2010-12-25: Into The Horizon



Date: December 25th, 2010


… never mind that there's no sunset yet; there is nevertheless riding off at the end of a journey.

"Into the Horizon"

Echo, Wyoming

Wherever it is that Maggie plans to break into, it's certainly not where she goes. Instead, she pulls John's old truck into the same, increasingly driveway they left from, bumping along the snowy path toward the ranch house. Even the most gentle of snowflakes have stopped, and the sky is a nearly impossible shade of blue, barely a cloud in a vast sky completely pure of the pollution of a city. Maggie is buoyant she eases the truck into a stop alongside a deceptively rickety-looking old fence and unbuckles. The ranch isn't uninhabited — a few distant figures mosey around outside one of the nearby barns, marked most pointedly by the silhouettes of cowboy hats more authentic than Laurie's and a good deal more appropriate than Curtis's. They work at keeping the ranch in shape. There's always something to be done, even on Christmas, and no one complains about the ranch's owner being away. Not today of all days.

Maggie has a hat, too, pulling it out of her coat pocket now that they've stopped. "Sprucetree Lane," she announces without provocation. "There's a left turn a couple minutes before the wildlife center. It's just straight after that, right past the town square. It's the house with the red door." She pulls down the simple winter hat of white knit wool over her head. It does nothing to toughen her image — in fact, it does the exact opposite and, were there any seriousness on her face, it would probably have been made completely irrelevant now. Hands pressed to rosy cheeks adjust it cosily over waves of blonde before she dangles the keys between she and Laurie. "I'm going another way…" An exaggerated assessment works him over up and down. "You can come with me if you want… but I don't know," she draws out, "I wouldn't want to break you after I just sewed you up…"

Laurie, his lower lip slightly out in petulance, listens to her instructions with a tinge of sure, that's interesting that's purely sarcasm. "It's true," he's ready to heartily agree, however, when it comes time, "For I am tender and easily felled." Sarcasm rating has switched to none as he gives a little sigh, bringing his hand along the front of his jeans to swipe dust or stray hairs from the denim. Besides the sweater, he's retrieved from the car a long black winter's jacket, buttoned military-style across his chest. "But," lips press together, drawing his mouth into a thin, indeterminate line of difficult choices. They smack slightly on parting, emphasizing his dilemma. "Someone once told me this is something I should see…"

"Pretty tender," Maggie agrees also without sarcasm, only a lively dose of humour — if not in her voice, then today's nearly relentless smile. Dilemma — what dilemma. "But the sutures are tougher. They are meant for horses…" Clasping her hand — gloved, today, also in white — around the keys with a decisive jingle, she pushes her way out of the truck with movements slightly stiffer than usual and raises her voice once she's outside in the cool air. Despite the ever-present wind, it seems a calmer force than yesterday's angry weather. "If we go fast, it won't hurt," she says before swinging the door shut, calling out: "Have you ridden a horse before? I don't mean 'have you read about it in a book once', I mean, do you ride."

"Yes, I… picked up on that when you asked 'have you ridden a horse before'…" Laurie's narrowed his eyes either for weather or a critical examination of her over this backwards clarification. They remain squinted while he gives the truck door a secure pat after it's shut, strolling out around the front of the vehicle, a slow and unhurried pace following Maggie's. The leisure lends to his slow, searching expression, digging for the most appropriate answer to her question in what is likely a head full of complete nonsense ones. After a second, it's both obvious he has no good one, and is completely aware of that: "… I've— been kicked by a donkey once…"

It's Laurie's turn for a critical examination; Maggie's is short-lived, ending in a questioning, and vaguely dubious, arch of her eyebrows toward the hem of her hat. "Interesting trivia… I can't say I'm surprised. Not really an answer… was that a no?" It seems, whatever the answer, she's heading for the barn. Beyond it lies a similar wood-hewn structure: stables. The open space out front has been swept clean, partly by wind, partly by labour, and the rest trampled by hoof prints. She tucks her hands in her pockets as she walks ahead; faster than Laurie, but there's a certain leisure to her strides. "We'll try to avoid kicking today." She frees the latch on a small wooden gate and swings it open with a lazy creak, checking back on Laurie's following; still smiling, she gives an easy nod along her shoulder to the ranch's buildings. "Well, come on, then."

* * *

Dim compared to the bright outside world, the stables are getaway full of big, rustling bodies and heavy breath, a dozen pairs of eyes and ears all shifting to curiously investigate the newcomers stall after stall. The air is warmer, and laden with the undeniable scent of equines and hay.

Paused in her endeavour in order to let one of the men working around the ranch know that Forrester's visitors are not, in fact, stealing any horses — at least not permanently — Maggie is stepping through the open doors for the second time, steam swirling in front of her as her shouts hit colder air just outside. "…No, that's alright, I'll be leaving soon! … across the country! Merry Christmas Vick!"

Only Laurie and the horses are privy to the small roll of her eyes when she turns around, giving the casual explanation, "Everyone knows everyone in Echo." Maggie's cheer is back on high as she resumes: she fetches a bridle. Unlike inside the Forresters' house, she seems to know where everything is out here; she moves around the stable without guesswork or hesitation, going straight to everything she needs. There's a content ease surrounding her as she moves from spot to spot, and an ever-present undercurrent of delight; she's at home here amongst the horses.

As it turns out, the bridle is for the first horse in the row. He boasts the widest stall because he needs it; he stands taller than every other, something of a giant among giants, a bay stallion that must have workhorse in his blood somewhere. The bridle hangs in her grip as her other hand spends some time on the calm horse's colossal head, rubbing down over the white streak that makes an arrow toward his nose. She looks to the other stable guest. "He's checking you out to see what you're like; I think he likes you," she says pleasantly of the horse; even though the dark, heavy-lashed spheres of the big beast's eyes seem alert, they don't seem to look straight at Laurie. Tall ears, however, swivel toward him. "If you don't have any experience— " An assessing look narrows at Laurie; brief, as the horse's head cants back and forth and Maggie sways easily out of the way, her attention drawn fondly back to the creature. "We could ride together since it's not far. But he's good with strangers, if you wanna take him…" Either way, she steps aside slightly so, presumably, the two can get acquainted.

Still leisured, Laurie's sauntered into the stable not much further than Maggie left him when she returns, and he loiters unproductively in a single spot, eyeing down not immediately the visions of this new world, but the comfort with which the woman navigates it. His open admiration tracks smoothly from her to the horse she pays attentions to. More than the eyes, he studies the beast's attentive ears, deflecting away from a confrontational stare-down with the animal, even if he should seem to be looking elsewhere. "How… can you tell?" He queries the more experienced presence, full of healthy curiosity, and not doubt of her abilities to know. It seems to speak to the lack of experience she eyes for — contradicting the confident way the consultant approaches the horse's stall from a knowing diagonal, keeping to the horse's unique vision while, getting nearer, he only hums quietly. It isn't the merry, preemptive to singing, hum of the kitchen, but a low, comforting signal of his position. He's still slow, and his hands come out of his pockets languidly. "What do you say, buddy…" he mutters, Maggie swept from view and reply, "… wanna take me?"

"He's being friendly. His ears, the way they're pointed up and toward you," Maggie replies while she busies herself with adjusting the bridle's bit in her hands. As if responding to the humans, the horse's head raises upon a thick neck well-muscled to carry its weight, his nose bumping toward Laurie, big dark eyes looking down a bit more obviously at his would-be rider in his horse-specific line of sight. A few of the other horses are more restless than he; they shift about with a feeling of anticipation.

Smiling at this little development between Laurie and the horse, Maggie loops her foot around a nearby footstool and drags it close to step onto, standing comfortably tall to fit the bridle onto the taller horse. It's a bit of a process, every part of the trappings playing their role, but he doesn't seem to mind, and Maggie gives intermittent soft words to the creature throughout, the art of perfecting its fit after a few years away from this world far from rusty. She steps down and starts to open the stall. "I have a feeling you'll be just fine at this," she says over to Laurie. A gentle statement, a matter of opinion instead of reassurance; it's not as though he looks remotely nervous. She hands the dangling reins over to him. "Lead him out nice and slow…"

Just like she lets him lead the horse, she lets him put the saddle on, encourages it; she keeps a close, but not critical eye on Laurie while she readies an eager chestnut thoroughbred from a nearby stall, another animal she seems familiar with. Every so often, she's there with gentle instruction beyond the technical tasks Laurie seems to have down. An inquisitive eye is lent Laurie's way just as frequently for the way in which he interacts with the horse and its gear.

Outside where Laurie ought to be ready to mount, Maggie leads her horse around while her own two feet are still on the ground. Keeping a distance — her horse is a little rowdier, and seems to very much want to get at Laurie's, popular stallion that he is, a fact Maggie keeps calmly astride of — it's with a wondering smile that she addresses Laurie. "Careful with your sutures." They'd have to be strong sutures to sew the likes of a powerful horse like Laurie's — as they were meant for — but nevertheless, concern; they're not ignorable. "But just go for it. He's doing fine." She smiles again, head tilting, expressing picture perfect curiousity. "You're very cautious."

The caution is apparent once Laurie's seated on the giant stead — a size that actually compliments the man's own height, his length of legs around the stallion's sides where his fancy boots rest with slight tension in stirrups. It's not with nervousness that he glances over his own knee to the ground below, or anything recognizable as fear; it's more akin to respect, a no-nonsense knowing of the stallion's capabilities. Getting up, the twist of rising into the saddle, was another font of contradictions; Laurie, fearless and free of hesitation, battling his own body's stiffness, and a waning flexibility of motion when injuries react with an instinct he'd as soon deny. Go for it, as a cheer, is legitimate, but a beat or so late.

No, the wariness is born of something else and, as Maggie inquires, Laurie repositions his hand more relaxed on the pommel, reins in a natural, if passingly uneasy, grip. "The last time I was around a horse," he describes, gaze moving to the horizon; he indulges the stallion a couple of paces, but no more — in short bursts of traded control between them, "was for a case," easy enough; but he tips his head a little guiltily, even if the emotion never makes it into his voice, "I… well, I stole him. Horsenapped, I guess…" he makes to gesture with his right hand, but it only serves to remind him to give it a good scratching beneath the leather gloves. "So, you can imagine, this being my first time — and illegal — I'm— really, I have no idea what I'm doing on a horse, thus, naturally, he decides he's picking our pace, and he'd like to have some fun. And it's— well, it's pretty fast. We get to back to the base camp, oh, in minutes… and… the thing is," abandoning the itch, he comes to rub spread fingers and thumb around his chin in casual reminiscence, "They've set up this barricade without telling me…"

That statement is left in the air just long enough for one to truly come to the weight of its conclusion. Left to imagination; Laurie moves on with a purse of his lips, and a little enjoyment, "Anyway, they tell me I went right over this horse's head. Got up— " not that he's bragging; he's not, "Brushed myself off. Ended up spending Jocelyn's birthday in the hospital, and for her present, she makes me promise— " tip of the head, a timely beat, "No more horsing around." Ba dum psh. Little shake of his head, and Laurie's face returns to pensive to indulge: "Heard he broke his leg a little after that; it's too bad… Sweet fellow; Charismatic, that was his name."

A hundred percent invested in listening to Laurie's story, Maggie doesn't miss a twist — or a motion of him and his horse in the present, meanwhile. Her face plays out an expressive series of reactions — mostly entertained, some wincing, some surprised. It's with an amused open mouth and raised eyebrows that Laurie's story ends, and she gives a bit of a pause, thinking… there's a hint of laughter through her words: "I remember… that name, don't I— you stole a race horse. I remember, I'd just been back here a few years when he was getting popular. No wonder he was fast, Miles! Aaalright— "

Amusement is still reigning high as she takes her turn. Up and at 'em. Maggie's secure grapple of the horse's dark mane is especially necessary leverage to haul her today but, regardless of stiffness clinging from Christmas Eve's rigorous adventures, the movement of her body up, one leg swinging over to mount is smooth, practiced, and confident. The horse dances about for a moment in spot and she quickly calms the animal without fuss. The thoroughbred isn't as massive as Laurie's, but tall— just tall enough to fit her own long legs comfortably.

" — We'll try to avoid a repeat performance. Give him a walk around, we'll make sure you've got the commands down." She walks hers around in a casual circle, signals given to the animal to move this way and that so subtle they're barely perceptible. "You know, now I'm wondering about this case and why you thought you needed to steal a horse…"

* * *

So they go: out behind the ranch along snowdrifts, beside the edge of the forest beneath the looming mountain range, snow-capped like a living postcard against the bright sky.

They make their own way. There are no trails and no roads — there's only them and the horses beneath them. Maggie keeps not purposefully behind nor ahead, but on the far right side — keeping Laurie in easy sights and riding like equals. Leaving the ranch behind, it seems like there's nobody else around for miles, no signs — no barricades — and the only rules the ones that keep them safely atop their horses. Their only direction is the vague red-doored point in their mind's eye and the turns Maggie eases them toward.

Hoofbeats up along a ridge. Prime stalking ground for certain pair of hunters once upon a time, but the worry has vanished. Soon they veer down off the ridge to cross the road, empty on a silent Christmas Day. The tree-line is left behind. They saw enough trees yesterday to last a small lifetime; today's venture is all about the wide, open spaces. The plain spreads out around them, limitless.

Every new bit of scenery brought with it a faster pace. Nice and slow to start: spirited and fast onward. Slow certainly flies out of the window once Maggie urges her horse, and urges Laurie to urge his horse, to race beyond the trot they've picked up and into the smoother, and more adrenaline-pumping, gallop.

The only sounds are that of surging blood, beating hooves, and blowing wind, all a thundering orchestra timed to their run.

Life has since sprung into view in the middle of nowhere on a horizon so clear details can be made out from a distance — like toy houses in the dust and snow, they hardly looks real, the clusters of buildings here and there, not only seeming little because through distance, but because they are little.

"Slow!" Maggie calls out, if only to give the horses a break. It won't take but another sprint to come upon the town. Even now it becomes even clearer, the whole town, the quaint buildings that make up at least part of Echo's apparent population of two-hundred and one, if the old road sign was to be believed. Maggie convinces her mount to come up along Laurie's more closely. Companionably, cheeks flushed with both by brisk activity and familiar cold wind, she asks over — and a bit up: "How are you doing over there? Are you having fun yet?"

Wind breaks hard over fast-moving surfaces — the male team takes seconds longer to obey any proxy commands to slow, stampeding a challenge more to each other and the world than Maggie's authority over pacing. Heavy, thundering hoofs pound the ground as evenly fast as they do upon slowing; the horse's gait natural, and his rider enlivened. It can be safely said that the stallion with workhorse in his ancestry is a better fit than the one with the blood of Secretariat; no tiny jockey, Laurie's weight is more snug here, no risk of him going head over horse head. His palm catches up reins in an anxious movement lacking the anxiety, and then settle, trusting the stallion as he tosses his head. "Yet?" the consultant returns in call, a bit of challenge from the run still in him, "I wasn't aware the fun had ever stopped."

Except maybe, in some parts, the trot had taken more effort. Learning to move with the jolting ups and downs of the horse's gait is a skill, still practiced, that will leave a few aches the next day. But, never complaining, Laurie's a mask of entertainment. As if that playfulness travels through him, one male to another, the stallion sidles near Maggie's chestnut, baiting the women with all the manliness up over here.

"Speaking of…" He gives a little slack, a little squeeze. It doesn't take much to spur the idea, go from walk to wanting, starting; the two seem to have formed a kind of rapport already — at least in terms of wanting to go. The impression stands that being thrown has not learned Laurie his lesson; his skull — or ribs — too thick.

That's a good enough answer for Maggie. A more concerned assessment of Laurie's poise upon his ride slips past her otherwise sparkling gaze, well-aware of the vigorous movements his body is being put through — she's feeling them herself, and his must be amplified — but she's all smiles. She's easily swept up in the mood which, if her horse has any say, is a playful one— the mare, spurred by the baiting by the male side of things, quickens her step unbidden alongside the stallion and tries to nip, harmlessly in theory. "Heeey, now— " Their back-and-forths veer all parties unhelpfully to the side, and Maggie is forced to interrupt this flirting, veering her back to get back on track. The energy remains, and it seems neither horse really wants a break, encouraging Laurie's failed lessons.

Speaking of… "Not quite as fast this time! We're almost there— we'll take them at a canter a bit 'til we get closer," she instructs, upbeat — her horse needs only the slightest coaxing, waiting for it to come— "Relax a little in the saddle when you get going, just try to match his rhythm forward and back," she advises, adjusting her pose before giving a quick cluck of her tongue to her own borrowed horse who then picks up the playfully brisk, energetic pace.


Trails imprint in the snow — thankfully, not deep, out here — and dirt as they close in on the main drag of Echo, paths of tires, snowmobiles and hooves, signs of life— and lifestyle. More buildings, in the distance: outlying houses, barns, ranches like the Forresters', a long road winding through the town and snaking away. But it's the town in the center that their destination lies, and for them, no road, nor trail, is needed — they're free to come upon the outskirts from behind, where lies, nestled between tall guarding trees, a white, dark-shingled two-storey house. It wasn't built any year in their lifetimes and is thus far from pristine, white paint chipping from worn wooden siding, but it seems sturdy— built to weather the years and the elements. Of course, if it's to be their destination, that means they have to slow down.

Contrarily, Maggie gets ahead first with a burst of speed before she does just that, a guiding presence until she can slow and come to a stop in what would be the backyard — the backyard consisting of that wide open nothing they just trekked. The halt is quick when it comes, but she's slower to dismount since she leans ahead and gives the chestnut affections along her rippling neck, and watches for Laurie; but rider is soon hopping down from ride and kicking around the buildup of snow to find what is actually a genuine horse tying post.

Swaying forward and back, going in and out; it comes natural to Laurie — as does following the horse's rhythm in this cause. Any jarring that awakens sore spots helps, too, to work them free of tensing. And if he's in pain — it seems impossible that he's not — then it doesn't show. Certainly, as hooves dig into the earth and snow behind the destination house, it again takes the males longer to patter down to a reasonable stopping pace. Stallions overshoot the mark Maggie's presented by going ahead, leading them to pass by, and Laurie to have to veer his steed in a broad arc to come back around to the point. They slow, doing so, eventually coming up opposite Maggie, her mare.

"… of the Universe…" he's involved in speaking, more obvious now when they get close, where his muttering would've been carried off by the wind of riding previously. "… there's always the obvious pun — The Horse Who Knew Too Much…" Meanwhile, the stallion's meandering side to side, taking idle steps here and there where he isn't content to have stopped; Laurie caters to him with a less than firm hand on the reins. Nothing of his posture exerts a command over the animal; he's the same laid-back as when on the ground. Only now flexing his fingers reflexively at every random horse step, " — purposefully screwing with the announcers — quick, Powers — " Suddenly!; control; he instantly stills the horse, in order to swing rather haphazardly down. "We're naming a race horse."

Maggie's got her horse tied to the post; the reins wrapped around nice and secure while still loose enough for movement. She's waiting for Laurie — and watching with a certain appreciation for how he's taken to it — when his mutterings come into her range of hearing. She's prepared with a confused, if amused, raise of her eyebrows by the time he gets down. "Weee are…? Okay!" she goes along but pauses, "…why? I don't see any race horses…" One hand lays a reassuring hand on the mare's neck, lending her and Laurie's steed a silly little smile, "No offense."

A step in the snow and a lean toward stallion and rider have Maggie reaching out a hand for their reins, looping them toward her so she can secure this horse as well. "Now behave, you two," she tells the pair of horses in friendly instruction before tipping her head toward the house — a friendly instruction for Laurie, this time; c'mon — and turns to head around to the front, plodding through mid-calf snow.

Laurie snorts, not unlike the stallion, whose head tosses as he's left behind. "Why would you have to see one to name it. Unless you were going for the ironic calling out of a physical feature name. But that doesn't matter!" His hand flaps in the air between them, demonstrating just how useless it is. The consultant lifts his feet high for each step, an energetic pace, close to a leftover trot from the ride. Snow churns beneath him, and, every so often, calls his gaze downwards instead of at the woman he's speaking to. "Women," he mentions, even then getting absent as his head gets left behind, watching the ground they've walked on, before his face swivels forward to catch up, "— to generalize, sometimes choose baby names long before one appears… So, come on. Let's hear what you got."

"Well you're talking to the wrong woman for generalizing because I haven't," Maggie argues, barely — it's conversational, light, as she takes slower — but long, matched — steps through the snow, her arms pitched to the side slightly for balance as though she's walking an icy tightrope. "I think personality is more important anyway. Take Charismatic. That would be a terrible name if he was actually dull. Your imaginary horse has no personality yet. How am I supposed to give it a good name?"

Beyond, down what passes as a street, a church steeple can be easily glimpsed, as well as some sort of small town square. The town center may be small, but it's not the ghost town it could have initially seemed — on the contrary, it's full of life, a whole crowd gathered by the church, their sounds of talking and laughter drifting merrily along on the wind.

"…I know race horse names can be outlandish, but…" Maggie hops onto more snow-covered ground, swiveling to the right to plow toward the front steps. The house has been left to the very elements that try to wear it down: snow piles up on the front steps, icicles hang sparkling in the sun from the gutters and roof. Maggie is matched like a key to a lock — the door is painted as red as her coat. The key to the door, however, is — presumably — her companion.

"No time like the present," feeds in Laurie, easy as can be, the polar opposite of even slight argument, "So, let's stick with the baby analogy — people pick names hoping to inspire a certain personality, or attitude, in life. Except the puns, and the occasional passing down of a name — of which, I am partially victim — and those who don't believe in that mumbo-jumbo… what was I saying— that's curious. Would you leave an animal nameless for however long it took? I'm not disagreeing with you, here," he admits, readily, hopping up a couple of extra paces, "I'm just trying to make you come up with a silly name anyway. Which was, really, the purpose of the exercise. There is no imaginary horse, only a questioning of Detective Powers' creativity— which, I am told by her, exists in a healthy capacity— in which case, there is an imaginary horse, but it exists purely in her mind, for her naming purposes, in whatever stage of life or behavioral pattern she chooses."

The veritable string of words, somehow forming sentences, comes to an abrupt end when Laurie does. He vanishes. Completely. No quick shuffling to the side, or flash of him in the distance — gone.

Until someone should look down, and find the grown man sweeping his arms in the broad gestures that form the wings of his snowy creation.

Maggie grabs onto the wooden rails flanking the front steps, sending fluffy snow flying below. She uses the pause in Laurie's lengthy explanation as an opportunity to get a word edgewise, not realizing just yet that he's otherwise occupied. "So am I — partially victim, I mean. And I would leave them nameless, yeah, until the right name came along… granted, I haven't actually ever named many animals… alright, creative," she concedes, turning around— "In that case— "

Of course, she finds herself looking not at Laurie, but the empty space he used to be — and the town square in the distance. It's the rustling of fabric and snow that quickly draws her gaze down— utterly sidetracked from racehorses, the sight of the grown man so unexpectedly making a snow angel in the yard cuts off her own counter-ramble with a sudden burst of air, a prelude to the strong undercurrent of would-be laughter that carries her voice melodically. "Miles!" she exclaims, his name fading into chuckles; a simple declaration of there he is, in the snow — and her amusement over the fact. "Somebody is enjoying the snow. I'm glad."

"Powers!" Laurie calls out in reply, his arms enthusiastically weaving — but with a certain artistic flare… that doesn't much apply to snow and cut-out clipart angel shapes. Sweep, sweep. In so little time, his expensive winter coat is patterned with white and whatever he's sweeping down to eventually below the snow. Fancy jeans, boots — nothing is sacred. Without looking to her, his face friendly to the open sky above: "I think you'd better get in on this."

With a crunch of snow beneath her boot, Maggie hops down from the one step she conquered, smiling above Laurie. "I think it's cold," she counters, seeming less enthusiastic about the prospect of her getting in on this endeavor — save for that smile, and the amusement still in her voice. She visibly — were anyone but the horses looking in her direction — gives in, looking slowly off to the side with her smile brightening warmly despite that very cold. Seconds later and she's picking her way through the snow around Laurie to sprawl in the snow a few feet away — out of the way of his sweeping arms. She keeps her knees bent and plants an ankle atop one, saving corduroy — her wardrobe decidedly less fancy than Laurie's — from much of the clinging snow. Her arms sweep up through the white expanse around her, but pause above her head. Maggie is more interested in the sky and its vast, perfect blue. "When was the last time you made a snow angel…"

He's long been done with his, the wings worn down to nearly uncovered ground, and his legs mostly idle, but he idly continues the motions a few more times than necessary. "Last year, around this time," is the quick reply, needing no considering pause to remember. "It was a Thursday. I find there are some things you should try to do at least once every winter." Laurie's peacefully quiet for a spell following this, letting the coolness of the air mesh with the shades of sky, distant voices. And then— splat. Maggie's corduroy is no longer an exception, sacrificed to another winter tradition; this one lobbed really almost half-heartedly by Laurie, who didn't even bother sitting up, but engineered a toss perpendicular to himself. "What does the name 'Maggie' mean about you…" he muses, instantly in a whole different moment, full of dreamily pondering things that have nothing to do with snowballs. "What does 'Laurie' mean for me… my preference of using it," his fingers tease the front of his coat, a button there, then flop into the snow beside him, cracking one of his wings with non-symmetry, "Your insistence on not…"

Maggie's bent legs make a good target. "Hey— !" she exclaims, more a squeak than a word. The snow knocks her knees over far more than its actual force is remotely capable of, as if she could belatedly escape it— of course she can't; she gets over it in a second. There's a smile still in place as she looks straight into the sky, pleasantly subdued into musing to match Laurie's voice.

"So what does Maggie say about me? That my parents wanted a dog? If there's one thing I've learned about my name, it's that I share it with a lot of families' pets," she says, slight exasperation to be found somewhere in her voice over that fact, quick to dissipate. Her looks turns particularly thoughtful as she rests a hand between the cold ground and her hat-clad head and turns her attention on Laurie. "It's not… insistence…" she slowly clarifies, thinking it through, even as she speaks; a pause follows, thoughts then kept to herself until formed: "I think Laurie suits you." Her head rolls back, eyes to the heavens. "It's… work," she clarifies further, "it's just what's said. Last names. It keeps things…" Maggie presses her lips together for a moment, moving past her trail away to go on. "It's habit. My dad… was colonel. He had this habit of calling almost everyone by their last name, even my friends when I was a kid. He said it was a sign of respect."

"It's work, and it's habit — his habit, but here you are with it," summarizes Laurie — Miles, "I'm not foreign to the concept, but you do realize you were completely insisting back there." Far from accusatory, he's become lethargic to his own started conversation. More adamant is: "I certainly hope you don't respect me, Detective Maggie Powers. I'd be so terribly disappointed." A bit of wiggling around his mouth, and then he moves on, also bringing his hands, task long completed, to fold at his stomach. "Maggie… short form of Margaret. English. Meaning 'pearl'. One hundred thousand and three, four hundred and eighty nine other people named Maggie. Little MaggieMaggie's FarmMaggie MayI Can't Let Maggie Go." Puckered, his mouth holds. Thinks. "You're right," he decides amiably, "It does keep things." With a rustle of fabric, and tumbling of snow left and right, Laurie arc his way out of the snow silhouette and to his feet. His creation is looking slightly less than angelic.

After a bit of a smile for the listing of titles, Maggie's gaze follows Laurie, human name dictionary that he is, wonderingly; soon, so does the rest of her. Her angel doesn't look quite solid when she stands up, pushing heavily off one side of the silhouette, but the wings are almost perfect. She hasn't gotten to her feet empty-handed: a loosely-packed snowball, white and fluffy and innocuous, sails toward Laurie's shoulder. "I respected your snow angel skills until you ruined it," she points out in humour, eyes a bit more intent than light words. Brushing snow off her arms with her gloves, and off the back of her coat here and there, she wanders toward Laurie and the house. The rail is grabbed again, and the small trek up the few front steps continues— quicker, with an eye out for any more flying snow.

"If my name was Margaret — which it's not — I think I'd shorten mine too," she admits, apparently not feeling like a Margaret, "unless I'd be different with a different name. You had the choice— " she steps up to the cheerful red door, with its two described locks, lively in the midst of the house's desolation, a metal mailbox affixed to the house beside it, its nameplate covered in snow. It takes some tearing away of her gaze from the door to let curious eyes land on the consultant this time. " — so when did you choose Laurie?"

Yeah, Laurie's face emotes in regards to the angel and its ruination, that sounds about right. Same as other wintry efforts; sliding smoothly to one side, he's only sprayed with the remnant dust of the snowball as it sails past his shoulder and falls apart soon after. There is no retaliation, he follows her up the stairs, hands in his pockets, at another relaxed trot. He's the one who pulls ahead here, strolling up to the door with the two challenges presented him, hanging heavy against bolt. "Oh, it just happened to be there," he explains unremarkably, making what should have been a two-toned sentiment no more than surface deep, "when I didn't want to be Laurence anymore."

From out of his pocket — those realms of constant use and mystery — he draws out a small object, pinched between fingers, and easily bent into another shape. It isn't immediately used for its purpose, but run up and down the side of his right hand, bidding for skin beneath gloves. There he leans against the doorframe, turning to a considering study of the individual locks and, when fully evaluated, he shifts his weight, biasing out towards Maggie. His hand lifts, palm underneath either option, his arm slightly bent, as if in a lecture — or a gameshow. "For this one," he says of the normal, child's play lock, "I'll take that race horse name. And for this," to the heavy-duty dead-bolt, "You'll call me Laurie for a day. Any day — but the entire twenty-four hours."

As Maggie trails up behind, she puzzles Laurie out — this curious expression remains at the forefront once she's leaning against the snow-topped rail by the door, bracing her hands on it to wait. Brows lift toward her winter hat, considering; it doesn't take long for a nod and a smile of agreement to this odd request of payment to set in. "I will try my best," she vows optimistically to what may prove a challenge to her habit; her eyes then roll to the side with embellished thought. "Twenty-four hours though. You know, really, that's a high challenge," she says with a high dose of wit, "I can't control what I call you in bed."

On the heels of such a comment — which she seems to immediately reconsider after the fact with an sudden pause and a narrowing of her eyes, but goes on to, instead, accept with a hint of a smirk despite her gaze rather quickly hopping away — she breezes onward, gesturing to the easier lock: "A Thousand Miles." Though Maggie bears amusement for a second over the imaginary racehorse name, she's quick to roll her eyes, fold her arms and admit: "So my creativity might lie elsewhere. But— " She tips her head toward the locked door; go on. "It's still a name. So. Abracadabra." Pause. "Maybe that would be a better horse…"

Laurie's face remains steady a moment, then his lips press together sloppily, pushing them out in a more exaggerated ponder. When he shakes his head, his eyes roll slightly, dismissing all. " "What, just once not enough for you anymore, detective? … my name feels so used… but fine, just incase, I promise not to phone you late at night." That seems to have sealed the deal, and he twists easily enough to round his body in front of the locks. Up comes his hand against the small keyhole, sliding his tool inside the notch, as welcoming as if it were the actual key. There's clear experience, moving that length inside the private insides of the lock. It's sinfully easy; a few clicks.

The other — the challenge — counts by several more seconds, and requires a second hand and a second tool. A couple of questionable moments, that Laurie plays into with bites of lip and raises of eyebrow to squint at something he's interacting with entirely by feel — but, doubleteamed, the dead-bolt eventually folds as well and, successful, the questionably moraled but unquestionably skilled consultant does not gloat, but sidles backwards to give Maggie all the room to enjoy her purchased results.

Phone, right — for the first couple of seconds after Laurie is most certainly focused on his task, Maggie gives him skeptically raised eyebrows and lingering amusement before she becomes engrossed in the same lock-picking. Despite the typically unlawful methods being employed, she watches with such a curious eye that she must prevent herself from leaning close and getting in Laurie's light — stopping, in fact, just short. The tools, the way they fit into the keyholes, the manner in which he moves them to urge the locks open; she absorbs as many particulars as she can in the short time it takes Laurie to get the job done, as if preparing for the pop quiz later. "Thanks," she chirps upon completion, but there's no barging in right away.

Maggie is delayed by running a thumb over the metal mailbox next to the door, thoughtfully wiping a dusting of snow off the nameplate. POWERS, she clears off the rest; on the subject of names, one follows, but is unmatched; far less than one hundred thousand and three, four hundred and eighty nine people share this name: Garnet. "Home sweet home…" Maggie quietly — but fondly — confesses, smiling toward Laurie as her head tips toward a shrugging shoulder. "It's just been sitting here; I was going to sell it before I left, but then I just … well I left. The real estate market isn't exactly bustling in Echo…"

The doorknob takes some twisting and forceful shaking and pushing when she does open it. The front windows iced over, the interior is lit softly by lazy beams of light coming in from a warmed window at the back. The old winterized house may be uninhabited, but it's not empty. The view Maggie frees is that of a small living room yet containing a couple of heavy antiquated items of furniture, a TV that looks almost as old, cardboard boxes, and — most obviously, leaning against a staircase not five feet from the front door — half a dozen canvases splashed with every colour of the rainbow, half-finished galaxies, painted shapes and abstract patterns expressing things that can only be known by the artist and interpreted by others. Little wonder they weren't moved; they're gigantic. One is almost as tall as the artist herself.

"I'm going to run up and … well it's just. More things in a box." She steps toward the little portal into the time capsule home. She only gets a foot on the threshold before she's looking back and down, reflective. "It's funny— it wasn't until after I went with you to your … your old house that I remembered where to look for something I could never find." A softer smile shines on Laurie, musing over for something he didn't mean to do, but there it is all the same. "I didn't actually think I'd be here a few days later to look… anyway— you can come in if you want."

In the distance, the voices in the town square come together here and there in vague melodies, bits and pieces of songs.

Glancing that-a-way, squinting in the sun off the snow, Maggie rolls her eyes a little at the town's Christmas tradition; that too turns out to be warm, fond. "But I might be awhile."

His nod for the state of Echo's economical movements is understanding, absent. It's most likely that the reveal of the name under the snow isn't what put the possibility of what this place was into his head, and he lingers where he's drawn back toward the stairway with a reluctant lack of curiosity unbefitting his usually animated face. "Do what you need," he expresses sincerely, backtracking until he can't anymore, run up to the house railing that, once reached, he slides upwards and partially onto. It knocks snow away, and the beneath can only be icy; there he sits.

Maggie gives Laurie a study as he sits quietly before, on a nod, she heads inside. She pauses once she's there: the threshold is easy to cross compared to standing in such an obvious reminder of things no longer in her present, but after a moment of being frozen in place, she just marches straight up the staircase.

The door is left open; there's no harm in the cold house getting colder, and maybe the fresh air will do it some good before it's closed up for another indeterminate amount of time, closed up, an unfinished life.

Or maybe it's just over.

Whatever Maggie's search is for, it isn't a quiet— not at first. There are bumps and bangs from above, drifting down the stairs like phantom noises from a haunted house. Aptly, she appears in a second-storey window after several minutes like a red-coated ghost through the frost, looking down on Laurie only to vanish a few moments later. If her search continues after that, it's quiet. She's quiet. The house is still, surrounded only by the merriment of the crowd beyond — increasing into happy holiday caroling — and, every so often, a huff or whinny from the waiting, carousing horses.

More time passes for Laurie to wait through — several minutes into ten, ten into fifteen, fifteen starts to stretch longer until Maggie appears in the sun-shining living room, the result of her visit tucked under her arm in the form of a carved wooden box. An upgrade from a shoebox, if roughly the same size. A flash of jewelry, delicate and gold, is twined around her now bare hand; it disappears into her pocket as she locks the door from the inside and steps outside.

The rummaging of her old home has, visibly, left Maggie a little worse for the wear, but on the other side of the coin, she's heartened; faintly reddened eyes don't blink so quickly solely because of the cold breeze, but her smile is sincere, warm, satisfied. She's also bit triumphant. She's good to go. "Alright," she declares, looking up at the house and the vast sky as she pulls the door shut with a secure thump. Canting her elbow out, she stops just short of bumping Laurie companionably and turns her smile on him. "How about we get out of here and go home."


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