And Then They Cuddled

Title: And Then They Cuddled
Time Period: May 17, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: A shared drink in the woods.

It's dark in the woods.

It's dark everywhere, actually, but it's especially dark here, where moonlight has to struggle through needles and bows to dapple blue across the brush. It is possible that Algernon is supposed to be on patrol. Whether or not he's called in sick or is currently on duty is more difficult to discern — there's little of guilt or concern to be found in the slouch of his sit up against a robust pine, scotch on one knee and legs long between knobbled roots. He's started a (dubiously safe) fire, which casts eerie shadows and paints the forest as it would the inside of a furnace, all orange and ember red.

"And then he says," he's saying, delay a joint effort between dramatic effect and the concentration required to navigate bottleneck to tin cup, "says, 'How much would it take to build ten?' …In complete seriousness, of course. Always in complete seriousness."

That, appropriately, gets a laugh, dry in Cruikshank's throat and in the cup he'd raised to sip from. He is comfortably cross-legged on the forest floor, dressed in a knit coat, patterned loud in comparison to the two-note tone of dark forest around them, although the colours are sapped away with shadow and fickle firelight. He is starting to lose the harsh angles of poverty in his face, for all that his lot in life is the same as it was before. Just, more comfortable.

"That is many. What's he— going to be doing with ten boats?" A beat. Rub forehead. "And how much would it take?"

"Attempt a hostile takeover of all of his neighbors I imagine." Now it's Fogg's turn to smile, lines cut glassy sharp in round his eyes when he shows his teeth to tin. "That or make choreographed naval exercises the settlement's official passtime."

He's buttoned up in the usual mix of tawny browns and grey, coat foresaken before the fire's warmth. He's retained his hat, some unconscious, blood-deep mistrust of gypsy colors compelling to him to keep it on his skull lest it wind up on someone else's.

A long swallow and a longer breath to contemplate the burn lead him up onto his feet. His feet, in turn, lead him into a restless wind through the dead space at Fletcher's back, where he doesn't trip but has at least some minor difficulty staying upright anyway. "The assassination of his father."

Fletcher twists a little in an attempt to keep track but ultimately settles back into his slouch, happy for now with his place by the little fire, the trees creating enough wind interference for the smoke to behave. Tucking his cup of sharp liquor to lean against his knee, Cruikshank dives a hand into his pocket of his coat, extacting the obnoxiously beaded satchel of tobacco from within, and a narrow tin that he keeps thin wafers of paper in for the purpose of smoking. It's a fidgety thing to do when you're a little inebriated, but he's gotten practiced at it.

If there's anything laced into the leaf, that can only be discovered by the time smoke is rising. "It'll keep Sir Rowntree busy, anyway," he mutters. "I think there's something wrong with him. Do you want one of these?"

"He's a psychopath."

Agreement replete with diagnosis in the blandest of flat affects, Algernon sinks woozily back down into a sit closer to Fletcher's side. Leaves rustle; he has to set the bottle down at his knee between them to keep from losing it in the time it takes him to settle.

"Among other things. He's had his eye on Luna Owens, you know."

He's genuinely unsure of how many people do. It seems like such a minor thing in the greater context. But rather than elaborate, he's forced to squint aside at Cruikshank rolling a smoke.

A reflexive reach for the pocket where he's prone to keeping similar equipment turns up empty — his coat is over ——> there. Common sense not having evaporated so much as it's more open to suggestion, he carefully weighs the trouble of getting up again to the manner of supply presented him. And still comes up just a little short. "If you don't mind."

"Lots've eyes on Luna."

Luuuna. This isn't said without affection; Cruikshank counting on the fidelity of women would be laughable, and a little tragic considering the context. He fussily rolls the smoke and offers it out for Algernon to take, setting about with the second, back bent and lank hair shoved out of the way, behind his ears. There'd only been a brief glance to check for seriousness at that diagnosis, and absolutely no objection. Once he's done with his smoke, he gathers up leafy twig off the ground to light on fire and bring closer, fingers flicking as the heat splashes over his knuckles, before it's tossed back into the camp light.

The smoke is surprisingly smooth, made sweeter with spices. He's skipped the opium. Picking up his drink, Fletcher swishes the liquid within, but pauses before he can sip from it. "Why's he got his eye on Luna?" he asks, somewhat abruptly, as if just picking up on the queer dissonance of this. Not that Duncan Rowntree isn't allowed to fuck people, but, you know.

Fogg watches Cruikshank light up before he follows suit, having just learned something new that he will probably not remember come morning. Given that this is the first time he's been in a position to not care very much about precisely what he's being offered to smoke, he should be more careful. But he isn't, excess caution taken only in the way he pinches paper to avoid dropping it or otherwise forgetting he's wielding something with a spark to it.

"Why shouldn't he?" he wonders, not quite rhetorical in a turn of filmy smoke through his teeth. Slitty eyed and warmly at ease, in that way predators have when they relax. "She does wonders for the ego. In and out of bed." So that's a mark in her favor.

"They have things in common," he adds after time taken for further thought, cigarette brought up for another slow draw. "They're both insane."

"She isn't," is small protest, but not much in the way of conviction. As well as being an unreliable source. Cruikshank takes a lungful of smoke instead of back that come up with evidence — she likes it when I talk to her about elder beings and strawman gods is really all he has — fingers V'd, nails as ever slightly dirty. "Rowntree doesn't know," he says, on the exhale of smoke. "There're things bigger than Dornie out there, we all know that. Ten ships sound like the sort of thing that tempts… you know."

He lists off, puzzling over his alcohol. "But you've seen what's become of some places. Dragons attack— they attack the plenty… having, and the cities are all in pieces. I don't think we're meant to live big like we once did."

"Dragons are already attacking. Not on your account, I hope." For Cruikshank's sake, apparently — there's a distinct absence of investment about him for the issue that isn't terribly becoming for a militiaman. "Dragons, kelpies, trolls. Hobs." Ash drops off onto his knee and he brushes it away with less hurry than the prospect of being burned deserves, alcohol and smoke held together in the same hand while he's sorted.

"He searches in the ruins. Brings things back. Electrical things."

A glance over at Fletcher a beat later doesn't make it much further than his lap before Algernon thinks twice. Sensoring himself on a muzzy delay. Ultimately he distracts himself with the smoke he exhales instead, jetted down in an uneven stream no doubt inspired by the beasts they've been discussing. Quiet.

Brows knit a little in a sort of vague outsider's concern, Fletcher contemplates Algernon's profile before ducking another sip of liquor, slightly longer than the last appreciating rather than tolerating the sear it backs from his mouth to his gut. "Well," he says, eventually, voice a little rougher thanks to drink, smoke, and low volume. "You're well positioned should his highness get everything he wants. But where will you be if he fails?"

He rocks back enough to settle on his elbows, as if to escape a little, now, the building warmth of the smokey fire.

Algernon chuckles at that. A gruff sound in the base of his throat at the unexpectedness or earnestness of it. Something. It's at odds with the rest of his composure and he stifles it with a long swallow of mediocre scotch, eyes closed hard after it. "Close by," he decides, once he's certain his latest commitment to his condition is going to stay down. "Beyond that I cannot say." A smaller sip chases the last and he sets the cup next to the bottle. No idea where the cork has gone. Nearly empty anyway.

"Can't you throw some bones or something."

That gains a snort into his drink, and a tip of his head. "Actually," Cruikshank says, once he's wiped his mouth with the inner of his wrist, "I could."

Still staying slumped back, he reaches for the bottle to tip a portion of the remains into his cup, resting the bottle once more against Algernon's knee before bringing the charged cup in to nurse. "'ve got none on me," he adds, in case his claim was going to be called into question. "Although if I told you anythng from them I bet you'd just give me that look you do. You know. Like you're being patient."

"I am more entrenched in the occult then I would have you believe," Algernon confesses to the fire, a scuff and rustle marking a dizzy move made to lie himself down at Fletchers side. Too close, maybe. Alcohol has a tendency to smudge personal boundaries.

Smoke tails after him, loosely affiliated at first and then in a steeper rush, once he's settled. "But bones are bones and radios are radios and I am disinclined to put my faith in either."

His revolver is poking him in the ribs and he resettles himself, hat tipped low to the bridge of his nose by the ground. "We can really only depend upon ourselves, you know. And the unconscious habits of others, when they fall into predictable patterns."

Fogg's slow progression to lie down is tracked with a puzzled look, as if unsure what to make of the remark that came just before. Cruikshank looks down the bridge of his nose at his drinking companion settled close, before lifting his cigarette to breathe from, pricking orange light at the feathered burned end of the rolled paper. He coughs, once, low in his chest when ash scratches harsh at the bottom of his lungs.

"Yes, well," he says, "what do you reckon it is the bones talk about, if not that?"

"Whatever the caster fancies they talk about, I suppose. They are the progeny of interpretation and so subject to infinite … implication." It has been a long time since Algernon has been drunk enough to lie down wherever is most convenient. The pause is a hobbled attempt to doublecheck that he hasn't listed off subject. It would be a nice night to look at the stars, if they weren't screened out by the forest canopy.

Apropros nothing, after a stretch of silence he lifts his head and hits it back against the earth with enough force for there to be a small thud.

"Do gypsies feel guilt?"

"No it isn't," Cruikshank mutters, but offers no more argument. There is no denying a man who can create flames from his palms, or turn water into ice, or heal with a touch, but selling charms, seeing faces in black glass, and telling the future from scattered bones and riverstones carries with it the stigma of being, well, dodgy. And it isn't like Fletcher hasn't lied to shape his services.

It's a fine line of credibility and he doesn't feel like it right now anyway. He flicks some ash. "What's that question supposed to be?"

"Unappreciated," Algernon guesses more than he is certain, based upon the response. The air goes out of him with it, smoke free for the moment. The brim of his hat blacks out a majority of the fire's orange, but the warmth of it remains tangible through boots and trou and side where he lies.

Cruikshank makes a wordless sound in response. A little bit. He recklessly downs the rest of his drink, head tipping back. "What about the militia?" he puts forward, just a little bit slurred at the edges, there, running the words together like a wet brush dragging through paint.

One last long drag and Algernon stubs the rest of his smoke out into the dirt at his side, dropping it halfway through and rendering it 'safe' with a halfhearted pat after the area where it probably ended up. Good enough. "What about it?"

"Guilt," Cruikshank helpfully prompts, having twisted to lie on his side, head braced against his hand. He stretches to edge his feet further towards the fire, his boots placed somewhere else after he shucked them at a midpoint between where they start and where they've wound up. "Do they feel any."

"I'm sure some must," Fogg answers earnestly. Drowsily. Periphery movement around the fire's edge may register as a wildcat, if Fletcher can be bothered to bring it into focus. Forge blends in shades of the same orange as the earth and the trees from the brush line, leaner than he has been without the ridiculous ruff of his winter coat to fill him out. He's had more than enough eyefulls of the gypsy not to be interested and fits himself to Algernon's side without so much as a second glance. "It's statistically likely."

Do you? should be the next question, but it feels sharp and challenging on Cruikshank's tongue, and he isn't even sure he'd get a real answer, nor does he… care. Instead, he glances towards that movement of animal, watching in silence as Forge settles in place. Fletcher blinks, lazily. Somewhere in a nearby branch, Shade had inevitably tucked her beak into her feathers.

"Just not the psychopaths," he concludes, before he lays his head down himself.