Hey, Scorpio Races fans! I loved the book, just finished reading it. And this is the idea it gave me. A few notes. I've tried to follow the time line of the book and major events, but they may not be completely accurate. But this is fanfiction, right? I don't own Scorpio Races or any character from the book. (but I wish I owned Sean ;) ) Please Review!
All Bay Fisher has ever wanted is to be accepted. To be admired. So when she declares to her best friend Sean Kendrick that she is going to ride in the Scorpio Races, she thinks she has everything under control. She's captured her own capall uisce and confirmed her intentions to ride. But when Benjamin Malvern makes a claim on her horse, Bay has to decide how far she wants to go to keep him. And just when she thinks she has the reigns once again, she must make a decision between fame and money or an invaluable friendship that she has taken for granted for years. Only when she is on the verge of losing everything she ever treasured does she realize just how blessed she really is…
It's early. Way too early for this. Jonathan Carroll is pounding on my door, loudly demanding that I get up. He's spouting a worried bunch of half-completed sentences. From what I gather it seems that a mainlander has tried to catch one of the capall uisce, but the horse had ended up catching him instead. At least my father isn't home, I think as I shake myself awake. Which is probably just as well for Jonathan, who's still pounding on the door.
"Fisher! Fisher, get up!" he yells. It's the first complete sentence he's managed so far. I can hear the note of panic in his voice.
"I'm coming!" I shout at the door as I roll off of the couch. I'm glad that I fell asleep in my clothes last night. It saves time as I throw on my sweatshirt and boots. The faster I can get to the beach, the more chance the mainlander will have. If he is even still alive. I barge out the door, nearly plowing over Jonathan in the process and head toward the beach with long, hurried strides. Jonathan trots to catch up to me. As we run, I quickly plait my tangled hair into a messy braid and tie it up with a spare piece of twine from my pocket. Reaching back into my pockets I finger the iron bar and the knotted ribbon that I always keep on me.
We get down to the beach just as the first pale fingers of dawn touch the overcast sky. There's already a small crowd of tourists and townsmen gathered on the sand. The tourists are probably all buddies of the idiot who tried to catch the horse. For their sakes I hope the mainlander is alright, but at the moment, they're not my focus.
Kendrick is already down on the beach, in the surf, so I head towards him. He is standing stiff and tense watching a coal black capall uisce drag its thrashing victim out to sea. As I get closer, I can see the mainlander better. He is young, about twenty-three, I'd guess. Probably trying to catch the water horse on a dare to prove his bravado. Maybe even drunk. Either way, it was not a smart move on his part. I step up beside Sean and he gives me a stern glance and a nod. I brush stray strands of hair from my face and dip my head in return. We've done this many times before. I'm ready.
As we step out into the ocean the cold water laps at my legs, soaking into my boots. I'll have to spend hours later drying them out. But that's a small price to pay if we can save the young man. The capall uisce has the man by the shoulder and already blood stains the water. Crimson threads wind their way past me was we walk forward. Even from here I can tell that the young man is in shock, his pupils dilated, his gaze glassy. Beside me Sean stars to murmur, that low, smooth voice he uses on Corr. It's like he's speaking a different language, one only the water horses can understand. The big capall uisce stops toying with his victim and stands still, looking back at us. In the uncertain dawn light the water horse's eyes look blood red. His nostrils are flared, taking in the scent of the prey he's holding. His ears are somewhere between laid back and pricked forward. Every muscle in his broad, powerful chest is trembling.
Sean continues to talk gently. I'm not as good at communicating with the horses so I settle for making gentle shushing sounds with my tongue curled close to the roof of my mouth. I have to be able to feel the horse to calm it. I have to touch it. The capall uisce remains motionless as we advance. I can't tell if it is because of Sean's talking or if it is because it is contemplating trying to kill us too. We're now about three feet away from the big animal. I take a couple of deep breaths, trying to still my racing heart. I'm no coward around the capail uisce, but this one is bigger than most, over five feet at the shoulder. Just then Sean hisses my name and I leap forward in a sudden explosion of action. It all comes down to this. If I miss, we might all three end up as breakfast for the black animal. But I don't miss. Even though my mind is skipping around like a frightened rabbit, my body reacts out of instinct and I grab a fistful of the water horse's mane, just behind his head. In almost the same movement, I shove an iron wedge into the horse's mouth. Flicking a catch with my thumb causes hidden springs in the wedge contraption to spring apart, forcing the horse's mouth open, forcing him to drop the young man. The mainlander tumbles into the choppy water and Sean immediately lunges for him, dragging him upright by the collar of his jacket. The young man staggers, but finds his feet and manages to remain standing. Sean spins him toward the shore and gives him a slight shove. The mainlander doesn't need any more urging. Despite his bloody, disoriented state, he splashes halfway back to the beach before he collapses and by that time he is an indistinct blur in my peripheral vision. I see a second blur detach themselves from the crowd and run toward the mainlander. I turn my focus entirely on the capall uisce.
My fingers still maintain their solid grip on the iron wedge—it's all that's keeping the water horse form ripping the two of us to shreds. Sean is still whispering, but his voice has a hoarse edge to it now. We both know that it is our responsibility to make sure that the capall uisce goes back into the ocean and not to the beach where the crowd still remains. Sean has a red ribbon pressed solidly between the horse's eyes. Slowly, ever so slowly, we begin to turn the animal back out to the open sea. The fingers of my right hand are still tangled in his mane; they feel like they are frozen there. I use the leverage to turn the capall uisce's head. Finally, we get him to face the ocean again. I can feel the powerful horse tremble beneath my hands and I know the water calls him. Sean signals me and I pull the wedge from the horse's mouth. Without restraint, if flings open into what looks something like a horse's bit. I shove it back into my sweatshirt pocket. Sean leans his weight against the horse's neck and talks into its ear, then, signaling me again, we both let go and step back. The horse bounds away then wheels and stares us down. Sean tenses, tighter than a drawn bowstring and I reach into my pockets for my iron and my ribbon, but then the capall uisce flings up its head and with an unearthly scream, it throws itself into the waves and disappears. I breathe a sigh of relief. Beside me Sean relaxes, but there is still a frown in his eyes. I know why. The mainlander was stupid, coming out here like he did, endangering himself, endangering others, endangering us. And all for a terrific shoulder wound and nothing to show for it.
As Kendrick and I slog back through the surf to the beach I clench my hands into fists to still their trembling. Relief and adrenaline course through me in equal amounts, as I'm sure they do Sean, but I'm not as good at hiding all outward signs of my inward feelings as he is. When we reach the crowd someone calls Sean's name. He looks up to see a tourist coming towards us. When the tourist reaches us he shakes Sean's hand and then mine in an attitude of thanks.
"They told me you were good," he says breathlessly. "But I want to thank you. Both of you. If not for you, my friend would have been…well," he clears his throat awkwardly, "you know."
If he was in at all on this little adventure, he is probably feeling very ashamed right about now.
Seeing that Sean won't say anything, I inquire about the young man we rescued.
"Oh, yes," the tourist smiles faintly. "A couple of your village men took him up to the hospital. He seems okay though." The young man's smile fades, as if he's not quite convinced of his own words.
"I'm sure he'll be fine," I say, trying to be encouraging.
"Well, thanks again," the tourist replies. "I'm just glad you two knew what you were doing."
"You're just glad that that capall uisce had eaten well recently, and didn't devour your friend straight off," Sean says matter-of-factly. And with that sobering statement, he brushes past the tourist and strides up the beach. I don't know what else to say so I excuse myself as politely as possible and run to catch up with Sean.
Later that night I'm sitting in Sean's little flat above the Malvern stables. Sean is making tea for both of us, which is an extremely outward show of kindness on his part. He's shuffling around in what could be termed the kitchen of his tiny apartment. The flat is more like one big room actually, partly sectioned off into a kitchen and a cross between Sean's bedroom and a sitting room. Not that Sean ever really has any guests. His kitchen is pretty tidy. Then again, it is pretty easy to keep it clean when there is only one of you and all you own is two plates and two forks. His room on the other hand clearly belongs to a guy. An old pair of boots sits in one corner. The shoes are obviously past use—the laces are knotted in several places where they've broken, the soles are separating from the boot, and there are holes in the toe stuffed with rags—but Sean still hasn't gotten rid of them. Yesterday's clothes are in a dirty heap half-shoved under the bed which is only partially made. But I don't care because the room feels lived in. More so than my house ever feels like.
Just then Sean walks over with two steaming cups of tea. He hands one to me before dropping onto his bed with a sigh. Besides a straight-backed wooden chair, his kitchen table, and a dresser, I'm sitting on the only other piece of furniture in the whole apartment—a worn loveseat. Although Sean stubbornly, emotionlessly refers to it as a couch. I take a sip of my tea and smile. Sean has fixed it just the way I like it, with so much sugar that I'm practically drinking white gritty syrup. As for Sean, I know he's drinking the tea straight and bitter.
Sean is silent so I start a conversation. I say what has been on my mind all day since this morning's incident, "Idiot mainlander."
Sean looks at me with something bordering a smile shadowing his mouth and slides back against the wall behind him, stretching his legs in front of him. He answers me with a sort of non-committal mutter. I can't even tell if it is a literal word or not.
Then, "I'm sorry you got called into it," he says in one of his rare moments of compassion. "But Jonathan had gone to get you before I even got to the beach."
"Don't be silly," I chide, but inside I'm enjoying Sean's concern. "You couldn't have taken that capall uisce all by yourself."
Sean raises his eyebrows but says nothing. In all reality, he probably could have taken that horse all by himself, but I know he is more comfortable with my help. Anyone would want someone by their side when facing those demon horses. We are both silent for a while, just enjoying each other's quiet company.
I watch Sean over the rim of my tea cup, gauging his mood. He's tired, sitting with his head tilted back and his eyes half-closed. He is rarely this comfortable around people, but at the moment he is completely relaxed. There's something I've been thinking about for quite a while and I've finally made my decision. I clear my throat.
"I'm riding in the races," I say.
Sean opens his eyes completely and stares at me entirely without expression. He's not angry or proud or cautious or excited he's just sitting there. "You're a girl," he says. It's not a question, but it's not a statement either.
"There's no rule against it," I answer and I'm surprised to hear a defiant tone in my voice.
Sean purses his lips into a thin, straight line. It's a face he takes on when he's thinking hard or disappointed. I'm not sure which he means at the moment. Maybe both.
"Do you have a horse?" he finally asks.
"Not yet. But I will." I swirl the remaining dregs of tea around the bottom of my cup. "Tomorrow," I add.
"But where are you—" Sean begins, but breaks off as realization dawns on him. "You're going to catch one." Again, it is not a question.
"I'm not just going to catch any capaill uisce," I say quietly. "I already have one picked out."
Sean still doesn't say anything, but I know he's waiting on my answer anyway.
"I've been going down to the beach every morning I get the chance and I've found myself a horse," I explain. "I call him Tempest."
I know I've got Sean's full attention now.
"You've ridden him?" This time it is a question and there is a breath of something I can't identify in it. Awe, admiration maybe.
I nod my head. "He's fast as the wind."
Sean narrows his eyes and I know what he is thinking.
"Maybe even as fast as Corr," I can't help bragging just a little even thought I risk turning Sean off.
"We'll see," is all he says.
We're quiet again then I ask, "Do you want to see him? I'm going to catch him tomorrow morning."
Sean puts his tongue in his cheek like he does when he's considering something very carefully. "If you're getting him in the morning then I'm getting some sleep."
I grin as Sean sets his empty tea cup aside and begins unlacing his boots. I know that means yes. Sean slides both his empty cup and his boots under the bed where they won't be stepped on then slips off his shirt and burrows under his blankets, his back to me. I also know that I won't get anything else out of him tonight. But I'm satisfied. Stepping over to the switch on the wall, I turn out the light and proceed to get ready for bed. Sean usually offers me his bed when I stay at his place. It is his quiet gentlemanly side showing through, but tonight he refrained. Not that I mind too much; I've slept on the couch before. I think it is Sean's way of showing me he is irritated. The loveseat is too short to be really comfortable. I have to sleep curled up or let my legs hang over the side and it is even worse for Sean who is taller, but it is warm enough with Sean's extra blankets and a rolled up sweatshirt for a pillow. I lie awake for a long while after I turn out the lights, thinking about tomorrow, thinking about the races. Sean falls asleep quickly, his steady breathing the only sound in the quiet room. Except for the occasional whinny from the horses below us, the outside is pretty quiet too. The rhythm of Sean's breath finally lulls me to sleep. I dream of the sea and the capaill uisce. My capall uisce.