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“You ever wonder what it was like for me?” she asks right before leaving for the steamship northbound. “Waiting for you? Never being sure you’d come back alive?”

A long pause comes while Sundance thinks on it. “Guess I din’t,” he says. Man of few words.


Back in Wyoming and them back from a holdup, things had started with Sundance in the dead of night just as normal.

Then come clattering footsteps that give Etta a thrill; the second intruder of her evening.

“Is this brute bothering you, ma’am?” Butch enquires of her after bursting in with pistol drawn, hat brim pulled kind of low over his face. Etta gasps, hands flying up to her chest to cover her modesty.

“Aw, come on,” Sundance says, standing between Etta and Butch like a proud, puffed-up beast. “Get away. She’s not your woman. Get your own like you were gonna.”

“That can keep safe in its holster,” Etta says from behind Sundance, eyeing Butch’s gun. “Should have no need for firing bullets here. Heard you’ve got a clever tongue.”

Butch almost breaks it, then; a grin splits his face for a moment before he puts his mouth back to how it had been. He puts his pistol away exactly how she’d requested.

“Think you can win out?” Sundance asks Butch, real close. They’d been out in the mountains for a good few days altogether. They’re both covered in the same color dust.

They fight for her hand-to-hand, and the sight makes warmth curl pleasantly tight in the pit of her stomach. It’s playacting, the best friction they can manage and their grappling each other, but they mean it all the same. Sundance makes a hard swing for Butch’s jaw, but Butch manages to push back, knocking Sundance flat on his back across Etta’s bed.

“Looks like I won fair and square,” Butch says, watching the panting rise and fall of Sundance’s chest. Sundance looks back at him, bright-eyed.

“You need me, don’t you?” Butch asks Etta, and Etta cries don’t—please!, then yes! in confessional delight once he’s come to her, and Butch growls into her neck, his nose against where her hair is pulled up from her nape. His hands are firm on her waist, still warm from the fight.

“I’ll show you,” Butch says to Sundance over his shoulder, eyes dead as a sight on each other. “I’ll show you what you haven’t got, what you’re missing.”

Butch sweeps Etta unceremoniously onto the bed, raises up her underskirt and gets his clever tongue between her legs. His gun stays put away. Sundance watches them the whole time, dazed like he’d been knocked out for real.

“Sure,” Sundance says once Etta’s had her fill of Butch’s treatment twice over, “his mouth and his brains, but nothing in his shooter, is there?” and Butch protests and says there is, there is, but there’s more to life than one kind of thing.

Butch is supposed to be the victor, but Sundance is the one who can’t stop staring straight at where Butch’s mouth has been. Butch lets him be the one to do it. Sundance’s fuck ploughs through the gleaming spit Butch has left behind, tight and good and easy.


Etta’s in Butch’s arms and Sundance is asleep beside them. It’s been a while now since Etta and Sundance have knocked the farmhouse wall and Butch has knocked back, because Butch doesn’t sleep on that side of the wall anymore.

“I’d die for you,” Butch says. “Wouldn’t you die for me?”

Who would it help, her dying for him? Every day, women die for so much less. Wouldn’t balance it out no matter how hard she tried.

“When I’m gone first thing tomorrow,” she says. “You can pretend I died for you. If you like.”