sean x puck

4

“…tomorrow we’ll rule the Scorpio Races as king and queen of Skarmouth and I’ll save the house and you’ll have your stallion. Dove will eat golden oats for the rest of her days and you will terrorize the races each year and people will come from every island in the world to find out how it is you get horses to listen to you.“

2

“That’s a poor match, Sean Kendrick,“ says a voice at my elbow. It’s the other sister from Fathom & Sons, and she follows my gaze to Puck. "Neither of you are a housewife.”
I don’t look away from Puck. I think you assume too much, Dory Maud.”
“You leave nothing to assumption,” Dory Maud says. “You swallow her with your eyes. I’m surprised there’s any of her left for the rest of us to see.”

The First of November

The Scorpio Races Fanfic – @welcometothisby
________________

SEAN

It is the first of November and so, today, someone will die.

I don’t open my eyes immediately. Images from races past wash over me like the bloody tide, pulling at my hands like they want to pull me down. A phantom breeze washes over my face and a phantom surf washes against my calves and my hands curve over phantom reins. My hand rests on a warm body and, for a moment, I can believe I’m touching Corr. Then she speaks to me.

“You aren’t getting up already, are you?” Puck murmurs sleepily. She gathers a handful of our blankets and pulls, giving my feet a cool kiss of morning air as the blanket goes over our heads. “Oof. That was a mistake,” she says, tucking her knees to her chest. She sounds indefinitely more awake now.

“I’m heading to the beach,” I say. I’m going through my morning list for Corr—change his wraps, muck out his stable, take him for a swim to rebuild his strength—and I can do it, if only just, if I start now.

Puck props herself up on an elbow and fixes me with an incredulous stare. Her hair is twisted into fantastic shapes, like those of clouds, and I swear there’s a running horse lurking just behind her ear. Strands of it are attached to our blanket tent. “You can’t,” she says simply. I reach out for her hand and she gives it to me, a smile flitting across her lips.

“Why not?” I press my lips to the inside of her wrist. I speak now with her skin against my mouth. “I have to start now. If I start now, I’ll be finished by the time the races begin.”

Puck frees her hand and runs it through my hair, resting her palm by my temple. “You’re pushing yourself too hard,” she says. “Besides, it’s not even light out. It must be only four, Sean Kendrick, and you remember what you promised me, surely.”

I do. “Stay in bed until six,” I say, and am rewarded with a smile. I smile myself. It’s only the shorter races in the morning. Surely I can sleep for a few more hours. I adjust so my feet are back under the blankets, and close my eyes.

It is the first of November and so, today, someone will die.

But it is not going to be either of us.

PUCK

Reporters flock the beach today, their camera bulbs flashing as they spot promising capaill uisce. They swarm to the rich and powerful and take pictures of them doing rich and powerful things, like frowning dramatically at the rolling clouds, or scratching their bums.

Sean and I separate quietly at Dory Maud’s stand with a simple squeezing of each other’s hand. Dory Maud clucks at me as I approach, which immediately puts a scowl on my face.

“What?” I ask abruptly. I rearrange my teapots on her table, moving the more lopsided ones to the back.

“You and that young man,” she replies, and to my surprise she cackles “I never thought.”

“Never thought what?” I’m rather pleased that I manage to stop my reply here.

Dory Maud follows Sean with an amused eye. “I never thought you two would come true,” she says. “You two are a wish I never thought to hope for.”

I open my mouth, certain that there’s something I can say to this proclamation, but nothing comes. I give myself a few moments before closing my mouth in defeat.

“Ah, a silent Puck. There’s a strange sight,” Dory Maud quips. “What on earth are you doing to those teapots?”

“Some of them came out wonky,” I reply, glad to have something to say. “And before you say something about wonky and people being wonky—”

She interrupts with a wicked gleam in her eyes. “I wasn’t going to,” she says. “I was going to let your future babies do that for me.”

“Dory Maud!” My ears are utterly flaming, I can tell.

Dory Maud just shrugs, pleased with herself.

“I must say, I’d be intrigued to see those children myself,” a familiar voice says in a familiar broad accent. I look up and am unsurprised to see George Holly standing arm in arm with Annie, Dory Maud’s blind sister. He’s wearing a pressed green sweater and about half of Annie’s lipstick.

He’s also holding a gigantic paper bag from Palsson’s, which undoubtedly holds at least a dozen November cakes. Seeing them makes me think of Finn, who likely carefully selected each cake as if his life depended on it. That’s one of the things I’m most grateful for, that my winning the races meant Finn doesn’t have to apprentice with Thomas Gratton. Aside from being able to keep the house, and Sean keeping Corr, the fact that Finn doesn’t have to deal with blood every day means the world.

“Are those to share?” I ask, ignoring Dory Maud’s pointed look and Annie’s unfocused glare. Years of trying to survive on the kindness of others doesn’t go away that quickly. George Holly smiles widely at me pulls out three individually wrapped cakes.

“One for the both of you and one for Mr. Kendrick,” he says, which is strange, because I know he calls Sean ‘Sean’ and he knows I know he calls Sean ‘Sean’. I don’t worry on it, though; tourists never made much sense to me.

I thank him, hand one to Dory Maud, and head off to find Sean.

The crowd parts around me much easier this year. It’s a strange thing, this awareness. We acknowledge you, the movement seems to say. Curious eyes meet my gaze so frequently that I instinctively jut my chin and glare back.

It takes a little while to find Sean. There’s so much movement on the cliffs that I step back and let my eyes relax, the better to find a small corner of stillness. After three minutes I find him standing just off to the side, hands in his pockets, his face the same sharpness as the cliff face. He’s watching the short distance races with a politely distanced expression on his face, and I know it’s not just for show. Sean raced because he loved Corr. He doesn’t now because he still does.

I go up to him from the side, as I would with Dove if she was stressed. I’m not sure why. He doesn’t comment, instead taking my hand as he had this morning. His fingers play with the red ribbon bracelet he’d given me before we raced together.

I miss it sometimes. The exhilaration, the speed. But standing here with him, it’s enough.

SEAN

I’m not watching the races after Puck takes my hand. I accept her November cake, leaving the box in my coat pocket. I think she can tell how nervous I am, because she looks at me from the corner of her eye as the short distance races finish.

They’re calling all those entered for the real race to the starting line and I feel everyone’s attention taughten. Some look at the lineup and then at me and I can tell they’re wondering why I’m not racing. I tighten my grip on Puck’s hand. She runs her thumb across my knuckles.

I breathe in the sea, in the smell of Puck’s hair, in the sensation of her hand in mine, and I am so, so alive.

Then the riders are off.

It’s a bloodbath. The capaill uisce in the middle are the ones I noted early in October, the ones whose riders are lazy or cruel or indulgent, the ones whose reins are just too loose and whose manes are covered in flowers and chains and bells. The ones who are hungriest, the most determined to return to the sea.

It’s over in minutes. It’s an eternity on the beach, but it’s over before I finish my November cake.

“Strange,” Puck murmurs. Her voice is like the sea, and it calls me back to myself. Her eyes mirror the color of the waves. “It seemed so much longer, when it was us.”

And I know at her words that I’m right. It couldn’t have been anyone else. I smile at her faintly.

She narrows her eyes curiously. “What?” I shrug, my usual response. She turns to face me fully, free hand on her hip. “No, what? What’s that face?”

“Will you marry me?”

I’m immediately horrified. This isn’t at all what I planned. She doesn’t reply right away, staring with her mouth slightly open at me. I’m holding a half eaten November cake, my jacket’s streaked with salt from this morning’s swim with Corr, there’s blood on the beach below, and this isn’t what I planned. I have no bread to give her.

She’s still not saying anything. I take my hand back and twist around to reach into the pocket on the other side, and pull out the little box. Puck’s eyes widen as I one-handedly open the box and sink to my knee.

The people around us have noticed now. Reporters point their cameras at us, and I hear excited whispers and our names echo around us as I say, “Puck Connolly. Will you marry me?”

Puck gives me a blazing look that’s belied by the tears streaming down her face and nods. She runs into my arms and knocks me over, laughing through her tears.

“Is that a yes?” I say, laughing slightly myself. I take the ring out of the box.

“Of course that’s a yes,” Puck replies. She wipes her eyes fiercely with her sleeve and I take her hand and slide the ring on.

I sit up, heedless of the reporters taking photos, and kiss her. My arms are full of Puck and my stomach is full of November cake and I’m getting her hair sticky with the honey and icing. And I hear someone that sounds suspiciously like George Holly call out, “What did I tell you? It’s a good thing you aren’t a gambling man, Mr. Kendrick, or you’d be out a lot of money.”

But I wouldn’t have cared.

Puck kisses me back, hard, and our spectators cheer. We ignore them. She smiles underneath my mouth.

It’s the first of November and so, today, our lives will begin anew.

2

Books Meme: Twenty OTPs (1/20)

                                     Sean Kendrick & Kate ‘Puck’ Connolly (The Scorpio Races)

“You swallow her with your eyes. I’m surprised there’s any of her left for the rest of us to see.” 


Sean reaches between us and slides a thin bracelet of red ribbons over my free hand. Lifting my arm, he presses his lips against the inside of my wrist. I’m utterly still; I feel my pulse tap several times against his lips, and then he releases my hand.

“For luck,” he says. He takes Dove’s lead from me.

“Sean,” I say, and he turns. I take his chin and kiss his lips, hard. I’m reminded, all of a sudden, of that first day on the beach, when I pulled his head from the water.

“For luck,” I say to his startled face.

The Night Before

A little fic about the night before the wedding - @welcometothisby
The Scorpio Races Fanfic

_______________

PUCK

I always thought our parents would be here. For some reason, even after they died, I always figured somehow they’d come back for my wedding day. It doesn’t feel the same, without them.

“They’re still here” is what Finn says when I tell him this. He’s standing before the stove wearing an old, paper thin sweater and his bony arms poke through ragged holes in the elbow. He still looks like an orphan even with all the food and money I’ve earned at Malvern’s yard and I don’t know if that will ever change. Maybe looking like an orphan is inevitable when you’re an orphan.

“How do you know?” I ask, curious to know both what he’s thinking and what he’s making on the stove. Finns don’t usually go near the stove, unless it’s to prod hopelessly at a pot of broth until I come home from the stables.

That, or to make his salty hot chocolate, which is in a pot on the burner when he moves to the side. I should’ve guessed. Hot chocolate is the beverage he goes to when he’s stressed or trying to be calm, and the wedding preparations haven’t been easy on him.

Finn clanks a spoon around the pot and says in a measured voice, “I know everything.”

“Finn.”

“They’re everywhere,” Finn says, turning off the heat. He pours some hot chocolate into two mugs and hands me one silently. “I don’t know how you can miss them. I see them every day.” He pauses and looks at his hands. “They’re everywhere in this house.”

He murmurs something about needing to go to Palsson’s to learn about cinnamon twists and finishes off his hot chocolate in one fluid motion. I get to my feet and pull him close in a hug, and I’m surprised by the muscles I feel through his sweater. Finn’s grown up quite a bit in the months I haven’t been looking. Guilt creeps into my bones and rests there with a sad sort of familiarity as he closes the door.

I carry my mug with me as I wander back to my room. Little things jump out at me on the way, like the bookshelf Mum would cover in flowers during the spring, or Dad’s chess set still in place in the living room. There’s a pulled-up bit of carpet in the corner just inside the hallway and I remember the time Finn tried to bury a toy soldier there, and the subsequent aid he got from Dad. And I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and see my mother in my freckles and hair and I believe Finn. This house has so many of their memories we may as well be haunted by their ghosts.

I go into my room and the dress hanging on my closet doorknob gives me pause.

This dress. I touch it lightly, as if it were something soft, as if it were a knife. This was my mother’s.

I hurriedly drink the rest of my hot chocolate and set the mug down on my bedside table. Knowing my luck, I’d spill the entire contents down the front of the gown, and then the first five years of our marriage would be spent paying off loans taken out to buy a replacement. And after the work Dory Maud and Elizabeth put in to alter it, I think I’d die then and there from their scolding more than anything else.

I hold it up against myself and look into the full length mirror I’m borrowing from Elizabeth and I wonder when I’ll be able to look at myself and not see my mother.

I think about Sean, about whether he sent his mother the invitation, about whether he tracked her down. About the kind of person who’d leave their son when they didn’t have to, and I think fiercely that I won’t leave him like that.

The dress casts a pale glow into the room and makes my face more shadowed in comparison. It’s completely out of place here surrounded by my childhood things. It seems strange that I’m getting married when it seems like only yesterday that I was scowling at my parents, or that Gabe pulled my braids, or that Finn sold the Morris. I hug myself tightly. It seems strange. The thought of it exerts a strong pressure on my chest with strong hands and suddenly it hurts to breathe.

“Are you okay?”

I turn sharply to face the doorway and nearly fall over. Gabe’s leaning against the doorframe, concern etched between his brows, and for a moment I can believe that this is normal, that he’s back. That he’s staying.

“I’m nervous,” I confess. I hang the dress back on the closet doorknob. “I trust Sean. I love him. But I feel so young, Gabe, and lost, and I wish they were here. I want to know—” that I’ve chosen right. That they approve.

Gabe, to his credit, doesn’t offer me any empty promises of our parents looking down on us from Up There. He simply walks to me and opens his arms and I fall into them, the way I did when I was younger and when it seemed like a greater age difference between us than six years.

“It’ll be okay,” Gabe says. He doesn’t say that he’ll be here; I know he’s taken a week of vacation time to have come over and helped Sean fix up his parents’ house, but he’s going back to the mainland the day after the ceremony. I only have him for two more days.

There was a time when I thought I had him for forever, but I try not to dwell on that.

“You can write to me,” he continues. I hold him tighter. “I’ll do my best to write back quickly. You haven’t lost me as a brother, Kate.”

I nod against his chest. There was a point, when he was leaving the first time and I entered the races, when I would have yelled and screamed at him that of course I was, that he can’t just leave like this, that him leaving changed everything. But now, being in his shoes, about to leave Finn, I understand.

We stay like that for a long, long time.

SEAN

The house is clean and the windows have been replaced and the door hinges are greased and I’m restless with nothing to do.

I’m thinking about going to check on Corr, but with how agitated and fidgety I am, chances are good that his progress will instead regress and I’ll have another thing to worry about. I ball my hands into fists and rub them against my eyes, sinking to the floor of the kitchen.

It’s late. The sea is already singing to the capaill uisce in the stables at Malvern’s yard, pulling them deeper under its spell. I had been there for so long that just thinking about the whinnies of the tense horses immediately calls forth several memories. I cannot tell if I miss it.

Corr whinnies from his makeshift stable and the sound reminds me that there’s another thing I should do before Puck and Dove move in tomorrow. Right now his stall is very similar to the one he had at Malvern’s, nice and secure, but the rest of the structure is not my proudest piece of work. I sigh. There will be time. After the wedding.

“I’m sorry, Corr,” I whisper into the night air.

“What do you have to be sorry for?” a voice says from the doorway.

I jump so high that I nearly hit my head on the countertop. Heart pounding like Corr’s hooves at a gallop, I get to my feet, searching around for something with weight. This reminds me too much of when Mutt nearly killed Corr. My hand closes around the handle of a long knife.

“You aren’t going to use that on me, I hope,” the voice continues. I pause, thinking. The accent is not one that you’d run into often on Thisby. I let out a deep breath and put the knife down.

“Holly,” I say neutrally, as if he hadn’t just scared me more than anything.

George Holly asks, “May I come in?”

I nod. He comes in, casting a critical eye around the kitchen, and I see the room through his eyes. There’s a wire uncovered by the pantry, a tear in the couch you can see through the archway to the living room, and blue paint spilled from the walls. In this light, the paint looks like blood.

It strikes me that perhaps I’m too familiar with blood.

“Looks nice,” Holly comments finally. He takes a seat at the small kitchen table. “I especially like the spilled paint. Nice artistic touch.”

I smile slightly at this and join him at the table. He steeples his fingers and observes me over them.

I say, “What brings you by?”

“Dory Maud and Annie, actually,” he replies, leaning back in his chair.

“Is that so?”

“Yes. And good thing, too,” Holly says. “You look very, very pale, Sean Kendrick.”

I don’t reply. Odds are very good that there’s something he wants to say, and I’m willing to wait until he wants to speak. We spend some minutes in silence before he laughs.

“I see, I see.” He holds his hands up in surrender. “I give in. I’ll ask. How are you doing?”

“Fine,” I answer. My tone is terse, which isn’t what I was intending. Holly raises his eyebrows.

“Fine? Because you look like you’re on a horse that’s barrelling out of control and you can’t turn it uphill to slow down.”

His words are a little too insightful for my liking. “I’m fine,” I say, nicer this time but still unmistakably broaching no questions. “Why are you here, again?”

“I was told it’s Thisby tradition for the best man to stay with the groom the night before the big day,” Holly replies with a grin. “Isn’t that true?”

“I think so,” I say, honestly unsure. “Most of my time after my father died was spent learning Thisby’s traditions about horses, but I believe that’s true.”

Holly nods indulgently. “Then what kind of best man would I be if I had let you spend this night alone?”

I consider this while he examines the grain of the table. “I suppose it depends on who you’re asking,” I say slowly. “If you were to ask the mainlanders, a normal one. If you were to ask me…” I pause. He looks at me with an earnest expression. “If you were to ask me, a poor one. Thank you,” I whisper, “for coming.”

“You’re nervous,” he says, and it’s less of an observation and more of a fact. I nod. “Don’t be.” I glance up at him now, my eyes narrowed in confusion. “Puck Connolly loves you, Sean. Don’t worry about her feelings.”

I whisper, “Myself I am sure of.”

“Then don’t operate on surety. Trust her,” Holly replies. “Trust doesn’t have to be founded on anything rational, though in your case I’m happy to say it certainly is.”

My mouth had gone dry somewhere in the middle of his comments and my words stick in my throat, but I think he knows what I want to say. He walks around the table to clap me gently on the shoulder.

“Is there anything you need tonight?” Holly asks.

“Can you…can you sit with me?” I reply, wincing at the neediness in my voice. “I need someone to sit with me tonight. I don’t know if I’ll fall asleep, but it would be nice to know that you’re here.”

“Of course,” Holly says easily. He launches into a story about America and about a stallion who’s been giving him trouble, about a mare that he’s named Puck because when she gets hungry she rams headfirst into her stable door. I smile at that.

Suddenly a new fear grips my heart. “Holly,” I interrupt frantically. “Puck. What do I call her tomorrow? What am I supposed to say?”

He frowns, thinking. “You mean, during your vows?”

“Yes. I’ve always called her ‘Puck’, but—”

“But it isn’t her real name,” he says thoughtfully. “I see. Have you asked her?”

I shake my head, tracing a circle on my knee in the hopes that I can steady myself. “No. I haven’t seen her in three days,” I say. “Another Thisby tradition.”

“What a strangely wonderful place this is,” Holly says with a smile. “Well. Which is she to you? Puck or Kate?”

Puck is the answer that immediately comes to my tongue. She’s bold, brash, and loving. Her words are alternatingly biting and soothing. She’s a mess of everything, of all the ocean’s moods. She’s Puck to me. Puck is who I proposed to. Puck is who I’ll marry. Yes. This name feels right on my lips.

George Holly smiles like he knows what I’ve decided. “I think you’ve got your answer, then,” he says.

And for tonight, I believe it can be this simple. If only for tonight.

Pastries

The Scorpio Races Fanfic - @welcometothisby

Kind of goes with this

___________________

FINN

The rich smell of Palsson’s reminds me that everyone on this island is like a pastry.

I was thinking about this earlier when Puck came home with Sean’s jacket and scent covering her body like powdered sugar. It makes sense that they’re together; she’s savory nutty bread and savory nutty bread pairs well with tradition. They’re complimentary.

Puck shows me the simple ring as she leans over the counter and her every gesture is alight with a happiness I’ve rarely seen. Even when she won the races, all I saw was disbelief and frantic concern for Sean. Now, with contentment radiating off her, she looks younger. Like the stress has evaporated, like the flaky pastry that dissolves in your mouth.

Her ring is silver and light and delicate without being fragile and breakable. It strikes me then how well Sean knows her, to know how much she would like the straightforward manner of this ring. She’s nutty bread; Puck’s like the comfort of coming home and coming home doesn’t like fanfare or change. This ring doesn’t herald fanfare or change;  it heralds them, and they were as inevitable as the races even without the ring.

I smile as she tells me how Sean almost dropped the ring, how the honey from his November cake caught in her hair when she kissed him. She paints the scene as lovingly as I frost the cakes in the window.

Puck is nutty bread. There’s nothing else she could possibly be.

Palsson comes over to show me how to properly roll out the dough for the cookies and I ask her, “When are you going to tell Gabe?”

I don’t need to look at her to know that she’s wearing her thinking face, complete with fierce brow furrowing and mouth puckering. I take over from Palsson and wait patiently for her to speak. Palsson goes out from behind the counter to talk to a woman I vaguely recognize as the wife of one of our father’s friends.

I glance at Puck and she’s looking vaguely out the window toward the mainland as if she can see Gabe and is trying to bring him home with the force of her gaze.

The bell jingles merrily over the door as George Holly strolls in, bringing with him the aura of mainland sophistication and grace as well as an overcast cloud calling for rain. He’s wearing one of his questionable hats again today. He casts a critical eye over the cakes in the display—I’m dying to know what he thinks—and approaches us. He leans on counter and mirrors Puck’s pose, though I can’t tell if he does this on purpose.

George Holly. George Holly is apple pie, but apple pie that’s been made here on Thisby. The island has sunk its claws into him and isn’t letting go.

“Hello there, Finn, Puck,” he says. Puck and I share an amused glance over his accent. “I see you’re keeping busy,” he continues, with a nod at my dough.

I nod. “I’m learning loads,” I say, and it’s difficult to keep from breaking into a huge smile. I quickly turn my attention back to the cookie dough and try to remember where the cookie cutters are.

When I come back Puck and Holly are talking about the proposal again. I keep a sliver of my mind focused on their conversation and focus the rest on maximizing the number of car cookies I can create from this batch of dough.

George Holly is apple pie and apple pie to me necessarily means America. It means big cars and square jaws and the pictures we see in the mainland magazines. Apple pie means familiarity, the way Holly has started to look at Skarmouth like he misses it already and only wants to leave so he can return again. If he asked, I’d tell him to keep a house year round, but for some reason people rarely ask my opinions.

Apple pie means America but it’s something that our mother made when she was in a baking mood, so it means Thisby too. Just like George Holly necessarily means America but has come to mean Thisby too. It’d be strange for October to come without seeing him.

I carefully gather the tray of cars into my arms and take it to the ovens. I can’t help bouncing slightly on my toes as I return to the counter. These are my first batch of cookies, the first thing I’ve baked nearly on my own, and I want so desperately to be proud of them.

Holly’s saying something like “it was only a matter of time” and Puck beams wider than I’ve ever seen her smile. And then I think about how much less I’ve seen her the past few years, what with her job at Malvern’s, and then I think about how much less I’ll see her once they marry.

I think I’m finally becoming an orphan.

I frown at my hands.

“Sean!” Holly says with great enthusiasm. Sean has just come in the door, a great mess of sharp edges and angles that for a moment I don’t understand how Puck can hold him. But then he softens and comes to life and he smiles at her, a shy little thing, and I get it. I pretend to be busy counting the bags of flour that sit just behind the counter while I think on it to make sure, and then I know.

Sean Kendrick is November cakes. I look at him with his fingers lightly touching my sister’s. He’s November cakes. Sean Kendrick is the foundation this island is built on; he’s the sky and the sea and the sand and the capaill uisce and there’s nothing more fundamental than he to the Scorpio Races. And there’s no other pastry that fits Thisby quite like November cakes.

“What do you think, Finn?” Sean asks quietly. His voice is soft but it’s like the ornamental frosting on Palsson’s wedding cakes and it’s impossible to ignore.

“About what?” I ask, slightly stunned. Sean Kendrick asking for my opinion is about as rare as Thomas Gratton dancing, though the latter has actually happened before.

“About which kind of pastry to serve at our wedding,” Puck says. She leans against him like he was Dove and he puts his arm around her shoulder.

I consider the two of them, and then I say, “Savory nutty bread and November cakes.”

George Holly tilts his head to the side in the picture of sophisticated confusion. “Is this another Thisby tradition? Savory nutty bread and November cakes?”

“No,” I say, and I explain my logic.

Sean holds Puck a little closer when I’m done and there’s something suspicious about the brightness of his eyes. I fidget uncomfortably under the weight of their gazes. Suddenly I wish I was working on the old car engine, or fiddling with the fence by Dove’s stable. Anywhere but here, with this ocean’s weight of attention.

Puck’s the one who finally speaks. “How long have you been thinking about this?” she asks, and I know her well enough to know how her voice sounds when she’s swallowing tears. What a strange thing, that tears and happiness should follow so close behind each other.

I shrug. “Since this morning,” I say offhandedly. Holly opens his mouth but I interrupt him with, “You’re apple pie.”

He laughs delightedly and takes off his hat. “That’s appropriate.”

Puck looks up at Sean with her hair falling in her face and says, “I think it’s brilliant.” He nods silently in agreement and now she looks at me and takes my hand. She’s getting flour all over herself, but Puck’s never cared about getting dirty. “Thank you, Finn.”

We exchange a few more comments about pastries and burnt dough and the possibility of a storm later before Holly checks his large watch and waves farewell. Puck, Sean, and I watch him saunter out of sight down the street.

Sean sighs and rubs his eyes with the heel of his palm. He looks like the sea has used him to sharpen its waves. I work on another batch of dough while Puck plays with Sean’s free hand, her ring glinting like a capall uisce far out in the darkest part of the sea.

“What are you?” Puck asks abruptly. I furrow my brow at her. “Which type of pastry?” she clarifies, and waits expectantly. Sean looks at me as well, a measured expression on his face.

“I don’t know,” I reply. I thought about myself as well, but there isn’t a type of pastry that seems lost and uncertain. Not even the breads. “What do you think I am?”

Puck considers me and as soon as she does I feel the seeds of panic start to sprout up from my abdomin. I both dread and hunger to hear what she’s thinking. Sean’s hand twitches in hers. Her eyes catch on my hands with the dough.

“I think you might be the dough,” she says slowly. “You have so much potential in front of you, Finn, so much promise. You don’t have to know what type of pastry, or what type of person, you are yet.” She laughs here, a strangely heavy thing that wouldn’t be airborne were it a bird. “How can we? Gabe’s the one who knew our parents best, and he—” She swallows hard. “And I could’ve—and left you all alone—”

And all of a sudden Puck, my sister born of vinegar, is sitting in the pastry shop crying thick and fast tears. She cries and hiccups at the same time and she sounds like she can’t get air and I set about making her hot chocolate with salt.

“Thanks,” she whispers hoarsely as Sean rubs her back in a strong, soothing motion. She fixes me with a watery stare. “You’re undetermined. You might not know who you are, but you’ll find out. And you won’t be alone, Finn. You may be the dough, but you won’t rise on your own.”

I touch the tips of my fingers to the corners of my eyes briefly to keep from crying myself before I realize Puck made a baking joke. I shoot a questioning stare at her and she’s grinning tearfully, amused by herself.

“That was a terrible pun,” I say, and flick my fingers so the flour cascades over her head.

“You have dough on your chin,” Puck replies. She takes my hand and squeezes it lightly. I give her an awkward hug over the counter. “I’ll always be here, if you need me,” she murmurs into my shoulder. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Not like Gabe is what she doesn’t say but we both hear it as if she had screamed it.

“I’ll send him a letter,” she adds. “He left his address the last time he visited. I’ll write and tell him and threaten him until he promises to at least visit.”

“Okay,” I say. My voice catches in my throat and comes out squeaky. I cough into my elbow and repeat “Okay” and this time it’s nice and deep. I smile. Puck rolls her eyes.

Sean intertwines his fingers with Puck’s with a wonderstruck expression on his face, as if he can’t believe he can actually touch her like that. “We’d better get back to the stables,” he says, mostly to Puck but partly to me as well. “I need to check on Corr.”

She nods. “I’ll be home before dark,” she promises me, and I watch them set off toward Sean’s house. The sun illuminates Puck’s hair and glimmers on her ring and I can almost see the shape of her laugh as Sean whispers in her ear.

They leave. I pull my cookies from the oven and frost them while the dough rises, the smell of freshly baked bread circling my head. I frost little headlights and door handles and on one of them I frost their initials, and I smile.

Then I hide little memories on the others. Like the sun at Tommy Falk’s funeral, and Corr standing over Sean, and the time Puck asked me about the weather. I frost a tiny boat in memory of our parents on a tiny tire.

This is right. I smile wider. I’ll remember, and grow, and we’ll be safe here, on this island of giants.

Outside it finally starts to rain.

I wait for the bread to rise.