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Drifters
Toyohisa/Butch; Butch & Sundance



You’re my soulmate. That was what the man had said. (Well, more or less. He had a peculiar accent that he didn’t recognize, despite the many places he had been.)

Butch had not needed the confirmation. He had known nearly instantly, almost as soon as he felt like he had been shot the same way as in San Vicente, almost as soon as the shifting in his surroundings had happened. The shadows grew thicker, darker. Everything lost the murky grey hue it had always held in the night. It was pretty disorienting, but he had already gotten more or less used to it. Adapting wasn’t that hard, in the end. It was something you needed to be quick at, in many situations.

After retreating from the campfire in an uncomfortable hurry, and after finishing looking over the horses, making sure they had something to eat and drink near and were tied down so they wouldn’t run off during the night, he had wandered a little further away. He was crouched in a small stream that they had found not too far from the Japanese Drifter’s hideout, just a little bit upstreams from the resting horses. Trying to wash his face clean of travel dirt and his mind of annoyance and confusion.

He swore in his mind, a mixture of a curse and a prayer, and he splashed more water from the stream into his face, washing more travel dust from his skin, and brushed back damp bangs out of his face. They curled more than usual due to the drops of water stuck in it, and water trailed down inside the collar of his shirt, dampening the fabric and leaving chilly trails down his skin. Probably leaving trails in the dirt on his neck, too. He rubbed at his shoulder with a wet hand. The water running around his bare ankles was cold, but not as cold as melting snow water from a mountain top. The chill bit a little, but it was helpful, in a way.

This was exactly why he didn’t want to deal in meeting his soulmate. Or, no, not exactly. But it proved what he had thought for a long part of his life; that this soulmates business caused trouble. If he had not been … bound … to the samurai, then maybe...

“Robert,” he heard a voice behind him, and he sighed, turning in the stream to face Sundance. He had to be careful, so he didn’t slip on any slimy stones at the bottom. At least the one word cut off his train of thought. “Harry,” he acknowledged, but he said nothing else. Sundance frowned, because Butch was pretty good at talking. He was friendly, it was one of the reasons why even people he robbed often liked him. Him not talking about trivial things was weird. “He seems like an interestin’ kid,” Sundance finally said, as he offered the stick they had used as a spit to roast the bird to Butch.

Butch stepped out of the water, wet feet leaving short-lived tracks in the grass. “Yeah, I knowed it from the start. The look in his eyes ‘s tellin’.” He pulled a switchblade from one of the pockets of his pants, and flipped up a blade so he could cut off pieces of the bird’s meat for the two of them. “Honest an’ straight-forward.” Sundance was quiet, watching him. “Far diff’rent from an ol’ badman like me. Too diff’rent.”

Sundance shook his head, a long-suffering sigh passing through his parted lips and working teeth as he chewed on the meat. “Butch, you ain’t actin’ as old as you are, an’ bein’ badmen, you regretted it much?” Butch shook his head. “No, it’s the path that called me once I was young,” he said. “But we ain’t got much worth, people like us. Iffen we go draw our last breath by gun or knife, the world ain’t gonna mourn us, nor’s it gonna change.” He nudged one of his boots with his toes. Rubbed the sole of his foot in the grass. He carved a bigger chunk of meat from the bird, then returned to the stream, rubbing the blade against the mud as he tore the meat with his teeth. “Samurai ain’t no outlaws, Harry,” he said. He shoved the last of the chicken piece in his mouth and as he chewed he finished cleaning off the switchblade.

“It’s not like we know all much bout them,” Sundance pointed out while Butch hooked a foot under his jacket and pulled it up so he could grab it. “Yeah,” he murmured, as he wiped the blade dry against the inside of the jacket. “But from what we heard’a them from them Japanese painted cats in south California, they ain’t nothin’ like us.” He folded up the knife, returned it to his pocket, and slipped into the jacket. “They were nobility soldiers fightin’ for some lord or other, right? Honorable an’ earnest an’ loyal.”

“He seems like a good lad but he’s probably nobility that inherited his position,” Sundance said. Butch looked up from the laces of his boots. “That what you’re athinkin’, ain’t it?”

“Ya know me well,” Butch said as he turned his gaze back to his bootlaces. “Course I do,” Sundance sighed. “We’ve knowed each other for years. You know me well too. But as your friend an’ brother, Robert, I’m thinkin’ ya should give the lad a chance, see iffen he’re anyin’ like the powerful people back home. Because I think he genuinely is a good lad, there ain’t nothin’ foul in his eyes.”

Butch chuckled shortly, as he finished tying the last bow on the lace. “There’s foul things’n these old bones, though.” What the younger outlaw was saying rang true, but it wasn’t the only reason why Butch was unhappy about this whole thing.

With a scowl on his face Sundance stepped up to him, letting what was left of the bird dangle by his side, and he shoved a knee and leg into Butch’s arm. Butch let out a surprised noise, reflexively catching himself with his palms against the ground. “Harry?”

“It ain’t like you,” Sundance said. “to be like this, gloomy-like. Just ignore that he’s appearin’ t’ be yer soulmate for now. Just get’a know him first, iffen we breathe to see opportunities for it. Makin’ friends, gettin’ them to like you, that’s somethin’ you been good at long as I knowed you. An’ iffen you end up likin’ him enough to acknowledge that he’s your soulmate then you can deal with these religious things you’re carryin’ with ya.” He took a breath, thumbing the brim of his hat out of his forehead. “But it ain’t as if it’s new, right? That a man’s soulmate might be a man.”

Butch sighed, and he looked up at the dark, dark sky. He could see a couple of stars up there, twinkling down at them. “It ain’t,” he agreed. He had met more men being with another man than any God fearing man or woman would ever acknowledge. But knowing they were around, both on the trail, at the mines, in the cities and towns, didn’t change the fact that any Saint would condemn it. It wasn’t anything that was spoken of in the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saint. And if it were, what they spoke of was sin and eternal condemnation.

But Sundance was right.

It wasn’t as if he ever focused on the future. Not since he ended up following the call of the Owlhoot, back when he was young. It was over half a lifetime ago now, but he was too old to mourn the choices he didn’t make in the past, or regret the choices he did make. Living to see another day had nothing to do with the Lord’s Will, it all was pure luck.

He pushed himself back up on his feet. “Yeah.” He sighed, running a hand through damp hair. “Why’m I gonna change the way I live now, when nothin’ else made me change it?” With a drawn-out sound he stretched, much like a cat did, and then dropped his hands and pushed them into the pockets of his jacket. “I might get’a know the kid, I might not. No tomorrow for the Wild Bunch. So what if it’s in another world.” He grinned at his friend. “Right?”

Sundance sighed, shaking his head. But a slight smile of relief had made its way into his eyes, onto his lips.
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