Corrin left the dusty tack room, closing the door behind her with a snap. She wandered back to Phoenix's stall and slid the lock back. Corrin slipped easily inside and Phoenix eagerly came to investigate. Corrin wanted to start with the basics. She wanted to know Phoenix like she knew herself, backwards and forwards, only then would she possibly have the courage to take a vicodin and get on her. The orange colored mare was just under fifteen hands, slightly under average in the horse world. Her mane wasn't very long, coming to mid-neck, but it was it would be easy to grow out of Phoenix started getting vitamins and minerals that she needed. Her tail had been chopped off and was only a foot and a half long. Corrin frowned. She'd worked very hard to grow out that tail and now she was going to start all over again.

The mare was lean and lithe, but strong and stocky at the same time. Corrin knew that she would have no problem in a barrel race, or roping cattle, once she was trained to do so properly. Her coppery coat, with hints of gold in it, got darker and darker as it got closer to her fetlocks until it turned black. Her muzzle was very nearly black as well. The tips of her ears were black as well. This made Corrin smile. This mare, who came from nobody bloodlines, was more beautiful than any other mare she'd seen. She had excellent confirmation and stance, a bright face, and good feet. Corrin started at her nose and began brushing her fingers across the mare's face, over her eyes, around her ears, under her throat (the throat latch), and near her poll. She continued this pattern until she was sure that Phoenix was completely comfortable with it. Next she tapped the mare on her shoulder a few times. Phoenix easily lifted a foot in the air for Corrin to inspect. She'd never thought that she would need that trick, but it turned out it would come in very handy.

"She's beautiful," Caleb said from behind her, letting himself in. Phoenix looked over at him and pinned her ears, but did nothing else to show that she was dissatisfied with his presence.

Corrin nodded. "She is. She used to glow. I think by this time next year she will be blood red." Corrin commented. "She's losing that yellow, buckskin color."

"Maybe," Caleb replied, holding out his hand for the mare to sniff. Phoenix didn't bother, instead she looked away.

Corrin laughed. "It seems she thinks you're a waste of time." She watched as Caleb let his head fall and mock sorrow flow over him. She smiled shyly. "I don't think you're a waste of time."

She moved to the back leg and heard him chuckle. "I was really worried," he said, teasingly.

"I thought you might be." she said with a smile, moving to the other side of Phoenix, where he couldn't stare at her butt. She didn't know if she should be flattered or angry. She dropped the last foot and began to run her hands over her coat. When she was done she walked carefully around Phoenix's backside, and gave her one last pat before reaching to the latch on the gate. Their hands collided and Corrin pulled her hand back quickly, startled.

"You're cold."

Corrin nodded. "Yeah, I'd better go in." Corrin walked past him and started back down the aisle. "I'll see you later, Caleb." Corrin left him leaning against Phoenix's stall looking like a court jester, crazy. She stooped uneasily to pick up Lion and carry her back to the house. Once there she decided that it was time for lunch, well her stomach decided that, and set to making chicken noodle soup for Caleb and herself. As she stirred it on the stove she got to thinking about Derrick. He'd been an anchor for her when her parents were fighting, when she was just starting to click with Teddy. He'd helped her, steadied her, and comforted her when no one else had. She had loved, she knew that, more dearly than anything or anyone, except for Teddy of course. Corrin refused to cry over the soup, and instead stirred intensely, channeling her emotion through the spoon. She didn't want to get hurt. She didn't want to hurt anyone any more. She decided then that she had to go back home. She had too, before she hurt Caleb so badly it left a permanent scar.

She turned the stove off and left the pot in the kitchen, the soup half cooked. She got to her room and started packing, throwing things into her suitcase and duffel. She would leave her boots and her hat here. Rob would have more use for them than she would. She folded the sheets that she hadn't used and rolled up her sleeping bag. She was so immersed in her packing that she couldn't hear the door opening in the kitchen.

*

Caleb walked into the kitchen and was startled to find that Lion was crying on the floor. She eagerly wound her way over to him, weaving in and out of his legs, purring. Caleb bent down and scooped her up, giving her a good scratch under the chin. He looked up and Immediately spotted the pot on the stove. The soup was growing cold. Th stove was off. Where was Corrin? He put Lion down and charged through the back hall and up the stairs, taking them four at a time. He threw open the door, panting and heaving, and it banged against the wall. Corrin yelped in fright and turned around, clutching a sweatshirt to her chest. Caleb glared at the suitcases on the bed behind her. "What the hell do you think you're doing?!" he demanded, striding further into the room, grabbing a hold of one of her suitcases and upending it.

She glared back at him. "I'm leaving. I can't stand it here."

He glared again, but now more in confusion than anger. "What do you mean?"

"I mean," she snapped, yanking the suitcase from his vice-like grip. "That I don't like it here."

"But–Phoenix—"

"Phoenix will be better off without me!" she told him. He senses regret in her voice, as if she was unsure, sad to be leaving. It was only that that kept him going.

"Phoenix loves you, Corrin. You and her are connected. You can't do anything to stop it!"

"I–I don't care! I don't care about her, or Rob, or that stupid kitten, and I most certainly do not care about you!" she said loudly, turning her back on him again. She put something away and than faced him again. Her face was red and her chest was heaving. He tried not to notice that fact, but he couldn't help it. "Leave. I hate you."

Caleb opened his mouth and then closed it firmly, a muscle working in him jaw. He planted his feet and crossed his arms. "Are you going to make me?" he challenged.

He saw her eyes light up at his words. She marched towards him and stood on her tip-toes, making herself as big as possible. Then she took her good foot and slammed it into his shin. Caleb hissed in pain and before he knew what he was doing, he had reached for her. He grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her closer, turning and pushing her up against the attic wall in seconds. He watched her face constrict with fear and longing as he closed in and claimed her lips. He felt her give in then as he kissed her and he knew that he had won, that she wasn't leaving. He pulled away and cleared his throat. "I'll go fix that soup now." He turned away and trudged back down the stairs, berating himself for letting his body get the better of his brain. He didn't want to hurt her at, he wanted her to get comfortable around him as a friend before he kissed her, but that plan went out the window.

He finished making the soup and left a bowl for Corrin in the microwave. He took his meal out to the barn where he was sure he wouldn't be bothered. He stayed out there for a long time, doing all the chores that were part of his punishment. He was out there until it was dark, and even past that, until he heard the familiar rumble of Rob's truck followed by several more of the hands. He started feeding the work horses and was soon joined by Casey. They finished the chore in silence, not a word passing between them for another hour. Finally Casey spoke. "You know, she's happier here." Caleb grunted. "I'm not sure why it is. She's never been out to the barn, that I know of, except that incident with Tiny." Casey walked over to Caleb and put a hand on his shoulder. "Keep on doing what you're doing, Kid."

Caleb pulled his shoulder out of the older man's grasp. "I haven't done anything."

"Liar." Casey said. "You've kissed her."

"Could you just leave me alone?!" Caleb snapped.

Casey drew back. He'd considered themselves friends, but apparently they weren't any longer. "I just want you to know that if you need any help or anything, you know where to find me."