Still Standing

Author’s Note: I only really had one part of this song I wanted to do, and I knew who was getting the fic the first time I glanced at the lyrics. This one suggests a marriage that can stand in the face of everything to me, and that is Kate and Fletcher Kennedy. They withstood a lot over the years and are still married and ridiculously in love after more than thirty years.

This, of course, is just a brief look at one of the trials they had to overcome, as it fit with these lyrics:

This old routine will drive you mad
It’s just a mumble never spoken out loud
Sometimes you don’t even know how you’re still standing.
Well she looks at you now, and you see how.
Well you look at her now, and you know how.

~First Aid Kit, “This Old Routine”

Still Standing

He just put his son in the ground.

Nothing made this right. Nothing could.

Fletcher stared on at the grave, ignoring the words from the sermon, not caring what others might say, about hope or consolation or even sympathy. None of them could change the facts, and the fact was that Fletcher had outlived his son. He might even lose both of his brother’s boys. That was unacceptable. All of it was.

Kate’s hand brushed his, and Fletcher took it, instinct overriding the numbness he’d felt since they heard about the crash. He’d struggled to believe it, not wanting any of this as truth, and he knew his Katie girl was aching just as much if not worse than he was, that it wanted to kill her as it did him, but neither of them were the sort that gave in. They were Kennedys. They didn’t break easily, though this…

This was coming damn close.

His eyes met Kate’s, and he yanked his wife into his arms, needing to hold onto her. He was supposed to be the strong one, but he’d always found that she was tougher than him, more able to bear what life threw at her than he was.

“We’ll get through this somehow, Katie girl,” he promised, knowing that as much as neither of them might want it right now, they could. They would.


Can’t Keep Reaching for What You Don’t Have to Give

Author’s Note: Despite the many great lyrics in this song, there was only one real choice for doing fic from it, one story and one set of lyrics.

Now you’re just a shell of
Your former you
That stranger in the mirror
Oh, that’s you

~First Aid Kit, “Blue”

And since I have not shared any of this story on this site before, I will put the story’s summary at the end of this entry for anyone who needs it.

Can’t Keep Reaching for What You Don’t Have to Give

Recall should have cut and run years ago. Maybe the agency would find her and bring her back. Maybe not. She might have been free. The one who stood the best chance of finding her was gone, again, and she could be so far from here and all of this. She wouldn’t be staring in the face of broken promises and empty vessels.

He’d said he’d remember, and she’d almost believed him, but he didn’t. His eyes held that same vacancy, the lost and bewildered look he got when he didn’t know where he was or who he was. He did not know her, not as he had, not as he’d promised he would, and the man she’d made the mistake of considering a friend was gone.

She could give him back those memories, try and reclaim who he’d been, but she rejected the idea almost in the same instant as she had it. What would be the point? Any time he used his ability, he’d be lost all over again, and she had always told herself she would only give him the memories he needed, not force him to be any of his various fractures again.

His eyes found her, so frightened and scared, overwhelmed by the lack of recognition for anything, and she sighed. She knew she would not run, but she would not bring him back, either. She wasn’t going to let herself get hurt all over again.

She wouldn’t let herself care.

He wasn’t a friend. He was a task. She was there to give him memories, and she did. He wasn’t a friend, could never be one. He might want to, might think he could, but he would always forget, always disappear, and she wouldn’t allow herself to feel that pain again.

She wouldn’t get attached. Not to Fracture. Not ever again.

The agency’s most valuable asset, Fracture can bend his genetics to become whatever he needs to be. The same ability that makes him special erases all of his memories when he uses it. With the ability to store and share other people’s memories, Recall was assigned as his partner, able to restore some of what was lost during the last fracture. She adjusted to the cycle years ago, but this time Fracture seems different, and he might not be willing to let that cycle continue.

Chosen Roles

Author’s Note: I began today by staring at these lyrics and going, “okay, I don’t think fic is going to happen any time soon.”

Then I started thinking about different stories, different possibilities, and also that perhaps I’d be able to show off the updated cover for A Perfect Sunset soon.

Add in these lyrics (and remind me to prompt Liana Mir with them later)

In the hearts of men
In the arms of mothers
In the parts we play to convince others
We know what we’re doing
We’re doing it right

~First Aid Kit, “In the Hearts of Men”

Chosen Roles


The woman turned, and Jis shrank back, dodging the blade and her mother’s attack. She had not thought she had to train today, but she supposed that she knew better. The life of an esbani was always training. They could not allow themselves to make a mistake and fail to protect the royal family. No one had done that, not in centuries, not back to when her people had supposedly flown.

“Jis,” her mother chided, and she grimaced. “That was not a proper evasion, nor should you be here now. You have lessons with the tutors.”

“No, Zaze has lessons. She’s the princess. She’s the one that has to know all those things, not me. I just have to be willing to kill or die for her,” Jis said, shaking her head as she spoke. She did not see why she had to go with Zaze to the lessons, why they kept trying to make her act more and more like her. Zaze was prideful, stubborn, and stupid, and Jis didn’t want to be like her.

“Oh,” her mother said, pulling her into her arms, “my little jisensoji.”

She curled up in her mother’s embrace, aware of all that her mother would not say—that the life of an esbani was not one for a child, that Jis should have freedom to play and be herself, that she should be too young to understand what it meant to be in this role, to know that she would die in the princess’ place if it was necessary.

“Do you think the king loves you?” Jis asked, daring to look up at her mother’s face for the truth. Was that what had distracted her earlier, thoughts of the king? Or was it her own pain of knowing that she was meant to die in the place of the queen?

“I think your father loves you very much.”

That was not what Jis had asked, but she feared it was answer enough. She closed her eyes, trying to console herself with the knowledge that it would never be her. As the king’s daughter, she would never be forced to give herself to a man she didn’t love just because she was esbani.

She was born to take Zaze’s place and die for her, though. Jis would never be free to live her own life or marry anyone. She was esbani. Her life was already forfeit.

The Complications of Language and Breakfast

Author’s Note: I had a hard time getting this second piece of the challenge done. I suppose the simplest way of explaining it is that the other aspects of publishing sapped all my creativity and writing just wouldn’t happen. Not on this, not on anything. I didn’t write a word for over a week.

Today I looked at the lyrics again, and this part sparked something:

Now so much I know that things just don’t grow
If you don’t bless them with your patience
And I’ve been there before I held up the door
For every stranger with a promise

~First Aid Kit, “Emmylou”

And I was able to write more for the upcoming serial.

The Complications of Language and Breakfast

“Here,” Stratford said, holding out the fork to the boy. “Try this.”

Eyes wide, their terrified gaze held on the implement in front of him, the boy shrunk back against the headboard, trying to disappear into the bed. He let out a stream of unintelligible words, protesting as he tried to hide or escape, and Stratford frowned.

“I think he thinks I mean to hurt him when I am only trying to get him to eat,” he said, turning back to Whistler in frustration. “I wish I could make him understand, but even when he speaks more, I get no sense of the words that he uses. His speech is unlike any language I’m familiar with.”

“We do have no sense of his origin. He could be from anywhere,” Whistler reminded him, keeping his tone gentle. He went around to the other side of the bed. Taking the cup from the tray, he held it out to the child, waiting for the boy’s trembling to cease.

After a moment, the boy sat up and peered at the cup. His nose wrinkled, and he shook his head, rejecting the offer. He glanced toward the tray, hesitating before reaching for a small piece of fruit. He studied it with a frown.


“I’m not sure what that means,” Stratford said, taking a piece for himself, “but it is safe to eat.”

The boy watched him eat the bite and then coughed, rolling over in the pillows until his injuries reminded him of their presence. Grimacing, he straightened up and threw the fruit at Stratford.

“I can see he shares your table manners,” Whistler observed dryly, and Stratford glared at him.

The boy picked up a piece of bread and bite into it, chewing it down with an expression Stratford found difficult to decipher. He swallowed it with what seemed like difficulty, but when Whistler renewed his offer of tea, the boy shook his head again.

“He does not seem to like tea.”

“An unforgivable sin, according to your mother.”

Whistler smiled. “Yes, well, I happen to believe it is an acquired taste. Perhaps another flavour would suit him. He does not care for your favourite kind of fruit, either. I also would suggest that may have been the source of his reaction to the fork.”

Frowning, Stratford saw that the boy was actually playing with his fork now, using it to push around the food on the plate. “I take it you don’t want anything else that’s on there?”

The boy pointed his fork at Stratford.

He blinked. “I may just have been threatened.”

“Amusing.” Whistler did not sound amused, but under the circumstances, it almost was comical. The boy had suffered grave injuries and should have died, either from them or the fever that wanted to carry him off, but he would seem to be braver than his wounds. Or perhaps he believed a threat from a fork was a custom everyone here used, which would be Stratford’s fault, though far from his intention.

Stratford grunted. “How are we going to explain what happened? To ask him about his family or how he ended up on that shore? We cannot even communicate about food.”

“Patience,” Whistler advised. “We will learn. After all, we now what mish means, and that is a start, certainly more than you had before.”

Stratford nodded, sighing as he did. He pointed to the fruit again. “Mish?”

The boy’s face crinkled with distaste. “Mish.”

Stratford pointed to the utensil in the boy’s hand. “Fork.”

He had to duck when the boy threw it at him. Shaking his head, he watched the child, uncertain if he did have enough patience to learn the boy’s language or teach him theirs. Maybe it would have been easier if he had found some sign, someone else to give the child to, or even if the boy had died.

Seeking out and Searching for You

Author’s Note: I hereby present the first “track” of my Kabobbles Sing Along Album Challenge.

It took me a bit to decide which album by First Aid Kit I wanted to do, and I may end up doing both. That, and I got sidetracked in part by summarizing the book I’m using characters from today. This is in part a celebration for getting the summary written and in part because the initial hurdle of the challenge has been overcome (I started it, finally.) It should be more upbeat for a celebration piece, but it fit well to do this part, since the lyrics apply in different ways to the main novel.

This is based off this part of the lyrics:

Sometimes I wish I could find my Rosemary Hill
I’d sit there and look at the deserted lakes and I’d sing
And every once in a while I’d sing a song for you
That would rise above the mountains and the stars and the sea
And if I wanted it to it would lead you back to me

~First Aid Kit, “The Lion’s Roar”

Seeking out and Searching for You

Nerissa didn’t visit the overlook often. Maybe because she was afraid it meant she agreed, that she believed what everyone else did, what was sane and normal and right—that Sebastian was dead and buried. Or maybe it was because she thought coming here would mean they would lock her away, thinking her grief had driven her mad. Again.

She let out a breath, closing her eyes and trying to tell herself not to listen. That part of her that had never accepted that her other half was gone was no quieter now than it had been after he first disappeared, though if they were right and he was dead, then it should have been silent by now. Years had passed as proof, hadn’t they?

So why couldn’t she let him go? Why was she here, where they had supposedly found his body, instead of out with the man from her office that wouldn’t stop asking her out?

Nerissa sat down, running her fingers through the grass. She didn’t feel any closer to him here. She still felt as empty and sick as she had when he missed his valedictorian speech.

“If you’re out there, Seb,” she whispered, knowing she’d get herself committed if anyone heard her, “come back to me. Find your way back. I know you can. If I can feel you, you can feel me, and you’ll find me again.”

The breeze didn’t pick up, the glade remained still and quiet, and others would take that as an answer, but she didn’t. She wasn’t looking for a ghost, wasn’t hoping for relief from the other side. She was holding out hope that somewhere Sebastian was very much alive and they would follow that pull they’d always had when separated. They’d end up right back at each other’s side, inseparable as they had always been.

As they always should be.

Comfort for Insomnia

So Liana Mir and I are doing our little ficlet prompting thing we do again.

I’m going to post a few things that spawned from there over the next few days (one a day so not to spam, even though I wrote most of them the same day.

This was out of the prompt for “Malina, insomnia.”

Comfort for Insomnia

“I’m not keeping you awake, am I?”

Malina stilled, her foot still mid-step, wincing as she did. She sighed, shaking her head as she changed direction, veering off her intended path into the kitchen for the one that took her over to where her brother was on the couch. She should have known that even if he wasn’t awake, he’d know she was up and moving the moment she got out of bed. Most of the time she tried not to move around at night, but she’d given up on sleep. Again.

“It’s not you,” she said, sitting down beside him and allowing herself to take on his ability. “Though I might need you to get through work tomorrow.”

He snorted. “You know it doesn’t work that way. You don’t retain the energy the way I do. You can’t use it to keep you awake for days—and you wouldn’t want to.”

“Then why do you do it?” She asked, leaning her head against his arm. “You need your rest, too.”

“Not in the same way. I don’t… I don’t think I’ve ever really functioned like that. I remember being unable to sleep when Enadar needed the nightlight on, and I might have been showing signs of what I am even back then.”

Malina closed her eyes, wishing there was a way to will away pain and guilt, that she could take them from him somehow. “Why are you so stubborn about seeing yourself as evil when I’m not and Enadar isn’t?”

“Why are you awake if not because of me?” Alik countered. “This is the third night in a row where you haven’t gotten any sleep.”

“I have insomnia. You know that has no rhyme or reason.”

Alik gave her a look, and Malina caved. “Fine. I… It… You know it’s been a year now, right? Or almost. I…”

“You’re afraid of reliving the crash in your nightmares again.”

She shuddered, curling herself closer to him and his safety. “Yes.”

He put his arm around her, and she started twisting the fabric of his shirt in her fingers until he caught them and made them stop. “Ice is a fragile thing. Too fragile, sometimes, for any real existence. It can be broken, it melts easily in the sun and becomes as nothing… and yet ice can be hard and stubborn and unyielding—”

“I’m a mirror, not ice.”

“I never said this story was about you.”

Life’s Own Music

Author’s Note: So today I had one thought in my head: Dillon and Larina dancing in the barn. It had to be them as teenagers, before they split, and it didn’t come out quite like I planned, but it ended up okay, I think.

This is a thin interpretation of the idea of music, but I couldn’t resist the idea of the dance, and I remembered a song from childhood that fit, John Micheal Montgomery’s “Life’s a Dance.” So… Dillon and Larina. Dancing. In a barn. 🙂

dancing quote

Life’s Own Music

“I am going to look like an idiot at this wedding. I’d say Thyda hates me, but I know that’s not true. It’s just that her other bridesmaids do. Well, her maid of honor does. I swear she picked the dress that would look the worst on me—it’s the wrong color, too—just to make me look bad because Thyda was going to have me be the maid of honor until she found out I couldn’t sign the license because I’m not old enough yet,” Larina said, leaning over the side of the stall, kicking at the wood. The horses were out so she could do it without disturbing them, and she was mad enough to want to even though she knew they couldn’t afford to fix the stall if she broke it. “I’m too young to be a bridesmaid, so we have to get me something that looks appropriate for my age.”

“You will look better than her no matter what you wear,” Dillon said, not looking up from the stall he was cleaning. “Just ignore them, Larina. The girl wants this part in Thyda’s wedding because she will never get her own. At least—not one as nice as Thyda’s. She’ll have to get her guy drunk in Vegas.”

Larina giggled, almost falling over. “I cannot believe you just said that.”

He shrugged. “I don’t like her. Never have. When she came around here, she’d bother me on purpose. No, I pity any guy stupid enough to fall for her tricks, and I hope you won’t let her get to you because you are so much better than her—and prettier, too.”

“You think I’m pretty?”



He stopped, setting aside his pitchfork. “Truth is, Larina, while I… I have noticed the way you look since you got older and started… filling in places, I’m not… I’m not comfortable with it. Dad always blamed the thing with my mom on her being—she was pretty ’til she had me, then he couldn’t stand the sight of her, and all he ever wanted from her was some… warm body in his bed. He hated that she gave him a kid, and he hated me for being that kid, and I’d rather not think anyone was pretty because if that’s all he cared about and I start to think about it—”

“You’re not your father.”

“I know, but I worry about it. Now that I’m older, ever since I started thinking about girls—”

“You think about other girls?”

“No.” Annoyed, he got in her face. “I only like you, and that’s because you’re… you. You were my friend first, and I liked that. I think I would have kept that forever except… We both grew up and changed, and there’s this other part to us now. This… attraction.”

She smiled, kissing his cheek. “I love you.”

He rubbed at where she’d kissed him, getting a bit tense. “Larina, I’m busy working. I’m sweaty, gross, tired, and not in the mood to discuss Thyda’s friends.”

“Fine. Tell me the dress isn’t as hideous as I think it is, and I’ll leave you alone,” she said, stepping around the stall gate so he could get a good look at it. “Well?”

“I think if she was doing this to be mean to you, she picked the wrong dress,” he answered after a moment, and Larina blinked, confused. The color was wrong—she looked all stupid in this kind of pink—and it was all dressy and dumb and so unlike her.

“You don’t mean that.”

“Yes, I do,” he insisted, taking hold of her and pulling her close. “I think you look like something out of one of Sorina’s fairytales.”

Larina winced, trying not to cry. “She should be here for the wedding. It’s so wrong that she’s not. She was our mom. She loved this sort of thing. Thyda needs her.”

“Don’t you dare blame yourself for what happened. It was a freak accident, Larina. No one could have known what that cow would do,” Dillon said, wrapping his arms even tighter around her. She closed her eyes, letting his arms soothe her as he rocked her gently around the barn. She’d almost say they were dancing, but they weren’t. They didn’t have music.

“Don’t ever stop,” she whispered, wanting this moment to last forever, wanting to take away the sting of losing her aunt, wanting to feel safe and loved by the boy she’d spent most of her life with, the one who gave so much even after having had all that he had taken from him.

“If I don’t, I’ll ruin your dress, and Thyda will never forgive me.”

“’Course she will. She’ll forgive everyone when her head comes out of the wedding fog. It’s what she does,” Larina said. “If we ever get married, don’t let me do that. I don’t want to lose all sense because of a big nonsense fuss like this.”

“You’ll need the big nonsense fuss. Burditt won’t believe it’s real if you don’t have it.”

Larina snorted. “Yeah, right. Not with us. Everyone keeps saying we’ll run off and elope the day I turn eighteen—the only reason we’re not married now is because I’d need Burditt’s consent and he won’t give it.”

“That’s not true.”

She stopped, looking up at him. “Dillon, you do… love me, don’t you? I mean, the first time we kissed you said maybe we’d get married someday and—”

“The idea of marriage scares me,” he admitted, his voice quiet. “It’s not that I don’t… I don’t know that I could ever feel anything more for someone else than I do for you, but I don’t… My father became such a monster after he had a kid—”

“He was a monster before you were there. He had to be. Think about what he said about your mother,” Larina insisted. “No, Dillon, you won’t become him. I don’t believe that. Though… I know you’re scared you will, so we don’t have to rush into anything. Like I said, it’s not like Burditt will give permission. He’s still being dumb about it, and so we’ll have to wait at least until I’m eighteen. You can relax.”

Dillon let his head rest against hers. She tilted her head up so that she could kiss him, and he kissed her back, gentle as ever, and she let herself slid back into his arms, not caring one bit if he was dirty. He was Dillon. None of that mattered.

“We can keep dancing, though.”

“Dancing? We don’t have any music.”

“We don’t need music,” she told him, having just decided that. “We make our own.”

Home Again

Author’s Note: Today I got a late start on writing a piece for the digital care package. Having a spider turn up at lunch kind of threw off the day a bit.

I hate spiders. Really, really hate spiders.

Anyway, I was late, so this is a bit late, and I did the song post first, which could be considered spoilers, I suppose, though this piece has plenty (*sigh*) and so it’s all a big bit of mess, but it does come after yesterdays’ bit with the coffee. That’s something.

The song with this piece is “Feels Like Home” by Chantal Kreviazuk. It’s kind of easy to see why.

chicken soup small

Home Again

“Chicken soup?”

“Don’t knock it. It might be canned, but at least I can make it,” Larina said, opening one up and dumping its contents into the pan. She knew it wasn’t any kind of breakfast, but then Dillon didn’t eat breakfast most days anyway, not unless Burditt made him—since her uncle died, she didn’t think she’d seen Dillon eat in the morning, not once—and so her pathetic can opening skills would have to be enough for now. “You shouldn’t let yourself get back in the habit of not eating breakfast.”

“I don’t—you know that I have my reasons for not liking breakfast, and it’s not like I don’t eat at all. Burditt kept trying to make that assumption, but he was wrong. I do eat. I’m just never going to be a fan of cereal and not much of one for pancakes or waffles, either. The whole near cardboard taste of some of them—it reminds me of that same bad day, and I can’t do it. If the cereal hadn’t tasted like cardboard, I wouldn’t have asked him for milk, and if I hadn’t…”

Dillon shuddered, and she crossed over to his side, touching his arm. She hated this, hated seeing him in pain, still so hurt after all these years, unable to forget the trauma and even blaming himself for it because he’d done something innocent like ask for milk.

“He’s not here,” she said, keeping her voice low. She wanted it to be soothing, not jarring, not something that would set him off more. “He hasn’t touched you in over fifteen years, and he won’t start now. None of us would ever let him close, and you know that. You have Thunder who would break down his gate and come running to save you, and there’s Mettle, too, who’d be there for you, but even if the animals weren’t, there’s Kay and Jesse and Jacob and Thyda and Bonnie and maybe even Will, if we’re crazy enough to let him stay on.”

“You didn’t list yourself,” Dillon said, looking at her with that intensity that she found unsettling because it saw all the way through her, the way he did more often than she wanted to think about, more often than she thought he should. “You’re still planning on leaving again, aren’t you?”

She let out a breath. “I don’t know what I’m doing, honestly. I can’t say that I feel right staying. This… I still don’t feel like I belong, and I don’t know how to fix that. I don’t know where I went wrong in all of this, but somewhere in it all, I got lost, and I can’t find any kind of… direction.”

He opened his mouth, shut it, and turned away. Leaning over the sink, he shook his head. “I never figured on you ever leaving this place for good. Briarwood was your home, and I still don’t see how anyone believed it wasn’t. Yes, you went to college, and yes, you had other friends to spend time with and other places to be, but you didn’t ever forget where you came from. This is it. This has always been home. I know when we fought I said it wasn’t, but as soon as I was back, I knew… it wasn’t Briarwood you were rejecting. It was me, and it hurt, but I was wrong to say that you didn’t want to come back. I knew you did. You just… didn’t want to be there with me.”

She swallowed. That was hard to hear, harder too accept, but if she denied it—that would create another mess she wasn’t ready to deal with. She put her hand over his. “Thyda told me about your idea of making Briarwood into a non-profit organization.”

“I suppose you hate it.”

She shook her head. “I don’t, actually. It’s not that bad an idea, though I think it’s not really Briarwood. Thyda said we’d have to look into doing fundraising and I remember how hard that was in school, how stupid and scammy it felt when we brought home those catalogs—I suppose you don’t know that feeling, but I doubt you’d want to be the one that was doing much of it, and I know I’d hate it. I wouldn’t want to feel like… like we needed handouts to survive.”

Dillon grimaced. She knew he hated charity even more than she did, hated pity because he got it too much after what he’d suffered at the hands of his father. “That’s—well, you’re right. We’d all hate it. It just… It was the only way I could think of that would keep my ex-wife from any part of Briarwood. I won’t let Meghan get to it. I won’t let her wreck this place. She’s done enough damage. She can’t take this place, not one piece of it.”

“And she won’t,” Larina agreed. She drew in a breath and let it out. “I have a counter offer, Dillon. I don’t know how easy this will be, and I know right now I can’t afford anything because I’ve got debts to pay off and I messed things up between us good again thinking I was doing the right thing, but I have to throw it out, have to say it at least once, have to—”

“Spit it out already,” he said, and she looked down to find his hand on her arm this time. She could barely think at the moment, nervous as she was, but she nodded, swallowing and forcing the words out.


He frowned. “What?”

She licked her lips, trying to make herself coherent. “Yes, partners. I want to buy half of Briarwood from you. I’d have to do it with my services as a vet first because as I said, I don’t have any money and I’ve got loans to pay off from school, but if you were willing to work out an arrangement with me, I’d buy in and get half, and it would be…”

“It would be what, Larina?”

“Home again,” she whispered, feeling stupid. She didn’t know why it felt like she needed to own it to belong here, but she needed something to hold onto, something to keep her from floundering the way she was, and she knew if she had half of Briarwood, there was no way that Meghan could get hold of it. This was the right solution.

Wasn’t it?

“You’re such an idiot,” Dillon said, and she frowned again, not liking his ability to say that to her now when he never would have dared before, not him, not that sweetheart of a boy. That must have been Meghan’s doing—or was it Larina’s? “You don’t have to buy it for it to be home.”

“Yes, I do,” she said, looking up at him, and then he was a blur because of her unshed tears. She pursed her lips, trying not to let them fall because she refused to be an idiot.

“No,” he insisted. “You don’t.”

And his arms were around her, and she was crying, couldn’t stop it, but this was the first time since she came back, first time since Burditt died and that awful will was read that she felt safe again, grounded and whole—home.

“This isn’t right. I was supposed to be making things up to you, not getting comfort from you.”

“You shouldn’t have to buy your way back home,” Dillon said, stepping back and lifting her chin so she’d look at him. “I mean that. I don’t know why this got so complicated—the will, I guess, but it shouldn’t be because I would never force you from your home. You know that.”

She nodded. “I do.”

“So you don’t have to buy in.”

She sniffled, trying to calm herself. “And if I want to?”

“We’ll discuss that later. First we have to deal with the soup you just burned.”

Coffee and Willpower

Author’s Note: So I suppose it’s not quite right/fair to use coffee to fill in a comfort food, but it is a comfort food for me, and the idea of it went well with a favorite song as well as led me into something that could help with the part where I currently am in Dillon and Larina’s story instead of just being a random moment from their past.

So I used coffee. I also used Landon Pigg’s “Falling in Love in a Coffee Shop,” even though the coffee shop only gets mentioned. It still works.

coffee important meal of day

Coffee and Willpower

“I think I’ll start with a peace offering.”

Dillon tensed, not wanting to look behind him. “Larina, we don’t have anything to—”

“Don’t say we don’t have anything to discuss, because we do,” she interrupted, and then she stepped around the gate, forcing herself in between him and the wall of Benedict’s stall. “I know you probably don’t want anything from me, not after how badly my last gift backfired, but this… this is a lot bigger than one misunderstanding, and we have to start somewhere, right?”

“Exactly how much did you and your sister have to drink?”

“That is so not important, and I’m not drunk now. I might have a slight headache and possible hangover, but I’m not under any kind of influence at the moment. I came back early so that we could talk before the others got here. And we do need to talk.”

Dillon shook his head. “I don’t know that we do. I think maybe we were wrong to think we could settle this mess without lawyers. Go get one, sue for it, and have done. I’m not—I can’t do this with you. I think the worst part of it was thinking that we could work it out this time.”

She shook her head, placing a hand on his arm. “No, it wasn’t. It was that we let the past get in the way again. We don’t need lawyers. We want them because this hurts and it is so many old wounds and scars and things we don’t want to face, but it’s not impossible to surmount. It’s us, Dillon. How much have we already overcome to be where we are? You came back from a horror no child should have to face, and while I was never in that position, I did screw a lot of things up and yet somehow managed to muddle through somehow.”

He swallowed. She made it sound easy, but it wasn’t. “We fell into old patterns again for a bit, and it—it doesn’t work like that anymore. We aren’t those kids we used to be. Hell, we’re not even friends.”

“Not even if I got you coffee?”

He stared at her for a moment, and finally, he gave in and laughed because her expression and the moment didn’t allow for much else. She slipped out under his arm and came back with a cup. He gave her a look, but she smiled that same old smile of hers, the one so sincere it was dangerous, and he found himself taking the cup from her.

“That looks like Thunder.”

“It is. I printed the picture off Thyda’s computer, put it in a personalizable mug, and there you have it—a present not even my last screw up could make you refuse. Or at least that’s what I was hoping.”

Dillon looked at her, hesitating, and then he sighed, silently cursing himself for the weakness he would always have to her. If she’d stayed away, maybe he could have found a way to break that pattern, or maybe he could just have fooled himself because she was never there, but she was here. He couldn’t avoid her, and he would never win against her.

“Coffee is just the beginning of the truce, though,” she said, and he frowned. “Well, you know, I would offer to make breakfast, but I can’t cook, so I can’t offer that, but I know how much you like coffee, and so… I started there and figured the rest would come with maybe cleaning out the back barn or something like that.”

“Made Will do that yesterday.”

“Like it doesn’t need it every day.” Larina met his gaze and held it. “Please, Dillon. At least hear me out. You know it doesn’t work if you don’t let me at least say I’m sorry.”

He didn’t know how to handle her begging. He was about to cave, and he knew it. That expression, the tone of her voice, it took him back to other times, to other moments, and he was starting to think he’d ruin everything, throw his willpower away, and do far more than forgive her.

“Please,” Larina said, tugging on his shirt. “I know you have a lot to do today with the extra horses, and I’ve got to go to school in a few minutes, but you never eat breakfast with us anymore—not that I blame you; the environment in there is almost intolerable these days—so if you drive me in to town, we both get breakfast and we get a few more minutes together.”

Dillon shook his head. “If you’re so aware that we’re busy here, you know that I can’t leave. I have too much to do to go have a big breakfast—and I don’t need one.”

“Coffee, then? We could go to that little shop and—”

He kissed her, cutting off her words, knowing he’d give in if he let her keep talking, and while he’d never been very good at standing up to her, he’d found he was very good at distracting her like this.

“—get coffee—”

Another kiss and she was holding onto his shirt for a different reason, and when he stopped she moaned, her eyes mostly shut, and he had to smile at the sight because there were few things that left Larina Payne speechless.

“You were saying?”

“Don’t know. Don’t care. Do that again.”

“You’re going to miss your bus.”

“One more,” she said, and he rolled his eyes even as he did as she asked, always so weak to her. She pulled back with a smile. “You’re right. Who needs coffee when we have that?”

He shook his head, laughing as he pushed her out of the barn and toward her bus stop.

Dillon grimaced, wishing his mind hadn’t gone there. She was watching him, and he knew there was some mercy in her inability to know which memory had just replayed in his head, even if she did know him well enough to know that one had been in his head. He swallowed, shaking his head and shaking it off, unwilling to think about it anymore.

“Fine. We can talk.”

All the White Horses

Author’s Note: I wanted to use the song I chose for this piece a while now, but I didn’t really have an appropriate pair of father and daughter. I still thought of it when I worked on things for Dillon and Larina, and part of the lyrics fit with the relationship that they share. She always saw more in him than he saw in himself, and that part of the song seemed to fit.

So did everything with Burditt, as he was the father figure for them both, and he really was the one to show everyone how much they matter, how much he loved them and wanted them to love themselves.

I took scarf as the prompt/item from the digital package. The song and this concept could be extended into a longer arc or fic, and I kind of thought prefacing it with something from the present, and maybe I will if I work it into the novel. I’ll see.

It does follow Keeping Warm, as Dillon is still recovering in this one, but I liked the idea of connecting it a little. The main influence, though, has got to be Tori Amos’ “Winter.”


All the White Horses

“I thought you said hot cereal was fine as long as there was no milk in it,” Thyda said, peering over into Dillon’s bowl. Larina almost swatted her away. He didn’t need a lecture, and he was still kind of sick, so Thyda had to leave him alone.

“Is that too much?” Sorina asked Dillon, and he looked up at her, eyes full of guilt for pushing around his cereal instead of eating it. Larina wouldn’t have minded so much if he didn’t look like he was afraid of being punished for it, too. “Sweetheart, you’re still getting better. You don’t have to eat it all if it’s too much for you.”

He nodded, his head still low, and Larina reached over to take his hand just as the back door opened. Dillon jumped, and Burditt winced, but then a wide smile overtook his face, his excitement carrying him over to Sorina. “They’re back.”

“The road graders?”

“No,” he said, laughing. “Why would I care about that? We’ve got us a cozy home here where we all can stay nice and warm, and it’s done all right in getting our boy back to good health again, so we’re fine all cuddled up good here.”

Dillon frowned a bit, coughing as he reached for his cocoa. Larina bit her lip, hoping he wasn’t getting sick again. He was supposed to be better, not worse. Burditt gave him a look, a bit concerned, but that faded when he looked at Sorina. Larina didn’t think anyone could love someone as much as Burditt loved her.

“The horses, Briar Rose. They’re back.”

She smiled, reaching over to turn off the stove. “Everyone bundle up nice and warm. We’re going outside.”

“Why?” Thyda asked. She looked over at Dillon. “He shouldn’t—and it’s cold. I know that we have to do chores, and the animals need care, but we’re not done with breakfast yet—”

“This is something you won’t want to miss,” Burditt said, reaching over to grab coats off the rack and pass them around. “We’ll bundle you up extra warm, just in case, but I want you to see this, too. Come on, little bit. I would have thought you’d be jumping at the chance.”

She grinned back at him, pulling on her own coat and zipping it up. She took out her mittens and then shoved them back in her pocket when she saw that Dillon wasn’t moving. He drew his legs up against his chest and coughed again.

“Maybe you should go without me.”

“I’ll carry you if I need to,” Burditt told him. “I don’t want any of you to miss this. I don’t know when we’ll see it again—it’s been years since Sorina and I saw them the last time, and you won’t want to miss it. I promise. Come on.”

Larina held up Dillon’s coat. “I’ll help you.”

“Don’t need,” Dillon coughed, “help.”

He pulled on the coat and buttoned it up, and Burditt took the ugly wool hat and covered Dillon’s head with it, handing him an oversized pair of mittens, too. The ones they found when Sorina dug out an old coat of Burditt’s for Dillon had unraveled, and so they didn’t have any that fit Dillon right—he wouldn’t wear hers or Thyda’s because they were pink—but Larina figured he could curl his hands inside the big ones and be plenty warm. She went to the rack and took down Burditt’s scarf, winding it around Dillon’s neck until she could hardly see his face.

“Hey,” he protested, trying to push the scarf away. “I’ll trip over this thing. It’s too big.”

“If it had more colors, I’d be reminded of a television show,” Burditt said with a slight smile. “Don’t worry. We’ll manage. Everyone ready?”

Larina nodded, and Burditt grinned. “Let’s go see them, then. Careful now so as not to spook them, but come out into the yard.”

She followed him out the door, almost falling into the drift right beside it—they needed to shovel a wider path again—and she stopped when she saw what Burditt meant by them. Horses. Dozens of them. A whole wild herd, more than half of them as white as the snow surrounding them.


“When I first saw them, I knew I wanted to raise horses here,” Sorina said, taking Thyda’s hand and smiling at the sight even as her breath fogged in front of her. “I wanted something just as wonderful and majestic.”

“They’re beautiful,” Thyda whispered. “Almost like a dream.”

Larina nodded, reaching for Dillon’s hand, but he wasn’t next to her. She frowned, turning around and hoping he wasn’t lost in the snow, and her mouth dropped open when she saw one of the horses had come up on the other side of them, sniffing at Dillon’s hat like it wanted to eat it. He laughed, and the others started to stare as well, watching him pull off his mitten and offer his hand to the horse, who sniffed it and licked at his palm.

“I guess we got two miracles this morning,” Burditt said. Sorina nodded, leaning against him and pulling Thyda with her as they all watched. Larina put her hand in her pocket, smiling herself when she found the oats in there.

She walked over to Dillon, trying not to spook his new friend, but she did. He looked back at her with a frown, and she held out the oats, hoping he could lure that beautiful mare back to them. He took the oats. The mare snorted, and he waited.

After a few moments, the horse stepped closer, nudging his hand and eating all of the oats in it. Larina wished she had more, but when she checked her pockets, the mare spooked for good, running away from them and starting the rest of the herd off as well.

She sighed. Burditt put a hand on her shoulder. “It’s okay, little bit. They stayed longer this time than they ever had before.”

“But I scared them away. All of them.” Larina sighed. “Dillon was able to feed one. That’s special. It was wonderful. I just frightened them.”

“No,” Burditt said. “Dillon has a gift with animals, he does, but you do, too, and you’re all very special, wonderful children. Don’t forget that he wouldn’t have been able to feed the horse if you hadn’t carried the oats with you in your pocket.”

“Little matched pair you two are,” Thyda said, snorting. Sorina shook her head, leaning down to touch her face.

“Don’t think we don’t need you just because those two are good with animals. All us silly dreamers need someone around us whose practical, and that, my dear girl, is you,” Sorina told her. “We love all of you for who you are, and you’re all special to us.”

Dillon dropped the mitten he was trying to put back on. “You don’t love me. No one does. No one could. It…”

“That’s what your father said. He was lying,” Burditt insisted, and Larina thought Dillon was going to cry. He was already coughing again, loud and almost as bad as he had been when he first got sick. Burditt reached for him, but Dillon whimpered and ducked away.

“You might be Larina’s friend, but that doesn’t mean none of the rest of us care about you,” Thyda said, shaking her head as she left Sorina’s side to go to him. “Everyone loves you, Dillon. I don’t know why you don’t see it.”

He shuddered, and Larina wrapped her arms around him, holding on tight as he did. She knew it would take a long time for him to believe that they loved him, but she’d prove it. She’d prove it every day. That was what they saw in him, so much that was sweet and kind and good and special, and he’d know it someday. They’d show him that.

Just like Burditt had showed her and Thyda already.