Let's hear it for the good old "invisible halter and lead" routine. Who: Sif & Corin What: Wait, Where Did This Poor Bedraggled Horse Come From? When: Saturday night, 6/30/12 Where: Trabuco Canyon Rating: General, with references to animal abuse :( Status: Complete. Notes: Special thanks to Rue for also playing Hwin for me!
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There was nothing particularly remarkable in the way Corin walked home to his room in Sif's house on Saturday night. He'd had a fight; it had gone pretty well, all things considered, and he was only mildly black-and-blue. He took a bus out of the city, heading home, and didn't care that it dropped him off a full three miles away from his actual destination: walking the rest of the way was a nice way of finishing off the evening, letting him meditate and calm himself and be at peace under the stars.
He wasn't expecting to hear the sounds of anyone else not-in-a-car out on the edge of the road in the middle of the night, of course, so when he did hear a sound, he paused, going completely silent and still, trying to verify that he had heard something -- and then what it was, for that matter.
Clop clop shuffle clop clop, said the noise. It was undoubtedly the sound of hooves on grass, walking with an unsteady gait. A closer look definitely showed a horse off in the distance -- a pale dapple grey, covered in what looked like stripes very incongruent to its coat's natural patterning.
The horse was also dragging one of its legs, and its head hung low, just walking along the side of the road, very lost indeed.
Well, shit, Corin thought, and carefully set his fight bag down at the edge of the road where he'd be able to find it again. Quietly. No sense spooking a horse who already looked as if a battle wasn't far away.
He hadn't been making any real effort at walking silently, himself; maybe the horse already knew he was there...? Step one: breathe more noisily, to make it clear he was there, but not particularly threatening. Step two: start talking, without worrying about the words. Step three: try to walk toward the horse, carefully, still making soothing and gentle and reassuring sounds, and maybe -- just maybe -- an injured, stray horse would be safe by the end of the day.
Eventually, the horse -- who, once he got much closer, was more obviously a she -- let him approach. And held perfectly still, letting him look her over. She wasn't wearing any tack of any sort, and maybe Corin didn't want to take a look under her lip to find her number, just in case she wasn't as friendly as she seemed ... maybe.
She wasn't particularly active, just standing there and breathing and looking at him with big, pained brown eyes.
The lack of even a halter was a pain; it was going to be a lot harder to lead an injured horse when he couldn't do much in the way of actually leading her. But it wouldn't, actually, be the first time he'd managed the more-or-less impossible; Corin firmed his chin, straightened his shoulders, and reached very, very slowly and gently for the mare's shoulder, aiming for one of the not-striped stretches of her hide. "Easy, now, girl," he murmured softly. "I promise I have no desire to hurt you, all right? But I know you want someplace safe to sleep, and a nice warm mash and some clean water to drink, don't you? We can get your leg looked at, and your skin, and you'll be all right, okay? I promise."
His fingertips smoothed over her shoulder, slow and steady and firm, and he didn't pay any attention to the complaints lodged by his middle two knuckles at the abuse they'd already had to deal with earlier in the evening.
That sounded pretty good to the mare -- she even raised her head a little bit, and let him touch her, coaxing her along.
Still moving slowly, still coaxing with words and tone, Corin stepped back up to her head, and let her watch him lift an invisible halter into place. He brushed his hands over her forehead and cheeks lightly, as if checking that the straps were all in place, and then let his right hand slide down to just below her chin, fingertips ever-so-lightly brushing against the underside of her jaw, and took a few steps forward, chirping at her to follow him.
Please let this work, he prayed.
Either he was that smooth, or she was that gullible, or perhaps both. She was certainly tired.
He paused, briefly, to grab his bag and sling it over his left shoulder. He paused again, just long enough to rifle through it and determine that there was nothing in it that would both a) function as a makeshift halter and b) leave him with any self-respect if he put it on a horse, so he was left hoping that they wouldn't encounter too much more in the way of traffic as they kept going.
By the time they made it to the gate at the house -- by the time he'd gotten the poor mare through the gate, so that she would be safe and unlikely to wander off again -- his throat was completely hoarse and he was covered with a good deal more drying blood than he'd expected to be. So as soon as he got into the house, he made a beeline for the kitchen, and a long tall drink of water, walking right past Sif to do so.
"You look terrible," she said; she was sitting at the kitchen table, having just hung up the phone (a cordless, which was still on the table in front of her). Sif also appeared to have recently showered, which was going to be a giant waste as soon as she found out she had to get all horsey again -- but it wasn't like Sif ever minded being horsey.
"The other guy looks worse," Corin answered, as might have been expected. And he drank, more, and then got around to slinging his fight bag under the table, where nobody would trip on it in the ensuing fuss. "And by 'other guy' I mean 'abused mare I found on the walk home'. Just to clarify."
"What?" Sif's face, which had previously been mildly amused, as she was used to Corin's comments about 'the other guy,' went completely ashen. "Where is she? How bad? Let me get my shoes. I assume you put her in back with Acorn? She's probably avoiding him, but it's not like he's harmful or anything, he might even be comforting -- did you check for a number?"
She was untying and rebraiding her hair as she talked. Once spurned to it, Sif was all action.
He got outside first, because Sif actually thought to turn the fence lights that illuminated the backyard pasture on before following him, but she got there. Never bothering to actually put on proper outside clothes; her tank top and PJ pants were good enough. At least she put on boots and not flip-flops!
The mare was cautiously socializing with retired pony Acorn, but when Corin approached she took a more confident step in his direction, whickering again.
"Oh, you poor beautiful thing," Sif whispered, and came up next to Corin, offering an open palm to sniff. The mare did so, and let Sif run her hands along her face gently, clucking lovingly, and then roll her lip up to check her number.
Which wasn't there. At all. She was an unmarked horse.
Corin stopped petting the mare long enough to let Sif examine her, and took the opportunity to duck off to the minibarn to get the start of the promised warm mash. She wasn't going to get much of one, before she'd gotten to see the vet, as they had no way of knowing if she'd end up sick on it -- but she would get at least a few mouthfuls, because he'd promised.
At least he was a man of honor, and the mare wouldn't be disappointed in him.
Sif did the quickest, safest non-vet physical possible, running her hands over every joint and checking for hidden injuries, as well as for the mare's general composition. She was sociable and friendly, leaning into Sif's touch and making a constant low-level sound that wasn't pained, acting as if she'd been starved for proper socialization. Sif talked to her, whispering all sorts of comforting things, and making her own promises: that they'd get her cleaned up, that they'd find her a safe home, that Corin was getting her some food.
The mare continued to relax as Sif gently probed and patted.
"So does she have a number?" Corin called softly, as he stood beside the trough to make sure it was full enough (and, perhaps, not too much). His other hand held the large slow-feed bucket, complete with several internal protrusions to keep a large-mouthed animal from bolting the food all at once, and its small quantity of mash at the bottom.
"No," Sif told him in a gentle voice, low tone meant for the mare and not for Corin, evidently enough. She ran her fingers firm but softly down the horse's neck one more time, and then allowed her to wander up to Corin and the food to attempt her nosing way up to the mash. It smelled like food, and was she ever hungry. "Looks like she's yours at least for now. Better call a vet -- try Foster, she's good with the emergency calls even if she is all the way in Fullerton. And Thor wouldn't ever forgive me if I asked for anyone else."
"I think she's the only one I'd plan on calling this late," Corin agreed mildly, in a tone selected just as obviously to keep the horse at ease. She got more patting, this time by Corin, as she nosed her way around the bottom of the bucket. "I'm also thinking it'll help if we've got her cleaned up by the time Dr. Foster gets out here -- and probably buckets and sponges will hurt this pretty lady a lot less than the hose will, don't you think?"
"So long as you're gentle, I think sponges or washcloths will do fine," Sif replied, nodding as she patted the mare's flank while she ate. "Definitely not the hose, though she might enjoy running through the sprinkler -- on her own time. Maybe just turn it on for her in the morning, after you've gotten her washed up a bit."
"So can you get the bucket ready for me, while I give her a call?"
"By all means."
Corin reached over the mare's neck to grip Sif's shoulder for a moment, tight, expressing his gratitude -- and relief -- before he went back to fussing gently over the poor, abused mare for a few minutes. He'd call Jane soon.
First, he was going to be glad that Sif hadn't hesitated for a moment in opening her heart to the mare, just like he had done, and never mind that he had no idea how he was going to be able to afford the upkeep of an injured horse; he knew that Sif would help him find a way.