Tags: capricious, julie cox, serialized fiction
Welcome to Fox Pass, Texas, a small community where the people are friendly and the mythical creatures aren’t so mythical after all. Capricious by Julie Cox follows the adventures of satyr Luke and his fellow myth-folk in a town that borders a whole lot more than Mexico. (Do you need to start at chapter 1?)
Luke noticed Sally’s absence during dinner, which was sandwiches and microwaved soup eaten in near silence in the living room; the weight of exhaustion and violence hung over the group like a drug haze. He washed out his soup bowl and went looking for her. Sootie trotted along behind him, happy to be wherever he was, peripherally involved in whatever he was doing.
He found Sally in the barn, leaning against the thick-beamed door frame and staring at the empty space full of footprints and recent trauma. He came up behind her and put his arms around her waist; she leaned against him, and her tensed muscles relaxed at his touch. The dog found a pile of hay and curled up to doze, one ear alert in case her people wandered.
“What’s on your mind, love?” Luke murmured. “Anything in particular, or is it just… everything?”
“Had to get away for a minute,” she said. “I was lucky today, and that bothers me. I came out relatively unscathed. I’m old—possibly the oldest one here. It doesn’t always make me wise, but it does make me stalwart. I could’ve handled some of these awful things happening to me… but not watching it happen to others. Some of the younger ones, August and Charlie in particular… I just don’t know how they’re holding up.”
“They’re tougher than you think. Kids usually are.”
“Do you think August will be all right?”
Luke brought up a mental image of August, of leaning against him by the oak tree, siphoning pain away from him and sending it into the earth. He remembered the cold, lost chill of the headless horseman’s magic. “I don’t know. He has certainly taken a beating. Depends on whether he can process what happened with Mae. Touching and being touched without consent… it can strip away your sense of control in the world, that’s for sure.”
“Control,” Sally said. “That’s a big one for him.”
Luke felt a pang of annoyance that almost immediately disappeared. Satyrs were not jealous by nature, even when they tried to be. “I forgot you guys slept together.”
Sally shook her head. “It was just once. Frankly I think it confused the hell out of him. I hope whatever connection it is he has with Cormick will help him. Maybe you can ground him again before he leaves.”
“You wouldn’t mind?” Luke asked, a little surprised. “I wouldn’t have figured he would be on the list.”
He could feel Sally’s smile, even with her facing away from him. A trickle of lustful energy ran from her, confirming his suspicion that she was now picturing him and August getting it on. “Grounding is hardly a full penetration magic. Need I ask what list you’re talking about?”
“I dunno. Need you?” he asked, nuzzling her. “Seemed like maybe strict monogamy, especially where there was a magical need, didn’t seem so vital to you anymore.”
Sally was silent a minute, swaying ever so slightly. “Maybe not. There are at least two I’ve warmed up to. In theory. Don’t really know how I’d react if I walked in on you and them.”
“Don’t need to find out,” Luke said. “Won’t nothing ever happen without your blessing. But one way or another, I am not sleeping with August, the guy gets my hackles up.”
“Awww, is that all?” Sally said, and he felt her smile again. It seemed to Luke that she smiled with her whole body. “What about Charlie?”
“What about Charlie?” Luke asked, turning the question around on her. “You know him way better. If anything, I’d think today might end up being good for him—confirm that he’s part of the myth community, concrete his faith in his own magic, in his courage. I gotta admit, him cracking Mae on the skull was pretty funny, in hindsight.”
“I will always and forever love him for that,” Sally said. “You know what that troll said to us as he brought us out? He said whichever of us made a move first, he’d shoot the other one. Isn’t that sick? I could risk myself, but I couldn’t risk him. Thank goodness for Allison and my dad’s rifle. I think Charlie will be all right, once he gets over having sucked the bad magic out of August. But… do you think he could be on the list?”
“Oh, what list is that?” Luke teased her. “And yes, I think so. He’s got balls and brains and he’s kinda cute.”
“Good. Very good. He had a boyfriend for a while, but frankly that guy was a real jackass; I think Charlie has had the shit kicked out of him a couple of times, metaphysically. You and I would be good for him. I’m not sure about Allison yet. How do you think she’s doing?”
“Allison will be fine. The worst she’s got to contend with is killing a troll who had a gun on her friends. That’s a flesh wound as far as mental anguish goes.”
“Orson and Cormick are definitely not on the list.”
“No no no and no. And of course there’s Mae…. Another messed up one I’m not ever gonna sleep with, not the least of which is because she’s a crazy bitch, and likely getting crazier. Being forced to use her nymph powers without her own consent? That’s gonna fuck up a girl.”
“She was already fucked up,” Sally growled.
“That’s unfair, you didn’t know her before.”
“You did, and you can defend her? You told Allison and me what she did. And you just called her a crazy bitch.”
Luke thought a minute. “I knew her way before. I knew her when she and Orson were really in love, really happy. I watched it all go wrong, like a train wreck in slow motion.” He breathed a heavy sigh of resignation. “I watched her break a little when Orson chose his friendship with me over his marriage to her. There’s more to her.”
“Which means Orson’s got to be hurting too.”
“Oh yeah. Whatever she is now, she was once his wife. We are all of us the sum of our stories.”
Sally turned and pressed her face against Luke’s chest. “All our dear friends are hurting, and there’s nothing we, the old codgers, can do about it! It’s so unfair.”
Luke set his goateed chin on top of her head—she was short enough he could do that—and held her close. “Well, there is something, really. But I’d have to be fully, uh, charged to do it.”
“There is an element of healing to sex. I can confer some of my magical energy to others, if they’ll receive it. If I have enough oomph to spare, it doesn’t even have to be sexual, though I do have to touch them. Magic is more about intent than physical ritual, after all.” He drew back so he could look at her face. “But I am drained like crazy. I grounded August, I got sucked on—metaphorically—by a nymph, and I summoned the Wild Hunt. Magically speaking, I’m surprised I’m not comatose. I think maybe it’s shock keeping me awake.”
“So you need sex.” She said it flatly, without the angry tone she might have had at another time.
“Frankly, yes.” He took a deep breath. “You and Allison had a moment, and you seemed to like imagining me with Charlie. I could approach one of them.”
“And why not me?”
He bit his lip. “I didn’t know how you’d react to our first time being magically necessary.”
“Luke,” she said, reaching up to touch his hair, “it’s not anyone else who’s going to be there for you this time. It’s going to be me.” She went up on tiptoe to kiss him, and he returned the kiss with gratitude and passion.
Julie Cox lives in Texas with her husband, children, and ever-expanding menagerie of animals on their farm. She runs a small online yarn business and teaches yarn spinning. She has numerous stories published with Circlet Press and elsewhere. For her full list of published works, see her website at www.lazypifarm.com.