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Ride 'Em, Cowboy

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She rode horses in some past existence, human or demon, who knows. It all blurs after a century or two. The instincts remain, though: sit deep, keep your hands soft. But this is no well-broke ride; this pony tries to take the bit every damn time, and it’s a tight rein Meg keeps. Never gives him an inch as she says hi to the little girl on her bike – ten or twelve, who the fuck knew the growth stages of humans. She keeps the bit hard in his mouth as she talks the girl into the perfectly well-lit alley behind her street, snaps her neck before she has time to shout.

He hates the smell of blood. She never knew a horse that didn’t. She brings it to his nose, wipes his face with it. He wants to bite her hand. She laughs in his face - with his face. She cradles the jaw of the girl on the concrete. “Look what we did,” she says with his tongue, his teeth.

He’s tossing his head, the brat, and she shouldn’t reward behavior like that but no one ever said she was a good rider, a rider you’d want for your pony. Times like this, when she’s just painted concrete with someone else’s fluids or she’s got a skull hanging loose from its spine, sometimes she likes to ease up on the bit and gives him his head, just for a little while. Just to let him really see.

This time, she drops the reins.

“Evil fucking bitch,” says Sam, his first words aloud in weeks. “What did you—” Those words choke off into sobs. He lets his hand rest on the girl’s jaw a beat longer. Then he stands up, sucks in a breath to shout, and Meg knows how that goes. She jabs him with her heels so hard that he’s too startled to do anything but run.

Running’s fine. She could break more necks, but she’s not in the mood anymore. She rides him until he’s worn nearly out, until his breath would be heaving in his chest if she weren’t breathing for him with a grip like an iron lung.

She eases up then, sits back, lets him go where he would. But there’s nowhere; it’s a warehouse that’s long stood empty on the wrong side of the economy’s tracks. He drops to his knees. His shoulders shake a time or two; he doesn’t cry.

“Come on,” Meg coaxes. “You know you want to.”

He does. She knows him well. He slides his hand into his pocket and pulls out the pocketknife she keeps there. He opens the blade, and he presses the tip to his forearm. He hesitates.

“You have to,” Meg says. “How will he ever rescue you, if you don’t?”

He sinks the tip in.

It doesn’t take as long to carve the word as it used to: four letters, all straight except for the smooth-bellied curve of the D. The phone number is a recent addition; that adds time. Meg shivers with each cut, and she lets Sam feel those shivers, too, from his scalp to his dick. He’s half hard by the time it’s all etched in his skin.

Sometimes she lets him go another round, but she’s bored now, and she wants something salty, deep fried.

“Good pony,” she says, and picks up the reins. She wipes the congealing blood from Sam’s arm with a handkerchief. She won’t bother with long sleeves. No one will ask. No one will call the number, in the three days it’ll take her to knit the skin whole again. And as long as it’s there, out in the open where anyone might see, it gives Sam hope. As long as his brother’s name is carved in his arm, he won’t give up.

Meg always did like a horse with some spirit.

[end]