Disclaimer: The Scorpio Races belongs to Maggie Steifvater. Let's not lie to ourselves too much too often.
Puck Connolly was right. There was no logical reason why Tommy Falk would want to leave Thisby.
Gabe is sitting out in an empty field of grass and weeds and sand. Most of Thisby's land isn't good for farming, so farmers have to work twice as hard as anywhere else to chide something edible from the tough soil.
It's not going to be like that on the mainland.
He leaves tomorrow. With Beech. Without Tommy.
"We're going to go to the mainland!" Beech cries out with delight. He waves the butcher's knife around dangerously and Tommy makes a face, pursing his lips.
The smile on Gabe's face unfurls slowly and then his teeth flash as he says an anticlimactic, "Surprise."
Tommy's face stays very still for a few minutes and Beech seems to catch onto Tommy's unnatural stillness because he stops waving around his butcher's knife and looks at Tommy anxiously.
"Oh, nothing, you big lump of meat. I'm trying to avoid wrinkles by not allowing my face to go through any expressions. It's on my 'Becoming More Manly' agenda. Number one: keep all feelings inside."
"Tommy, I worry for you sometimes." Beech says in his gravest voice.
Gabe reaches out and hugs Tommy right on the streets of Thisby in front of the butcher's shop.
"I'm glad." Gabe says quietly into Tommy's ear.
Tommy smells like the sea and grass and Gabe wonders if that will ever change.
The moon is like half a pie. Or a cake. Apple cake.
Half has been bitten into and the other half is still around to shed light onto Gabe's late night musings.
The sound of water lapping onto loose sand is still audible even this late into November, but Gabe relaxes only minutely with the knowledge that no capaill uisce are going to be creeping onto land anytime soon.
He wants to blame his sister. He wants to blame Kate or Puck or whoever that wild-red-headed girl he used to know is now. He wants to hate her. He wants to shout and scream and explain how she destroyed all his plans.
But he is leaving for the mainland tomorrow.
And Kate or Puck or whoever has a horse and one remaining brother and a house and a job and a boy-of-a-man.
Gabe has dreams of a lover and the promise of a future.
Tommy presses his full lips to Gabe's chapped mouth absently.
They're in Tommy's room and it's quiet because all of his smaller siblings and his mother are out for groceries. The little ones want to see Palsson's new pastries and Tommy insisted that he and Gabe would help with the household chores.
In a few moments, they will have to clean up, put their cloths back on, and pretend that they are only best friends. Mrs. Falk will probably come home to the sight of her son and the oldest Connolly washing dishes and making crude jokes.
"We can't leave yet. But you don't have to ride. You don't."
Gabe tries to be insistent. He tries to show how desperately he doesn't want Tommy to race in The Race. Hands reaching, Gabe traces patterns onto Tommy's fair skins. Fingers on freckles and moles and the long scar under a set of ribs.
"Don't race. You weren't planning on it this year anyway. Not before, remember? When we were planning to leave in late October?"
Tommy smiles then. His eyes are bright and his lips are lush, red, and his hair is dark. Gabe can't take his eyes away from Tommy's smile. This is the boy he loves. This is the man that he wants to take away from Thisby so that they can hold hands whenever they want and own their own place where they can lay in bed for just one day without having to get up for anyone else.
Tommy parts his lips to speak and the answering words are already on Gabe's tongue, slipping up his throat easy and smooth. But the three words he was expecting Tommy to say are pushed aside in the air around them by a string of words that Gabe doesn't want to hear at all.
"I have to ride. I will not shame my family," Tommy lowers his voice to a whisper and leans his forehead to Gabe's, "by becoming a man who does not ride."
Gabe opens his mouth and the only words to fall out of his head are the ones he doesn't want to say anymore.
"I love you."
"I love you too." Tommy replies easily and with a sloppy kiss on Gabe's shoulder and another more chaste one to Gabe's lips he hops out of bed and reaches out for his pants.
Slipping on Gabe's shirt, Tommy throws a kiss over his shoulder coyly at the doorway.
"Hurry up, Gabe. You're going to have to work double time on those dishes because I have to head over to check on Una. She's probably getting frisky now that the November winds are blowing up the scents of the Scorpio Sea."
But Thomas Falk probably wouldn't have wanted to die anywhere other than on the island of Thisby.
And he got his wish.
For that, maybe Gabe should be thanking his sister.
Tommy didn't have to race. He didn't have to fight for a spot or come away from the race maimed or disappointed at all.
But Gabe can't stop it. This feeling of the deepest sort of blankness because he can still see Tommy on Una on the beach, riding and whooping; whenever he closes his eyes, it's Tommy's eyes and lips and funny quips in a smoky pub that light up in his mind.
Something keens in the dark and Gabe's eyes fly open.
He's leaving tomorrow. He doesn't think he's going to come back.
"I can't bear it anymore! This island! There's nothing here! There'll be bands and music and people and money and jobs and empty flats and food we've never had on the mainland."
"And I won't have to bear this. And you won't have to risk it. And we'll be able to do whatever we want and Beech will laugh and be able to work at the stores he wants, the stores that don't involve dead cow, and we'll eat out on most nights and sleep in and go to work with pressed collars and leather shoes."
"And we'll be able to see all the things like tall buildings made of steel and iron and we can laugh at Beech trying to get a suffragette to give him a chance and there will be things made from crazy material and smooth things to wear and see and speak. Movies. Talkies. Beaches that don't have blood stained sand particles and seas where things don't scream under the water and...will be safe to swim in."
Gabe's ecstatic smile trails off his face because as soon as he got onto the end of his rant he could see that Tommy's mind had turned towards the sea.
"But what about the horses? Does the mainland have horses like ours that run so fast that even waves can't hold them and land doesn't reach far enough?"
"They aren't our horses!" Gabe hisses angrily.
"You're right. You're right." Tommy's eyes focus again and his hands reach out to frame Gabe's face. "Stubble and you are not good friends. I hope the mainland has razors that can help with that."
Making a face, Gabe surges forward so that he can bowl Tommy over and rub his stubbly cheeks and chin all over Tommy's fair skin.
"Whoa there, horsey." Tommy laughs and Gabe hides his face close to the skin of Tommy's neck so that the boy he loves doesn't have to see that he knows he will always come second to the capaill uisce.
Gabriel Connolly's interest and dreams and feelings weren't logical. Aren't making sense. So it evens out a little bit in the end.