A/N: Shire stallions average slightly more than 17 hands (68 inches, or 173 centimetres) in height and weigh as much as 2,000 pounds (about 900 kilograms). The modern Morgans average about 14.1 to 15.2 hands in height and from 900 to 1,100 pounds (400 to 500 kg) in weight.
She gazed out past the stables and barns, over the extensive latticework of paddocks, toward the massive pastures and sighed. It was over, finally, after a good ten years without any sort of human touch, very little contact and less speech that wasn't either coming out of a phone or from a television set. She picked her handset up with her good hand and clumsily called a number she'd not been allowed to use in far too long, eyes on a wall calendar where she'd put the latest careful notations of their schedule. Unless she'd screwed something up, they were on duty...and she'd had enough untreated assorted injuries over the years that some were coming back to bite her butt. Gout and a few issues with a ligament in the same joint, a faulty rotator cuff in one shoulder and a nasty bite she'd got from a yearling this morning were the minuscule parts of the list. But, the bite was deep so...and this time she didn't have to just suck it up and deal with it herself, by herself. She'd never been able to bear the touch of strangers...but it was finally okay to allow the proper hands to deal with it do so. The right hands, the right touch...the right people.
The familiar voice on the line made tears come to the young woman's eyes as she gave her address, something they'd not had, ever. She sniffled a little over the phone, caught the patient 'Calm down, hon, just tell me what's wrong.' and smiled a little, then proceeded to stun Mike Stoker.
"Sorry, Uncle Mikey, I just haven't heard your voice in a really long time...I didn't mean to...anyway..." She deliberately let another sniffle out and used a distinctly childish whine. "I've got a yearling colt with a temper problem...and one of my newest grooms made him mad and he bit me good and proper, when I went in to get him settled down. And here I actually thought I'd get home without being cut up fresh, but...I guess not. But it's still my homing year so...you can either send them to me or join them, if you want...engine's not actually needed, but ya'll can play tag-a-long. No sirens for the last quarter mile though, because if you two panic my horses I'm going to have Johnny show you and Roy how to catch them and then the rest of us will leave you two to it. I'll just have John tell Morton to make it a house call instead of going in, so I don't miss the fun. He can sew me up easier if I have a good distraction anyway, so the porch will do fine. Watching you two try to catch compettitve jumpers and cross-country hunter class horses on foot...and heavy hunters at that, will be fun! "
She heard his bellow of startled laughter and the Rabbit's confused questions could be heard over Stoker's end..
"Go ahead and laugh, I did good, y'know: I've got a stud farm, Morgans for John and Vanners for me, plus dogs for Roy, close to even horse numbers in the pastures and paddocks, though and that means about three hundred head. That's a whole lotta horses to catch if you scare the jumpers and hunters: Y'all could be at it for days...heavy hunters, I use ."Clydesdales for heavy hunters, y'know? Don't have many, just started cuz I was bored with John's flimsy, flighty Morgans...none of my Vanners bite. My best heavy hunter is actually a Shire mare, she's huge and she doesn't bite. But Morgans are what John likes so that's what I have for him."
She listened patiently as he got his laughter at her description of Gage's favorite breed under control, then as he called it in...as a station response. And she smiled a bit, though her eyes were still streaming tears. "Missed you, too. Please don't warn them until they've parked, they'll be worried the bite is worse than it is...it's bad, but not abnormally so for the size teeth we're discussing. And yeah, it's dripping like a leaky smallish hose...one of your's, not the garden variety: It's just that it's in a spot that's impossible to reach and I'm pretty sure I'm going to need some of Morton's needlework...he's got delicate, little girly fingers, so his sutures are smaller and neater than Joe's. Best tell them it's on the rear of my upper arm, I have to use two mirrors to even see it and it's got bits of my shirt sticking out of the tooth holes."
Stoker warned Roy about the siren issue on the radio...and the caller's threats about what she would make the two drivers do if they scared her jumping or hunter class stock, which made Gage hoot with laughter.
"She said she's bored with Morgans, who are flighty, according to her...and has started breeding Clydesdales for heavy hunters...also said her best hunter is actually a Shire mare who she made a point of saying does not bite. She breeds the Morgans because they're her best friend's favorite...her favorites are her Vanners."
"Sounds like a regular firecracker." Roy commented, grinning at John's wince at the insult to his favorite breed. as they left the station.
"She also said one of the yearling colts bit her, as she put it, good and proper. And she wasn't telling half of it, from her voice. She was trying to hide how much it hurts, I think, but the sniffles gave it away. She said he's got a temper issue so he might've been ticked off when he nailed her. Said a new groom had made him mad and she'd gone in to try to settle him."
"Yeah, yearlings can be a bit nippy when unhappy, still babies in some ways so they have tantrums sometimes." John agreed. "I guess she knows she needs help, but she's a horsewoman so she wants to be tough and not...well. At least she did ask for help when she needed to."
"She also said it's in a bad spot...utterly out of reach." He passed on what she'd said about using mirrors to get a look at it and her shirt.
"Ouch. That does sound like he got her pretty good." Roy told his wincing partner. "Well, we're only about seven minutes out now and we'll fix it. Glad she mentioned it, though I think we can ease most of it out of the wounds when we clean them, if not all of it."
Johnny only nodded. He'd had one or two bites like that over the years of dealing with horses and the worst of his old scars ached in sympathy with his newest patient. "Bites are a part of life around horses, on second thought, she likely only called because it was in a spot where she couldn't tend to it herself." He told Stoker.
"No, that's not why." Mike told him mysteriously. "It's because she wanted to call you, could and didn't have to pretend she didn't need to when she did, just because she couldn't."
"Whaaa?" Kelly wondered aloud, confused again by the engineer's odd behavior on this call. He wasn't alone.
As soon as Roy set his parking brake, cut the squad's motor on the sloping front yard of the house and opened his door, Mike warned them both. They needed not to be going in blind on this one. She'd expect a certain kind of behavior from them...and shock was probably not the best thing for her to see on either of them.
"Told me bluntly that the engine wasn't needed, but it was okay if the rest of us tagged along." Stoker snorted, "Made us sound like strayed children in need of supervision." He commented, listening to his crew's laughter and his captain's exclamation of disbelief. He wasn't one bit surprised at the appearance of that crooked little grin of John's or the sudden light in Roy's eyes as the paramedics headed for the screen door, the inner one was wide open as were most of the windows.
"Explains why he was laughing like a hyena while he was talking to the caller at the station." Chet commented. "She must have been cracking jokes and pretending the bite isn't just as bad as it sounds and probably worse."
"Yep, sniffling, trying to pretend she wasn't crying and swore it was an average bite for the size animal forgetting, I suppose, that I also have horses and know exactly how big the teeth are on a horse that age: She didn't want to worry Roy while he was driving." Mike nodded at Kelly. "Then she ruined it when she threatened us both in the next breath."
Marc just laughed, that was the station's mascot all over. "She'd do it, though."
"Yes. She definitely would...which is why I cut mine."
"Sweetheart?" Gage called.
"John? You're really here?" She sounded tense and strained...and he could hear the tears she was trying to hide in her voice.
"Of course. Where are you, baby-girl?"
"Down the hallway on the right, third doorway. I took an educated guess and decided the mud room would probably be the best place to wait and the easiest to clean later. I can feel it trickling, still, it's still dripping pretty bad. I was hoping to get it off in the shower in a bit. Got out some hospital clothes, too. And I pulled out a pre-packed station bag...it's on the couch out there."
"I've got it, kiddo." Hank called down the hall. "I'll put it in their stokes."
"Well," Roy drawled as they entered a moment later, "It's both well equipped and huge...we'll get you cleaned up a bit." Roy grinned slightly at a pile of loose, soft nightwear; a floppy, thick cotton gown and a bathrobe, both items were miles too big for her, on one of the mudroom benches: It was a familiar robe, too. "So, that's where my bathrobe went."
"I've got some of Johnny's t-shirts too. And three of Uncle Marco's socks...dunno why I have an extra one. I don't have three feet."
John chuckled as he and Roy got her positioned straddling one of the benches, facing him and leaving Roy full access to that bite wound. She got a careful, if tight hug from John first and she was shocked to feel the man trembling a bit as he did so.
"You okay, John?"
"Yeah." His eyes were a little wet but he nodded. "Missed you, is all."
"There's a lot of that going on." Her voice had gone soft, husky and rasping. "Trust me on that. I wanted to be home with you and Roy so bad that I went down into the cellar some days just so I could have a tantrum without scaring the stock. Didn't go far, though. Couldn't." She told them as they got her out of the ruined shirt.
"Probably as well you were wearing a strapless bra, won't be wearing anything on that side for a while with the way I think it will swell." John told her, leaning over her slightly to look. "I've had enough bites of my own..."
"Well, HQ got their way, but it's over now...and we're not letting you outta our sight again any time soon." Roy told the girl bluntly as he gently prodded a bit at the bite.
"Good. I don't want to be."
"Yeah, nasty, that." Roy told John as he reached for the handset.
She tried to reassure him, even though she did know it was probably useless with John there to puncture it. "Roy, even a yearling horse's teeth are on the size large side, but it's not like he's grown, after all; for the size animal, the bite itself is average. He just got me in a nasty location. Probably looks like a somewhat butchered raw pot roast, but it could've been a lot worse."
She let Gage get her vitals which actually helped quite a bit to steady her and just rested her head against his chest once he'd finished, cuddling as close as she could get to the dark-haired man, while giving Roy full access.
"He's in the closest paddock...but you can go have a look at the size teeth of the fully mature stallions in the Morgans' stallion barn, if you want. Like I told Uncle Mike, the Morgans are for Johnny...my horses are the Vanners. I've got dogs for you. You like dogs more than you do horses."
"No need, the way John's nodding." Roy told her wryly, after he called it in. He loaded a needle with the ordered morphine and handed it to Gage for her undamaged arm and a bag of something to deal with the blood loss along with the tubing needed and an IV needle, normal stuff for them ...she'd bled worse than she could really see at this angle. Then handed him a 40mg tablet of Lisinopril, to get her pressure down...it was high enough to scare them both, as well as Joe.
John started getting her moved for the shift her into Roy's arms and told DeSoto to let him deal with the bite wound, "I've had a lot of direct experience with horse bites, after all...she won't try offering me spurious reasons why it's 'not really that bad', like she's been doing with you." He eyed her and smiled at her blush. "Or Stoker, for that matter...you had forgotten he's got a stable, too, when you tried to distract him, didn't you?"
John chuckled. "Yes, a yearling's teeth are somewhat smaller than a mature stallion's, but he's still a horse...and then too, Roy was looking at the bite...it's still a bite from a large animal, Sweetheart...he doesn't need to be a horseman to deal with it."
"Been too long, missing obvious stuff." She sighed. "Concentrated on him not being horsey...like you."
"Yep." He nodded, but hugged her again, before looking down at his partner. He shrugged. "Besides, she'll settle faster if she's laid half on top of you anyway.
"Cuz he's my Snuzzlebear...part pillow, warm and comfy." She chuckled wetly, tucking herself in on DeSoto's lap, head under Roy's chin and started to shiver in pure reaction, but the reaction was due to their presence. Both men knew it, too. Horse bites, while painful, were an infrequent but still normal part of her life.
"Yeah, Joe knows it too, probably why he ordered the morphine." Roy snorted at the old nickname, but the girl's laughter had been watery at best. John's embrace had loosened the tight hold she had on her emotions, so when Roy got his around her and pulled her close, the tears started coming almost at once. They were quite aware that this was stress dumping, mostly, but also that it had absolutely nothing to do with the bite or the discomfort of John working the bits of cotton fiber out of the shallow tooth holes and everything to do with the embrace of the man cradling her in his arms.
"Yeah, get that outta her...better if she loses it sooner than later." John nodded sharply, the sheer loneliness of the cries she made, had his gut clenching. Roy wasn't far behind him and from the expressions on the engine crew's faces, they weren't any better off.
"Glad the Morgans are for you though, cuz it means I don't have to deal with him or his temper anymore." She told the grinning Gage two hours later as they were leaving the E.R.. "Plus, the tiny string of geldings you usually have, have stalls waiting for them in the Pet barn." Her head was laid on his shoulder as he carried her, unwilling to release her slight figure to a wheelchair. She was lighter than he liked and the morphine had made her woozy.
"You showing any or competing?"
"Then yeah, as they're not breeders."
"Got a few mares from a place called Waterpot." He told her slyly. "Dealt with the barn manager, apparently. And she apparently refunded my purchase, or never cashed the check. Makes sense if you'd already put all the Morgans in my name, doesn't it?"
"Did you now?" She sniffled, "Had to tell her right from the start not to tell me customer names unless they were being a problem. Lots of people I knew were coming by and I wasn't allowed to...if I'd known you were there; so close..."
"I know." He held her a little closer. "Not allowed to stay...it would have hurt both of us."
"Still your's, told you that. You can go through the stud books and see if you want to breed them." She told him as she used her lifetime ridealong status for the first time in years and slid in next to Roy. "I think Roy's going to like my Vanners better than the Morgans. He's got Blueticks. He'll like the hounds, I think."
"I want to show you why I named it Waterpot, soon as I lose the sutures." She told them later. "You're going to like this...have you noticed it's been a good while since there's been a forest or brushfire in my part of the state?" She grinned, thinking about the beaver she'd added to control the snow-melt and the reservoir on her lands.
"Yeah, and the whole department is bracing itself for the next one."
"Well, the whole department can calm down, then, I've got this one."