Title: Distractions
Time Period: January 11, 135 A.E
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Some can be painful and some can be kind of sweet.

It's the early hours of morning. The sun isn't even up yet. Fresh snow outside has made the windows fog up with the heat inside the rooms, and the floor of the hallway cold to bare feet. The door to Mariah Larke's room opens and someone backs out of it, head tilted to the side as he does, before pulling it back closed again.

Clients sometimes sneak out why the women are asleep, but this one seems to be having a difficult time about it, lingering at the door with his hand on it as if he's wanting to open it again.

A audible inhale is heard, before he turns away to move toward the door. A lamp in the hallway catches his face. Cas Blackburn has seen better days, from the dark bruise across the bridge of his nose and discoloration spreading under his eyes, favoring one side more than the other. Small cuts are also present on his nose, healing, and his nose doesn't appear to be swollen or crooked. At least.

A slight figure, quieter than a mouse, carefully navigates her way up, avoiding groaning and creaking steps. Her hair is a scraggly mess, last night's style worn to sleep and not straightened in the morning. It's somewhat covered with a scarf and turned away from Cas as she sneaks her toward him. Instead of looking forward, she's spying behind her to make sure she's not followed or discovered by a light sleeping madame.

As she turns her head to face forward, a sudden fright causes her to take a large gasp in and her hand automatically goes out in front of her face to shield herself. After a moment, when nothing comes, her blue eye opens again and she slowly lowers it. "Cas Blackburn," the hissing whisper is meant to be harsh, maybe it would be if she were more awake, "you scared the life from me! What are you doing prowling about my hallways scaring innocent girls half to death! How dare you?"

From the look of surprise and the bump of a foot against the wall, she wasn't the only one surprised. Cas' eyes are wide as he watches the slight figure who appeared out of nowhere in the hall hiss at him knowingly. "What?" he says at first, not quite seeming to have understood her hisses of… what were supposed to be innocent.

"Oi, you scared me too. I was just trying to leave without waking anyone up," he whispers back in tones that seem more confused and worried than harsh. He turns to look back toward the door to Mariah's room, as if it's an escape route, but then he looks back at the other girl instead, licking his lips. "Uh— sorry I guess. I didn't mean to frighten you— are… wait, are you just geting in?"

"That's none of your business, you're not my father." The blonde's answer sounds no less angry than she was originally caught. "And don't you lick your lips at me, Cas Blackburn, I'm not some saucy trollop that you managed to snare in a pub." Maybe she was, at one point in time.

Folding her arms over her chest, Luna makes no move to allow Cas space to pass. The three choices available are to go down the hall and up the stairs to her room, push by her, or sit and listen to her scolding. "You'd better be sorry for frightening me, I think you owe me three years of life for all that. At my going rate, you'll be working for me for about ten. So we can strike a bargain of some sort, what will you compensate me?"

"I wasn't— my lips were dry, that's all," Cas says, waving his hands around as he looks back at the door he just came from as if it might actually be an escape now. "I was just going to ask how deep the snow is if you just got back, too."

It seems he's quicker to stiffen his chin than before. Maybe whoever punched him in the face had an impact. Trying to move around, he gets stopped by the lack of space without actually touching her. But he still takes a step as if he might. No man handling begins, though. "I already have a job, which I need to get to before the sun rises— I am sorry, but I don't owe you anything."

Manhandling or no, once Cas makes a move toward her, Luna lets out a sharp squeal of fright. If asked later, she'll say she was forced into the action but as it stands, the stablehands threat is secondary to her pre-emptive strike for safety. She reaches out and grabs the thing that might hurt the most.

His nose.

When Luna yanks down, she doesn't twist to the side, like she might if she were trying to break it. She's just trying to get away. "Stay away from me, you letch!" She screams, intent on waking up the rest of the house. The clomp of boots isn't his but hers as she charges by him and makes for the end of the hall. For her door and the safety that lies beyond it.

If her shriek doesn't do it, his loud "Aaaaaaaah!" just might. Cas drops to his knees as if she kicked him in the groin, hands going to his face to cover his nose from further assualts. "What the bloody hell is wrong with you, woman?" he cries out, still down on his knees with tears of pain forming in his eyes.

At least she didn't try to break it again, but what she did certainly hurts enough to make him pray it's not broken again.

Aislinn may have had sympathy when a guy punched him, but he wonders how much sympathy she would have if a whore pulled on his nose and accused him loudly in her own home.

Especially since he's not going anywhere for the moment as he sits down in the hallway, holding his face on. And crying. From the pain.

There is not supposed to be this much noise this early. Mariah was planning on catching a nap after Cas left, so she still isn't dressed when the door opens. Wearing nothing but a robe and a furrowed brow, she doesn't quite step out, but leans into the hall.

"What on earth is going on out here?" While her tone is surprised at first, when she takes a moment to look over the scene, with Cas in pain and Luna there, she lets out a bit of a sigh. "Luna?" She is looking to her friend for an explanation, apparently, although she steps over toward Cas to check him over.

"He was going to— to— … He scared the life out of me and then came at me!" Luna points a shaking finger at the sobbing man and for the first time, takes a good look at him. The yells from behind closed doors for silence have her glaring toward the walls before she directs it back toward the couple. "Never you mind now, why's he carrying on like a wee child?"

One exasperated sigh and some stomps of boot toward the two of them later, Luna is also bent down to examine the man. "It was just his nose, not like I grabbed him by the berries. I could've, you know, that would've hurt worse than the nose, I think."

"You were taking up the whole hallway! I was just trying to get around— I never even touched her," Cas says in a voice hoarse with pain as he pulls his legs up close to his body as if to protect those berries she just mentioned. He doesn't want her touching them that's for sure.

The hands come away from his face long enough for him to glare at her for the abuse she's done upon his already injured nose, but then he decides to keep them raised— Almost as if he's worried she'll try it again now that she's so close.

"His nose is broken, Luna," Mariah says as the other girl joins them cutting her an exasperated look, "Haven't you seen one before?" Of course, Mariah's the one that deals with the types of men who'd be more likely to sport wounds.

Her attention turns to Cas there, and she puts her hands on his arms, just a bit of comfort in the gesture. "You alright?" Luna might be able to tell, it's more than her usual level of worry over the customers. Out of a pocket in her robe comes a handkerchief, "Are you bleeding?"

"How'm I supposed to know what it looks like? I saw that it was bigger, better for me to grab hold of. How was I supposed to know it's broke?" Clicking her tongue to her teeth, Luna rifles around in one of the pockets of her cloak and passes a small baggie of crumbled flowers to Mariah. "Make him a tea with this, it'll stop his pain and at least quiet the blubbering."

The disappointment that drips in Luna's tone is quite like her father's when he speaks to her. Only this time it's directed at Mariah. For picking the nancy boy. "You came at me, Cas Blackburn, don't you deny it. You only didn't touch me because I got you first this time. You would've grabbed me like last time. You're just sorry that I've learned to defend myself."

There is some blood at his nostrils, but not as much as it was the last time he was on the floor in this hallway, at least. "I had no reason to grab you, except to move you out of the way," Cas says in a voice starting to get toward angry, but that could just be the pain in his voice. "I'm fine," he pushes away the handkerchief before it gets dirty with his blood and uses his own sleeve instead.

"I should go," he says, sounding more pained somehow, as if her words hurt as much as pulling on his nose. That pain has probably faded a little already. He pushes himself to his feet and looks between the two women, concern in his wet eyes. Despite his declaration that he should leave, he ends up pointing a finger at Luna as he says, "Every other sentance out of you is to accuse me of something vile — I don't know what the hell kind of men you deal with, but I would never hurt you." He glances at Mariah and feels the sudden urge to add as he looks back at Luna, "And I don't want your services either."

"Luna," Mariah says, her tone and look both sharp there at those accusations, "He's not like the militia." She moves to her feet as Cas does, and reaches over to take the bag from Luna. "Thank you," she adds, her tone softer there, but she is still clearly exasperated at the whole mess.

"Let me get you some tea first. Or at least some water," she says to Cas, before she tries a crooked little smile his way. "I'm starting to think this hallway is bad luck, ey? Maybe we should get a ladder to hook out the window."

There's a liberal roll of blue eyes and Luna pushes on her knees to stand up straight again. "You flatter yourself to think that I would even want you between my legs. You're a stable boy with not enough to bargain with to get up my stairs." She looks at the little bag in Mariah's hand, then tucks her own behind her back to stop herself from snatching it for herself again.

"I'm sorry, Mariah, for hurting your friend. Tell him that next time he should ask to pass rather than charging at a small woman such as myself." With a high pitched hmph! the blonde tromps toward her door at the end of the hallway again.

It doesn't seem like her words hurt him more this time, as he shakes his head and turns away from the blonde, touching his nose again as if testing to make sure it's not too terribly sore.

Noses, especially broken ones, are fragile things, though, so Cas ends up hissing some between his teeth before he focuses on Mariah.

"I think the ladder thing might be a good idea. This hallway doesn't like me very much," he shakes his head and looks where Luna disappeared to, unable to hide the small flinch. "Are you sure that tea will be safe?" He asks with a kind of legitimate worry. Who knows what she'd want put in his tea!

Mariah ends up running a hand over her face at the exchange between them, but ends with her face in her palm for a bit before Luna turns to leave. "I'll be up with some breakfast in a few, Luna," she calls after her, but she continues to herself, much lower, "since I'm awake now."

But she turns back to Cas with a gentle smile, and she slides an arm around his waist. "It's a fickle locale," she says, tone more playful there. "And don't worry. I've got a favorite brew of my own, less likely to do anything about the pain, but I like it. And let me sent you off with something to eat, too, hmm?"

"I'm suddenly not very hungry," Luna announces from the doorway to the stairs. Opening her door, she pauses for a moment and then looks over her shoulder, "but I'll take some of the tea you're making for Mister Blackburn to settle my nerves and a bit of toast."

Breakfast order given, she begins the tread up the stairs, careless of who still might be sleeping.

There's a click and a slam from the top before footsteps fall over their heads. A squeak of mattress springs precedes the utter silence of the house once more.

Utter silence except for a grumbling exhale from Cas, at least. "I'm sorry, Mariah— I was trying not to make any noise when I left," grimaces at her, before rubbing at the smeared blood on his face again. Maybe he should have let her clean him up after all—

"I'll— I'll help. And stay for breakfast. At least I won't have to eat anything when I make it to the stables— but— Does she often treat people like this or did I do something particular I need to apologize for?"

That is said with a frown up toward the stairs that go up, even as he takes steps to follow Mariah to help her with the breakfast.

Mariah flashes the bag in her hand Luna's way at the call for tea, to let her know what she'll be steeping hers in, anyway. But it's tucked into a pocket before she looks over Cas' way. And the handkerchief comes out again to wipe the smears of blood off his face. Gently! "It's alright. I should be up anyway. Errands to run in town, you know."

Handkerchief is replaced with a kiss to his cheek after a moment, and she glances back toward Luna's door before she leads them off toward the kitchens. "Luna's a bit… sensitive sometimes. It isn't really you. I promise one of these days you'll have a peaceful departure from here."

"Did something happen to her?" Cas asks quietly, sounding more concerned now that he knows there's got to be a reason behind it. As he is led off, he shakes his head. "Sorry, it's none of my business, she just— she wasn't that bad when I first met her. Treated me like I was beneath her, sure, but she didn't… do the rest of that."

His lips are pressed together some, as if he's pondering something to do to fix it. "I probably shouldn't stay for breakfast— especially not if you're eating with her— but I can eat while we make it."

At the question, Mariah just smiles gently, apparently unwilling to answer one way or the other. So when he goes on, she nods a bit. Not her place to explain another's personal business. "Might be best to take care with her. I know a lot of people find her… difficult, but she's my best friend. My only friend, for a long time."

Her head tilts as he goes on, and she shakes her head. "Let's you and I have a little something before you go," because she's always a little reluctant to have quick goodbyes where he's concerned, "and I'll fix something for Luna after." She pushes the door to the kitchen open, and while there are some people about, it's still pretty quiet. She points him toward a little table in the room, off to one side before she lifts a hand to wave at the others.

"I find that hard to believe— the only friend thing," Cas says with raised eyebrows, voice finally starting to equalize, even if it's still a little like he has a stuffed up nose. "I mean I'm your friend too, right? And I'm sure there's got to be a few more— you're too sweet not to have a bunch of friends."

The smile actually shows off his dimple now that he's further away from the blasted hallway that hates his face so much, but the smeared blood takes away a bit. And the tear tracks from where he'd been crying earlier. "We never did have a breakfast before, either. Not in bed, but— I'd love to."

"Well, sure now I've got a number. But Luna was my friend during a time when other people preferred to pretend they didn't notice me." Mariah's smile softens, though, and she notes, "I rather like to think of you as more than just a friend." It's delivered mildly, and she steps away from him to gather things together for breakfast. Judging by what all she's pulling out, they're all getting more than toast. Even Luna.

"We'll have to manage it in bed next time around," she says with a crooked smile as she tightens her robe a bit. Cooking is not the time for things to slip strategically open, after all.

"In that case, I'll have to come up with some way to apologize to her— short of working for her for ten years, at least," Cas says quietly, as if he's referencing something when he says that. Moving over to the sink, he takes the time to wash his hands and dig out a handkerchief of his own (more like a scrap of cloth already stained) to wipe the blood off his face (and the tears too) before he steps in beside her.

From his smile, he likes the sounds of all of that. "More 'n a pal and more 'n a costumer." He glances toward the door and keeps his voice at a whisper, in case some disgruntled costumer hears and decides to punch his already messed up face. "I'll help— Can't claim I'm a great cook, but it's the least I can do, with you feeding me. Just tell me what I need to do."

"Find her something pretty," is Mariah's advice, as she sets up the stove, "I can help you, if you'd like." When he comes over beside her, she can't help but smile back at him, and there's a subtle lean in toward him. "Exactly that," she says with a nod. "The bread's just there, why don't you start with slicing." Seems harmless enough, anyway. For her, she opts to prepare the eggs. And seems like she knows what she's doing in the kitchen, at least.

"She was doing that thing with needles and string when I first saw her, here," Cas says thinking on what he could get her as he leans in closer to Mariah to kiss her on the cheek with a grin. "She seems to like white, so the color shouldn't be too hard— I think I can get her that." If he can afford something nice, at least.

Settling back, he steps over to the bread with a knife, to get to work slicing. "What do you like, Mariah? Cause— you know— I'm going to need to get you something soon too, if there's going to a breakfast in bed and… you know. More of your time."

Mariah smiles at the kiss, and there may be a little sigh after, but she turns toward the stove. To focus on the eggs. "Sounds perfect," she says, nodding her approval to the idea. "She should like it."

As he goes on, though, Mariah falls silent for a few moments. Long enough for it to be a noticeable pause, anyway, before she looks over at him again. "Oh, right. Yes, next time. Um. It's a bit of a difficult question, isn't it?" She asks with a little smile that seems just a touch forced. She bites her lip for a moment before she turns back to her cooking. Wouldn't want it to burn. "I like a lot of things," she says, ever so helpful.

It's possible he slices the bread a little too thick, but Cas manages not to cut his own finger, as he does it at the very least. His head tilts to the side as he listens to her voice, looking away after a slice to watch her just before she turns away. "I— I guess I'll have to think of something. I know you like books, but— those aren't easy to find…" And he wouldn't be able to read them to make sure the titles aren't something like 'Fishing for Dummies' and unintentionally insult her. "Surely you can think of something— do you have a favorite color?"

"No no, not books," Mariah says with a bit of a laugh and a shake of her head, "That'd be a little excessive." Nevermind that she takes them as payment from other customers quite easily.

"I can think of something… I do like green," she says, although there's something odd about her tone. She's trying to keep it light, but there's a definite sobered seriousness trying to worm it's way in. It doesn't quite manage until she turns toward him again, her lips pressed together. "Cas, I—" She stops there, swallowing before she turns back around again. "I'll give it some thought and let you know, ey?"

"Green, hn," Cas repeats quietly as he goes back to slicing another too thick piece of bread off. Heardy bread, at the very least, but once he has two for each of them he stops, looking back over at her.

"Are you okay?" he asks curiously. It seems her tone didn't escape him. "I know you said— you know. That what I paid before still covered me, but— I— " He shifts around where he stands as if he's not entirely sure how to say what he wants.

"What? Yes! No, I'm fine," Mariah says, her attention rather firmly on the eggs at this point. "I get jewelry often," she says in a deliberate tone, "if that helps." Which maybe it doesn't, seeing as she doesn't sound entirely comfortable.

When he cuts off, though, she turns around, lifting the eggs off the stove as she does, an eyebrow arched up as she looks at him. "Are you okay?" She comes over, to pick up a couple slices of bread to start with.

"Yes— yes, I'm— fine too," Cas says with a shy smile realizing he's quoting her, even a bit of a laugh as he steps up to stand closer to her again, only to stop when he realizes there's a hot pan between him and her.

There's another awkwardness to his pause as he looks away from her and touches his nose, watching the door again in that self-conscious way he was before. "Um— I guess I just— don't want you to go hungry or— or anything. It is winter and I know times can be— difficult."

Mariah laughs a bit, too, but only when she realizes she hasn't set the pan down, which she does before she reaches out to put her hand on his cheek. She does glance toward the door, too, but looks back to him again with a gentle smile.

"Sweet've you," she says, though her tone is a bit odd. She looks at him for another lingering silence, her expression turning a bit… nervous. "Cas, if things were— That is, um." In the span of a breath, she seems to lose her courage, and she shakes her head a bit before smiling his way again. "I'll think of something."

Without a pan to worry about, Cas reaches up and catches her hand before she pulls it away from him too far, turning the palm so he can kiss her lightly on the heel of her hand. He doesn't hold onto the captured hand long, though, letting her have it back as he watches her.

There's a hint that he's waiting for her to continue the sentance— but he ends up smiling back at her instead of inquiring further on it. "Let me know when you do— think of something. I don't want to have to pay you in the stamped leather strips again." He says that with an awkward kind of laugh.

A shaky sigh escapes her at that kiss, and she watches with a gentle, dreamy smile. That tint of pink in her cheeks must be from standing over a hot stove. That's her story, anyway.

But his words bring her back into the moment and there are a few quick nods in reply. She has to clear her throat a bit before she actually says anything, though. "Right. Not that I mind those, either. If that's… what you have. To pay me with." The latter is added with a slight crinkle of her forehead. Like she's puzzled about something. But her and her puzzlement step over to the stove again, to get the toast started.

The puzzlement seems to be shared amongst them, at least for a few moments. After she turns around Cas finds himself licking his lips as he tries to ponder what he said to make her look at him like that.

Moving in to stand behind her, he looks over her shoulder to watch how she does the toast as he says, "Can you help me write a note to Luna? So that— you know— she doesn't accuse me of trying to pay for more than her forgiveness when I give her the string— "

It seems he's decided that must be the cause of the akwardness. "You're the only one I want to— uh— you know— see— in that way."

And unfortunately, Mariah isn't explaining, either, so he's left to ponder. But when he comes behind her, she looks over her shoulder, smiling easier this time. "Of course I'll help. I'll even be there when you give it to her, if you'd like." Just in case.

She turns around as he goes on, which brings them face to face and close enough that she leans in to kiss his cheek. "That's good," she says as she leans back again, "I'd hate to have to fight the other girls for you." Teasing is a much easier state for her to be in, playfulness coming easily. However, she's still not completely clear headed, because she leans back a little too much, and ends up resting a hand right on that stove.

She yanks her hand back with a yelp and shakes it as she turns to face the stove again, but she backs up, as if suddenly aware of how close it is to her.

The smile on his face probably didn't help her distraction at all. Cas blinks when she yelps, stepping aside a bit so that he can look around for her hand. He doesn't manage to get it before she backs right into him, and he ends up putting an arm around her, as if trying to hold her back against him.

"Are you okay? Did you burn your hand?" he asks, reaching around with his free hand to try and find hers, looking concerned. "I'm probably standing too close to you— Should I just stay out of the way?" Despite saying that, he doesn't let go.

And he's forgetting to glance back at the door.

The arm around her stops her moving, at least, and there's a little whimper as she uncurls her hand to look at it. And given that he's behind her, they both can see the stripe of red across her palm. "Just a little, I think," she says, and she lets out a heavy exhale, "Surprised me more than anything. You know, those things are hot?" Teasing at her own expense there.

But she cuts off at his words and turns her head just enough to look at him there over her shoulder. "No, don't," she says, her voice softer, "I like you standing too close."

Based on the sympathetic hiss, Cas definitely understands that it's hot. The hand reaches out to take her wrist again, kissing the skin near the red mark, without actually touching it, before he gets her have her hand back to cook with. "Be careful with those hot things. I like your hands too much to want them burned."

And despite the possibility of distraction, the other hand settles around her waist as well, hugging against her even more. "Aright— you talked me into it," is his whispered verbal answer, as he rests the side of his head against her.

"I'll try," Mariah says with a tone that is very clearly distracted in the wake of that kiss. It takes a moment of just looking at the stove for her to remember what exactly she had been doing.

Luckily, there isn't too much left to do, and she's quick about it as if her pace were striving to match the too-fast beating of her heart as he wraps himself around her. But once she's gotten everything off the stove and onto plates, save what she's set aside to cook for Luna after, she sets it all off to the side instead of giving one to him. It'll have to wait just a moment or two, because her first order of business is to turn around there in his arms and kiss him.

And it isn't a timid, careful kiss like she has been giving him since his nose got broken. There's passion driving it, which she's apparently more comfortable expressing physically than verbally.

Despite the tenderness of his nose, Cas doesn't seem to feel it right now. The depth may seem to surprise him at first, but after a brief sound against her mouth, he's leaning into it, lifting his hands up against the robe she wears more closely.

It distracts a lot of things out of his mind. Including location. Even the shyness of the kiss under the mistletoe seems to be gone after a few moments. By the time he stops the kiss to catch his breath, he seems to be smiling, even possibly laughing in the tone of his breathless voice, "You're going to make me late for work."

Mariah is equally as breathless when she replies with a quick, "Sorry." There's a smile on her face, though, so it's possibly she's not entirely sorry. Her unsinged hand comes up to touch his face, just for a gentle brush along his jaw.

"Maybe we'd better eat before you distract me from breakfast altogether." His fault, obviously. And it continues to be, since she seems perfectly content to stay right where she is.

"I wish we could do this more often," Cas finds himself saying as he presses his lips against hers again. More gently and not as lingering, before his hands drop away and he's the one who steps back. She'd have to step into the stove to get away from him, anyway.

Turning back from he, he runs fingers through his hair as he looks out the door to the kitchen, as if making sure they had no onlookers now that his consentration is back. "Yeah, we should— get that breakfast before we forget." When he looks back with a smile he adds, "Or before Luna comes down demanding to know where her toast and tea are."

That kiss is returned, too, and in the wake of it, Mariah presses her cheek against his. "So do I," is whispered there, it's something she probably shouldn't say, but she does anyway.

When he steps away, she lingers just a moment, shaking her head to clear her senses a bit before she grabs the plates to bring over to the table. She forgot about the tea, but milk is gotten instead. "I can only imagine her reaction to find out I put off breakfast in favor of kissing you." It may be a bad reaction, but even that thought can't get rid of her smile as she comes to sit.

Potential bad reaction or not, Cas continues to smile, and even laughs at the thought as he quickly hops over— literally hops— so that he can grab hold of a chair and pull it out for her before she can herself. He probably doesn't get to be a gentleman too often, so he's going to take advantage of it.

"I expect she'd stomp her feet and shriek about how I'm a dirty stable boy with rabbity teeth— Hopefully she'd leave my nose alone, though. I'd say she's just jealous— if she wasn't the first girl who ever kissed me. And she obviously didn't want to do that again."

Mariah blinks a bit as her chair is pulled out, but his chivalry is rewarded with a bright smile as she sits down. "Hopefully she would It'd be too cruel to go for it again."

At those last words, though, she reaches over to take his hand. "I dare say it'd be driven more by hunger," she says playfully. "Although, I'd be lying just a little if I said I'm not glad she isn't aiming for a repeat performance," she admits with a smaller, crooked smile, "just a little."

"Only a little?" Cas asks with a smile, taking t in good humor as he squeezes her hand back and leans in to kiss her cheek instead of her lips. "I'll have to try harder, then," he says with a hinting raise of his eyebrows. But it doesn't seem he's going to try harder right now—

Because he moves around to the next seat without letting go of her hand and sits down, moving to twine his fingers between hers.

They can both eat with one hand, right?