A/N: Hello, Kat again! This is a response to Hanni98's challenge on her story "Don't Fly Away"- which you should all go, by the way- and dedicated to all the great writers in this category. My intent is to make this a three-shot, but it mostly depends on the response, so let me know if I should continue.
Now, enjoy, but please no flames.
When I Dream of The Races…
The brisk November air slices past me as Dove and I charge forward. Sean and Corr are galloping alongside us, and Sean spares a moment to flash me a quick smile. The cold air keeps down my blush, but I lift my wrist just enough so he can see his red ribbon tied there. He might've nodded, but suddenly the finish line looms in front of us- not as if we're about to pass it, but close enough to make my heart clench. We might actually do this, Sean and I, become the king and queen of The Races. I get ready to push Dove harder.
Then horrible Mutt Malvern appears on my other side, riding that awful piebald mare of his. He shouts something I don't understand, and then slashes at me with a knife I didn't even see him draw. Sean yells at me to go, and though I can't really understand him, Dove certainly does. She darts forward to the finish line, but I wheel her around. I won't leave Sean behind! But by the time I have turned her, it's too late. Sean's on the ground, on foot still stuck in the stirrup, while Corr fidgets on the verge of panic. I nudge Dove back to Sean, but it is like we're trying to run through jelly, not fast enough!
However, Mutt and his terrible mare can run as fast as they want and she screams that soul-shattering sound the capall uisce make and she rears up and there's no chance that Dove and I can get away and Mutt's laughing like it's a jolly holiday and her hoof comes down and-
I shoot straight up in bed, breathing hard and sweat slicking my forehead and back. I put my hand on my heart to try and still its frantic bump-bump-bump, and work on untangling my legs from the sheets with the other. I tremble as shards of the dream assault my mind, not matter that I know they're not true.
When I dream of The Races, I dream of fear.
Shivering, I manage to free myself from the sheets and slide out of bed. The clock reads 4:58 AM . Dawn won't be far off, and I could probably wait until then, but with the images of that wretched nightmare still raw in my head I don't see another option. I take off my sleep clothes and slide on a pair of work jeans and a simple brown shirt. Fully dressed, I go into the kitchen and scribble down a messy note for Finn. He doesn't like my early morning rides, but he knows why I take them and deigns to ignore them.
I leave the note on the table and go out to Dove's lean-to. She's annoyed that I have the audacity to wake the Scorpio Races queen mare before she's ready, but forgives me when I spoil her with a lump of sugar. This morning, I don't bother with a bridle, just loop her lead through her halter and improvise one. Dove doesn't need much leading anyway; we've made this trip many times in the past year.
Muddy lamp light and murky predawn, light our way though Skarmouth and a little way past the Malvern farm- where I'll have to report for work in a few hours. My breath comes a little easier when the small house comes into view and I lead Dove to the small, four-horse stable in the paddock behind. Corr whinnies at Dove when I place her in the stall across from him. I pat Dove's nose, then walk back to the house. Thoughts of the nightmare have returned after seeing the red stallion.
I shiver, though the October morning isn't quite cold, and knock on the door.
The air blows past Corr and I as we gallop along the cliffs. I chance a look over to assure Puck is still beside Corr and me. A smile twitches across my face when I see her and Dove running right next to us. She smiles boldly back and proudly displays my ribbon on her wrist. My heart beats a little faster and it's not just because the finish line rears up in front of us.
We cross it together and the spectators roar in cheers and jeers. I look again to Puck and her smile is so wide it's a wonder her face doesn't split in two. She directs that smile at me and I hold a hand out to her, inviting her to ride with me. She pauses to make sure an official has Dove, then takes my hand and clambers up into the saddle with me. She leans back into me my heart pounds hard against her.
I swallow hard and press my lips against her ear, whispering what I can't say any louder. She looks at me and mouths, "What?"
I sigh and say it again, a little louder, but she shakes her head in incomprehension.
I bite my lip and shout over the crowd, "I LOVE YOU, PUCK CONNOLLY!"
Inexplicably, the crowd has gone silent and my declaration echoes for a long while, before the crowd once again bursts into applause. Puck turns to look at me and smiles that face-splitting smile and tells me she loves me too and then she's throwing her arms around my neck and I have to transfer the reigns to one hand so I can wrap an arm around her back and she tilts her head up and she's so close I can already feel her lips on mine and-
A noise jerks me awake. I sigh and rub my eye with the heel of my hand, my heart still thundering. It isn't the first time I've this dream, and I dark suspicion that it won't be the last, at least until I can say those word in the waking world. That day doesn't appear to be anytime soon, because every time the opportunity arises I can't get the words out. Horses are so much easier to talk to than Puck sometimes.
The sound that awoke me resolves itself into a knock at the door and judging by the gray not-quite-dawn light it can only be one person. Puck Connolly. I get out of bed and rush downstairs, there's only one reason Puck comes over this early, her nightmares, and I don't want her to worry any more than she needs to. I open the door and she's in my arms before she's even over the threshold.
She grips my sleep shirt and trembles as I bring her inside, somehow managing to tap the door shut with my foot. I lead her to the couch and she settles close against me, her face buried in my chest. I wrap one arm around her back and stroke her hair, murmuring, "Sh, shh, Puck, what happened this time?"
"It's The Races, like always," she says, her voice muffled by my chest. "We're riding side by side, but Mutt rides up on my other side on that awful piebald mare and swipes at me with a knife. You tell me to go and Dove leaps ahead, but I don't want to leave you… But by the time I turn around you're out the saddle, barely hanging on by one foot. Then Mutt comes for me and I can't get away… Then I woke up."
"Oh, Puck," I breathe gently into her hair. "That's not how it happened. You have to remember that. I'm right here, that 'awful piebald' took Mutt Malvern into the sea, and you're the queen of The Races."
"I know, I know," she sighs and I can't tell if I've made her upset with me. She pulls her face up and her cheeks are red. "I just like to hear you say that."
Hesitantly, I reach out and stroke her cheek, "I used to have dreams like that, too, after my dad died. Trust me, they fade with time."
"What do you dream of now?"
My mouth quirks in a sort of half-smile, "You."
Then I kiss her. She gasps a little as if she's surprised, and I don't blame her. She usually kisses me first, but, this time, all I want to do is kiss away the fear in her eyes. With the hand I have in her hair I cup the back of her neck and urge her closer. She runs her fingers through my hair and I shiver, letting out a shuddering breath against her mouth. She kisses me now, her arms firm around my neck. I wrap my spare arm tighter around her and pull her flush against me- not that there was much space between us in the first place. She squeaks and I playfully nip her bottom lip, making her squeak again. She pulls away and touches her lip, laughing breathily, "Sean!"
I smile at this Puck, the one I'm sure she only lets me see. I kiss her forehead. My heart pounds. "Kate Connolly, Puck Connolly," I say because they are both her name, one holds no more of her than the other, "I love you."
She gasps and draws back, "What?"
I blink at her, my cheeks already burning. Have I done something wrong? Was there something else I was supposed to do first? I knew I wouldn't be any good at this courting thing, but Puck…
The silence stretches out for a long while and I find I can't look at her anymore. Outside, Corr makes a noise which lets me know that it is dawn and he expects to be let out into the paddock. I stand, breaking our now awkward embrace, "I'd better go let Corr out, Dove as well?"
I nod and start to leave, but she grabs my sleeve and stills me, "Don't let Dove out?"
She's quiet for a moment, then whispers so I have to turn and lean down to her, "Sean Kendrick, I…" she falters here and I try to brace myself, "I love you, too."
I breathe a sigh of relief and I pull her back into my arms.
My heart's galloping as Sean pulls me back into his embrace. He murmurs in my ear, "You scared me…"
"I didn't mean to," I assure him. "You caught me off guard, is all. I do love you, Sean."
"I'm glad," he breathes and the relief in his voice nearly embarrasses me. "I love you, too, Puck."
I smile into his shoulder, before he tips my face up and kisses me again. My heart pumps faster as he gently parts my lips with his. Cautiously, his tongue traces my bottom lip and I tremble a little, surrendering to him as he deepens our kiss.
Suddenly, Corr keens for Sean to let him, and we jump apart, startled.
"The horses," he pants, "I have to let them out. Corr gets antsy if I don't let him out on time."
I nod, "Right. The horses."
But for a minute, we still don't move. Corr's keening becomes more insistent and Sean tosses his head before focusing on me again, "Stay for breakfast?"
I know I probably shouldn't, that Finn will worry if I'm not back before my lunch break, "I think I can manage that."
Sean smiles at me, then kisses the inside of my wrist and I know he can feel my pulse rocketing, "Love you."
"Love you, too."
He leaves and I sit back down on the couch, bringing my knees to my chest. I wrap my arms around them and the smile unfurls into my knees. Sean Kendrick loves me, and for now my Race nightmares are forgotten.
A/N: Hope you enjoyed and thank you for reading. I really didn't intend for it to be this long! Anyway, review if you like it and let me know if I should continue. Other than that just have a great day.