First Impressions and Hope

Author’s Note: So I decided to add some variants into the themes for the snippets. Sometimes my mood gets in the way of finding or writing something for the day’s themes, and while it really shouldn’t be that hard to come up with a piece in all my completed but unpublished or incomplete stories, it has been.

I need to come up with the full list of them, but I’ve found one, officially, that I’m going to use now. I consider this a Monday Meeting, as it is when Dillon first met Larina.

First Impressions and Hope

“It was my turn to name the horse, you know.”

Dillon looked up from Hope’s mane, frowning as he did. He didn’t know why the girl scared him. She wasn’t bigger than him or older, and while he’d never been around other kids much, none of them had hurt him, not like his father had. She was just there, all sudden like, and that spooked him.

He didn’t like being so easily spooked. It was better to know that his father was coming, but it hadn’t changed anything if he knew or not. He shook his head, tightening his grip on the brush in his hand. “Who are you?”

“Who are you?” she countered, and he wished he knew how to ride because he’d jump on Hope’s back and go far away from this place, far away from her—from all of them. They scared him, and he didn’t like being scared. The girl looked at him again and shrugged. “I’m Larina. Burditt calls me ‘little bit,’ but that doesn’t mean that you can.”

“Wouldn’t call you anything,” he said, and then he winced. He didn’t want to provoke her. He would never have dared say that to his father. He wouldn’t have said it to anyone a few weeks ago. No, he wouldn’t have said anything. It was better not to speak.

She came over to his side, not shy, not even a little. He didn’t think anything scared her, and he could almost hate her for that. He didn’t like being afraid, but he was always afraid.

“They said that you got to name the horse because you needed hope.”

“I didn’t name her. Morely did.” Dillon shrugged, though the memories trying to replay in his head made him gag. “He did say that I needed hope, though, so that’s what they named her.”

Larina reached up to touch the horse’s head, and Hope met her hand, nudging her to do more than just pet her. Dillon bit his lip. He’d thought the horse liked him, but she seemed to like Larina better. He tried to give her the brush. She shook her head, leaning her head against the horse. “I like listening to their heartbeats.”

He frowned, but she took his hand and pulled him over to Hope’s side. She waited until he nodded, having heard the rhythm of the horse’s heartbeat and felt it under his fingers. “I like that sound. It reminds me that I’m not alone.”

He shook his head. He hated knowing that his father was near him. He didn’t like the smell of his breath or the sound of it. “Sometimes it’s better to be alone. Other people can’t hurt you if you’re alone.”

She studied him with a frown. “You must have known the wrong sort of people before because you shouldn’t have to be scared to be around the rest of us.”

He didn’t want to be, but he didn’t know how not to be afraid. He had spent too long with his father, and he watched all of them, thinking they’d become just like him if he stopped watching for even a moment. That would be when his father would attack.

“We’re not that bad. Not even me, and I’m supposedly a troublemaker.”

Dillon gagged. “You shouldn’t call yourself that. He’d hurt you if you were. He didn’t want little kids that caused trouble around him.”

She lifted her head from the horse. “Who is he?”

“My father.”

“Oh.” She took his hand from the horse and wrapped her fingers around it. “You don’t have to be scared anymore. I don’t know your father, but I know mine’s gone, and Burditt… Well, he’s like a dad, and he’s not going to hurt you. Ever. That’s not who he is. He won’t let you be hurt.”

Dillon looked at her fingers in his. He wanted to believe that more than he thought he should. That kind of thing was how he ended up hurt the most, trying to hope and trying to trust. Any time his father had seemed good, like he could be decent, he’d rip all of that away. “How do you know that you can trust him?”

“Hope,” she answered, laughing when he frowned at her. She smiled back. “You have to have some, and they gave that to you, didn’t they?”

He looked at the horse. “She isn’t mine.”

Larina shook her head. “She doesn’t have to belong to you. It’s not even about her. Animals know things about people. If an animal can trust someone, it usually means you can, too. Hope trusts Burditt. Hope also trusts you.”

Dillon glanced toward the horse. “And she trusts you.”

“Maybe you can, too,” Larina said, giving his hand a squeeze, and he swallowed, refusing to cry this time. He had already cried too much.

Like the Wind

Author’s Note: So while I did a piece for “She’s Like the Wind” for Vred and Malina, I couldn’t help thinking that I should be doing one for Enadar. I suppose it’s cheating with Felise’s ability, but it made sense, and the opening paragraph kept bugging me.

So I used these lyrics:

She’s like the wind through my tree

and probably these:

She’s out of my league
Just a fool to believe
I have anything she needs

And then let Enadar talk, and this is what came out. Oops?

Like the Wind

“I think I understand now,” Enadar said, kicking at the rocks. He put his hands in his coat pockets, shaking his head. “It’s not just that she can control wind currents. She is the wind.”

Alik lifted his head. He could hear something in his brother’s voice, something that needed to be addressed, but he did not know how to deal with it. His own mind was far from the concerns of his younger brother, and they always had been. Alik didn’t understand the way Enadar’s mind worked. It wasn’t that he didn’t know Enadar was smart and mostly logical. It was that his brother acted far more on his emotions than Alik had ever done.


Enadar gave him a dark look. “Come on. You know who I mean.”

“Felise,” Alik said, rubbing his forehead. “Enadar, I don’t—”

“You’re the storyteller. You should get symbolism.”

Alik snorted. “Not everyone puts deeper meanings in their stories. I told you the ones I did as a distraction. I didn’t have time to weave allegory into them. Symbolism wasn’t my objective.”

Enadar rolled his eyes. “Think about it, Alik. She’s the wind. She’s the thing you want most that when you think it’s within your reach… that’s when it slips through your fingers. Just a breeze in the tree. That’s all you ever have her for, that moment when the wind touches you… and then it’s gone.”

Alik shook his head. “You are overreacting.”

“Am I? The moment I think I understand her, that we’re getting along, that I think I feel… something and that there’s this infinitesimal chance that she does, too, then… Then everything shifts. Something gets said or done, and we’re as distant as two strangers again.”

Alik let out a breath. “Why do people have wind chimes?”

“Um… for the sound? The song. The one the wind plays when it passes through.”

“Does it sound the same every time you hear it?”


“Does that mean that you never hear the chimes again?”

“No.” Enadar frowned. He folded his arms over his chest, and Alik could see him thinking it through. “You’re saying that… that even when the song changes, when the wind circles back, the chimes… still have the wind when it does? That even if the song changes—what, take what you can get? Is that it?”

“You have to listen to the songs to hear the differences between them. You have to accept that the beauty of the song is not in holding it in one place but in appreciating it for what it is,” Alik said. He studied his brother for a moment. “Stop trying to see her on your terms. See her on her own.”

“You’re right,” Enadar told him, and Alik started to frown. “You suck at symbolism.”

Comfort over Broken Glass

Author’s Note: So my morning started out with a cupboard in our house coming off the wall and shattering all the dishes in it, some of which we’d been collecting for years.

It was not a great start to the day. I didn’t think I’d have any kind of Tuesday truffle in me, but it actually got me to write this.

Comfort over Broken Glass

“I hate being the mirror.”

“I think anyone would have guessed that,” Alik said, coming up to his sister and looking at the broken glass scattered across the floor. A mirror that large breaking should have drawn the whole house into her room, but this place was ornate enough to have sound dampening that kept the crash from alerting everyone.

“You say my ability is better than yours, than Enadar’s, but it’s not. I’m just a copy. A reflection. I’m not even—”

“Don’t say that,” he interrupted, stepping over the glass to reach her, grimacing when he heard it crack under his feet. She would not like the symbolism of that act. He put his hands on her cheeks, knowing he’d have to move them soon because he did not want to force her to mirror him for immunity to his energy. “You have never been a copy of anyone, Malina. Yes, you are a lot like Mom, but so is Enadar. You just take on more of it because you have her role and her features, but that has never meant that we saw you as just a replacement for her.”

Malina closed her eyes, trying not to let the tears out. “I find myself acting like her on purpose. We might—well, Enadar might—jokingly call you ‘Dad,’ but you don’t act like him. I act like her.”

“You act like calm,” he disagreed, and she blinked, frowning at him. He lowered his hands, not wanting to hurt her. “You say I am safety, but you have always been calm.”

She continued to frown. “I don’t understand.”

“You have always calmed the storm,” he said. He saw her confusion. He swallowed and forced himself to add, “the one in me.”

“I do?” She shook her head. “I don’t think I do. You’re always so… tense, so hard to reach.”

“With an exploitable weakness to you.”

She half-smiled, wiping away tears. “It’s not a weakness. You do know it’s not, don’t you?”

“I need you more than I like to admit.”

“And I love you,” she said, throwing herself at him and clinging to him. He shook his head—why was it she always manage to break things when she didn’t have shoes on? He lifted her up, trying to keep her from touching down on the glass again.

She lifted her head from his chest and looked down at the floor with a grimace. “I should clean that up. I didn’t even think. I was just so sick of the reflection…”

“You shouldn’t be. You’re beautiful,” he told her, and she clung tighter to him. He shifted her around to his back. “I’ll help you find a broom.”

She put her head down on his back, letting out a contented sigh. “I should be too old for this. Are you sure I’m not too heavy?”

“Wouldn’t carry you if you were.” He stopped at the door, pushing it open, and he looked up to see Vred in the hallway. The tracker took them in with a frown.

“Don’t ask,” Alik said, not wanting to explain. Then he grimaced. “We will need a broom, though.”

A Look in the Mirror

Author’s Note: So today I went for a different story than Larina and Dillon’s, since I’ve been meaning to use this song for something for a while. This time I wanted to do Vred and Malina, but it wasn’t quite what I hoped.

Tried to use these lyrics as the basis:

Can’t look in her eyes
She’s out of my league
Just a fool to believe
I have anything she needs
She’s like the wind

I look in the mirror and all I see
Is a young old man with only a dream
Am I just fooling myself
That she’ll stop the pain
Living without her
I’d go insane

~Patrick Swayze, “She’s Like the Wind”

I have more lyrics from the song that I’d like to use, and I’d like to do better with them, but I have this.

A Look in the Mirror

Vred went into the bathroom, to the sink first before anything else. He washed his hands in the cool water, letting it run longer than he knew was necessary for hygiene, not ready to shut it off. Since joining the others, when he wanted to be alone, he went outside, and he could be there now instead of letting the water run over his hands.

He shut it off, glancing at the mirror. His resemblance to his uncle seemed stronger than usual, though he knew that it hadn’t changed. It felt sharper after the past few days. Everything did. Illusions had been shattered and his family had become more fractured than before.

He turned away, not wanting to see himself in the mirror any longer. He already knew his own face, and there was little point in studying it to begin with. He opened the door, and his senses tangled with those of another.

He was face-to-face with another mirror, this one of flesh and blood and ability.

Malina stepped back, putting enough distance between them to close herself off to his ability. She forced a slight smile. “I was just coming to see if you were hungry. Lisea made dinner again.”

“You already know the answer to that,” he reminded her, knowing she would have gotten that even with how briefly she’d mirrored him.

She shrugged ever so slightly. “You know I prefer to ask. That’s how you really know a person.”

He nodded, acknowledging her position on that. It had not changed. He waited for her to leave, but she did not, even knowing as she did that he was not hungry.


He frowned. “What?”

“You could ask.”

“Ask what?”

Her expression betrayed her disappointment, but she swallowed it down and spoke anyway. “Whatever you wanted to know.”

Then she did walk away.

What Brings You Home

Author’s Note: So today I sat down to edit the scene where Larina came home from overseas. Originally, I wrote a scene that skipped over most of her journey home, and I felt that it could be done better. I added in more of Larina’s backstory to it, but it was clear even a couple paragraphs into the rewrite that I needed to finish the edit I had started on the opening scene, too, to make the travel scene make sense.

What Brings You Home

Oceans apart, day after day, and I slowly go insane, the line from an older song came to Larina’s mind as she blew her bangs out of her eyes for the third time that morning, shaking her head as she did. She wasn’t insane—she was free. She knew that was wrong. She should miss her home, should miss her family. They’d always been so close, even when loss tried to destroy them, and she was turning her back on that.

She wasn’t homesick or lonely. She should be, but she wasn’t. She kept thinking that this was her last summer, her last bit of freedom, and when she was done here, she’d have to go back to the real world. The vacation was almost over, and it would soon be time to go home and start repaying everything, including her student loans.

She only had a few weeks left to pretend that she was still on top of the world, and she’d come here with the intention of doing exactly that—while doing what she loved, doing what got her in this mess in the first place.

She reached up behind her and stroked the horse’s nose, shaking her head. She shouldn’t say it like that—this was what she wanted. She’d chosen school, chosen her degree, and she was using it. She shouldn’t be ashamed of that. She’d made the right choice. She didn’t need to be at home, with all those eyes on her telling her that she’d made the wrong one.

“You don’t think I made the wrong choice, do you?” Larina asked, turning back to face Knight. He blew out a breath onto her neck, and she smiled at him, knowing how far he had come in the last few days, making the kind of progress she wouldn’t have expected and someone less cynical would call a miracle.

She was a vet, and because she could combine that knowledge with her aunt’s natural therapies, after she diagnosed the horse’s physical problem and begun to help him with that, she’d also worked beyond it, going deeper, to the emotional side of it. That was what he’d needed most, since the trauma had created the larger part of this beautiful gelding’s issues.

Now he was as free as she was. Freer, even, she couldn’t help thinking.

“Larina, that was amazing. I never thought you’d be able to reach him, not after all he’s been through,” her new friend—client, really the other woman was a client—said, nodding in approval. Larina tried not to grimace. Though Ericka owned the most beautiful land and some of the finest horses Larina had ever had the pleasure to know, to touch, and to ride, she was yet another owner that did not get close to the horses, who saw them more as a part of her business than a part of her family.

Knight deserved more, though. To Larina, he was truly special. She rubbed his nose again, leaning her cheek against his, savoring the moment. Knight had given her his trust, and that feeling was unlike any other in the world. To know that this horse, this traumatized and wounded creature, managed to stay loving, to be generous, and that he had shared that horse had given her this gift—it was unbelievable, and she knew that she didn’t deserve it. “He has come a very long way, haven’t you, boy?”

“He has,” Ericka agreed. “I came out to tell you the telephone is for you.”

“I’m sorry, buddy. We’ll have plenty of time for more later,” she told Knight, keeping her thoughts about Ericka walking out to tell her in person to herself, even though normally she would have confided in the horse. “I’m still here for at least another week. Maybe more. I’ve got the whole summer ahead of me.”

She passed the reins over to Ericka, who blinked like she might not know what to do with him. “You might want to hurry. That could be another horse that needs your help.”

“Yeah, it probably is,” Larina agreed, uncertain if she saw that as a relief or not. She jogged up to the house, still a bit worried about leaving Knight with Ericka, but she’d work with him later, make sure nothing went wrong. That was all she could do. He was not her horse. They never were.

She shook her head as picked up the phone, pressing the button for the extension. “This is Larina.”

“Larina, thank goodness,” Thyda’s voice sounded wrong. Larina frowned. That wasn’t just the overseas connection. Calls were clearer these days, and Ericka wouldn’t allow herself not to have a good phone line for her business. Her sister would have been busy—her hands full with her accounting business and the kid—but she was usually also happy, even in the middle of that chaos. “It has been a nightmare trying to get a hold of you.”

“I’m sorry. I’m always out in the field by myself, and I never did find a good plan for international calls before I left. Not that I’ll need it soon because I’ll be back and besides that there are phones—”

“It would have helped if you’d left the number where we could reach you in the first place,” Thyda said, clearly irritated. “First, I had to find three of your friends, and one of them only just returned my calls today. Today I get to learn that you are in a completely different country! I’m sure it’s convenient for you to run from one country to another without thinking about it, but there are times when people need to get in touch with you. You know better. You know this is unacceptable.”

“And I’m not a child, Thyda,” Larina almost snapped. She didn’t understand. They had almost settled this the last time they argued, and while Thyda had not liked it, her sister had agreed that Larina got this one last summer of freedom before settling in as Briarwood’s permanent vet. “What is the matter this time? Do I have to apologize a dozen times now? I am sorry I went to Vienna without speaking to you about it, but it was an emergency at the time. I dealt with the emergency, but things were still complicated, and letting everyone know where I was—it just slipped my mind.”

Thyda took a deep breath. “I don’t even have time to go into how irresponsible you were, Larina. You need to come home—come back, I mean. You have to…. It’s Dad. I mean—it’s Burditt.”

“I don’t understand,” Larina began, confused. She had talked to Burditt last week, before she came to Vienna. He was fine, wasn’t he? “What… What’s wrong?”

“Dad’s—Burditt’s—He’s… He had a heart attack. He’s gone.”

Larina felt the blood rush to her head, making her dizzy. She couldn’t hardly think, and she swore that her ears were ringing. She couldn’t—wouldn’t—believe this. Not Burditt. Yes, they had lost their parents, had lost Sorina in a sudden accident that still didn’t seem real, but through all of it, their uncle had been there. He had been their rock and stability and got them all through it. He had been the one that made them into a family, that kept them as a family. His support and care and understanding had made her life bearable, had drawn everyone to him and turned Briarwood into a refuge for everyone, not just his nieces. They had all needed his help so many times over the years, had relied on him. No, he couldn’t be gone.

“I’m sorry.” Her sister’s voice had gentled. “I know this is hard to accept. It wasn’t easy for me, either.”

“Wh—” Larina cleared her throat. “When? What happened?”

“It was four days ago. He collapsed in the back barn, and he was gone before anyone knew what happened,” Thyda explained. “It was quick. He didn’t suffer.”

“That’s—that’s… a relief,” Larina managed to say, her throat thick. She couldn’t quite breathe. She wouldn’t have wanted him to linger on, suffering through an illness, but still, this could not be real. “I’ll get a plane back as soon as I can. Please—you didn’t have the—”

“The memorial service is scheduled for the day after tomorrow,” Thyda said. “I tried to give you enough time—I expected you back long before then. I—We’ll talk later. For now, just… get back. Soon.”

Larina nodded, feeling sick and numb all at once. “I will.”

Larina’s trip back to the states became a blur. She couldn’t remember packing or booking the flight, things she must have done because she was on the plane, but she couldn’t picture any of it, not when she looked back.

She didn’t remember saying goodbye to anyone in Vienna. She didn’t know if she’d managed to tell anyone she was going home, didn’t remember leaving a note. Eventually, she’d have to call and explain everything, but she couldn’t bring herself to do that even before they asked everyone to turn off their cellphones. She would have to hope that her “friends” understood, if they even talked to her later.

She leaned her head back and closed her eyes, willing herself not to cry. She hadn’t fallen apart when Sorina died, and she refused to do it now. She wouldn’t sleep, no, not on this flight, but she would not cry, either.

The in-flight movie came on, and she found herself watching an old beat-up pickup truck driving down a dirt road, kicking up dust as it went. Her stomach twisted, recognizing not only the state on the license plate but the familiarity of the truck itself.

“I know you were expecting someone younger and prettier, and I promise you, your aunt still is. She didn’t change into an old man while grabbing your bags,” the old man said, managing a smile for both of the girls, and Larina ducked behind Thyda, wishing she felt safer with her sister holding her hand. She didn’t understand, hadn’t since that woman came to them and said their parents were dead. Everything after that was a scary blur, and while their aunt was pretty and looked like their mom and promised them she was going to take care of them, Larina didn’t know that she believed that.

“So’s your uncle, for that matter. Prettier and younger,” the man went on. He shook his head. “Wish these airports would have let me bring old Hank in. He’d have made this okay somehow.”

“Hank?” Thyda asked. “Who is Hank? Our uncle’s name is Burditt.”

“Hank’s my coonhound,” the man answered. “Comes with me everywhere—except airports. I’m sorry, girls. Thing about farms is that there’s always some kind of animal emergency somewhere, and your uncle got caught deep in the middle of one right now, so he asked me to come by and get you and your aunt.”

“Why should we believe that?” Thyda demanded, sounding a lot braver than eight years old.

“It’s okay, girls,” Sorina said, putting her hand on Thyda’s shoulder. “Morely here is an old family friend, and he and Hank aren’t anything to be afraid of. Can’t say the same about that old truck of his, though.”

No, that old truck had been one hell of a wreck waiting to happen, but her aunt and uncle ended up borrowing it more often than they could drive their own, even after Morely died and that damned thing went to Dillon.

Larina grimaced. She did not want to think about Dillon, not right now. That was a bunch of water under a washed out bridge, and while they had somehow managed to stay friends, that was all they were, that water was muddy and deep and not worth disturbing.

“Well, what do you think? This is home now,” Sorina told them, holding open the door and letting them climb out of the rickety truck. Larina looked up at the house, the peeling paint, the gutter falling off, and she turned to Thyda, wanting to ask if they really had to stay here. “I know it’s not what you’re used to, but I think you’ll like it all the same.”

“At least when the cows aren’t out,” a man said, coming up to wrap his arm around Sorina’s waist. He smiled down at them. “I think both of you would like the horses a lot more, though. You want to meet them?”

“Oh, Burditt. You’d think you wanted the horse farm more than I do,” Sorina teased, and his eyes seemed to sparkle with warmth as he kissed her cheek. Larina peeked around Thyda’s side, and he held out a hand to her.

When she took it, she started to think maybe this could be home.

Larina wouldn’t have thought she’d manage to sleep on the plane, but she must have slept because her time lost in memories could not account for all of the transatlantic flight. She couldn’t remember ever being bumped, and she knew she’d missed the in-flight movie. Somehow the whole flight was over before she knew it, and the plane was touching down at the airport.

The bump as the plane landed was minor, but it still shook her. Her stomach twisted. She was back, and that made it all real, painfully real.

Her uncle was gone. Things had changed.

Maybe Something More

Author’s Note: So when I started expanding the ideas brought back to me by Sunday’s late post, I wanted to do the flashback for the first moment when Dillon and Larina found their relationship changing from friends to something else, back in the time when they were close as kids rather than the strangers they are when the main story starts (and here I go ruining everything by posting bits out of order, but this is a piece I have ready and fits a theme, so it goes up.)

Plus I had the quote, “Love is friendship set on fire” given to me as a prompt, and that worked well with this.

Maybe Something More

Sixteen was a bundle of nerves, and she would never have admitted that the one making her nervous was right across the barn. She didn’t understand—while she had always loved watching Dillon work with the horses—with any animal because he just had that gift where they all loved him and seemed to be able to communicate with him—she had never felt like this while watching him.

The last time he’d smiled at her, she’d thought she’d either be sick or pass out, and she didn’t like it. He didn’t mean anything by it—he was her friend and friends smiled at each other. It wasn’t supposed to feel like this.

“Hand me the brush.”

Dillon’s hair could use a brush. She smiled at the thought, tempted to go over to him and comb the stray pieces of straw out of the strands that blended in with the dirt floor. He was just born to be in a barn, at home with nature and animals, and she didn’t blame him for spending most of his time out here now that Morely was sick.



“The brush?” he prompted, frowning a bit. “I need to finish grooming Cassidy, and when I’m done, I have three other horses to turn out and you have school, so if you could hand that to me, that would help.”

“Oh, right,” Larina said, blushing as she grabbed it, holding it out to him. She stopped, looking up at him. “We’re friends, right? And friends tell each other everything and when they trust each other it’s okay and it’s not going to mess things up and get weird and you won’t hate me for telling you the truth because I really don’t know what I’d do if you hated me and—”



“Breathe,” he said, and she did, unaware that she’d stopped, even though she had been babbling like crazy. He must think she was a real idiot. She sounded like one. He came around Cassidy, giving the mare a gentle pat before standing right in front of her. “You can tell me anything you need to, and I hope you know that.”

She forced herself to nod. She didn’t know that she was brave enough to do it, but she was going to try anyway. “It’s just that lately I’ve been finding myself… watching you. I mean, I always have because you are good with animals in a way that even Mom—Sorina—was jealous of—and I think I’ll always enjoy watching that, but it’s not just that. It’s that I see you and my stomach twists a little and I feel kind of sick—not that you look bad or make me ill or anything—but then when you smile at me you kind of do because I can’t breathe and—I am such an idiot, aren’t I? I don’t know why I’m like this.”

Dillon put his hands on her arms, and she thought she was getting feverish now. He leaned his head down and kissed her. His lips barely grazed over hers, but she wanted to fall forward into him anyway, weak and completely his.

He pulled back with a smile. “Maybe someday we’ll get married.”

She heard herself laugh. “Oh, yeah? You think so?”

“I said maybe,” he teased, tugging on her bangs. “For now, we’re still friends, but you’re going to be late for school if you miss that bus.”

Still friends, she told herself as he pushed her toward the barn door. Still friends… and maybe something a lot more.

Meeting Thunder

Author’s Note: Well, last night’s post may have created a monster. Or ressurected it, I suppose. This is actually a plot that I worked on before, but already I see myself expanding it and filling in a lot of what I skipped when I first did it, and the characters have already changed a lot since the first version of this got envisioned, but I think I’m already more attached to this version.

You can tell because I’m stretching the definition of mayhem to let this piece go in. The horse is a bit destructive here, so… it almost counts?

Meeting Thunder

“Quit looking at me like that,” Dillon muttered, shaking his head. He swore they all thought he was a horse that would spook at any second, jump over the nearest fence and break a leg or something else in a fall. He wasn’t. He was fine. He was a lot better than they thought.

“I’m just waiting for the drunk to reemerge.”

“That was two months ago,” Dillon said, and he had known even before he got half into the bottle that he would never be able to keep it up, not with his childhood. The smell of alcohol had burned its way into some of those old bad memories that he didn’t want to remember—didn’t need to remember. “And it was only for the one night. You know that, Burditt. I’m fine.”

“Any man who thinks he’s fine when his wife left him the way yours did is fooling himself.”

“No, I’d be fooling myself if I believed that any of you actually thought I wasn’t better off without her,” Dillon corrected. He knew no one thought much of her before he married her, and they thought even less of her now that she’d left him, and he didn’t entirely disagree. He mostly felt numb, as he had before. Maybe he’d feel it later.

Maybe he’d never feel it at all.

“I’m just glad I got you off the ranch,” Burditt said, and Dillon shrugged. He didn’t care what they did. He hadn’t cared about much since Meghan left.

“I’m not that bad.”

Burditt gave him another look, and Dillon shook his head, wishing the old man would stop trying to father him. He knew that Burditt meant well, and he did consider Dillon the son he never had the way that Larina and Thyda were the daughters he never had, but Dillon had gone through enough father figures over the years, and he didn’t want another just because his wife proved to be anything but what he’d thought she was when he married her.

“I think you—”

Burditt’s words were cut off by a shrill neigh and the sound of hooves pounding against wood. The stable shook with the bombardment, and both men frowned at the sight of the gate nearest them trying to shake loose from its lock. Somewhere down the row, wood splintered, and men cried out in pain. Dillon could hear the ground being trampled, thought it was impossible to see through the crowd that was gathered by the other end of the stable.

“Get back! That horse is insane!”

“He bit me!”

“Bit you?” A louder voice demanded. “Look what he did to Harry. He’s a killer! He’s got to be put down. Someone get the vet, now!”

Dillon exchanged a glance with Burditt. The older man shook his head. “Sorina would be over there telling them there’s no such thing. No such thing as a bad horse.”

“Just bad owners,” Dillon agreed, well aware of the woman’s mantra when it came to animals. He had heard that so many times before, first on his visits to the ranch with Morely when one of the horses was sick, and then later on his own when he worked for Sorina. He pushed his way through the crowd, forcing his way through the men driving the horse wild.

His eyes locked with the dark orbs of a panicked gelding. The horse panted, a bit of foam coming out around its mouth, and Dillon grimaced, taking a step closer.

“Son, you don’t want to do that.”

Dillon ignored the man that spoke, never having liked being anyone’s ‘son,’ even if it was common term around ranchers. He held a hand out to the gelding, eyes still on the horse.

“You know you don’t even have food, right? He’s not going to be fooled by that.” The horse turned toward the man who’d spoken, snorting, and Dillon moved between them before the gelding decided to charge. “You’ll get yourself killed like that.”

“Stop talking,” Burditt ordered, using the same tone he would when someone told Sorina she didn’t know anything about horses. Dillon forced all of the other noise out of his mind, listening only to the horse and what he was telling him in actions and body language.

He opened his mouth and spoke in a low, soothing tone as he refocused the horse’s attention on him. The fire in the eyes shifted, and Dillon reached for the rope attached to the halter, taking it with a loose hold, continuing his words as he edged forward.

The gelding threw up his head, jerking, and Dillon caught him, turning his fingers through the hair along the white patch that split the horse’s face down the middle. “Poor thing. You’re in pain, aren’t you?”

Another jerk of the horse’s head seemed to be an answer, and Dillon moved his fingers in small circles, taking a path down the horse’s head and along his neck, losing himself in the work. Sorina was the one that was truly gifted at this, but he tried to imitate her technique as he always had, even when he was still a kid.

“Damn,” the man behind him said, and the gelding tried to lift his head to react to the man’s voice, but Dillon calmed him again.

“Told you to shut up,” Burditt said, shaking his head. “What are you thinking, Dillon?”

“I think Morely would say he needs x-rays,” Dillon said, watching the horse’s reaction when he touched the creature’s back. “Your wife would be loading him in the trailer right now.”

“And you?” Burditt laughed. “Never mind. I know what you’re going to do.”

At It Again

Author’s Note: Well… I can’t admit that I knew what I was going to post until a few minutes ago. I had nothing. I couldn’t think of a single silly piece to yank out of something I’d already written. I was in a real mood, and nothing seemed funny. It still kind of doesn’t.

I asked for prompts, but I was unfortunately unable to use the one I was given (not their fault, they had no way of knowing that I hate that movie,) and so then I was getting desperate when I looked up and saw the print of this picture my friend gave me years ago.

And I wrote. It’s short, it’s kind of sweet, and I don’t know how funny it is to anyone else, but I kind of liked it, surprisingly.

At It Again

“Your horse is doing it again.”

Dillon blinked, setting down his papers with a frown. He ran a hand through his hair, wondering how he’d managed to get straw in there this time. Must have been her fault—usually was—but he hadn’t noticed until just now. “Doing what again?”

Larina gave him a look, knocking her braid off her shoulder and leaning back against the door frame, boots scuffing against the floor. “You have to ask?”

“I suppose I shouldn’t,” he said, laughing. He rose from the desk and went to the window, looking out at the field and shaking his head. “You’d think Thunder was still a colt the way he plays. Silly horse.”

“Yes, well, he’s your horse. You get to deal with him.”

Dillon didn’t bother fighting the smile curving his lips or reminding her that she was the equine vet, not him. “Yes, dear.”

The Light’s Still On

Author’s Note: Here is a very good example of how what I get from songs being far from what the artist had intended. I was prompted with Brenda Carlile’s “Leave a Light On,” which at the very least has a far more upbeat tempo than this bit of fic that came out of my brain.

I suppose this can count as a Saturday song, even if it wasn’t written for a themed snippet. I finally got to posting this after my dentist visit, which was traumatic in many ways.

The Light’s Still On

Every night, Nada walked a well-worn path to the front door. She pressed a hand against the wood, taking a deep breath and wondering if tonight she would be strong enough to break the ritual. Tonight, she could turn away, walk back to her room, forget all about this. She should be strong enough by now, practical enough. Surely the intervening years had taught her not to hope.

“Leave a light on for me, koshechka.” Whispered words from a smiling face almost lost to time, remembered only by the faded photographs hidden away in places he would never look, a faint touch her skin seemed to remember, these were all she had left of that woman. “I love you, and I’ll be back soon.”

Her mother had not returned in more than twenty years. She hadn’t said where she was going or why. Her promise to return was a hollow one, an empty gesture to placate a child foolish enough to believe in it. Nada was not six years old anymore. That kind of naivete had been crushed out of her day by day as her mother failed to reappear.

Her hand reached toward the lamp and then pulled back. She swallowed, fighting tears that should not come. All that grief, all that anger, that was behind her. She lifted her head, determined to walk back to her bedroom without giving in to her usual weakness.

She took two steps forward and cursed herself as she ran back to the lamp. She shook her head as she yanked on the cord.

“I think I hate you, Mom,” she whispered, closing her eyes, “but the light’s still on.”

Meeting the Suspect

Author’s Note: So today I pulled a snippet out of my backlog, from a story that I wrote a while ago, one that I finished and started a sequel to but found myself writing them out of character and shelved. Still, I like this particular mistake. It amused me.

Meeting the Suspect

“You Corbett? Not like… Richard, Robert, Rudy, Roscoe, Russell—”

“Yes. Like them. You don’t have to list them off. There was a Corbett on the police force when this was just a homestead over a century ago, or so the legend goes,” she interrupted, not wanting to hear the names. That was a long legacy full of pain, and she didn’t want to remember it, not now. She’d have to make a trip to the graves, make sure they were being maintained, try not to think about the empty plot waiting for her. It was only a partial joke when Robbie had bought it for her after she joined the academy. He’d placed it next to his and laughed.

He was already in it, the bastard, and she wasn’t sure if any of them was noble—just masochistic—or unable to turn away from the inevitable.

“Agent Bulloch told you we needed a tech for this, right? You have one you can spare us?”

“Maybe. ‘Fore we settle that, better deal with the guy we have in interrogation. Found him nosing around your latest crime scene—I figure you’ll want to get out there soon enough, but you should have one of yours talk to him. He just keeps calling us a bunch of idiotic feds. Maybe your boss there can get more out of him.”

“Usually works,” she agreed, taking the file that the other agent held out to her. This field office was looking like a joke, and she was no longer surprised that they’d gotten this call. How many people did he have under him? One? So, two feds for the entire area. Great.

She crossed over to where her supervisor stood with Ducas. She gave the profiler the file—he’d end up getting the interrogation. He always did. He was supposed to know people’s minds, after all. “Bull, they’ve got someone they picked up at our new crime scene. Who do you want to talk to him and who’s going over to the site?”

“You and Ducas go in. We’ll keep me as bad cop when we need it.”

She nodded. Ducas stepped around her, opening the door to the interview room for her. She shook her head at his patronizing act.

“What is it with you feds? Is it something about working higher in the government that rots out your brains and turns you into complete morons? No, I know. It’s the suits. Sucks the soul right out of you, doesn’t it, Chel?”

She leaned against the wall, shaking her head. She couldn’t help the smile. He hadn’t changed one bit. Oh, his hair was just a fraction longer than the last time she’d seen him, and he’d gained weight—he wasn’t fat, but he’d been so gaunt the last time that she could have been the one knocking him over with a tap, not Bull.

“You know him, Rachel?”

Frowning, she shot Ducas a dirty look. She just told him not to use that name. She was not a Rachel. She’d gotten stuck with it to carry on the tradition, but it never fit.

The handcuffs rattled, drawing her eyes back to the “suspect.” It was almost laughable, the mistake that they’d made, but then again, it wasn’t. He still dressed like a damn bum, and she’d always hated that about him. This time he’d shaved, but the hair was a mess, and those old clothes of his had to be part of his latest act.

“He one of your CIs or something? You going to give me something to work with here?” Ducas turned to the file. “You got a real name somewhere? I see a bunch of aliases. T, Trey, Main, and so on… Multiple busts for possession, possession with intent to sell, aggravated assault… He’s a petty little hood, but since none of these were prosecuted, I’m guessing CI.”

“You’re as much of an idiot as the rest of them.”

Ducas sighed. He put the folder on the table and looked to her. “You mind helping me out here? I know this is a joke to you, but it doesn’t seem all that funny.”

“Please tell me the two of you aren’t dating.”

Though she figured the question was for her—and since when did he have her so damn wrong?—the profiler’s head jerked up. “Excuse me? Just because she’s a woman and I’m a man doesn’t mean that we’re dating. That presumption is—”

“Full of crap. Fine. I’m just saying, if you’re dating, this is going to get very awkward, very fast.”

Ducas frowned. “Why?”

“I’m her husband.”