A Few Of My Favorite Things

Title: A Few Of My Favorite Things
Time Period: February 23, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: A note prompts a visit to the stables. It is possible someone is getting carried away by more than just the horse. Which one is the real question.

The gently slopping hills blocks some of the colder winds, sheltering the herd grazing in the lands. It's among the herd, rather than the stables, that Cas Blackburn is today. One of his favorite things to do, due to the fact he gets to ride on a horse while he circles the herd, checking the horses for signs of sickness or any signs of trouble that he'll need to report.

While he can't read, he can count, and even the horses without names he can identify in his head. If one's missing, he'll know which one by the color, the markings and the gender. The horse he rides is one of the older horses, a gelding, well trained, but not built for speed. His mane falls into his eyes at times, causing the long haired gelding to shake his head, but it's not impatience that does it.

Turning the gelding toward the fenceline of the heath, he continues to watch the herd, just in case he sees something he missed, so he doesn't quite notice anyone else who might be about.

And that's okay with Mariah. She's just watching from her perch on the fence, in very little hurry to get Cas down off his horse of choice. She may be indulging a little. Just a little. Her hands brace her weight on either side of her legs, and one hand has a certain bit of parchment between her fingers. Her feet are propped up on a lower rung, skirts falling every which way around a pair of boots responsible for keeping a good portion of her legs warm.

But when he nears the fence, she just can't help herself but let out an appreciative whistle as horse and rider fly by. Easy enough to miss, but definitely out of place in a bunch of horses.

The whistle causes him to turn, the horse turning with him with barely a flick of the reins. Under the hat he wears to guard himself from the sun (even if it's winter) Cas smiles widely at the sight of the woman on the fence. A glance is cast behind him once again, before he clicks his tongue against the roof of his mouth and moves the gelding toward the fence.

Very little is needed to make the horse stop close to the fence, with him hovering over her just a bit, close enough to reach out and touch. But he makes no move to get off the horse— He seems somehow more confident on the horse than he usually does. Much less fidgeting.

"Didn't expect to see you today, Mariah. But I'm glad I am. Two of my favorite things all in one day."

As usual, his smile makes hers brighten, and she sits up a little straighter as he makes his way over. It's possible she notices that difference in his confidence, or, at least, she likes watching him up there. When he gets closer, she closes that distance by way of her hand reaching over to rest on his leg.

"Well, it's good to see you, too," she says with a warm smile and she uses that hand on him to leverage herself up to his level. So she can kiss him, of course. It's lingering, and she seems reluctant to pull back again. But she does, eventually. "I wish I was just here for fun," which she is a little, "but I also have something of yours."

"Something besides another one of those?" Cas says quietly, eyes slid shut after she kisses him for a time. Another kiss is something he rather wants again, from the way he takes in a slow breath after saying it. And the smile. Only when his eyes open again does he notice the piece of paper. And the words that are probably upon it. Ones he can't read.

"Oh— yes, the note. Great! I— I was kinda getting tired of looking over my shoulder all the time wondering if there was a dragon about to swoop down and snatch me up off the ground for a snack." Despite the topic, he doesn't seem to fidget as much as he might have. The horse fidgets more than him.

"When do they want me?"

"Mmhmm. But you can have another one of those anytime you want." Mariah nuzzles against his cheek for just a moment before she leans back again to look at him. "That dragon would be in for one very tetchy prostitute, if he tried something like that," she says with a crooked smile.

"Can I hop up there with you?" She asks instead of just going ahead and doing so, out of respect for both horse and rider, and probably because of the fidgeting, too. But she also isn't opening the letter just yet. Looking close at it, she hasn't opened it at all yet. Waiting for him, likely.

"I don't think he'll be too happy about that, but, luckily I think the two of us together weight about the same as some of the biggest hands," Cas says with a grin, nodding his head towards the horse, who continues to shift his legs about as if he'd rather be unburdened entirely.

Very likely he would.

Leaning over and bracing himself against the saddle and the horse's sides, he reaches to take her arm and help her up behind him.The skirt may make it difficult, but when the gelding starts to move in protest he clicks his tongue again and the horse stops.

"Not really a saddle for two— so put your arms around me."

Mariah smiles when he moves to help her up, and she hikes up her skirts and slings herself up like she knows what she's doing. And being in her business, and with someone she fancies, means she doesn't feel shy about how much of her legs she ends up showing. She might in a bit, when they get cold, though.

Her hand pats the horse's side warmly, but she doesn't waste time sliding her arms around Cas instead. "What a hardship," she remarks with a laugh and a crooked smile. "I thought we could read it together." Never miss a teaching opportunity.

From the sound the gelding makes, he's definitely not too happy with the situation, but Cas pats him with his hand too, and he settles down. Or perhaps it's the way the young man moves his knees that settles him down. Without even directing the reins the horse starts to move, at a slow pace, along the fenceline. Slow and lazy, but still moving.

"Oh— you do remember that I still can't read most things, right?" he says quietly, biting down on his lips as he shifts the reins into one hand and reaches to take the note, despite his protests. She may need to help him hold onto it, but he squints for a while before he has to click his tongue again and pull against the reins. "Whoever throught reading while riding would be impossible," he mutters, before he squints at it again. "Okay, I can see it's addressed to me, at least."

Even if being on the horse gives him a lot more confidence, he still makes a small whiny sound after a few moments. A whiny sound that makes the gelding's ears twitch as if he's worried about a predator.

"Of course I remember," Mariah says with a gentle smile against his back. Her peeks over his shoulder, her one hand coming to help with holding the note. "So it is," she says with a glance up to him. "I'll help you." And truthfully, she doesn't put him on the spot too much to read alone. But she does take it slowly enough, and her hand moves from his chest to point out the syllables as she gets to them. It's how her mother taught her, making her watch and follow along. At least at the start.

She's less attentive to the horse, though. It's been too long since her life revolved around them much. The whining and the fidgeting she seems to take in stride. But once she gets them through the note's contents, she looks up at his face. "Is it the news you wanted?"

The further they get into the note, the less Cas whines about it, at least. At first it seems like he doesn't want to learn how to read at all. Even if he does. "Yeah— yeah it's what I wanted. I'm glad it's soon, too, I'll have to bargain with one of the other hands to trade chores so I can go," he says, folding the note back up and putting it in her hand. Only then does he nudge the horse and allow him to walk again.

"Sorry, I wish I were better at it— reading." He lets out a slow breath, trying to calm his voice back down.

"Good. And I'll make sure I have the day free, too," Mariah says, her arms moving back around him not just to hold on, but to hug him as well. Encouragingly.

"You don't have to apologize, Cas. I don't mind helping you this way. Reading note and such, I mean. It isn't an easy skill to learn, no matter what anyone says. And I don't mind helping in that way, either." Her tone is extra soothing this time, and while he first gets the mild shock of her cold nose against the back of his neck, it's quickly followed by a kiss there, too. Maybe two.

For a few moments, the horse is the only one watching where he's going. Cas closes his eyes, leaning his head forward a bit as she kisses the back of his neck. Only when the herds main stallion makes a noise as the gelding gets to close does he open his eyes and nudge him away.

"I'm just glad you're here for that— it isn't something I much want to advertise." He's embarassed by it, as she must have noticed the first time she found out. "But uh— I— would you mind much if I went by myself? I mean I'd like to see you after, definitely, but… I think I can do the ritual part on my own." Hopefully they won't need him to read anything.

"Oh." Mariah sits up a bit at that request, letting a pause linger before there's a light chuckle. "Of course. I don't mind. It's your ritual, Cas." She leans against his back again, and her fingers curl around the fabric of his jacket.

"I'll still make sure I'm free. For after." It might be a little sad, but also accepting. "Because we'll have to celebrate when this is all over, I dare say. Even if it means Masque is back to having nothing to do most of the time." That just sort of comes out without her thinking, and what's worse, with her cheek pressed against his shoulder and her eyes sliding closed, she doesn't even seem to notice.

Luckily with him facing ahead, she can't see him biting his lip when she pauses. Even after she chuckles. But she might feel the tension along his back for a moment, before Cas is surprised out of it. "Huh? What do you mean by that?" he asks, twisting his head around so that he can see at least part of her in the corner of his eye.

"I mean about Masque. I know what kind of celebrating we'll be doing," he adds with a smile, despite the confusion he has over Masque having nothing to do.

Mariah's hand reaches up to brush along his jaw at that tension, a soft, affectionate gesture. But she's surprised out of her gentle reassurance at his question.

"What?" She lifts her head to look at him, too, blinking a bit before she glances away at his explanation. Wups. When she looks back to him, she gets a playfully worried expression, mostly to cover what is mostly actual worry. "I… might have… asked him to— You know." He knows, right? Right? Maybe not.

"Make sure you were okay."

"Did you?" Cas says quietly, voice carrying the smile that touches his lips, even if she can only see the effect from behind him. "And here I thought he just liked my company," he says softly, voice almost teasing, but there's something else behind it as well. A soft emotion that makes his voice nearly a whisper.

A hand leaves the reins to take her hand in his and press the heel of her palm against his lips. He holds her hand there even after, his warm breath warming her skin for a length of time. "You're too good to me," he says quietly, before lowering her hand again, to press it against his chest, against the place the iron pendant touches his skin.

"Oh hush. He wouldn't have done it if he didn't like you," Mariah says, her voice lowering to match his, although her tone is playful all the same.

It's after, when he kisses her palm, that her demeanor shifts to something more serious. Her breath flutters softly, but warmly over his neck, and her free hand clings to him a little more as she lets out a sigh. her blush, at this point, is there for more reasons than the cold.

"I wish I could be better. To you," she says softly as her hand presses over that pendant. But it almost seems like she meant that for herself, because she speaks up a little firmer a moment later, "It's no trouble, Cas. He tells me you're more entertaining than the squirrels around the Dovetail." That's a tease, that is.

"I'm just a lowely stablehand— you're more than good enough for me," Cas says quietly, voice barely above a whisper as he presses her hand against his chest. And her favor as well.

The silence that follows is only broken by the sound of the horses, they're breathing— and his heart beating rather loudly in his chest.

At least until he takes a deep breath before speaking, "I finished checking over the herd, so if you want— you could ride with me back to the stables."

Mariah lets that silence linger this time, opting to nuzzle against him during the ride instead of speaking further. And she doesn't let go of him, either, seeming content to hold herself against him, even when that makes the ride more awkward than comfortable.

She lifts her head when he takes in that breath, and his words bring a smile to her lips again. "I was hoping you'd offer," she says warmly, "and I'd be glad to. I don't have anywhere I need to be. Except here."

"Sorry, mate, you're going to have to deal with it a bit longer— but I promise you and apple when we get back," Cas says to the gelding rather than the woman who's leaning against him, smiling visibly as he turns the horse around and makes his way to the gate, where they can head back. There's another set of eyes on duty to guard the herd, but his job has been done.

His hand moves down, so both hands are on the reins, keeping the horse at a steady pace. A precaution that's needed, cause he speeds up as soon as he seems to realize he's being pointed to the stables and freedom.

And he's in no hurry. Even after he realizes her legs are probably cold.

Mariah doesn't seem to mind her cold legs. Or, if she does, instead of complaining, she opts to distract herself from it. And him, too, apparently. While his words widen her smile, her hands find their way up and under his coat and shirts to slide cool fingers along his skin.

Her lips find their way back to his neck, to plant a few more kisses there before they linger closer to his ear. So she can whisper. "You're not just a lowly stablehand, Cas. I— I don't think so, anyway."

The surprised sound as cold fingers touch bareskin is there. Certainly he's distracted for a moment, until his warmer skin starts to warm hers. Cas chuckles under his breath, then whispers back at her.

"I actually can't promise him an apple, not a fresh one at least, but there's some dried apple bits I can sprinkle in his oats," he says, as if preoccupied by promise to the horse.

It's on his mind just as much as what she said, certainly. Cause a moment later he whispers in almost the same tone, "If I'm not a lowely stablehand… then what am I?"

"Hopefully he won't be too disappointed. Maybe I'll bring one for him next time." Mariah rests her chin on his shoulder, looking down at the horse's mane, at first. But as he goes on, her tilts her head to look his way.

She's quiet for a moment, but there's a gentle smile on her face, too. "Well. We're not the sum of our occupations and perceived… social status. Aye? There's more to each of us. And I happen to think that you're something special." She lets that settle in for a moment, but can't seem to leave it there, in the end. "And I've watched you with the horses, you know. I don't think lowly is an appropriate adjective in any case. You're quite good at it, aren't you? And— if I'm being totally honest— I've never seen anyone look better on a horse." And that, she delivers with a grin.

"Must not see very many people on horses then," Cas says with a grin, twisting enough to glance back at her, even if it's not much. She can see his dimple, though. And he can see her grin.

"But yeah— I love working with the horses— always have. Since I was a kid. There's very little in the world that I love near as much," he says at a whisper. That whisper leads to a pause for a moment.

"I guess I'm a underappreciated stablehand, then, aye?"

And Mariah leans up just enough to press an impulsive kiss to that dimple. And although her smile dims during that pause, it isn't in an unhappy way. She just might be a little contemplative.

But his next words cut her off from having to decide if she wants to form and speak the question his whisper left her with. Instead, he gets another smile and a gentle nod. "I can run with that one. It shows, you know? I mean, how much you love your work, not that you're underappreciated. I've seen a lot of people in jobs they hate. Or jobs they tolerate. You're not just here for the pay," she says, as if that concept were a bit new to her, "I think it's lovely."

"I can't imagine doing a job I just tolerate all day," Cas says quietly, voice a little thoughtful, and with a hint of a question. As if he wonders which one she falls in on… "But that's why I work with horses instead of on a farm. I hated working on a farm. Well— hate may be a little harsh. I just didn't like it."

There's a pause, before he adds, "I mean I'll still do that occassionally, help with planting or harvests for a day or two, to make some extra on the side. It always goes into my horse fund, though. Well— towards it. I'm starting over on that, though."

Mariah's chuckle is a little too wry, a little too breathy, and comes with the distinct impression that she can imagine it well enough. Or perhaps, that she considers him a bit lucky. "I don't know. Enough pay can make up for a lot of things. Sometimes." Which might just be answer enough. She's certainly not at the Dovetail for the glamour of it all.

But her smile gives way to a furrowed brow when she looks back to him. "Starting it over?" It's just a gentle prod into the reasons why, but her expression is troubled enough that she might have a few guesses.

There's a half glance toward her, followed by a soft laugh. Not too much of one, though. "It's not all you— really. I had a pretty good fund going before I had to leave my last employer. I didn't manage to bring everything I owned, though," he admits, shifting to press his hand against hers— or at least against his shirt.

"Though most of what I would have put in it did go toward you for a while. Until… you know." He stopped paying as much. Or at all. Like now.

"And it's been winter most of my stay! So I haven't done too much on the side." There's a pause. "Well, that I've been busy when I'm not working." There's another pause. "Maybe it is your fault," he finally settles into a soft chuckle.

He goes on, but really, Mariah seems less than convinced. But, when he settles on an answer, her eyes narrow for a moment, although far from seriously, and there's just a brief pause before her fingers find his side to give him a quick and playful pinch in return. It's not hard enough to hurt, but then, that isn't the point, either.

"Well, I'll take that as a compliment, at least," she ends up saying with a laugh, and this time, when her hands move, it's to wrap around him for a hug, her cheek pressing against his back again as they ride on.

Too long after her pinch to be legitimate, there's a soft, overexaggerated "Ow," before Cas hugs his free arm against her arms and says quietly, "I wouldn't want to have spent it any other way at the time." It's a soft, yet genuine sentiment, as they continue to the horse's home.