The sun was high in the sky now. The three continued on their journey, and by noon, had gone far. They entered the vast desert, in the Midwestern region of the Order controlled territories. The werewolf had been struggling for hours, but now, between the effort she had been making and the heat of the sun, she was at the end of her energy and stopped trying to get out, subdued. The sun hadn't just caused the girl to tire out, but Zeke and Shade as well.
"Damnit, I'm gonna die if I don't get something to drink..." Zeke sighed, looking at his empty canteen. Shade nodded in agreement.
"What are we gonna do, though? We kinda have a hostage..." He questioned Zeke, who simply shrugged as a reply. The captive herself was barely conscious at this point, breathing heavily. There was the same burst of dark smoke that had accompanied her earlier transformation as she reverted to her normal, human form.
Zeke took note of this, and as such, pulled the horses to a stop behind a nearby lodge.
"Alright, alright..." Zeke placed his hands on the chains which, by now, were starting to get pretty hot. He winced from the heat, but after a moment, most of the chains shattered like glass. There were only a few remaining, on her wrists and ankles, keeping her bound to the horse.
"C'mon. I know someone who would give us some shelter from this heat." Shade smiled.
Shade lead Zeke to a small hut on the outskirts of the town, Zeke almost collapsing from exhaustion. Shade slid off of his horse and knocked on the door. There was giggling that could be heard from inside.
"You know a bunch of hookers?" Zeke questioned, looking up at the door.
"Better." Shade replied, opening the door and walking in, motioning for Zeke to follow. Zeke's head tilted to the side questioningly before he got off of his horse, looking over at the girl. He walked over and shook the chains.
"Hey. You still alive?" There was no response; she could have been unconscious, or simply ignoring him. Both were likely scenarios. Zeke, however, wanted neither. He smacked her across the face. "Wake up and answer me!" He commanded in a harsh tone. Her eyes opened, a death glare in them, but she didn't say or do anything else. Zeke looked back in hers, equally as annoyed, before scoffing, turning, and walking into the shade of the house. Zeke jerked the girl from the horse with a scowl, attaching the chains to the house's fence which, thankfully, was also shaded. She simply closed her eyes, more willing to stay outside than go anywhere with him.
"Hey Shade, where are you, man?" Zeke said, following the sounds of the laughter he had been hearing in the house. He brushed some beads, acting like curtains, to the side as he entered one of the few rooms, lavishly adorned with jungle-based furniture and decor; giant leaves along the walls, a makeshift rug from dried grass, and other such things. Shade was sitting, laughing away with his friends, two people, a guy and a girl, both dressed in tiger skins, wearing their heads as hoods. The girl's tail had a little bow on the end of it, and the guy's tiger claws were painted a nice shade of pink.
Shade lifted his drink to his partner. "And this is Zeke!"
There was an awkward silence while Zeke just stared.
"Hello..." he started slowly, before shaking his head. "Nice to meet you?..."
"Ohmygosh~! It's nice to meet you too~!" the girl sprang up, walking on all fours over to Zeke. Zeke took a step back, but she stood up and extended her hand. It was tipped with pretty deadly-looking claws. Zeke, wincing, took her hand, trying to avoid the sharp edges, and shook it.
"Iiiiii'm Veronicaaaa..." she smiled. "And that guy over there is Stefan."
Zeke looked in Stefan's direction, acknowledging him with a nod. Stefan replied with a wink, clawing the air toward him with a growl. Zeke took in a deep breath.
"Did Shade tell you about what we needed?" Zeke asked, trying to get the conversation back to something important.
"About how you needed someone to sleep with?" Stefan replied.
"A PLACE-" Zeke started, before clearing his throat. "A place to, uh, sleep in."
"Yes, he told us~ And we're perfectly willing to let you stay as long as you need to!" Veronica exclaimed, still shaking Zeke's hand enthusiastically.
"Uh, okay, thanks." Zeke said, finally jerking his hand from the girl's grip.
"As long as you need to..." Stefan purred.
Veronica was bouncing around. "We can stay up all night and play games! Ooh, ooh! Truth or daaare~!"
"Dare!" Stefan raised his hand.
"I'm going to get some air." Zeke hurried out of the room, back outside.
"It's never easy..." He sighed, looking over at the girl in chains. Her eyes were closed once more; she simply looked as though she was sleeping. Zeke looked up at the sky, squinting at the sun, then at the desert that lay stretched out before him.
"Fuckin' shit... This is gonna take forever..."
The chugging of the 1:00 PM train rolled on as Zeke's eyes drooped in the shade of the house, almost falling asleep. Suddenly, before he could fully close them, his eyes were snapped open at the sound of gunshots.
"The hell?!" Zeke jumped up, glancing around. He noticed about eight cowboys horse-riding right next to the train, firing at it, yelling, and just making noise.
"God damnit... I feel like I'm in a western film..." Zeke slumped back down and his eyes started to close again. Sleepy...
The two tigers burst out of their house, the door swinging wide open, almost Zeke, who fell sideways in surprise. "DAMNIT!"
"What's going on!?" Veronica cried, holding on to Stefan's arm.
"Zeke?" Stefan caught a glimpse of Zeke, who was still grounded from the confusion, brushing the dust off of himself. Shade then walked out past the two of them, holding his hand out to help Zeke up. "What's going on?"
"Just some stupid kids playing with guns and a train... Nothing we should concern ourselves with, Shade..." Zeke sighed, looking at the train fading in the distance.
"Oh no..." Stefan put his hand to his mouth.
"Is that the 1 PM train?..." Veronica quietly wondered. Stefan's nod confirmed it.
"Those cowboys were holding up the train! They intend to take the money on it, don't they?!" the female tiger wildly cried.
Zeke turned to the two, who were already looking at him.
"Oh no." he took a step back.
"Not even. Don't you even think about it." Another step backwards.
Shade slipped over to Zeke. "But what if they pay uuuus..." he whispered.
"I don't give a SHIT if they pay us; I'm not a hero!" Zeke folded his arms.
"Please!" Veronica shouted. "You have to try...!"
Stefan stepped over to Zeke. "For me?" He whispered.
Everyone held their breath in anticipation.
Zeke sighed his trademark heavy sigh. "Not for you, but I'll do it. Shade, let's move."
The two saddled up on their horses and with that, took off for the cowboys and the train.
"Yee-haw!" Shouted one of the cowboys, probably the leader, as he was wearing a much fancier hat than the rest of his crew; a black, high-crowned, wide rimmed, typical cowboy hat. The base of the crown was patterned in a zebra print all the way around, and his clothes, though obviously just as western, matched the colors of his hat.
"We here own this town! Give us all yer money, or y'know what's comin' to ya!" They all laughed as the leader prattled on at the conductor of the train. With more laughter, one of the cowboys pulled out his gun and fired, most likely killing the conductor on the spot.
Zeke and Shade approached the other men, who were unaware of their presence, Shade turning to Zeke.
"This... looks really easy, dude..."
Zeke glanced among the men. Five, six counting the leader. His gaze then fell on him.
Zeke looked at his boots with the spurs.
Next was his his lasso, attached to his belt.
He could hear his horrible western accent loud and clear.
And finally, Zeke saw his hat. A black cowboy hat, wide brimmed, with a zebra-print stripe around the base of the crown.
"Shade. Get those two grounded, now!" Zeke ordered, flinging a tagged dagger toward the top of the train and another at Shade, before disappearing.
"Finally, some fun..." Shade whispered before putting his hood on and disappearing from his horse, both his and Zeke's continuing to chase the others.