Title: Charade
Time Period: August 13, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary:Niall finds that he has more than he can handle in the matter of love.

He's nervous. As many times as he's seen her in these summer days, Niall still feels a low flutter somewhere in the back of his brain and at the bottom of his innards. This could be a good or a bad thing, and from the way the man paces this is something he hasn't yet decided on. Mumbling small notions to himself to pass the time, he buzzes between idling and his workbench. Truth is, he hasn't gotten any work done today, all due to the haze of anxious excitement. He's tread a worn path into the floor, dustless given that he's cleaned up the place a bit since she started coming and him not working hard.

"Just pull yourself together," he utters, scrubbing at a rinsed head with a calloused hand. The shirt he has on is clean even, an off-white cotton t-shirt styled affair. One of his cleaner shirts, at least. And some tough fabric pants thanks to Sorcha for favors months ago.

The door opens — perhaps it's a good sign she's stopped knocking, despite the fact he's told her she doesn't need to, after so many visits. Simza laughed, and flushed, and said it was strange to be among buildings, that she didn't really know what was proper and what wasn't. After all, it's hard to knock on tents, and the wagons are usually open for a breeze except in the winter months.

The gypsy girl appears, hair pulled off her face in a ribbon where usually it falls loose around her shoulders, and she wears a new dress that's more of the "Dornie" style than those the Travellers wear — probably something recently traded for some of the Ceardannan wares, from one of the many Dornie citizens visiting the faire in the Vale.

In one hand carries a basket of food, and the other lifts in a wave; she smiles. "Hi," she offers brightly. She's a little early. "You look rather handsome today," she adds, quickly moving across the distance between him to press lips against his — it seems an impetuous, brave thing for her, if not unwelcome.

Niall passes by his workbench for the umpteenth time when the door swings open, and he's caught off guard with the lack of announcement. Perhaps it is a good sign. The smith has but moments to take in all that is the gypsy girl's hair, the ribbon, her dress.

"And you're lovely as ever. I thought I might've forgot where we were meet—" He's cut off, lips paused upon hers, and though they're too close to actually see, the corners of his mouth pull back in an amused smile at the affectionate gesture. He's the first to pull back, though, hands resting on her shoulders. "Let me take a good look at you, now," he states with head slightly cocking to a side.

She dips her lashes and looks down, stepping back, and then smiling; she spins once, the better for him to view her in the dress. It's not a brand new dress, likely someone's hand-me-down, but it is flattering in is indigo hue on her slim frame. "Do you like it? I thought I'd dress up for once," she says, finally looking up with dark eyes sparkling.

She lifts the basket. "Are you hungry? Or would you rather wait, work up that appetite of yours?" This latter is said in a purr, as she steps back closer, hands going to his waist and lips moving to his ear.

Nodding slowly, Niall takes in the ensemble like it's a view to remember. The smile hasn't left his features the entire time, only to slide into something a little more suggestive with her choice query. "I…" he considers aloud, "think we should at least step outside before deciding? I haven't eaten yet though, now that I think about it." Nervousness, again, impeded his thoughts so far as to stave his hunger. But now that food is mentioned, the man's stomach chimes in with a rumble. He looks down at his traitorous gut, then back up.

A hand snakes around her waist, emboldened by her manner but far more gentle than his physical strength would suggest. "Everything ok though, back at the Faire? I'd not want to keep you too long if you're needed back soon."

"A couple of hours yet before carousel duty," she says, looking perhaps a little disappointed at Niall's plan to go outside first — and that echoed by a demanding growl of stomach that insists its needs be met before any other body parts.

"A walk then, perhaps to the woods? It's a lovely day," she suggests, arched brows lifting as she entwines a hand in his and moves toward the door. "Are you coming to the faire later?" she asks, glancing over her shoulder as she leads him outsides.

Workman's ethics. It's true of the rumors that the master of the forge rarely makes time outside of work for things not related to it. But recent events have turned the tide, from his injuries to the coming of the Faire and the twin sister he has seen been seen with.

"A few hours yet, aye," he concurs. A short glance travels down to her fingers slipped into his, as if it were something that means more than what casual gesture she makes of it. Just a half pace behind, he catches up quickly to match her footsteps out of the door. "Tonight? Yes, I will be there. Wouldn't miss your enchanting methods of storytelling now, would I?" If there are glances sent the pair's way by onlookers, Niall doesn't seem to notice. His eyes are on her.

The chatter is casual and varied as they walk — the gypsy asking about the people they pass or the buildings they pass, the weather, his work. Once in a while, she asks something she's asked on another day, but her attention seems fickle today as it dances from object to object, person to person, except that it always returns to him — when her gaze alights on his face, a slow smile spreads, and her eyes drop in that very enchanting way.

After a while, they've come to a wood, and she pulls a blanket from the basket to spread upon the ground. "What will you do when we leave?" she says very suddenly, once she's seated herself on the blanket, legs tucked under her.

True to his roots, Niall talks a storm and is glad to do so, even to revisit past topics. His Irish accent slips out more as he rambles too, the further they are from the town. Helping set the blanket out, he still has to set himself down gingerly instead of flopping out or lounging. And just when the blacksmith reaches to dole out the rest of the contents of the basket, she asks the question that has thus far been avoided. The man curls his hovering fingers over the handle of the basket after a pause, drawing it to him. Distractedly, he roots through the foodstuffs without yet answering her.

It's the first he's been quiet.

As he extracts a wrapped loaf from within, Niall looks up to the woman across and answers with an even tone, "I'll stay here. Keep working. Live. Stands-Fast and I don't need much to get by."

Strangely, the answer makes her smile. "I'm glad to hear you say that," she says, setting a hand on the loaf and putting it back in the basket.

So much for that demanding stomach of his.

She brings a hand up to his face, touching his still-damp hair as she draws closer to kiss him, lips parting, eyes closing.

His eyes, however, so close to that hand at his temple, can see a jagged scar down the palm of the girl's hand — a scar that wasn't there the many times he's seen Simza over the past couple of weeks. A scar that's too long healed, shiny and pink against duller skin, to have happened any time soon.

A scar that he knows Blythe has, because Simza had told him the story of the two climbing over a barbed wire fence to get away from a bull, angered that the two girls, then twelve, had taken a short-cut through his pasture.

Things were going so well. Though the loaf being put back is at first something to protest, Niall is quick to realize she's drawing closer for something else people can find a hunger for. The man leans forward as well, starting to meet her in the middle until his eyes draw to her hand. And subsequently, her scar. The streak that mimics that upon his jaw, but one Simza has not yet gotten a story for out of the otherwise gregarious smith.

Suddenly as her question, so does he pull away before the contact and shoots a surprised and confused look to the woman sitting across. "What the bloody hell… Simz- no, wait. You're not- what?" The look on his face slips oddly towards one that echoes the angry bull of the gypsy's past.

Blythe doesn't realize what gave her away, and she first frowns, a flash of anger in her eyes, before reeling it in. The Traveller cants her head at him in feigned innocence. "What's wrong, Niall?" she says. "What do you mean? I don't understand."

Her brow knits together and she looks like she might cry — at least in expression. A closer look reveals no tears in those sloe eyes.

Oh, he's not having much by way of the everyman's wit. But the woman sees a flash of the fire in his eyes, the same that turns will into actual flame in another situation. The blacksmith darts a hand up, fingers first pointing to the equivalent of where the scar is on his skin, then jabbing the air towards her own. "Your hand," he growls out. "You're- You- I can't believe-" The sentences stutter in sharp cut offs, until finally he shoves himself up to his feet roughly. "You daft dilly, why? Why did you do this? How could you?" All his expressions twist in a whirl of emotions churning beneath the surface, made emphasized by the red rising to his pale face.

The traveller jumps to her feet, anger rising as well in the form of a flush. "Because I saw you first," she says with an immature stomp of her foot. "And because she's… really? You prefer her? I'm the fun one! I'm the one people like to be around, for something other than pretty pictures. She can't even hold up a conversation, can she? I've been talking for the two of us since we were wee kinchin, and she's been a homebody ever since. You only like her better because she had a chance to talk to you before me."

Blythe stands for a moment, then tries to broach the distance between them. "Come on. I've an hour more before I need to be at the faire. You said yourself you'll just stay here, when we go — she doesn't mean that much to you, if you're willing to let her go, and she's likely not going to cry more than a night over you. We're used to this life. It's just a lark, and I think you'll find I'm just as bonnie a bird."

Staring in disbelief, Niall doesn't get a word out to defend against the blast Blythe verbally levels in defense. But when she pursues, he retreats and gives ground. Hands come up, palms out. "Stop!" he barks back, shaking his head both to clear it and to deny her words. "I'm not going to do this with you. This isn't right, and this is not how- for God's sake, she's your sister!"

Perhaps that statement is what changes the tide, and instead of retreating further he stands his ground then, letting her reach him if she wishes. But the man goes still, save for the rise and fall of his chest and the smallest throbbing of a vein on the side of his head.

The girl laughs, and it is a cruel thing, aimed at him and his morals, and her sister too. "It is your loss, gadje. But we will be gone with the sun rise one day, and you will not have her, nor me, and you will look back on this day and be sorry for your silly principles."

Blythe grabs the blanket and the basket as well, adding insult to injury by not letting him have any of the food she's brought with him. Beginning to stalk off in the direction of the vale, she pauses to turn back. "Don't tell her, smith, because she will not believe it, and you will only look a greater fool than you already do." She turns her back once more and begins to walk with long strides of long legs, putting quick distance between them.

Niall furrows his brow with the carefree laugh from her. He neither moves to help nor hinder her departure, but his eyes follow her in all her movements. Though his stomach rumbles a thin protest when she packs the food away, he ignores it utterly, deaf to its contribution. He's silent throughout the whole process, up until she turns to level her final barb. Once she's several paces away he shakes his head again, uttering a short "feckin' hell" and bowing his head. He turns in the opposite direction, back the way they had come and starts back towards Dornie.

The next hours are going to be long and troubled indeed.