dusty hat was Adam, and the leader was Shiro — though Adam called him Takashi. The man riding shotgun was Keith, and the man and young lady behind them were Hunk and Pidge, respectively. Lance introduced himself to those in his wagon, figuring he could actually talk with the others at a later point. He was tired, hungry, and confused. He didn’t know where he was, or if he were really safe. Suddenly, a breeze blew, and he shivered.

“Lay down, darling,” Adam murmured, pulling the blankets over Lance after their unexpected guest followed his commands. It was strange to hear someone, especially a man, call him darling. “You got shot, after all. You need to at least lie still until we find a place to camp, or until morning.”

“We need to go through the night,” Shiro cut in, sighing. “You get some sleep, Adam. You can drive next, and then Keith can catch some sleep.”

Adam nodded before laying on one of the benches of the wagon, mostly out of sight to Lance, and made his way into a comfortable dream. Lance, meanwhile, remained silent as he listened to Shiro talk with Keith about the weather. It was boring, but he wanted to know if the storm would let up. Before he could get the information he wanted, Shiro instructed Keith to get Lance something to eat. Keith groaned, something Lance didn’t appreciate, but he climbed into the back and grabbed a can of baked beans. He used a knife to pop the lid open before he handed the can to the stranger before tossing him a spoon. Lance sat up, looking after Keith. He frowned deeply, but figured he should make a good impression regardless.

“Thank you…” Lance murmured, turned away and eating quietly.

It didn’t take Lance long to finish, but his thoughts rested on what happened to the others, and if the young scholar with a heart of gold got home safely. He finally laid down again with worry etched into his gentle face, but eventually found sleep as the horizon darkened to a deep purple.

When Lance awoke again, it was early morning. The sun was just beginning to rise, and the morning was quiet. He sat up and observed the land around them, the storm having passed and the snow settling into a fine powder. It was beautiful, but it didn’t take away the pain, physical or otherwise. Beside him where Adam had been now was Shiro, dead asleep while Keith and Adam sat in front, quietly talking. Lance’s stirring had brought their attention to him, but Keith quickly grew disinterested.

“How’d you sleep?” Adam inquired, clearly worried for the cowhand they rescued. “How’re you feeling?”

“I slept alright,” Lance replied, looking down at his leg. His wound didn’t hurt as much, and it was more of a dull ache if he didn’t move his leg. “My leg’s fine, but my ego is a little bruised.”

Both Adam and Lance shared a gentle laugh, causing the driver to bristle and hunch over a little more. Lance didn’t know what his problem was, but he knew they wouldn’t get along. The others? They seemed like respectable and hospitable people for outlaws, but Keith? Something was off about him.

“I’m glad. I was a little afraid you’d get a fever and it’d be downhill from there,” Adam admitted, seeming to relax a little. “We’re going to find a nice place to camp out and then we’ll make breakfast. I’ll send Keith into town later so he can grab some more food and medicine.”

Lance nodded with a small smile, looking over at Shiro briefly, but had to do a double take. For the first time, he noticed that Shiro’s right arm was mostly gone, hidden by the tied sleeve of his shirt. He was a bit surprised, and he wondered how he lost it. There was also a scar across the bridge of his nose that spanned under his eyes, and yet he seemed relaxed and happy, even in rest. Lance frowned slightly, and Adam huffed fondly, watching Shiro carefully.

“He fought a bear,” Adam stated plainly, raising an eyebrow as he observed Lance’s reaction with amusement.

“A bear?!” Lance whispered harshly, his deep blue eyes wide with wonder. “You’re joking!”

“Nope!” Adam chuckled, reaching over from the front of the wagon to push back a lock of Shiro’s jet black hair. “That’s how I first met him. Wanna hear the story?” After Lance’s excited nodding, Adam continued. “I was living just outside of town with my folks then, I was our little town’s fiddle player. I played just about every night in a saloon near my home. Apparently Takashi was getting some drinks there that night as he was passing through town, and he’s a lover of the fiddle. Never learned how to play though. Anyway, I went hunting the next day and I came face to face with this monster grizzly, and he lunged at me. I was able to keep him offa me for a bit while I screamed for help, and then Takashi showed up and just wrestled with this grizzly. It ended up grabbing his arm and just destroyed it before he was able to whip out his revolver and kept firing into its head until it keeled over and died. Then I had to carry the poor ******* back to my house and fix him up. **** shame we had to amputate his arm, but it was necessary. He stayed with me and my family for awhile before I finally let him go, and he asked me to come with him, so I did.”

“Wow…” Lance murmured, watching the sleeping Shiro in awe. Seeing how much brawn the man carried, it wasn’t too crazy to think he would wrestle a bear. “He’s really amazing…”

“Yeah…he’s sweet, but he can be dumb as a pile of rocks sometimes. You should see him when a pretty woman talks to him. He gets all hot-faced and stammer-y.” Adam laughed softly, and Shiro’s eyes fluttered open. “Morning, darling! Just making friends with our guest.”

Shiro sat up and smiled sleepily to Lance, who felt like he was in the presence of a god. He had known the guy for less than twelve hours, but he already admired him. Shiro cracked his back and stretched with a yawn, looking like he could fall asleep again.

“Keith, see that clearing? Let’s set up there,” Shiro ordered, pointing past Keith’s head, to which Keith nodded. Shiro turned back to Lance and smiled once again. “I guess you want to hear about what happened to my arm.”

“Just told him,” Adam chirped, smiling teasingly. “How you saved this poor fiddle-playing damsel in distress from a bear.”

Shiro’s face flushed, and he rubbed the back of his neck. “Y-yeah…I guess you’re right.” Its like he was talking to a pretty lady. “I, uh…I guess I did good.”

“Considering I’m not dead? I think that’s pretty good.”

“Y-yeah, you’re really amazing!” Lance blurted, causing Shiro to laugh and smile sheepishly. “You’re like a knight!”

Shiro was touched by Lance’s words, and ruffled his hair with a chuckle. He looked forward again, his eyes lingering on Adam for a moment before looking past Keith. Lance was a bit perplexed by the look and immediately held suspicions. There was no malice in his thoughts, however; he himself was bisexual, and he wondered if he could confide in the two men. His thoughts were interrupted as Keith stopped the carriage in a snowy forest clearing, and the second wagon pulled up next to them. The group got to setting up camp fairly quickly, with Lance handing off anything they asked him to pass. Once they finished, the group talked together around the wagon Lance sat in, discussing where Lance would stay. Adam offered that Keith, who usually slept alone, would share his tent with the stranger. Keith opened his mouth to protest, but a look from Shiro quickly shut him up. Lance wasn’t exactly thrilled, but he couldn’t say anything; he was in no position to argue. The other man he hadn’t met yet — who introduced himself as Hunk with a bright smile and a sunny disposition — helped him to Keith’s tent. Lance avoided putting any weight on his injured leg as he limped, held up by Hunk, and was able to relax once he sat down again. Hunk sat down beside Lance, eyeing him carefully before seeming satisfied that their guest was alright. He was a large man, but it wasn’t fat; it was, in fact, muscle. He was clearly powerful, but he seemed to be the kindest of them all. Lance had heard him talking excitedly about cooking a proper meal for their guest. He rubbed his face and sighed deeply as he looked to the man beside him.

“What’s that guy’s deal?” Lance questioned, a slight pout to his lip. “Keith, I mean. He looks angrier than a bull.”

“He’s usually pretty quiet,” came Hunk’s reply. “He’s just grouchy, I think. Thinks you’ll be a waste of the little we got. But, Keith isn’t great with strangers, and you seem like a nice guy that can handle himself pretty well. We’ll get along alright.”

Lance hummed in thought, rubbing the back of his neck. “I’ll do my best to give back to you guys. You might be outlaws, but you could have just left me. And aside from Keith, you all seem like lovely people.”

The tent flap opened, showing the sourpuss face of Keith as he went to his own cot and chest, opening it up before going through his things.

“Thanks, partner. Just do me a favor and get better quick so I don’t have to look at your mug any longer than I have to.”

Lance bristled, his eyebrows knit together in annoyance. “What did I ever do to you?”

Keith was quiet, taking a bow and quiver of arrows from the chest before he left the tent, causing Hunk to flinch.

“Geez…he’s more annoyed than usual. I think he just likes his privacy, and that’s kind of being disturbed right now. He’d be a bit snappy with any of us if we were moved into his tent,” Hunk muttered, still looking at the now closed tent flap. “But he’s usually just passive aggressive. Shiro will talk to him later, I’m sure you two will be just fine.”

Hunk patted Lance’s shoulder and flashed him a smile as he got up. He waved before leaving the tent and heading off to cook breakfast. As Lance laid down, Shiro peeked in and smiled.

“Can I come in?” After getting a nod, Shiro slipped in and sat on Keith’s bed, across from Lance. “How are you feeling? I’m sorry if Keith’s giving you a hard time. He’s not usually like this.”

“Its fine, I’m sure he’ll get over it,” Lance assured, more to himself than to his host. “Besides! What’s the worst that can happen?”

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