A Moment's Respite

Title: A Moment's Respite
Time Period: April 6, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: In the aftermath of events at the docks, a young apprentice healer finds a brief moment to breathe. With company.

The door of a warehouse opens and the slim figure of Cordelia Ross steps out into the gray dawn, slumping for a moment against the door that she closes behind her, and taking a deep breath of the morning air.

Which still smells and tastes of charcoal, soot, and burning flesh — or so she imagines, anyway.

When Cordie had arrived on the docks, she’d gotten the loudest of the militia men to bellow orders on her behalf. A quick system was put into place, with anyone with any medical skill whatsoever assisting her — those who needed immediate medical assistance were seen first, then brought to the relative warmth of a nearby fishery — onlookers doing nothing were sent to go find bedding and bring it to the warehouse serving as Cordelia’s hospital wing.

While she did her best with the worst of the wounded, others saw to the more minor injuries, then sent them to the warehouse to await further care if they felt they needed it, and told to return the next day for bandage changes if they chose to go home first.

The worst, of course, were those who were dying anyway — one in her arms, and another that would make it through a few hours but whose burns promised eventual death. HIm, she gave an opiate strong enough to dull the pain and fog his mind. He touched her face moments later to ask her why she was crying.

Now she begins the short walk to the apothecary; someone would go for her, she knows, but to explain to them which strange herb or flower in which jar she needs would be more effort than the walk. And she needs five minutes where there isn’t someone crying her name.

The docks isn't a usual hangout for Cas Blackburn, but these aren't usual days. The need for extra draft horses to haul debris and assist ways that only beast of burden can brought him out with a couple horses to help. Horses he watches quietly more than the smoldering wrecks. The urgency of the situation means he rode out, upon a bay gelding whose nostrils flair at the smell, even from this distance. His hand rubs gently upon the horse neck, as he stands beside him.

It's the sight of the young girl stepping out of the warehouse that draws eyes from the horses he brought. The sight of hurt people has never been something he's sought out, and he doesn't stare too much at the smoldering in the distance. His medical knowledge extends only to horses, not people, and none of the horses he brought are being handled poorly— The militia knows they need to be returned to the Rowntree stables, and the Rowntree name acts as protection that keeps him from having to watch them carefully, which is probably why he feels safe about looking away from their work and moving the short distance toward the warehouse.

If only he knew she didn't want people calling her name, "Cordie— hey— " At least his voice doesn't sound in pain or in fear. There's worry there, but… He gestures at the horse he stands next to, saddled and looking as if he's wanting to get away. "Need a ride somewhere?" He offers a small smile, one that may be a little forced.

Her eyes are dry, and not even red-rimmed, but tired when they search out the voice that calls her name. She’s not dressed warmly enough for this early; coatless, she hugs herself when the wind comes off the water.

“Oh, no, thank you though. It’s just down there,” she says, with a nod to the Apothecary. He knows where it is, of course. “I just need to restock a little.”

Her eyes go to the ruined warehouse and back to Cas as she begins to walk to her destination. “You’re okay? No one you know got hurt, did they?” Cordie asks, brows knitting with some worry that she might have to be the bearer of bad news.

"Oh," Cas says, looking up at the slender bay who just looks back at him under the black mane that hangs in his eyes. The young man even shrugs a little, as if the horse might have said something— or he imagines he did. "Do— is— can I— ?" his question isn't finished, cause he must take her question as she walks as the answer to the one he doesn't fully ask.

The horse's hooves are heavier than either of them, but even they make little sounds as he follows behind her, holding onto the reins of the bridle.

"I'm okay— I wasn't here when it happened, I just— they needed some extra horses." And hands, likely, and it's a good chance he'll help with the debris a little later, if his boss wants him to. "But I heard Lady Aislinn got hurt." When it's the boss' wife, that's all the other boys can talk about, probably. "Are you okay? Is— is this the first time you've had to work something like this— without her around, I mean?"

The mention of Aislinn has Cordie take a small shuddering breath — what could have been worse still weighs on her mind, clearly — and she lifts her chin to stare straight ahead. She nods, once, then swallows hard.

“She’ll be fine,” she says, her voice starting soft and husky but growing in strength to end that small statement with an assertive tone. “Luckily it wasn’t anything too bad, because it’s harder, you know, when it’s someone you l-”

She swallows back that word, and looks away again, one hand uncurling from her waist to hastily swipe at her cheeks, brushing away the tears. “She’ll be fine,” Cordie repeats.

For a moment, there's a rustling of fabric, and then someone is held out in front of her. It's a small handkerchief, likely cut out of a nicer shirt or scarf at some point. Light thin fabric with a black design on pale blue. Not as colorful as some of his clothes, but still colorful. "I'm glad she'll be okay— she's teaching me how to sign, the… hand signals? To talk to her son, the one that works in the stables. He's actually helping me with my horse training," he says, voice a little on the rambling side, as if he's nervous.

Perhaps because his words led her down the road to tears, when her eyes didn't look rimmed a moment ago.

"You'll be okay too?" he offers with a hopeful smile, but he can't help but say it in a way that edges towards a question in tone. "I mean I know it's hard, doing… what you're doing…"

The handkerchief is taken, pressed to her eyes, and she sniffles once but doesn’t blow her nose into the cloth. She’ll do that later when she’s not in his presence, maybe. “Colm,” she murmurs with a nod and a smile for her not-quite cousin. “He’ll like that, having more people to talk to. I should learn more of that, too, actually.”

She dabs her eyes and shrugs at the question aimed at her. “I’m fine,” is probably a lie. Fifteen-year-old girls shouldn’t have to worry about debriding third-degree burns or if removing a piece of shrapnel will cause internal bleeding to kill a patient. But this is the path she chose, and if Aislinn can do it…

The tears well up again in her dark eyes, and she suddenly sinks down to her knees. “I’m so tired,” Cordie murmurs.

"I'd like to think he's smiling more, lately," Cas offers quietly, voice a little absent as he watches her, the horse's reins slipping further out of his hands as he leads the horse along beside them. The gelding at least seems pleased to be further from the smell, nostrils no longer flaring, but his ears twitch, as if he's listening.

When she drops to her knees, Cas stops, looking down at her for a moment, before moving to kneel down beside her. The reins have been placed on the pommel of the saddle, the horse well trained enough to stay put for the moment, as he removes his jacket and places it over her shoulders, hands squeezing at her upper arms.

The jacket isn't too large, and it isn't nice, a soft brown leather, worn with wear, but functional and warm."It's alright," is what he settles on, voice soft and whispered. The horse stands guard in a way, almost a shield of privacy.

She bows her head and takes deep gulps of air. It’s the kind of exhaustion that comes of going non-stop for too many hours without taking a moment to replenish energy; she hasn’t eaten or done more than splash cold water on her face between patients for the past twelve hours. It takes a few moments but she finally reaches up to touch his hand on her shoulder.

“Don’t tell anyone…” she whispers, as if it was some sort of shameful secret, and she turns to look out to the docks to see if anyone’s noticed — but they are too busy with their work there. Thankfully.

Cordelia takes his hand and uses it to help herself up. Weary eyes take in the distance to Aislinn’s practice, and it’s not far. “I’m okay,” she whispers, and begins to walk again. “I just need some coffee or something.”

"How about this," Cas says in an offer, keeping a hold of her hand in his own partially covered one. Where he got the idea to cut out the fingers of his gloves is anyone's guess, but it seems to be a common trait with him when gloves are worn at all.

"You ride up there the rest of the way, and then I'll help you make some coffee— or a strong tea— while you get whatever you need to get and then you can ride back. A little time off your feet may help too?"

He motions his head towards the saddle, which at least would get her off her legs. It's not a ladies saddle, but it won't be a long ride. "And you can hold onto my jacket too. It's a chilly out here." Even with the fire that was burning not too long ago.

Cordie looks ready to argue, but another look down the path to the Apothecary’s makes the journey seem even longer than it did a moment ago, and she nods.

“When we get back to the warehouse, can you make sure my horse’s fed and groomed, too, maybe? I rode her late last night and I haven’t had time… don’t think I’m awful for it, okay?” she asks as she moves to get into the saddle, not seeming to mind the masculine nature of it — after all, she’s in trousers.

The horse’s neck is petted and she sighs softly, eyes half-closing now that her adrenaline has faded after the long night’s work.

"I can do that," Cas says with a grin as she now towers above him upon the back of the horse. Retaking the reins, he chooses to guide with his hands and body rather than pulling on them, or anything, keeping a hand up on the pommel and hear her, in case she needs assistance. Walking beside a horse isn't as good as riding, but the saddle wasn't made for two, and he wants her to rest, not be too uncomfortable.

"I don't think you're awful. Someone else should have offered to do it— you've got a tough job and shouldn't have to worry about things like that."

The horse's gait is steady, and he doesn't have him run, but he does increase his own walking pace to keep up with the walk of the gelding. "She got a name? Your horse?"

“Oh, she’s not mine, mine,” Cordie says, sleepily. “We’ve a few at the manor, for the family you know, but I don’t have one of my own. A matched pair. Apollo and Artemis. It’s a good name. Not as good as Argyle, though.”

When they come to the Apothecary, she slips off the saddle and pulls a key from beneath her sweater, held on a chain, and nods up. “Come on,” she says as she leads the way up the steps, unlocking the door and stepping inside.

Seeing that she doesn't require his help to get off the animal, Cas steps forward and ties off the horse, so that he can join her inside. He's been in the place enough times he has a marginal idea where he could go to make tea or coffee for her, though she may need to point out the exact kind she wants. Getting the water boiling first is something he can do on his own, though.

"Artemis isn't a bad name, but Argyle is better," he agrees, with a grin. "You know I— I picked the horse that I'm going to train. Actually started on it for the last month. Colm's going to help me with the rest, when he can," he says, looking over at her.

"I think I decided on a name, but… I kind of don't want to give him one yet, cause… I'm not sure I'm going to be able to afford him. Names are personal, and I don't want to confuse him, if someone else gets him and decides to call him a totally different name."

She sets out the tea and mugs for him then goes about finding the items she needs, filling a bag with jars and bandages and sachets from here and there, but it’s quick work. Cordie obviously knows where everything is and exactly what she needs to bring back to her makeshift emergency room down the row.

“Names are important, I agree. Can you tell me, or are you afraid it will jinx it somehow?” she asks, before sinking into one of the chairs to wait for the tea to finish brewing.

"It may," Cas admits with a grin as he looks over from the water that will soon be tea— or so he hopes. "But I'll tell you on one condition…" he raises a hand in a gesture. Everyone knows what one finger means, but occasionally he finds himself gesturing signs, even when Colm isn't around.

"That if, for some reason, I am unable to save enough to trade for him— that you get your dad or your uncle to get you the horse. That way I know he's at least going to someone who… you know— I know. And I'm sure Colm won't mind, either. You're welcome to meet him first, but he's already really gentle."

With a grin, he adds on as the water starts boiling and the tea is mixed in. "Though then he'll have to wait longer to learn his name."

She doesn’t have much pull over her uncle, but her father is wrapped around her finger, so she doesn’t protest that she can’t. Still, her full lips pull into a frown, and she leans her head back against the wall, her eyes closing again as she murmurs, “Okay.”

Later, she can protest she entered the agreement under an extreme lack of sleep, if she’s unable to hold up her end of the bargain.

“What’s his name?”

There's a relieved look on Cas' face as the girl gives the okay. Moving the tear around, he pours some of the hot liquid into a cup to hold out to her, while the rest he tries to find something more portable to put it in. A canteen, likely. So she has something to drink back at the job. "I fully intend to own him, I've always wanted a horse of my own, especially one I train and… he's beautiful and strong and calm tempted, even if he has some headstrong tendancies— he doesn't seem to be mean."

And that is an advantage. "But it's nice to have a… back up plan, I guess. In case something happens and I lose my stash." He smiles at her, still relieved, not seeming to expect she would bow out.

"I decided I was going to call him Eclipse. Cause he's… the piebald. All black and white. And it seemed like a nice name for a horse." Despite his smile being confident when he started, at the end he looks more hesitant and adds on, "Is it a nice name for a horse?"

“He sounds lovely,” Cordelia says, reaching for the cup and taking a sip, sighing with something like contentedness at the taste of the brew. “I’m sure everything will work out. You’ll be able to have him. And it’s a lovely name.”

One had scrubs at her face tiredly and she doesn’t seem to eager to move from her spot. The cup is held in both hands, and she looks like she just might fall asleep. But suddenly the door bangs open, and one of the women who’d been serving as her nurses stands in the doorway.

“Miss Ross, I hate to bother you but Mr. Briggs, miss, he’s got a fever, and you said to come find you if any of ‘em turned for the worse or showed signs of infection…” the middle-aged woman winds her hands around her skirt, looking worried.

Cordie’s eyes open and she blinks. “No bother. Of course. I’ll be right there,” she whispers, taking another gulp of the tea and rising. “Can we take your horse back?” she asks Cas, gathering her bag of supplies and moving to the door.

There's a small start from Cas at the entrance, and he finishes pouring the tea into a canteen as he looks up at the woman with a worried expression. The poor girl doesn't get much of a break— Sealing the canteen, he steps over to her and holds it out, "You can borrow him. I'll be behind you on foot, to take a look at your horse like you asked."

And as he hands her the canteen he adds with a smile, "And I won't tell anyone about earlier, either. Promise. I can keep a secret."