Fic 467: Like Wild Horses
Had a rather specific request for some Sniper/Spy that wound up being a little light in the Spy department. Enjoy!
“What on earth is that?”
Sniper looked up to see Spy, cigarette in hand, gazing out into the distance. He dusted off his knees as he pulled himself back to his feet and turned to follow the rogue’s gaze out into the New Mexico desert. Eagle eyes scanned the brush that covered the valley below before being drawn to a strange motion just on the other side of the river. Reaching back, he grabbed his rifle and brought the scope up to his eye.
It took him a moment to find whatever it was in the small view of the scope. Then there it was; blending into the surrounding brush and stone and thrashing for all it was worth.
He brought the gun down and looked over at Spy, who was looking at him with an eyebrow arched questioningly. “It’s a horse.”
“Yeah.” Sniper slipped his arm through the rifle’s strap. “A horse. It looks stuck.”
“And where are you going?” Spy asked as Sniper started down a barely visible game path that skirted close to camp.
“Going to take care of things.”
The rocky stream bed crunched beneath his boots where the summer sun had long since left the earth parched and dry. What had been a roaring river during the spring melt was now barely a stream. Hardly anything to even worry about crossing.
With his rifle slung across his back, Sniper kept his eyes on the flashes of movement ahead of him. Still easy enough to see, but they were growing smaller. It wasn’t surprising with the heat of the day. Who knew how long the beast had been there before Spy had caught sight of it.
He really hoped he didn’t need the rifle.
After a ten minute trek, he got to the other side of the stream and finally got a good look at his quarry. Wide white eyes looked back at him as he knelt down onto the ground, and he could hear the nearly frenzied breaths coming from flared nostrils. The buckskin coat was covered by a light sheen of sweat from the withers down to the black socks at the hooves, and a fleck of white clung to the corner of its mouth. However the poor thing had gotten itself into this mess, it had spent a fair bit of energy trying to get back out.
“Easy there, girl.” Sniper murmured, keeping his voice low as he started slowly creeping forward. “Let’s see what we’ve got here.”
The horse started, throwing it’s head back with a noise that sounded like a scream as its ears lay flat against its head. He froze, holding absolutely still and wondering just how possible it would be for a horse to kick sideways. After a moment, the horse stilled and Sniper took another step forward as he held a hand out in front of him. Hooves stamped on the hard packed earth, and he could still see the whites of its eyes as he inched ever closer.
By now he was close enough to see what had trapped the terrified animal. A nasty bit of fencing wire was snarled around a foreleg. And if that wasn’t painful enough, it had gotten wound around a rather robust batch of brambles, effectively hobbling it where it now stood. The soft buzzing of flies let him know that the poor thing was bleeding and already attracting the desert’s pests.
Carefully removing the rifle from his shoulder, he set it to the side before getting within touching range. “Hey there, sheila. It’s okay, I’m here to help.” His voice was low, the same kind of voice he remembered his old man using back when they had to fish a particularly skittish colt out of the one bloody billabong that ever formed on the farm back in Australia. Whether this horse had ever been touched by a human was anyone’s guess. There was no brand, but on the other hand, most horses tended to act the same when wrapped in a meter of barbed wire. All he could do was try.
He held his hand out in front of him as he made sure to stay in view. The last thing he needed to do was spook it any more than it already was. As he got closer, the horse stilled, even as nervous energy still shook the muscles beneath its skin. “Yeah, that’s good.” He murmured as he lay a hand on the trembling withers.
The horse turned its head to stare at him with wild eyes, and for a moment Sniper was terrified that he’d made a horrible decision. But a rough snort was all that came and slowly, ever so slowly, Sniper started to move again. Letting his hand drag along the sweat slicked coat of the trapped animal, he moved up towards its head and crouched down next to the leg that had become snarled in wire and brush. A small pocket knife was retrieved from his vest and he started to cut away the brush bit by bit, careful not to pull the wire. The kukri or his machete would have made short work of the job, but they would have likely spooked the horse worse than it already was.
Tossing aside the last bit of brush, he then turned his attention to the wire. He breathed a sigh of relief when he discovered that despite the blood, it hadn’t cut very far at all. Still, rusty wire was never good. Finding the end, he gently started prying it away and the horse jerked away.
“Woah, there!” Sniper had to force himself to keep his voice low as he threw his own hands up to protect himself.
Freed from the brush, the horse practically lept away. An agonized whinny was wrenched from it as it landed on its wounded leg; an odd mixture of elation and pain. It stilled after a moment, leaning heavily on its uninjured leg and staring the man a few feet away.
Sniper half expected it to bolt. It’s breathing was still heavy, nostrils flared, but it was still. Its eyes had lost the crazed white, and had returned to the warm brown that he’d seen in many a gentle steed. Long ears flicked forward and it tilted its head expectantly.
“You gonna be still for me?”
Slowly crawling back to his feet, he approached the horse and once again took the wire in his hands. He could feel the horse trembling under his fingers as he worked, but the horse stayed in place. A handkerchief would have to do for wiping away the worst of the dirt and blood. A bandage would be better, but that would have meant good odds of seeing the horse again. With no brand, chances were that it was one of the mustangs that he’d seen periodically since arriving in America. The last thing he wanted to do was leave a wild horse with a dirty bandage. As he contemplated fetching water to give the leg a good rinse, he suddenly felt a draft on his head.
“Oy!” He exclaimed as he looked up to see his hat being held between the horse’s lips. An almost impish wicker and a cheeky toss of the head at least assured him that the injuries were too severe. Standing back up, he tugged the hat away and set it back on his head. “I’ll take that as you’re feeling better.”
The horse shoved its nose into his chest, letting out a huff that tickled as it blew through his shirt. Sniper chuckled and let his hand rub the velvet like fuzz that covered its muzzle. “Friendly girl, aren’t you?”
“I turn my back for a moment, and I find you with a strange woman.”
Both Sniper and the horse jerked up, the horse stamping its tender leg lightly. Spy stood a good twenty feet away, cigarette in hand and a smile on his lips.
“Have you found a new friend?”
Sniper snorted and gave the horse a last pat before turning to face Spy. “She might be wild. Might not. She’s pretty friendly, though.” He added as he grabbed his rifle from where he’d left it.
“Is she alright?”
He hoisted the rifle across his back. “I think she’ll be fine. The injury wasn’t too bad, and I got it pretty clean. Short of a proper visit with a vet, I’ve done the best that can be done. Come on. Let’s get back to camp and get dinner started.”
“I do not think she would be a very good pet. A little big for the camper.”
Amusement crept onto Spy’s face, but before Sniper could respond he was shoved forward by something from behind. He spun around to look into a pair of brown eyes and feel another hot breath across his face.
In the moments that his back had been turned, the horse had closed the gap and was once again nibbling lightly at the brim of his hat.
Sniper could hear the laughter bubbling in Spy’s words. Grabbing his hat before he lost it again, he took a step back with the horse following a second later. He felt a hand grab his elbow and he followed as it tugged him back towards the trail back to the campsite. Falling into step with Spy, he kept glancing back and watching as the horse fell in behind them. He felt a grin creep onto his face, and a giddiness fill his heart in a way he hadn’t felt since he’d been on the farm.
Once he was confident that the horse was intent on following them all the way to camp, he turned forward and gave Spy a nudge. “Guess we have a horse.”
Spy chuckled as he blew a fine plume of smoke. “Fine. But you are cleaning up after her.”