Disclaimer: Not mine, sorry. I'm just borrowing them for my entertainment, as well as others. I make no money from them, I swear!
Author's Note at the end!
Dedication: To everyone who has this on Story Alert and who has stuck with me so far! This chapter is for you...I'm sorry it's so late!
Quatre sank down into his bed, groaning aloud as his muscles protested any sort of movement at all and the soreness that he had been beating back the past three days finally won. Teal eyes glanced towards the door, knowing that he should really get up and take a hot shower, but even the knowledge of the fact that the stiffness would be worse later couldn't make him get up.
He had thought that he was in decent shape; he exercised daily with his morning jogs and ate healthy, well balanced meals. There wasn't an ounce of extra fat on him as his body was toned and lean. He had easily figured that he would be able to take on the rigorous schedule that Trowa had set without this soreness, having thrown himself into his work without a care.
He had seriously been proven wrong.
The blond man had realized that while jogging was great to keep fit, it did nothing to prepare his muscles for heavy lifting and repetitive motions. Shoveling piles of horse shit into a wheelbarrow did that, causing a great deal of aching to radiate through his shoulders, arms, and upper back. The first three or four stalls that Quatre had mucked out hadn't been quite so bad…but by the time he was cleaning out the fifteenth and final stall, he was in some serious pain. He didn't mention it to Trowa as he was ushered off to haul out the dirty water buckets, clean them and then fill them before setting them back in their proper places in the stalls.
Quatre had found as long as he kept moving and as long as he kept his mouth shut, the soreness could be ignored. He continued on with his list of chores given to him by Trowa: hauling in the water basins from the field to be scrubbed, tossing hay bales out to the horses in pasture, and the list of things went on from there. Honestly, he found that he didn't mind doing all of these things. In fact, it had felt damned good to be doing some physical labor and he found that he preferred it over sitting at his desk in the office.
The first day Trowa was tolerable and Quatre suspected that the caramel haired man was being rather lenient considering that the blond was picking up on the routine. On the second day, Quatre had slept through his run and was woken at six thirty by a rather grumpy cowboy glowering at him and roughly shaking him awake. It had caused him to topple out of bed, scrambling for his clothing and rushing off to change even as his body screamed at him from the soreness.
Trowa had been a little more waspish through the second day, closely inspecting Quatre's work and pointing out little things that he could have done better. It wasn't too bad and he quickly picked up on the little details and continued on with his task. He tolerated the critical remarks with an even temper, just letting the little comments roll off his back like water on an oil slick.
However, the third day was when it started to get even worse. Trowa had ridden his ass all day, pushing him to the brink and almost making Quatre want to quit or breakdown into tears. The ex-soldier had made him muck out six stalls three different times until he was satisfied with it, making scathing remarks about how he'd seen a seven year old clean a stall better than him the first time around. The day had only gone down hill from there when Quatre's foot slipped on some of the wet, tightly packed clay of the barn floor. He rolled his ankle and fell into the wheelbarrow full of horse feces, causing the entire thing to tip over into the hay bales.
The taller man had been furious, making Quatre pick out all the horse crap from the hay area and then had him using the contaminated hay as bedding for the hogs. By the time he had finished those two tasks, the dark clouds that had been lurking in the sky had decided to open up and rain torrents of water down on the already dirty businessman. If his mood hadn't been dark enough, it hit rock bottom when he had slipped trying to get out of the pig pen, further injuring his already weakened ankle. He had come out of the pen covered head to toe in mud and pig muck, frustrated and angry.
When he made it back to the barn, Trowa had taken one look at him and sighed, obviously frustrated with Quatre and he sent the blond off to the house for a shower and clean clothing. When the blond man had returned to the barn in clean clothing and freshly showered nearly an hour and a half later, he found the remainder of his tasks done to perfection and in obviously less time than it took for the blond to do it. That had just been salt rubbed into his already wounded pride. The slender blond closed his eyes at the humiliating memory of yesterday, rolling over to press his face into his pillow. He had hit his breaking point with Trowa today and his temper had snapped with the attractive man.
Quatre continuously scrubbed at the last saddle, running the soft cloth over the shiny leather and he smiled a little as the little metal ornaments on the horn took on a shine. He admired his work, having spent the late morning cleaning each of the seven saddles and ten bridles that were in the tack room. Trowa had instructed him how to do it, much like Mr. Myagi's ideal of 'wax on, wax off' from the Karate Kid.
He settled the saddle on the rack, standing with a slight grimace and soft groan as the stiff muscles in his back began to spasm a bit. He had been working the leather and scrubbing the shiny bits clean all morning, making sure to get every tiny crack and crevice devoid of dirt. If he said so himself, all of the saddles and bridles looked damned near new.
He wiped his forehead, looking over his shoulder as the tack room door opened and the rancher stepped in. Trowa was covered from head to toe in dust and grime, obviously having been training one of the greener horses in the round pen. Quatre smiled slightly, looking at the brunette as the man examined his hard work. However, that smile dimmed and faded when there was only a slight head shake.
"There's soap residue on several of these," Trowa stated, gesturing to a few of the saddles and bridles. "It's dried on and it'll cause a rider to slip out of the saddle. Do them again."
Inwardly, Quatre screamed denial and cursed in several different languages. His only outward reaction was to blink and look to the offending equipment. "Just those ones?" He asked, "No problem."
Trowa looked over at Quatre, frowning and shaking his head. "No, redo all of them. If you've left residue on one, they're bound to be on the others. Do it right this time." He turned leave, brushing by the blond as he bowed his head.
The slender man clenched the rag in his hand, his fist trembling as he closed his eyes. His temper and blood pressure rose, causing his head to ache and he could feel his blood pulse in the back of his eyes. Inhaling, he turned and looked to Trowa. "No." He voice was firm and calm, the tone he used at the office more than several times a day.
It was that which caused Trowa to stop, turning to look at him in surprise and raised an eyebrow at him. "What?"
Quatre threw down the rag at the cowboy's boots, snarling loudly. "I said no! I've been busting my ass for you for the past three days and you continually tell me to redo everything that I've done every fucking time!" He knew he lost the control on his temper when he started swearing, but at this point he just simply didn't care. "I've been here a fucking week and a half, yet all you've done is yell at me and put me down. You continually make me feel worthless and you can't even cut me some slack when I'm new to this shit! It's fucking driving me insane!"
Trowa seemed to take it all in stride, turning to face the slender blond as he continued ranting and he merely crossed his arms over his chest. His calm, emerald stare took in every nuance of Quatre's expression; finding his aqua eyes lighting up and throwing sparks as he went off. "Go on."
However, the calm exuded by the former Special Forces soldier seemed to only incite Quatre more. "Heero arranged for me to come here to get away from stress! Yet, here I am, finding myself out of sorts and even more stressed out than I am at the office. You fucking don't like my work? Fine then, show me a different way to do it or fucking correct it while I'm doing it so I don't have to redo it after I've just spent all that time doing it the wrong way!"
It was then that emerald eyes narrowed ever so slightly, but Quatre certainly didn't notice. "If this is your way of breaking me enough to stay out of the god damned barn, then just say so! I get the point; you don't want me around the horses and you don't want me in the barn. I'm sorry, alright? I'll stay the fuck out of the way, but damn it all, just say so!" He took a few deep breaths before continuing on his tirade, his volume coming back down to a normal level as he stalked towards the door, "I get the picture, you don't want me here. That's fine, all you had to do was say something."
He could feel Trowa's eyes on him as he brushed past the taller man, stalking out of the barn and towards the house. He paused, turning to walked backwards and said, "I'll be out of your hair by breakfast tomorrow, Trowa. I'm not going to stay somewhere where I'm not wanted and looked on as a burden. You can consider your debt to Heero paid; I'll tell him I had a good time and that everything is fine while I go some place nice…like Fiji or something."
The blond stalked into the house and slammed the door behind him, ignoring the quizzical look from Cathy in the living room where she was ironing clothes and folding the laundry. He had stalked up the stairs and slammed the bedroom door in a satisfying display of temper, then began pacing the floor until said temper cooled and his muscles began to ache.
And here is where Quatre found himself; on his bed and staring at the ceiling. He didn't want to face Trowa at dinner tonight, he felt too embarrassed about his outburst as it was. It was rare for him to lose his temper like that and he could still feel the judgmental stare that had followed him all the way back to the house, the feeling akin to twin holes being burrowed into his shoulder blades. He groaned aloud, tossing an arm over his eyes and he sighed. "Well," He asked himself, "now what, Quatre?"
"Why don't you explain to me why you're here?" came the soft, tenor voice from the doorway and it caused Quatre to sit up, looking at the long and lanky form of Trowa as he stood in the door. "And allow me to apologize for the way I have been testing you."
He couldn't help but stare at the brunette, looking at him as if he had grown a second head that was speaking to him. The moody blond shook his head and ignored the question, asking one of his own instead. "Testing me?" He asked, his voice incredulous as he stood to face Trowa, "What the blazes do you mean by that?"
"Exactly how it sounds," Trowa shrugged, as if that were all the explanation that he really needed. It caused Quatre to lift a hand, resting his forehead in his palm and audibly groan in frustration. It was no wonder why he and Heero were such good friends; they both hardly ever spoke and, when they did, they were so vague that only the two of them thought they made sense!
Seeing the blond man's reaction, the cowboy let loose a soft sigh and elaborated on Quatre's behalf. "I was testing not only your patience, but your endurance and attention to detail. I needed to put you in different situations and evaluate your actions, as well as your reactions under different types of pressure."
Inwardly, Trowa smirked in amusement at the level and annoyed look the blond gave him. "You might as well have just sat me down in yet another board of directors meeting, considering that's what they do all the time." Quatre deadpanned, obviously not amused in the least and walking forward to stand toe-to-toe with the brunette. "Pushing my buttons to see how I'll react is exactly the sort of underhanded—"
Lifting a slender hand, the ex-soldier pressed two fingers to the other man's lips to effectively end his tirade. Mentally taking note of the delicate flush that spread across Quatre's cheeks, he continued his explanation. "I am sorry for what I put you through, however it was necessary to do so because I physically needed to see the extent of your patience." He lowered his fingers slowly, only to tuck said fingers beneath Quatre's chin to tilt his head upwards slightly. "Quatre, I'm giving you a special project to work on. I wouldn't trust it to just anyone, but after seeing how hard you work and your patience, I'm doing this. Understand?"
Dazedly, the blond bobbed his head in muted assent and then Trowa stepped backwards. Silently, the man gestured for Quatre to follow him and he did so. His mind was too busy trying to process the exchange between them as they headed down stairs and outside, pausing long enough for the confused blond to pull on his shoes. He couldn't figure out this sudden change in Trowa…nor could he wrap his head around the fact that he had just apologized!
"Trowa…?" Quatre questioned, following the tall man as he was led towards around the barn and the paddock beyond it. They stopped at the fence and the blond found himself looking at the mare he had been so drawn to during his stay on the ranch. He smiled for a moment, watching her graze before turning to look at him once more. "What's going on?"
Emerald eyes looked down at him and a small smile curved the cowboy's lips, causing Quatre's mouth to go cotton dry. "You've got a bond with her, Quatre," He spoke quietly, though the mare lifted her head to look at them both hesitantly. "I'm going to need your help if we're to get her ready for the saddle and to be ridden. You can do what I can't with her."
He stared at Trowa, his jaw going slack in shock and the brunette's lips curled upwards in a faint smirk of amusement. The cold hearted bastard was going to let him help train the filly? Instantly, Quatre grew suspicious and he narrowed his eyes as he searched Trowa's face. A grim frown caused his lips to quirk downwards as he met the rancher's emerald green gaze and his voice was acerbic. "You're shitting me, right? Not even four days ago you were yelling at me to stay away from her. Yet here you are now, saying that I'm going to be working with her?"
"She's starting to trust you," He said, his quiet spoken words straight forward and looked towards the mare. "She sees something in you, something that no one else can." The rancher looked at Quatre again, his gaze steady. "And, believe me, I'm not shitting you."
The blond hesitated a long moment, then looked out into the paddock to watch the sleek mare graze. Her ears twitched, one of them cocked back in their direction while the other flicked to and fro in order to catch the sounds around her. A small smile curved his lips, feeling his tension slip away from him as he watched the graceful creature.
It was in that moment that he made his decision.
"Alright," Quatre murmured, his eyes not leaving the paddock, "I'll work with her."
As the other man agreed, an unseen smile flickered across Trowa's face. It was gone as soon as it had come, however. "Excellent," His voice was quiet, his gaze on Quatre. The horse and trainer were well matched, both having similar qualities that he could see. Both had a fire in them, something that couldn't be tamed…even blind man would be able to see that. However, there was something about each of them that needed to be fixed: their trust in humans.
That caused Trowa to be curious, for while the business man never said why Heero sent him here…he could tell that there was something in Quatre that was wounded and needed mending. He wasn't a fool; he had seen the same types of wounds in his fellow soldiers while serving overseas. It wasn't a physical wound that could be healed by medicine, but a wound that could be healed through time and through helping hands. This, Trowa knew quite well, that a companionship with a horse could provide.
"Only one more thing," Trowa looked out at the filly and back to him. "She needs a name."
Quatre smiled slowly and the former soldier found that his breath caught in his lungs as the blond looked to him. While there were those who smile with their mouth or with their eyes, Quatre was the sort of person that smiled with everything in him.
"Her name is Sandrock," Aqua eyes met emerald and the air rushed from the brunette swiftly, causing him only to nod in response. "It suits her, don't you think?"
Trowa broke his gaze and looked towards the palomino, nodding slowly. "It does," He murmured.
The blond watched Trowa for a moment longer, "When can we start?"
"Tomorrow. We'll begin tomorrow."
To be continued…
Author's Note: And so ends chapter four! I am so very sorry for the long wait! It's been a rough six months with details I won't go into. I hope it was worth the wait, since I wrote the ending threes times and it still doesn't sit right with me. I hope it's up to your expectations. Updates are sporadic, but I hope you'll continue to stick with me and with all of my stories. There will be endings, (some happy and some sad) no matter what!
Please read and review? It fuels the plot bunnies.