Title: Comfort
Time Period: April 20, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: After the events of earlier in the evening, Mariah gets some much needed comfort.

It was just supposed to be a simple night out, have a drink or two, laugh, sing a bawdy song or three, and then head home and see her absolute favorite (non)client and generally have a lovely night. It may not be as profitable as her nights used to be, but it works for her.

Things have not gone as planned.

Masque, for once, is sitting in her room, blatantly in sight and seeming quite edgy as he lingers near her chair. And she sits in front of her water basin and mirror, checking out the cut along her eyebrow, the blood making its way down the side of her face and the bruises slowly forming around it. There's no water in the basin, but that's because she's heating it over her fire at the moment. She knows at least a little something of sterilization.

But one thing's for sure. She's completely forgotten what time Cas was dropping by.

On nights like this, Cas is unfortunately unaccustomed to knocking. At least on her door. He's also started to avoid the lady folks as much as possible, so anyone who could have warned him with gossip doesn't spot him in time to stop him. The door opens and he's smiling brightly, already beginning to speak, "You should have seen him today— he's learning how to trot and every— " that's as far as he gets.

The sight of Masque only widened his smile and increased his excitment in his voice, even if he's in badger form and not the dogshape he's more used to seeing personally—

But then he fully looks at Mariah, reflected in the mirror at him, and his voice stops suddenly, the smile faltering into worry. "Are— are you okay?" he asks, quickly closing the door behind him, as if afraid the women might overhear. Or be involved.. It's not the first time he's seen her a little rough, and that time was one of the women in the house.

When the door starts to open, Mariah gets as far as standing up from her chair. Which doesn't do much to cover the state she's in, as much as she might have liked to. She's been roughed up before, but this time, as she looks over at him, she actually looks like she might start crying. Which isn't the case when she has it out with the girls.

"I'm okay," comes out by habit, but doesn't sound too convincing. But the initial reaction is tampered down after a second, and she lowers herself back to her chair as she musters up a smile. "I'm okay." Sounds a little better the second time. It's Masque that's forgetting to sell it, but at least he seems to take Cas into the sphere of protection instead of assuming she needs protecting from him.

The excitment certainly isn't going to be coming back at any point soon, as Cas looks toward the badger when she speaks. The badger isn't trying to sell it, and while he didn't notice it at first— that familiar is far more than just grouchy. "You're not okay. Neither is Masque."

Even as he says it, he hesitates. There's certain things about her job they touched on briefly, but… It's never been an easy subject to start.

Course her condition might be start enough. "What happened? Have you seen Aislinn or Cordie yet? They…" He steps closer, just once.

Mariah lets out a sigh, sounding a little loopy still as she shakes her head, just a little, "I haven't seen anyone." Being a secretive person, she doesn't tend to go out of her way to see Aislinn unless it's something she can't patch up herself. It's up in the air if this is or not.

Her brow furrows, and she looks down at her lap for a moment. It's hard, when she'd really just like to lie. "I don't want you to get upset," she starts with, which is probably not totally reassuring. "Nothing serious happened— " that gets a snort from Masque, as their definitions may vary, "but I was in a tussle on the way home."

And times like this, Cas is probably wanting to be lied to. Even if only a little. It's less complicated to lie. Upset and worry are already plain on his face, and her lacks the personality to direct it at anyone except himself, especially in this company. It takes him withdrawal for a moment, rubbing on his left wrist. "Nothing serious— this looks serious enough to me…" he says quietly, voice a whisper.

After a moment, he finally moves away from the door, toward the tea set that she's usually the one to prepare, pulling a package out of his pocket. He's got enough left to use for this. Surely something for broken rib pain will work as well for cuts and bruises.

"If it were a magical creature… you wouldn't be worried I'd get upset. So who was it?"

"It's just a bump on the head and… and too much alcohol." Which does account for some of the loopiness, but that excuse has been drying up since it happened. Mariah closes her eyes as he goes for the tea, her hands moving to pull a cloth from a drawer that she drapes over the side of the basin. Still no water in there. She may have forgotten.

"No one I can do anything about," she mutters, mostly to herself, before she turns toward him, a frown on her face. "It's really okay. Nothing too bad can happen to me, remember?" Her voice does help. She also may be taking the opportunity to remind herself that it could have been a lot worse, because she visibly pulls herself back together, a bit at a time. "I just shouted and ran away and now I'm here needing my face washed."

"Mariah…" Cas says quietly, grimacing a little as she tries deflect. He's been here long enough to guess why she can't do anything about it, even if he seems unperceptive at times. "Let me help," he says quietly, putting down the tea he's started to prepare. It can wait— besides he remembers that Cordie expressly said at meals— and they don't have food yet.

"I'll help you get cleaned up, then I'll go downstairs and get you something to eat. Then- then we'll figure out where to go from there. You don't have to tell me more if if it upsets you."

As he goes on, Mariah reaches out to take his hand in hers, her hold a little tighter than usual. She's quiet for just a moment before she looks up at him, eyes red, but still managing not to cry.

"Don't leave. Okay? Just… not yet." Her brow furrows, half in pain and half not, and she looks down again. "I don't know if it upsets me yet. But I don't want to upset you. I don't know how much you really… want to know. You know?" She pauses again, swallowing hard before she looks at him again. "Can food wait? Just a little while."

"I— food can wait," Cas says after a moment, hesitating even as he says it. Though what's making him hesitate is up for debate, especially when he looks down at the hand holding his and squeezes it cautiously. "I— uh— I haven't even helped you clean up yet. That was part one of the… helping." There's worry when he looks back up, a strange movement that seems like an almost hug that he stops after the first motion.

"Is— is it okay if— I mean— do you even want to be touched right now? I…" Okay, what he's hesitating over may no longer be a secret after that— "I don't want to scare you, or… hurt you…"

Mariah watches his hesitation, and for once, the nuances of it all are escaping her. But when he explains, she breathes out a sigh through a gentle smile. And for an answer, she stands up and steps closer to him to slide her arms around his waist as she buries her face against his chest.

Even Masque seems okay with it, and seems to relax a bit. Even if he is still standing guard on the door. Her hands grip onto the fabric at his back, apparently still needing some steadying on her feet. And also, the comfort.

There's still hesitation from his side of the hug, but it seems Cas is more concerned about how hard to hug her than anything else. At first he squeezes, then he lightens it, then he decides to do much the same thing she is and holds onto her clothes a bit… Until that stops. Finally he just settles his hands flat against her and rubs, much as he would try to soothe his horses.

"You'll be okay," he says quietly, whispering against her hair as he closes his eyes finally, trying to relax into the hug. Even if that's difficult.

The good news is, she doesn't seem to be hiding any serious wounds, and just sort of leans into the hug. The soothing even goes over well, despite it being similar to how he treats the horses. It takes a few long moments before her hand moves to his chest to help prop her up as she leans back again.

"I'm sorry about all this. So stupid," she ends up saying, her laugh breathy and mirthless. "And— I'm sorry, can we sit?" Unsteadiness coming from several sources at the moment, but at least there's a lot of places to sit in this room. "I should probably get cleaned up, too." But she doesn't move to do that herself. Not just yet.

As she apologizes and calls it stupid, Cas shakes his head, looking down at her with a perplexed expression. "Being upset isn't stupid. What happened to you is— and that they will just… get away with it is even more, but… you being upset isn't," he says, pulling his hands back just enough to touch her face gently, as if checking for tears. Or just wanting to give some gently touch around the wound.

He definitely doesn't touch it, though. Probably best since he hasn't washed his hands yet.

"Yeah— we can sit down," he says, not wanting to pull away from her as they go, though, so he keeps an arm around her as he leads her toward the fire, with the heating water. "Men can be really mean," he says softly as they walk over. "I know not everyone in the militia is mean, but it only takes a few…"

Tears haven't fallen, but they're looming, make her eyes dewy and forcing her to blink them back. But when he touches her face, she doesn't even flinch, apparently not worried that he'll disturb the cut. But she smiles. It's not a grand expression, but it speaks to how much better things are with his hands on her face and his arm leading her to a place to sit.

"They're just upset I don't take their custom these days," she says, not seeming to realize that she hasn't quiet explained all that to him, save for the one militia man he has history with. "They'll get over it and find another soon enough." She blinks, then looks his way, her brow furrowing again. "Actually, I'm fair certain they didn't just get away with it. I mean, it's sort of a blur, but I'm pretty sure I broke at least a nose."

"Well that's good— I bet Masque got a bite or two in— hope you gave them that… something nasty," Cas says toward the badger, knowing full well that's one animal he can talk to who will understand him, even as he sits her down. "Why— " he starts to ask, but hesitates, and decides to briefly pull away, only to look at the water over the fire for a moment.

"We should move this to the basin. Do you mind if I… carry it over?" he asks, obviously meaning that he will have to get go of her for a bit, and that they'll end up sitting next to the mirror instead.

Masque still answers with a bark, different though the sound may be while he's a badger. And the way Mariah looks over at the creature, with her smile dimming, but her expression carrying an appreciation to it all the same, it's pretty clear he did more than a bite. "He was brilliant," is how she ends up explaining it.

She looks up at him, then down to where she sits, but she gives him a nod all the same. "Of course," she says, although she's reluctant to let him go. She does. But she stays sitting there for the moment, her hands moving to run through her hair, and idly tugging a twig out from somewhere in there. She regards it with a frown before she toss it into the fire. It's not usual for her, feeling this disheveled.

Even if he's not the most built looking man, Cas still manages to get water into the basin with very little strain or complaining. Even with his broken ribs. Another time he might groan and moan and complain, but she's distracted by her twig the one time he actually grimaces.

"Does the Dovetail have a… list of people they don't … uh… do business with? There's a name for it, but I forget. My family had one. People we'd stop trading with when they did things… whole families we wouldn't deal with, no matter what they offered… And I know my old boss in Grimsby had one. I'm probably at the top of that one, now," he says with a grin, as if trying to make a joke, when he's back over to help her to the now full basin.

"That could be a punishment— no more business for you… hitting ladies men."

"A black list? Yes, of course." It's hard to say if she's made the connection that these men in particular should be put on it, her tone being as mild as it is. But then, she did say she wasn't sure how upset she was yet. There's a good chance the next few days will see a more certain reaction.

She looks over at him at the joke, though, her smile widening just a little. She hangs onto him as they move positions, but when she sits down again, her expression sobers. "I can talk to Edme, I suppose. I never— had this problem before." And talking about it isn't her first instinct, but. Maybe.

"Right— you'd think I would remember that. Is part of me name after all," Cas says with a laugh, scratching his nose for a moment before he removes his gloves so he can wash his hands off. Though not rinsing them in the basin water. It requires a little more movement around, as he thinks of things last moment, but then he's sitting down, ready to clean her face.

"You'll have to see Aislinn sometime— maybe she can talk to her. If those guys are as bad as you say they'll probably need to go to her too, so she'll know which ones you mean," he says in an offer, perhaps notiicing she doesn't want to half to talk about it. "You may not even have to tell Lady Aislinn, you know— she seems to just know things, right?" he says with a smile, trying to reassure, before he dampens a towel.

"So it is," Mariah says, this time his words actually get a laugh, albeit a small one. She watches him wash up, but her smile slips again as he goes on. "I think it's not as bad as that. Needing the doctor. I mean, and for them, they have to be used to such things by now, aye? Being in the militia."

Aislinn's tendency to be extremely perceptive gets a wry chuckle from the prostitute and she nods gently. "I suppose. She might just be able to put it together. But— I'm not sure there's much to be done. I'm fine, nothing happened. And in the end, I'm just a prostitute from the Dovetail with no tie to Rowntree or Ross and they're militia. Plus, I think I handled myself well enough." Her and Masque, anyway.

"Nothing happened?" Cas says with a frustrated sound, then shakes his head and decides to focus on cleaning her face off with now dampened cloth. It will take some time to do this slowly, carefully, especially when he wants to avoid hurting or burning her. "You're not just a prostitute, and what they did wasn't nothing— it could have been worse if you were any other girl, too. A lot worse."

If she didn't have Masque, if she didn't have her voice. If…

"It's not nothing. And you're not nothing. I don't care if they're militia or pig farmers, they should still be… I don't know." There's big words that he would like to put there, but he can't remember them.

Mariah closes her eyes at first, whether it's from his words or the cleaning. But it is the touch of cloth to her skin that has her tensing up, anticipating the sting that'll soon follow. Her hand curls around his arm, to have something to anchor to.

"It could have been worse, but it wasn't. And I'm not any other girl. And I'm…" She pauses there, letting out a sigh and opening her eyes to look at him. Her lips curve into a smile, though, at the end. "You're a good person, Cas." Her fingers reach up to brush through his hair before they drift down to brush his jaw. "This is why I feel safer with you than anyone else. You're a genuinely good person. But not everyone is like that. They're upset. They'll get over it. If I drag it out… then they've a reason to hold a much longer grudge." And that might be what it comes down to. She's afraid.

As she voices his worries, Cas silences himself, looking cautiously at her, and even pausing in his work as she touches him. Distracted, most likely, but distracted by more than a hand in his messy hair and on his face. He hasn't cleaned up since he got here, but at least he did after tending the stables all morning.

To keep the piebald from smelling strange horses, more than anything else.

"Is this— you said you never had this happen before— and you said you weren't taking as many clients and…" he hesitates. It's a question he's thinking a lot, but doesn't want to ask. And she probably wants to hear it even less.

"Is this— because of me?"

Mariah reaches up to take his hand there, cloth and all, to hold between hers as she looks at him. "This is not because of you. Tonight is not because of you. This is a matter of how they decided to handle being turned away. And they're being turned away because… I don't want them in here any longer." It's all very simple.

"And it's my choice, to turn them out if I like." It's a delicate matter, making sure he doesn't take the fault. "And I do like. I'd rather have someone I want in my company." It just so happens there's one someone in particular she'd rather have.

"I know it's your choice," Cas says in a whispered voice that's becoming hoarse by the minute, as if he's tensing up too much and is having to force the words out. "I didn't help matters, though, did I," he states more than asks, from his tone, looking down at the cloth he's been dabbing her with, beginning to get small stains of pink.

"Did you stop seeing them because of me?" he asks quietly, keeping his eyes on the towel for a moment, then looking back up at her. "Because of what happened before? With that Jain-guy."

"Cas…" Mariah's hands move to his face, although they slide down to his neck so she can rest her arms against his shoulders a moment later. "It isn't that way. You've done nothing wrong whatsoever. I stopped seeing Jain because— Well, he's mean. And I could maybe ignore it before, because of all he does for the house, but lately he's been cruel to people who matter to me and I started to notice. It isn't something you or anyone else did, it's his behavior."

She looks back at him when his gaze lifts up her way, her head tilting and her eyebrow drawing together. "The others I stopped seeing because… I don't know. The payments used to make up for a lot. It doesn't… anymore. If it's because of you, then it's because you've reminded me to value myself a little. And I can't see that as a bad thing, aye?"

While listening to her answers, Cas' eyes lower again, and his shoulders seem to lower, almost slumping, but more relaxing, really. "I guess I can't argue with that," he says quietly, but from the sound, there's less tension in his voice, and the tone isn't quite as… guilty.

The cloth is dampened again, and when he looks back up he starts to work on cleaning her face again, carefully minding the cut on her forehead. "Do you think it— it won't get worse, will it?" he asks tenatively. "Is there… anything that might make it not get… worse?"

Mariah leans forward, just for a moment, to lean her forehead against his. It's just a show of gentle affection, and probably to reinforce that she doesn't think any of it is his fault. But when he moves to dampen the cloth again, she leans back, even though her hands stay put on the sides of his neck.

"I don't think it'll get worse," she says, and she even sounds like she believes it, "I certainly don't think those two will try that again, ended sort of embarrassingly for them, I dare say." Off near the door, there's a chitter from the familiar, and she chuckles a little before relaying to Cas, "Masque wants me to let you know that he's not planning on letting me be off on my own like on the walks home anymore, despite whatever protests I might have at the time." Which she probably will have, at least when the initial shock of this wears off.

From the look in his eyes, Cas is more skeptical. And possibly about to say something when he hears the chitter chatter from a tiny mouth over near the door. Badger talk is not what he's used to, but he looks anyway, tilting his head until he looks back at Mariah as she acts as translator.

Only then does he relax his shoulders fully, something she feels better with her hands on his neck, and show relief. Skeptical or not, the badger should at least be able to jump on anything.

"A'right. Thank you, mate," he adds in Masque's direction, before looking back at the lady, leaning in to kiss her gently on lips, before he says, "Just so long as… we do something if it happens again, okay?"

Masque barks in reply to the thanks, and Mariah breathes out a gentle laugh at the pair of them. But she returns the kiss warmly, drawing it out just a little longer before she lets him lean back again.

That condition gets a sigh out of her, but a nod comes along eventually, too. "Alright. If it happens again… we'll do something, talk to Aislinn or… someone." One hand move to slide along his shoulder and down his arm to hang on there again before she adds, "But I'm really okay this time."

"Good thing we planned for tonight then, cause I don't want to leave you alone til I have to," Cas says, touching the cloth to her face again, but lingering there, as if he's more interested in touching her than cleaning her. "Us guys gotta take care of our ladies, right, Masque?" he teases with a grin that finally starts to come out again.

Even if the words were directed at Masque, he keeps his eyes on Mariah as he says them, leaning forward to kiss her gently again. A little longer than the last time, as if encouraged by the kiss she'd given him before.

"I don't want you to leave me alone, either," Mariah admits, despite her insisting she's alright. But it's more for the comfort than the injury. The tease gets a wider smile, a bit more dreamy than she intends, but that's probably why it tips crooked a moment later.

She might have something to quip back at him, but it doesn't come fast enough not to be preempted by that kiss. And she leans into it, leaving it gentle as she melts into the embrace. It's possible she's glad he's here, even if she might have preferred him not seeing her this way in the first place.

The embrace will likely last for a time, gentle and comforting, a arm wrapping around so he can rub his hand up and down her back in the same gestures as before. Cas almost forgets the cloth in his other hand, but manages to hold onto it anyway. Even when the kiss breaks, he keeps his face close to hers, eyes closed, stubble covered cheek and chin pressing agianst her face lightly. When he finally pulls back, he brings his hand up to rub at his eyes. Somewhere in that embrace, he'd started to tear up, it looks like, though he'd probably like her to pretend not to notice, from the way he smiles at her afterwards. No reason for tears here!

"Maybe Masque can snuggle with us tonight too," he suddenly says, casting a nod of his head towards the badger.

Mariah leans against his cheek when the kiss ends, and when she leans back to look at him, it's likely she does notice, but instead of commenting, she echoes his smile and leans in to kiss him again. If quicker this time.

She looks over at Masque at the suggestion, and the familiar eyes them both for a moment before he looks up at the door. But a decision is made, because the badger trots toward the bed, shifting into the more friendly looking golden retriever before he jumps up onto the bed, settling at the foot. Which happens to be closest to the door. He can comfort and guard at the same time, he's pretty sure.

With a gentle laugh, Mariah looks back to Cas, her smile warm as she looks up at him. "I suppose that's a yes," she says, letting that smile tilt sideways, amused.