Written By: ShenLong
WINNER 3RD PLACE AU - THE VAULT 2005 FIC COMP - VIEW AWARD
Disclaimer: I don't own the G'boys, I just borrow them from time to time to play with and return them a whole lot happier, ne?
Rating: NC 17
Warnings: Sap, angst, yaoi, Lemon, AU, OOC
Summary: Heero is a successful up and coming Showjumping rider with his promising new horse Zero. A fall at a show renders the animal injured and it is up to Duo Maxwell the new vet to treat the horse.
Dedication: To Klingonpoodle who gave me the plot bunny for this fic. *huggles* This one's for you hun!
Many thanks to my betas Yami_Tai and Ryouga.
Notes: All the information on showjumping, horses, etc is taken from my own knowledge of the sport having been a competitor and now judge for many years and is written from an Australian perspective. The rules and regulations are courtesy of the E.F.A Handbook. (Equestrian Federation of Australia) Should you have any questions just e-mail me.
Many thanks to Yami_tai for the title! *hugs*
October. 2004 ShenLong
Heero ran a soothing hand along the slightly sweaty, sinewy neck that stretched out before him. "Take it easy, old fellow, no need to bust a gut," he murmured in a soothing voice. The animal's ears flicked back and forth, alternating between listening to his master and observing his surroundings. "You'll be out there soon enough and then you can show them what you're made of," Heero cajoled.
The animal snorted, tossed its head and sidestepped, as it spotted something in the surrounding hub bub it didn't particularly like. Heero's fingers closed slightly on the reins as his legs pressed against the animal's sides and encouraged it to keep walking. The horse gave a small buck in response then settled and began to walk with calm, easy strides. Heero guided him through the parking area reserved for the competitors and out into the large, warm up arena.
The grass was soft beneath his neatly shod hooves and the horse pranced a couple of times before settling again and taking in its surroundings.
Heero let him have the rein and stretch out. Once he felt the animal relaxing he shortened up the reins and pushed the horse into a trot. "That's it, Zero, nice and steady," he murmured, continuing to soothe the highly strung animal. Zero responded by arching his neck and dancing for a couple of strides before settling into a steady, rhythmic trot. Heero worked the horse around for a few minutes, varying the speed of the trot and changing direction from time to time, warming up the horse's muscles and keeping his mind fresh, alert and focused. Satisfied with his horse's performance so far, he pushed into the canter, the gait smooth and rocking, reminding Heero of a large armchair. As the horse loosened up and Heero's own muscles also warmed so he guided them towards the practice jumps and circled slowly until he had a clear run. Shortening his reins and rising slightly out of the saddle, he turned the horse towards the jump, collecting him together on the approach.
Zero eyed the approaching fence, gauged the height, selected his take off point and then lengthened his stride. His hind quarters drew underneath him and propelled his body into the air; forelegs tucked neatly up as he sailed over the bars and landed cleanly on the other side. He gave a flick of his tail as he cantered away, as if to say, "Shit, I'm good."
Heero patted the neck. "Good, boy," he said and then brought Zero back around for another practice jump.
Duo Maxwell smiled charmingly at the woman who was the host of the luncheon for the stewards, officials, judges and honored guests at the town's Agricultural show. He had recently moved to the small township and set up his own veterinary practice, business was slowly beginning to grow as the local clientele began to accept him and Duo now found himself with a steady income and the respect of the local people. When Lady Une, the principal organizer of the town's Agricultural show, had approached him to be the show's 'vet on duty', he'd accepted without hesitation. It would be good for his business to show an interest in the local events as well as meet more of the residents and hopefully gain some more clients.
"Thank you for a lovely lunch, Lady, and as much as I would love to stay here and chat for the afternoon, I'm afraid I can't. I really should be going and attending to my duties outside." Duo stood up and pushed his chair away from the table.
Lady Une also rose. "I cannot thank you enough for donating your time, Mr. Maxwell. Whilst it is a pleasure to have you as our resident animal doctor I sincerely hope that your services are not required." She smiled and escorted the young vet to the door of the small pavilion.
Duo chuckled. "I hope they aren't needed either, but it's always best to be prepared. Now, I think I will take myself off and have a stroll around the show. If I should be needed, please, call me over the address system and I'll be there right away."
"Thank you again, Mr. Maxwell. Will I see you before you leave today?"
"Of course. I have to return this to you, don't I?" Duo flicked the blue ribbon adorning his jacket, the golden emblazoned words 'Official' glinted in the sunlight. Shaking the woman's hand he quickly left and headed out into the crowd.
"Competitors for the 'Open Table A: Showjumping competition' are required in the marshaling area. All competitors in this event, please report to the marshaling area immediately," the drone of the announcer's voice crackled over the public address system informing the public and entrants alike of the impending event.
Hearing the announcement, Duo began to make his way towards the large arena that had been set up for the equestrian events. The ring was graced with various obstacles: brightly colored poles, hay bales, multicolored tires and a formidable looking red brick wall were just a small sample of the different types of jumps awaiting the eager entrants. The Open Jumping event was a prominent event on the local showjumping calendar, the prize money and silver cup luring some of the best showjumpers in not only the local, but surrounding areas as well.
Finding himself a good spot where he had a pretty clear view of most of the course, Duo settled himself down to watch. While his veterinary practice catered for all animals, most of his clientele tended to be of the small animal variety, it was surprising just how comfortably you could live by separating the local tom cats from their assets. But Duo's secret passion was horses. He didn't know why, he just loved the creatures. For an animal that was so large and strong it never ceased to amaze him how gentle and docile they could be, given the right handling. He'd grown up around them, his father having bred several animals himself before his untimely death; the result of a drunk driver. With his father gone his mother had sold the house and the horses, never having cared all that much for them and taking the proceeds, bought a smaller house in the town.
Duo had hated it. He loved the wide open spaces, having lived in the country for as long as he could remember, so being dragged away and made to settle in the town was like a life sentence to him. But he'd borne the change with grace, keeping his feelings to himself and working diligently at his studies. He was a naturally bright student and his good grades ensured him a scholarship to study veterinary science at the country's best University. He worked hard, the effort he put in showing in his grades and when he finally walked onto the podium to collect his degree - with honors - he felt as if the shackles that had bound him were finally broken and he was at last free to pursue his life the way he wanted to.
It came as no surprise to his mother when he announced he was heading back to the country with the intention of setting up his own practice. The money he'd inherited from his father's life insurance policy combined with the little he'd managed to save whilst working through his degree, despite the scholarship, had been invested wisely and now he had a small sum saved up. It wasn't huge by any account, but it was enough for him to set himself up. He'd chosen this particular district for many reasons, the lack of another vet for around sixty kilometers was one factor; the other was that it was home to several horse orientated people. But so far he'd spent most of his time with the local dogs and cats. Still, one could hope.
The crackling of the loudspeaker announcing the first competitor drew him back to the current events and he eagerly sat forward to watch.
Heero worked Zero around for a while longer, feeling the horse soften and respond to his touch. When he was satisfied that Zero was as ready as he was ever going to be, he settled the animal and headed back to his car and horse float to check the horse's bandages and collect his jacket and number. Mounting again, he eased Zero into a walk and made his way through the 'float' area to the marshaling ring as the loudspeaker called for all competitors to present themselves. Giving his name and number to the steward he was pleased to see he was jumping around mid field. He didn't like to go first if he could avoid it, rather preferring to sit back and watch a few other riders go around first, get a feel for how the course was 'riding', any fences in particular that might become a 'problem' fence.
He'd walked the course earlier, noting the striding in-between fences, turns and approaches to the various obstacles. The course designer had done a good job, there was plenty of room between fences if you needed it or you could take a slightly shorter track and run the risk of bringing down a fence. It was a rider's course, one that would determine the skill and knowledge of the rider, but at the same time test the willingness and obedience of the horse.
Heero liked it.
He watched as the first competitor entered the ring and approached the judge. Salute given the bell was rung and the first rider was off. The crowd was silent; all that could be heard was the soft thudding of hooves, occasional jangle of bit and grunt from the horse as it put in the effort needed to get over the fence. Then came the sound all competitors hate, the rattling of poles followed by the thud as they hit the ground. The crowd groaned in sympathy as the first rider left the ring with four jumping faults.
Heero joined the other entrants in giving his condolences to the unlucky rider, but like the others on the inside he was pleased. The more penalties the others gained the better his chances of winning. There wasn't any malice in it, it was simply the way things worked in the showjumping world. Each rider knew how one day you could be up and winning everything and the next day screw up royally. Unlike many other sports where it was only yourself that was responsible for the mistakes that won or lost you the game, in showjumping you had the added factor of the horse. It was a living, breathing creature with a mind of its own and sometimes that mind took over.
It was the reason why Heero loved the sport so much.
Several more competitors entered the ring and completed their rounds, exiting with a variety of faults between them. Heero watched them carefully, noting what errors they made and adjusting his own game plan accordingly. He had complete faith in Zero. The course was well within the horse's capabilities, but this was the animal's first really big show, Heero having brought him along slowly and carefully through a string of smaller shows and events, building the horse's confidence and ability until he was now at the stage where he was ready to tackle the more demanding courses.
With only three clear rounds in the competition so far it came Heero's turn to jump. The last competitor exited the ring as Heero entered, muttering something about 'watch the turn from six to seven'. Heero nodded to say he'd heard and then there was just the judge left to salute and he would be on his way. Zero picked up on the slight tension of his rider and gave a few dancing steps. He eyed the fences as he trotted past, shying playfully at the foliage decorating one in particular. Heero approached the judge and tipped his hat in respect then turned Zero and pushed the horse into a canter. The bell sounded and he gathered up the reins. Now there was just himself, the horse beneath him and the many obstacles to be jumped.
Duo watched the first competitor and groaned along with the rest of the crowd as the rails tumbled down. He continued to watch as horse and rider followed horse and rider, many making simple mistakes which cost them penalties. So far he'd seen some pretty good riding and a couple of nice horses, but nothing really outstanding. Then a horse entered the ring and Duo's eyes were riveted.
The animal stood around sixteen hands he estimated, compact in build with muscular hindquarters. The long neck came out of well set, sloping shoulders with a short but refined head that showed intelligence. The slight dappling to the animal's gray coat added to the horse's appeal. It was truly a fine example of the equine race. Duo's eyes roamed from the animal to its rider and he found himself once more appraising the sight. The young man that sat astride the impressive beast was just as muscular and compact as his horse, even down to the hind end, Duo noted amusedly. He watched carefully as the rider sat the horse's slight prance to the left as he passed by one of the jumps. Here was a rider that not only could sit a horse well but had a certain rapport with the animal. Duo watched eagerly to see how they would perform.
Heero turned Zero and approached the start flags, seconds later they were through them and on their way. The first obstacle loomed up before them and then they were over it and bearing down on the second. Jump after jump was cleared and Heero began to relax a fraction and enjoy himself. He remembered what the other competitor had said about the turn from six to seven and made sure to give Zero as much room as he could. Heero touched his hand lightly to the horse's sweating neck, a silent gesture to let the animal know that this was an awkward fence. The ripple along the satiny muscle told him that Zero understood. He didn't interfere, gave Zero a little rein and let the horse pick his take off point. The muscles gathered and bunched beneath him, hind legs pushing the large body up into the air as forelegs tucked up close. Heero rose up in his stirrups, reaching forward with his hands so as not to jag on the horse's mouth and followed the fluid movement of the horse as it arced through the air. The forelegs came out and took the shock of impact, Heero sitting down in his saddle and picking up the contact with Zero's mouth whilst his legs closed on the horse's flanks and drove the hindquarters back underneath him, balancing and steadying the horse ready for the next fence.
Duo was mesmerized. Here was pure poetry in motion. The horse and rider moved as one complete unit, flowing so easily together that it was hard to tell where the rider finished and the horse began. Anyone could see they made a great team, the confidence and trust they had in each other was simply wonderful to behold. Duo found himself holding his breath as the pair approached the last jump - a triple bar. The sound of the hooves upon the grass, the creak of the saddlery and jangle of the bit were the only sounds to be heard and then... cheering as the horse landed safely on the other side and cantered between the finish flags with a clear round.
Heero's face broke into a wide grin as he passed through the finish. He drew rein, slowing Zero and aiming for the exit, patting the horse enthusiastically. "Good boy, Zero," he said and the horse gave a low snort as if to say 'Am I ever not good?' Reaching the marshaling area and thanking the other competitors for their congratulations, Heero asked the steward for an estimation of how long it would be before the jump off. Scanning down the list of remaining riders the steward guessed it would be about an hour before he would be needed to jump again. Heero decided to take Zero back to the horse float and let him rest a while.
Once back at the float, Heero loosened the girth and replaced the bridle with a halter and tied Zero to the float. He removed the horse's water bucket and emptied most of the water out as he didn't want Zero to drink too much before jumping again and risking a bout of colic.  He made sure there was only a small amount of hay in the haynet, mostly to keep Zero entertained than to fill his stomach. Fetching the light, summer rug from the back of the car, Heero tossed it over the horse's back and did up the straps. Satisfied that Zero was comfortable, Heero fetched a carrot from the car and returned to the animal. Zero knew what was coming and wuffled happily through his nostrils.
"What?" Heero teased as he hid the carrot, but Zero wasn't easily fooled. He began to search Heero's pockets, soft muzzle lipping at the fabric where he scented the carrot. Zero closed his teeth on the jacket and tugged softly. Heero laughed. "Okay, you win." He reached into the pocket and took out the carrot, offering it to Zero who munched happily on it. With one last pat to the horse's neck Heero headed back to the ring to see how the competition was going.
Duo continued to watch as other competitors made their way into the ring and completed their rounds. None were as fluid or as graceful as the gray and its rider though, in Duo's opinion anyway. There was just a magical something about that combination and Duo began to wonder about the pair. Was he a local person or had he come from another town to compete? Did he own the horse or ride for a stable? What was his name? Was there a chance that he might be gay?
That last thought had Duo shaking his head. God, he was getting desperate! He really needed to get laid if that's how his thoughts were running. Whilst Duo had come to terms with his own homosexuality during university, he didn't broadcast the fact that he was gay. Society was still far too prejudiced in its outlook and two men together was seriously frowned upon. Duo hadn't had much in the way of a sexual life; his studies had taken care of most of his free time. He had occasionally dated girls, more for appearances sake than anything else, but they never did anything for him. He was quite popular with the female set, not just because of his good looks and charming nature, but also because he never tried to do anything more than offer them a good night kiss. No trying to grope at them or drag them into bed. In the eyes of the female population at university, Duo Maxwell was a gentleman. If only they had known the real reason for his lack of sexual interest in them.
He couldn't shake the thought though of the slender, yet compact rider of the gray. 'If wishes were horses then beggars would ride...' He snorted to himself as the old saying played through his head. God, how he wouldn't mind having a roll in the hay with the gray's rider, shit, he wouldn't mind being ridden by that athletic body himself, he'd even let the guy use his whip and spurs if he wanted too!
Fuck! He had to get his mind back of that line of thought, he was already half hard and in public no less! Abruptly forcing his errant brain back under control he tried to focus on the showjumping course which was being raised for the jump off.
Heero has stood in the crowd to the side of the jumping arena and watched the remaining competitors. Once the last rider had gone through there were six of them in total with clear rounds which meant a jump off against the clock. The course was raised and Heero went into the ring along with the other riders to walk the now altered course. They had seven fences to jump, including the brick wall and the triple bar. Heero studied the new course and noted where he could cut corners and shave seconds from the time. Approaching the triple he studied the fence carefully. The height had been raised and the jump now stood at four feet six inches with a five foot spread. Zero had cleared the height before so it shouldn't pose too much of a problem to the animal, Heero mused, but the approach from the previous jump would be the deciding factor, Heero thought. If the horse landed correctly over the wall and Heero swung him out to the right a little he should be able to give the horse a couple of extra strides to gain enough impulsion to clear the fence. That was it in theory; hopefully Heero could put it into practice.
Leaving the ring, Heero went back to the float to get his horse and warm up for the jump off.
Duo sat on the edge of his seat as the first rider entered the ring for the jump off. The electronic timing board had been set and as the horse broke through the invisible beam at the start so the bright red numbers began to count in seconds. The pair literally flew around the course, but Duo could see the animal was beginning to lose momentum. By the time they reached the fifth fence, the horse had begun to flatten and clipped the rails with its hind legs, sending the pole crashing to the ground. It shook the rider who seemed to go to pieces after that and they crashed the wall as well, sending bricks flying. By the time they got to the triple the horse slammed the brakes on and flatly refused to jump.
The second rider came in, a bright chestnut with bounce to its stride and a look of experience in its eye. Duo knew this would be a good round. Sure enough as the horse worked its way around the course so the speed gradually increased but without losing any of the impulsion. The rider brought the animal into the triple with perfect timing, clearing the fence easily and galloping through the finish, setting the goal for the others to chase. Duo looked at the timing clock. 42:68 seconds stared back at him and he gave a low whistle. That was going to be some time to beat. It was heating up to be a very interesting competition.
The third rider came in and set of at a thunderous pace; and promptly came to grief at the third fence. The horse slowed considerably after that and completed the course without any more penalties but with a much slower time. Then the gray came back in and Duo felt his heart leap into his throat. Nervously he watched, wanting the pair to do well.
Heero finished warming Zero up and checked his girth as the steward called his number. Pushing his helmet further onto his head he gathered up the reins and touched the spurs lightly to Zero's side and the horse trotted forward, through the entry and into the arena. Heero ran an eye over the course, mentally going through his head the way he intended to ride it, the short cuts he could take and save precious time.
He saluted the judge and rode towards the start flags. The bell went and Zero leapt into a canter passing through the flags and heading for the first jump. It was a simple brush fence and Zero cleared it easily, ears pricked and looking for the next jump. Heero rode him perfectly, not interfering, leaving it up to the horse to select his take off point. He sat light in the saddle, hands sensitive on the reins and guided the animal around the course only applying the leg when necessary to ensure that Zero had enough energy to clear the jumps and give the horse confidence.
The second element was cleared and the third. Heero began to enjoy himself again. Nothing could compare to the feel of the wind in your face, the smell of the grass and horse and having a powerful animal completely under your control. Zero certainly was a powerhouse of bone, sinew and muscle and sometimes Heero felt as if he were riding a stick of dynamite. The explosive power of the horse as he propelled himself into the air was a feeling that couldn't be compared.
The course was almost finished. The brick wall loomed ahead and he felt Zero falter a fraction in his stride. Heero instantly put the legs on and drove the animal together, encouraging him forward and Zero responded. The jump was a little awkward, Zero twisting his back in mid air to clear the fence with his hind legs and paying the price by stumbling on landing. Heero was a little unseated, pitching forward to bang his nose against Zero's neck but he quickly shoved himself back into the saddle and picked up the reins. There was only one fence left to jump; the triple bar.
Heero tried to get Zero back together, collect him up and get the impulsion going, but the fence was approaching too fast. Zero came into it slightly wrong and put in a very short stride at the last minute. He did his best to get over it, but as the horse launched himself into the air, Heero knew they weren't going to make it.
As Zero stretched to try and make the width so his front hooves tipped the back pole, dislodging it from the cups. Somehow the pole managed to get itself caught between Zero's forelegs and the horse couldn't get them straightened out to take the impact of landing.
One leg hit the ground straight, the other curled and buckled underneath him and Zero went crashing to the ground. His muzzle hit the grass, head folding under him. Heero was pitched forward from the saddle and fortunately tossed to the side as Zero somersaulted over. For a terrifying moment there was nothing but the flurry of scrambling hooves and the grunt of pain from a fallen rider, then the crowd all gasped simultaneously.
Zero struggled to his feet, broken reins dangling and a wild look in his eye. One foreleg was held with only the toe resting on the ground and the horse gave a loud whinny.
Heero saw stars as he connected with the ground, instinctively relaxing and tucking his arms and legs in. His breath left him with a whoosh and grunt and it was a few seconds before he could draw an agonizing breath back into his body. Gingerly he began to test his limbs and try to raise himself from the ground. Everything began to swim and his right shoulder hurt like a bitch but he managed to stand. He heard Zero give a pained whinny and looked around to see where his horse was. His heart stopped and a lump lodged in his throat when he spotted the animal, standing pathetically holding up a foreleg.
"Zero!.." he cried and tried to stumble towards the distressed horse as blackness invaded his vision.
~ * ~
 Colic; this is a very serious illness of the digestive
tract in horses and can be fatal if not treated quickly. It's something
like a stomach ache in humans only with colic usually it means a blockage
in the horse's gut.