Standing Outside

The Fire

By: Irish

Chapter Eight:

Horse Whispering

They say Mother Earth is breathing,

With each wave that finds the shore,

Her soul rises in the evening,

For to open twilights door.

Her eyes are the stars in heaven,

Watching o'er us all the while,

And her heart it is in Ireland,

Deep within the Emerald Isle.

"What do you want to eat?" It was the never-ending discussion between them. Andrew resisted the urge to just skip straight to the end, and not give Lyn any say in the matter, as he didn't really plan to anyway, but, it was all about freedom of choice wasn't it? Even if that freedom was an illusion.

"Nothing."

  "I don't know anyplace they serve 'nothing', do you? The day you find nothing listed on the menu is the day you can have it." Andrew replied in what he hoped was a cheerful tone. In truth he was discouraged. It had been two weeks, and little had changed. Very little. Andrew tried to tell himself to count the small victories, that Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was Bumfuck Nebraska, so count the little victories. He added them to his mantra; love is patient, love is kind, love is gentle. Small victories, baby steps. But he was still frustrated.

Lyn had fallen back to his stony staring silence. His guitar was out of his case and resting on his lap, awkwardly in the cramped space of the cab of the car. He didn't play, or pluck or tune, he just stroked a lazy hand along the neck or the body as though some shaggy family pet rested on his lap and not a wooden instrument.

"Right then." Andrew nodded mostly to himself as he simply started to look for a diner. So far he had eschewed fast food chains, not willing to sink quite that low. He also knew Lyn would steadfastly refuse any sort of fast food. Partly because Andrew could only coax red meat down Lyn's throat if it was in stew, and Andrew suspected also partly out of simple principal. Even Lyn had standards.

"You know, I've been thinking Lyn…" He gave Lyn a chance to respond but continued even when he did not. "I don't much about you. I mean, simple stuff. I know how you react to things, but not the basics that you are asked on most Internet surveys."

Lyn's jewel-blue eyes turned to him slowly, eyebrows dark slashes across his forehead arched. "And what would you like to know, that you think I would tell you?"

"You sir, drive me nuts." Andrew sighed. "Well then, how about I guess? Keep me alert anyway." Andrew sighed rubbing his eyes with a hand and glancing at Lyn as he drove north, nearly at the Canadian boarder. "Alright. How about you're last name. Doren isn't uncommon. But you say it differently. Most people say it with two syllables, door-ann, you say it with one, you don't really pronounce the 'e', Doorn."

"Yeah?" Lyn's eyebrows didn't lower.

"And your turn of phrase is odd. You make grammatical errors. Not the bad English kind, but the kind of mistakes someone learning a second language would make."

"Are you going somewhere with this, Matlock?"

"I don't think you were born in America." Andrew said with a shrug. He had suspected it for quite a while. There was an odd turn to his words, and odd choice to them.

"And if I wasn't?" Lyn kept his high eyebrowed stance. Noncommental, non-committal.

"Then bully for you I suppose, do you want a cookie?" Andrew had adopted some of Lyn's flip attitude, partially wanting to meet Lyn half way, but partly because he also wanted to claw the man's eyes out and use his head as a kicking dummy for Tae Kwon Do practice.

"Ireland. West of Cork. Way west of Cork, on the edge of the sea."

For a minute Andrew thought his road buddy had left a few marbles at the last rest stop, the words making little sense for a beat. Then Andrew's mind switched gears.

"You're from Ireland?" Andrew was a bit surprised. This was not what he imagined an Irish person would look like. But then again no one else, he supposed would use the word 'aye', which Lyn had let slip a few times.

"No, I am bald faced lying."

"Have I mentioned how incredibly pleasant it is to be around you?" Andrew shot back with a sigh. He spotted a blue sign at the side of the road indicating what restaurants there were at the next exit. He took it without asking Lyn knowing it was a moot point. Lyn slouched in his seat and glared out the window but then carefully lay his guitar in the backseat before resuming his glaring position. Andrew said nothing; he knew Lyn would come into the restaurant with him without fuss.

The blue sign on the road had only told Andrew of a Dairy Queen, but Andrew had a guess that there would be a couple local dinners as well. When they pulled onto the main street of the small town Andrew's hopes rose.

It was a cute quaint little place, the shop fronts all in a neat row. There was no neon, and the only flashing was of the small marquee in front of the one town bank. Yes they should be able to find something suitable. And Andrew had also noticed that Lyn seemed more at ease in these small town, ma and pa type places, more willing to eat.

Andrew parallel parked in front of a storefront with 'Annie's' soaped on the front window, the only label to the restaurant. He opened the door and stood carefully, stretching slowly, not wanting to cramp up like he had that night back in Seattle. Lyn unfolded from the car with a feline grace, padding around the hood to stand beside Andrew, waiting patiently.

"Bet they have good malts here." Andrew offered. Lyn shrugged. "Cheer up, Lyn. I don't understand how you can be so…melancholy. This town is quaint, the weather is beautiful, you're young, and mostly healthy. Come one, have lunch with me today, please?"

"I have lunch with you every day." Lyn grumbled.

"No, I mean have lunch with me. Both implying that you eat without me having to feed you and that you actively engage in conversation with me. I mean, I gotta admit… I'm starting to get pretty lonely." Truthfully he had been lonely since about the third day of the trip… and was now lonely enough that he had started talking to himself when he didn't think Lyn was listening. Just to have human interaction… Lyn was so withdrawn most of the time.

"Fine. But I am ordering salad. And a malt."

"Salad with chicken in it." Andrew countered.

"I am not eating the chicken."

"Well maybe the protein will have rubbed off on the dressing." Andrew sighed, putting his hand between Lyn's shoulder blades and ushering him inside.

The dinner was rustic, and very cute, in Andrew's opinion, front counter with stools and a few complimentary old gaffers sitting at it and sipping coffee. A voluptuous woman in her forties greeted them, grabbing two grease stained menus from a stack by the front window.         

           
"Oooh looky here, two handsome men from out of town, where would you like to sit, sugars?" She cooed, grinning to them. Andrew offered what he hoped was a warm smile.

"Wherever is easiest Ms. We're not picky."

"Oh well then, right over here. Where you boys from, I couldn't make out your license plate." She asked sauntering over to a booth near the front counter.

"New York City." Andrew replied expecting the whole diner to stop and turn to stare at them while saying 'New York City?!' like in the salsa commercials. Only Lyn, beside him, muttered it in his ear.

"Whooo boy what are two gentlemen like yourselves doing so far out this way? You adopting from Washington? I hear they got a good thing going there for folks like yourselves."

Andrew blushed; he couldn't believe she had picked up on them being gay so quick…then again his hand was still between Lyn's shoulders. "Ah… no, we're not a couple Ms. Just friends." Andrew let Lyn sit on whichever side he wanted before sitting again himself. "Thank you for asking though, I have heard that they do have a very impressive adoption program in Washington."

"Well don't you boys worry about being yourselves in this town. I know being a small town and all, everyone thinks were all homophobe this and homophobe that, but about two years ago one of our State ranking track stars came out of the closet… and was gay bashed real bad, lost one of his legs… our town really pulled together around him, and now we have a real strong PFLAG program, so don't you two worry a bit. What can I get you to drink?"

"Water for both of us please." Andrew requested with a smile, shaking his head a bit as she wandered off. Andrew gazed over the menu as Lyn did as well.

"So, Mr. Doren. See anything that catches your fancy that isn't salad or malt? Maybe a steak?" Andrew asked hopefully, deciding that if Lyn had a salad today, he would as well. Andrew was a vegetarian himself, but had suspended that rules until further notice. He wasn't about to expect Lyn to eat meat when he wasn't.

"Chicken Caesar Salad in a bread bowl… and please don't order me juice again it hurts my stomach."

"What would you like then?" Andrew asked, eyebrows raising in surprise that Lyn had voiced any sort of opinion at all.

"Milk."

"No problem, you want a malt too?" He knew Lyn would barely manage half of what he ordered, but he would let Lyn eat three bites of everything on the menu if it got him to eat and made him…well if not happy, at least tolerable.

"Yes, please."

Andrew grinned and reached across the table, hesitating a moment when Lyn flinched, but then cupped his cheek gently. "Hey, thanks for telling me what you want, I really appreciate it."

"Whatever." Lyn pulled his face away.

"Seriously Lyn-" Andrew paused when the waitress returned with their water, and got their orders, not continuing until she was out of ear shot. "What is your deal about not letting anyone close to you? I have stuck it out for six months, and have seen about the very worst sides of you and I am still here. What will it take for you to trust me enough to consider me a friend?"

Lyn started at him, hard, blinking, for long endless moments. "Why do you always try to psychoanalyze me? Listen; let me tell you about friends, there is no such thing as a loyal friend. There is always something that is too far over the line for them to handle. There is always something that will make them stop being your friend. Yeah, so you've lasted a few months, so what. If you think I was capable of having friends, don't you think I would have some?"

"That is impressively cynical… well, I consider myself your friend, your only friend, but your friend. And you are damn straight there are things you could do that would make me not want to be your friend… um… for example, if you behaved violently, tried to hurt someone without a reason… if you got really drunk and went driving… if you voted republican… but as your friend, I would always care for you, and help you to see the error of your ways, and help you fix it. The only time I would ever stop is if you didn't want to fix the bad things you did." Andrew replied taking a sip of his water.

"And what if the only person I hurt was myself?"

Andrew knew a loaded question when he heard one. And he took a moment, and another sip of water to put his thoughts in order. "Well… that doesn't change the fact that I care about you. I know that you have…self-injurious behaviors, don't think I haven't noticed… and it does affect the way I can be friends with you, but not the fact of our friendship. I want you to be healthy Lyn, I mean that's the whole reason we are doing this, you know?"

Lyn nodded, rubbing his face and drinking from his water. "Yeah. I know."

"Is there anything I can do that would, you know, be a step in the right direction, or something that I am already doing, that is helping… or hurting?" Andrew asked quietly, eyes on his spoon as he twirled it. There as another long stretch of silence that Lyn finally bridged after what must have been careful thought and consideration.

"I like when you touch me. No one has ever touched me, just all nice and gentle. You know. Not wanting Sex. And I like when you talk to me like I am smart."

"You are smart. You're bloody brilliant as far as I can see. And I don't mind touching you a bit, not at all." Hell he had a hard time keeping his hands off Lyn. He knew that the worst thing he could do right now was be in any way sexual with Lyn, but that was hands down the biggest challenge he faced. He was falling for Lyn very hard. He had no idea why, the man was emotionally scared, depressed, and the better part of nuts… but at the same time… he was so wonderfully humorous in his cynicism, so gentle of manner, and very, very intelligent. Andrew saw some of what was behind this mask of pain at the moment, and damn if he didn't want to see the entire person behind the façade and he knew he would go to hell and back to do so.

~*~*~*~*~*~

They had decided to stay at the small town's one motel. Their waitress had rambled on about how wonderfully gay friendly the town was, and whether it was quite as open as she said or not, at least getting beat up or killed for who they liked to fuck would be less of a worry here.

The room they rented was small, but they didn't need a lot of space. Andrew set their things down inside, including Lyn's guitar before stretching out on the bed with a groan.

"Oh yeah…man… my back."

"That's what you get for driving for the last two days with barely a pause." Lyn shook his head as he too lay out on the bed, having long since lost his issue about sharing space with Andrew.

"Well, its not like you've offered." Andrew shot back, wincing at his tight muscles.

"It's not like I know how to drive." Lyn returned easily.

"What, they don't have cars in Ireland?"

"Well yes, I'm sure in most of Ireland they have cars. But where I am from we either walked or rode. I had only seen a couple cars in my life before I was seventeen." Lyn shrugged stretching his arms over his head.

"Really? Where you lived was that rural? I can't imagine." Andrew groaned again and gave up, rolling on his stomach.

"Bitch, bitch, bitch. You know if you want me to rub your back you just have to ask not weep and wail like you are a lost a limb."

"At least I am not gnashing my teeth. I don't know if I trust you to rub my back." It came out teasing, but Andrew definitely had trepidation about Lyn massaging him.

"I figured if I didn't offer you would start rending your clothes." Lyn didn't actually wait for permission before he straddled Andrew's ass, hands sliding over his tee shirt. Andrew had the feeling Lyn was quite used to straddling ass, and it really, really didn't help his want of control over his desire for Lyn to have the man straddling his ass and pawing him all over.

"Ah, you know they are having some sort of rodeo fair… thing… deal... whatever. I saw a poster for it. I was thinking we should go check it out." Andrew spoke, trying to keep his mind not on the points of contact between Lyn and himself.

"They have rodeos in Canada?" Lyn pronounced it ka-nade-ie-a.

"We aren't in Canada yet, we are still in Washington. And the poster says 'logger rodeo'… I have no clue but it's better then driving again. I mean, we've been across the country and we haven't stopped at one 'world's biggest ball of twine' or giant statue of random animals. I mean, seriously."

"How can there be more than one 'world's biggest ball of twine'? If it really was the biggest in the world, then it would be the biggest in the world." Lyn's long fingers were playing his back like a harp, finding knot after knot and forcing it to loosen. It hurt rather significantly, which Andrew didn't mind, it kept other things from getting tense.

"You are so damn nitpicky you know that? We are going to the logger rodeo and that's final, and from now on we are stopping at every 'world's biggest balls of twine' we pass; and taking pictures in front of them."

"Hey… you think any of those world's not exactly biggest but claims to be balls of twine is on a hill? That might be cool…"

"I can't take you anywhere." Andrew sulked, then yelped as Lyn hit a particularly sensitive knot of muscle.

"Baby."

~*~*~*~*~*~

"And who's idea was this?" Lyn grumbled as Andrew hauled him along through the crowd by the hand.

"It was mine and were sticking to it. Cowboys in chaps. Come on. You will have a good time if you would just lighten the hell up." Even though Andrew was from Chicago he had seen a few rodeos in his time, having a vague relation who won money in them occasionally.

"There are no cowboys. Did you miss the sign that said logger rodeo? They are going to be roping trees for the love of gods… let me tell you, it is not hard to rope a tree."

"You know, the term 'stick in the mud' comes to mind. Just… try and be optimistic. You know half of all experience has to do with your mind set." Andrew drew the slender man close to himself as a herd of old women tottered by. Not that it was bloody likely they would manage to lose each other, both being several inches taller then normal folk, but the blond didn't mind having Lyn close to him at all. And Lyn seemed to very much crave the touch, though he refused to admit it. He curled against Andrew every night, sleeping peacefully, if lightly, in his arms. Teddy Bear had become Andrew's job title and that was okay with him.

"I don't want to have fun, and you can't make me." Lyn huffed.

"Fine. But we aren't leaving so you can just cope." Andrew shot back as he led Lyn over to the ring where the actual rodeo was taking place.

"You know, rodeo's are cruel to animals. Those belts they put on the broncos have big stickers in them. That's what makes them buck."

"I'm surprised you know that. I didn't have you pegged for a PETA type." Andrew sighed positioning Lyn against the fence next to him as he leaned in, watching a cowpoke…or logger… rope a calf.

"I'm not. I used to slaughter my own sheep and chickens. I also used to work with horses. Break in the green ones." Lyn replied with a shrug, rolling his eyes as the man in the ring leapt to his feet in his triumph over the baby cow.

"When was that? You seem like kind of a city slicker."

"This coming from the man who lived in Chicago for most of his life? Rural Ireland, remember? When I said we 'rode everywhere' what did you think I meant? Sheep?" Andrew had an almost impossible time reconciling Lyn as an Irish immigrant, he didn't fit the look, but more so, he had literally no accent. Andrew, had he been pressed to guess, would have guessed somewhere in the Midwest. Someplace that was accent free.

"No, I suppose not. It's just hard to see you as a farm boy in Ireland." Andrew shrugged, leaning on the fence so their shoulders touched.

"Yeah, well, being a hick isn't a good way to get dick."

"You know, just because you are from the country doesn't make you a hick. It's perfectly possible to be intelligent, well spoken, and rural." Andrew rolled his eyes, watching the board that informed him that saddle-less bronco was the next event. He fell silent, as Lyn did too, watching the event.

In Lyn's opinion the whole event was rather asinine. Broncoing was really just a simulation of breaking green horses, but part of the challenge with a green horse, was that you didn't just to get to dismount when you were done, and there were no rodeo clowns to distract the beast if you got hurt.

The first two riders stuck like burrs, but Lyn was more impressed with the horseflesh between their legs. Frisky Arabic breeds, that were damn pissed that something was biting their backsides. Lyn was rooting for the horses… out loud… and starting to get some very nasty looks from those around him.

"Could you maybe encourage the horses a little quieter, dear? You are starting to freak out the norms." Andrew murmured to him.

"Hey, they are the ones with the short end of the stick. They should get prizes for throwing the riders." Lyn rolled his eyes again, looking over to Andrew as the next horse and rider pair burst into the ring.

"Well, when you start your own rodeo you can do it however you want. But we're a little far from home for you to be making us enemies over horse rights. I mean, you might do better if you wore a shirt that said 'I tire-spike foresting roads'."

"And you call me a stick in the mud?"

Neither of them noticed the gasps from the crowds in the bleachers as the rider got thrown, and then kicked. In fact, neither of them focused on the ring until people started screaming and a rodeo clown vaulted over the fence next to them.

"This won't be good." Andrew said as they both turned back to the ring.

Andrew's first thought was of the FOX show, 'When Animals Go Bad.". Apparently this particular stud had had enough of being ridden as a bronco. His rider lay prone in the ring; another rodeo clown was edging slowly around the far end of the ring trying not to draw the horse's attention. The two riders that were supposed to subdue the buck were also on the ground, their mounts having shied away from the still violently running and bucking animal. The last thing Andrew became aware of before his world narrowed was the white star on the Red's nose slowly swelling in his vision.

Lyn saw the animal start to charge them, picking up speed and determination as the crowd that was behind him started to flee, screaming. Lyn vaulted the fence that stood between them and the charging beast, sailing easily past Andrew's numb fingers that tried to grab him. He stood, stoically as the horse charged him, hands held up palms forward as though giving a stop command to a driver.

"Stad." He gave the command in Gaelic, his voice calm and strong. The horse looked at him wide eyed and tried to pull out of its mad canter, skidding on the dirt of the ring. It pulled up just short, nose to nose with the slender wisp of a man that stood him down "síocháin, síocháin" Lyn spoke softly, not moving, as he felt the horses hot breath flaring over his face. He barely remembered getting from one side of the fence to the other, but he knew that the screams and chaos would turn this aggravated steed into down right dangerous if he got out into the crowd. He could smell the horse's fear and confusion. He was very young. He pranced impatiently, turning to bite at the girder that held on the two burrs that bit into him.

"Tóg bog é, Tóg bog é." Lyn whispered holding his hands out to show the horse he had nothing, no rope or bridle. The horse snorted and reared up, kicking at Lyn with his front legs. Lyn didn't move, taking a deep breath, calming himself. "Stad, Tóg bog é." He spoke the words again holding his hands out in front of him, waiting until the horse snuffled at them. "Bí ciúin. Bí síocháin." The soft velvet nose of the horse tickled his palms. The horse whinnied and pranced as Lyn soothed his long fingers against the horse's cheek, still whispering under his breath. When the horse didn't bolt he moved his hands along its neck, following, moving very slow, the cadence of his voice never ceasing. He moved down the horse's neck to its back, slow, gentle.

"Bí ciúin. Bí síocháin." He whispered again. He slowly slid his hand around the girdle that held the spikes in place, calm as a windless lake, as he gave the belt a quick yank in the right spot, and suddenly it was free. He dropped it to the dirt and made his way back to the horse who was now very calm.

Andrew came up very slowly behind Lyn, unable to believe what he had just seen. When Lyn had first vaulted the fence, Andrew had been sure it was some sort of half-baked suicide attempt, but when the horse had slowed, then stopped, and let Lyn take off the offending belt… Andrew was in shock.

"Lyn…are you okay….?" He asked, barely whispering afraid of starting the horse off again.

"I'm fine. Tell all the others to stay back. I will bring him to his paddock when he is calm." Lyn's voice didn't change pitch or cadence as he spoke to Andrew.

The blonde man nodded and slipped away again. Lyn's focus returned entirely to the horse in front of him. He laid a hand on each cheek of the horse still whispering to it, reaching up occasionally to scratch the sensitive spots behind the horse's ears and along its neck, not minding the feeling of grit under his nails. He felt the horse slowly relax under his hands as he worked and whispered. Someone approached, Lyn didn't lift his eyes from the horses to see whom, but a bucket of grooming supplies appeared at his feet. He began an unhurried circle around the horse, brushing him down, soothing him, his movements almost like a dance, as a breeze rustled his hair the horse's mane.

Laying a hand finally on the horse's neck he began to lead it from the ring, by just that light touch. He glanced to place Andrew and saw the broad shouldered man standing a ways off, looking like a Norse god gone native in his blue jeans and work boots, his long hair fluttering in the breeze. The toss of the bronco's mane hid the direction of Lyn's gaze as he meandered towards the exit. Andrew had trusted him enough not to chase after him into the ring when he had jumped, had not once tried to call him back or interrupt his concentration. Andrew had trusted his judgment.

Lyn turned to face forward again as he guided the horse out of the ring, the owner, a woman, trailed along, but kept her distance, only pointing to the trailer that the bronco belonged in. Lyn stopped at the ramp and the horse continued on up without hesitation. The Irishman closed the bottom half of the door to the animals overgrown crate and stroked its nose.

"I have no idea how you did that Mr. But you are a helluva lucky man." The woman shook her head in astonishment. "I shouldn't have put him in the ring today. He doesn't like to travel… but you got him right into his trailer."

"I have a lot of experience, ma'm." He offered her a small smile. "Do you mind if I stay with him a bit… just to make sure he is calm?"

"Stay as long as you like, not beans to me." She shrugged unsure what to make of the tall drink of water in his city slicker clothes.

"Thank you."

When Andrew finally approached him, Lyn had slipped into the trailer with the horse to continue to groom him, as the large beast munched calmly on a handful of oats. Andrew just stood and stared at Lyn for a full minute before speaking.

"Lyn… I didn't know you could do that."

"I had forgotten I could." Lyn replied softly, turning and offering Andrew the sweetest, calmest smile Andrew had ever seen from him. He had never seen Lyn so relaxed, so calm… like some shelter in a tempest, and he felt like those mismatched eyes were piercing straight into his chest, they… 'Wait a minute…'

"You have one blue eye and one green…. You usually have blue eyes." Andrew frowned, astonished, and hurt that he had been missing something.

"Contacts. I didn't put them in today, because I knew the hay and dirt would irritate them." Lyn shrugged as he hung the horse's brush back up, giving his neck a final stroke before moving to the trailer door that Andrew leaned on.

"Oh… this rabbit hole just gets deeper and deeper doesn't it?" Andrew watched as Lyn approached. "If I talk to you all soft… will you calm for me like that horse did for you?" Andrew asked softly, his voice barely a whisper as he reached out, and cupped Lyn's cheek.

Lyn turned his face into Andrew's palm, cat-like. "I'm not a bronco. I'm a wild horse. I can't be tamed."

"I don't want to tame you… just… feed you from my hand once and a while."  Andrew caressed Lyn's cheekbone with his thumb, feeling how delicate it was, like he could crush it in, if he clenched his hand.

"You have me. What are you going to do with me?" Lyn's eyes had closed when he nuzzled into Andrew's palm, they hadn't opened yet, but Andrew could feel the dampness of a tear as it slipped free from an eye and tickled along his palm.

"Let you run." Andrew removed his hand and licked the tear from his thumb before opening the latch of the door and guiding Lyn down the ramp with him. 'Trust me, Lyn. I am not here to rope you in or break you down."

"You have already led this horse by a hair."

"But I am waiting for him to drink." Andrew drew the slender man into his arms, very gently, and Lyn went, no hesitation, feeling lax under Andrew's hands. They stood quietly like that a long moment before Andrew stepped away, a hand remaining on Lyn's back.

"I think I've had enough for the day, An. Can we go back now?"

"Of course. Of Course."

Authors Note: Long time in coming but I hope it was worth it. You don't get to know what the phrases in Irish mean that Lyn uses, you can try and look them up yourselves but I would like to maintain some mystery behind Lyn's talent. Always up for criticism or reviews. Check out Lyn and Drew's guest appearance in Delicate, another Fake fan fic by yours truly. Thanks Jexia and Jan for all your hard work. Also please remember that there is a sound track to this fic, check it out its good music. I just up loaded a song for the prologue and first chapter that is new. Not to mention the song for this chapter.