Title: Peaches Characters: Steve/Billy, OC, animal OCs Genre: Silly happy fluff Notes: Written for OTP Challenge #19: Return of Romcom...In Space! I rolled the dice and got #9. Awkward Meeting and #6. Neighbor(s). I also used the prompt "Peaches" from an offsite challenge. Just to be safe, a warning for mentions of past animal abuse/injuries. There is nothing graphic and it isn't portrayed in the fic itself. The animals are all safe and loved here (and I guess that applies to the humans too )! This is very silly and self-indulgent and completely, 100%, AU. But it was actually fun to write, and I needed a distraction because DRL hit pretty hard this week, so I'm going with it. If you choose to read, thank you so much and I hope you enjoy! ***** Peaches ***** Steve couldn't contain a smile as he stepped out onto the deck. Billy was sprawled in their double lounge chair, sunglasses on, Lemmy and Cookie flopped next to him. "Hey," Steve said. "You gonna sleep all day?" "Got bored waiting for you." Flashing a grin, Billy hooked his arm around Steve's waist and tugged. "C'mere. Celebrate with me." "Nuh-uh," Steve said, planting one hand on the chair to regain his balance. "Dogs in the house, then I'll celebrate with you." Billy heaved a dramatic sigh. "Fine. Hurry up." Laughing, Steve called Lemmy and Cookie inside and slid the door shut. He felt a bit guilty about disturbing their nap, but he and Billy hadn't had much time to themselves in the last couple of weeks. Besides, they had a lot to celebrate. After eight years in L.A. they were both ready for a change. They weren't sure exactly what they wanted, but when they found a house away from the city on three acres of land, with a big yard for the dogs and an easy drive to the beach, they decided to buy it. They cashed in their savings and the last bit of settlement money from Starcourt, signed the papers making the house theirs, and officially moved in two days ago. "Sorry, guys," he said, scratching the silky black-and-white fur between Cookie's ears. "We'll make it up to you. You want some treats?" Both Lemmy's and Cookie's ears perked up at the word treat. But where Lemmy's bright eyes and barely wagging tail were his only indications of excitement, Cookie was practically bouncing up and down on her three legs, her entire body wriggling. Steve laughed and gave them both another pat before reaching for the box of dog biscuits. A flash of movement by the window caught his eye, and his grip on the box instinctively tightened as he looked out to see what it was. There was a small brown-and-white pony in their driveway, its thick mane flopping into its eyes as it snuffled at the ground. Steve watched it for a minute, then went back to get Billy. "Um, Billy? Come see this." Billy pulled his sunglasses off. "What?" He hurried after Steve, and Steve pointed out the window. "The hell?" Billy said. "We should try to catch him," Steve said. "He could get hit by a car or something if he's running around loose like that." "Yeah," Billy said. "I guess we can get him tied up somewhere and call animal control." They went out the side door so they were ahead of the pony. It ignored them, taking a few steps and dropping its head again to mouth at some weeds. "Here, uh - " Steve frowned. "Boy? Girl? Horse? Here, horsey, nice horsey." "It's not a dog," Billy said. "Let's just try grabbing him. He doesn't look very fast." They took a few cautious steps towards it. The pony lifted its head, nostrils flaring, but didn't move. Steve and Billy inched closer. The pony snorted and broke into a trot. Steve and Billy lunged for it, but that made it run faster. They stopped so they wouldn't chase it onto the road and watched it. "Maybe he's hungry," Billy said. "Do we have anything he would eat?" "Oh, yeah!" Steve spoke louder than he'd meant to. The pony looked up and moved farther away. "Oops." Lowering his voice again, he continued. "Carrots. I think horses like carrots. Go get them, babe." Once Billy returned with their longest dog leash and a bag of carrots, they each took one. "Here, pony," Steve said. "You hungry, little guy?" Billy said. The pony looked at them, tail swishing. They crept towards it, getting closer than they had before. The pony was watching them intently. "Nice pony," Steve said, almost whispering. "Who's a good pony?" "Steve," Billy said, his own voice quiet. "Go right." They split off, approaching the pony from both sides. The pony stomped its foot but didn't move. They were almost close enough to grab it. Holding his breath, Steve stretched his arm out a little farther. The pony snorted again, then reached out to take the carrot from his hand. Billy grabbed its halter while it was chewing. "Got you," he said. The pony flinched and quickly backed up a couple of steps, but when Steve grasped the other side of its halter, it stopped and stood, trembling. "Hey, it's okay," Billy said. "You're okay." "Good pony," Steve said. Slowly and carefully, they looped the leash through one of the halter rings and secured it with the clip. Now that it was caught, the pony seemed willing to follow them. They led it to the deck and tied the leash around a post. Steve gave the pony a tentative pat on the neck. "One of us should probably stay here. Keep an eye on him." "I will," Billy said. "Just, maybe grab some water for him? And the carrots?" "Oh, yeah," Steve said. "All that fur, he's probably thirsty." Billy grinned. "You know, he reminds me of Henderson, with all that hair in his eyes." "He does not look like Dustin," Steve said, although he secretly agreed. He retrieved the bag of carrots, then filled a big cooking pot at the kitchen sink and managed to carry it outside without spilling any. The pony stood quietly as Billy worked at a tangle in its shaggy mane. "Wow," Steve said. "He's really calmed down." "Yeah," Billy said. "Well." Steve paused, not sure why he suddenly felt like he was doing something wrong. "I'm gonna go call. I'll be back soon." Lemmy and Cookie crowded around him, and he petted them absently as he flipped through the phone book. "It must have an owner," he said. "I bet it belongs to some little kid who'll be really happy to see their pony again, right, guys?" Cookie licked his hand and Lemmy's tail beat against the floor. Steve sighed. "Right." He lifted the receiver and dialed the number for animal control. A few phone calls later he headed back outside. He found Billy sitting in front of the pony, stroking its nose, a soft smile on his lips. The pony's head was lowered almost to his lap, its eyes half-closed. It reminded him of the times he'd come home to find Billy and Lemmy, napping or reading or watching TV, Billy's hand resting on Lemmy's scarred side and Lemmy's massive, brindled head resting on Billy's scarred chest. He stood there a minute, watching, before sitting down next to them. Billy glanced over. "I gave him more carrots. Guess he's happy." "Yeah, looks like," Steve said. "Oh, and uh, it's actually a girl horse. Her name's Peaches." "Peaches?" Billy repeated. "Figures it'd be something stupid." "I don't know, it's kind of cute," Steve said. Billy stopped petting Peaches and turned to face him. "So. I guess that means you found her owner?" "Yeah." Steve picked at the hem of his shorts as he spoke. "Animal control said there was a missing horse reported, and put me in touch with her, and - anyway, she's coming to pick her up." "Oh." Billy looked away. "That was fast." They sat in silence until the dogs barking and tires crunching on the driveway alerted them to Peaches' owner's arrival. Steve squeezed Billy's hand, then got up to greet her. He came around the corner of the house just as a young woman climbed out of a pickup truck with a trailer attached, holding a halter and a thick, neatly coiled rope. "Hi," the woman called. "I'm Nina. I'm here for Peaches." "I'm Steve." He shook hands with her, then gestured towards the yard. "She's out back." "So, you're new here?" Nina said as they walked. "Yeah," Steve said. "We just moved, actually. How'd you know?" "It's been empty for a while." She smiled. "I drive this way a lot. Our place is only a couple miles from here." Billy was still sitting with Peaches when they rounded the corner, but he stood up when he saw them. Steve hurried to his side as Nina introduced herself to Billy, then turned to the pony. "Peaches!" she said. "Hi, sweet girl. Oh, you scared us." She gave the pony a quick once-over. Satisfied, she clipped the rope to Peaches' halter and handed the dog leash to Steve. "Thank you for taking such good care of her," she said with a warm smile. "We were worried sick when she got loose. She's had such a tough time, poor girl." "What happened?" Steve asked. Nina's smile faded, her lips tightening into a thin line. "Her last owners weren't very nice to their animals. She developed back problems and couldn't be ridden anymore so they just threw her out in a pasture and left her to fend for herself. Luckily someone called us before it was too late." "She's a rescue?" Billy said softly. "Yes," Nina said. "Honestly, I'm surprised she let you catch her. She's still skittish around strangers." She patted the pony's shoulder. "She must like you two." "Well." Steve ran a hand through his hair. "At least she's safe now, right?" "Oh, she'll for sure have a home with us if she needs it," Nina said. "But we're a horse rescue. New horses are always coming in and space can be a problem. So ideally our goal is to get all our animals adopted out." She gave Peaches' shoulder another pat. "It might be difficult to find a good home for Peaches, though. She's a sweetheart, but most people want a horse they can ride." Steve glanced at Billy, who was fidgeting with his ring and staring somewhere past Nina, jaw clenched. "Hmm." Steve tried to sound casual, fighting to hold back an eager smile. "You know, I think I might know a place." ***** Steve and Billy stood at the fence, arms crossed over the top board, watching Peaches graze while Lemmy and Cookie frolicked in the far corner of the pasture. Nina had agreed to let them adopt Peaches on the condition they volunteer at the rescue to learn how to take care of her properly. Nina, her family, and the other volunteers were glad to help with everything from answering questions to building the fence and a small barn on their property. They'd made several new friends by the time they were ready to bring Peaches home. She'd settled in quickly, making friends with the dogs and spending her days grazing and playing. She loved being groomed, and Steve had teased Billy a few times about him spending more time on Peaches' hair than his own now. Steve and Billy had settled in too. They'd used some of the extra land to plant a garden. Steve converted the garage into a woodworking shop and with a bigger space to work in, he started experimenting with larger pieces. Billy still surfed whenever he could. They took the dogs to the beach and discovered a few new favorite restaurants. It was everything they'd hoped for when they bought the house. "I was talking to Mrs. Cooper today," Billy said, breaking the silence. "Her goats are having their babies, and I guess there's a lot of them this year. She said we could have a couple if we want." "Goats?" Steve was so surprised he wasn't sure what else to say. "Yeah," Billy said. "We've got room. They'd be buddies for Peaches, and we could sell goat milk and stuff eventually." "Huh," Steve said. "Goats." He shrugged. "Why not?" Billy grinned. "Great. I'll tell her we'll take 'em." Steve grinned back, and surrounded by their dogs and their pony and their own happily-ever-after, he and Billy kissed in the soft spring twilight.