End Of A Sulk

Title: End of a Sulk
Time Period: January 8, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Sometimes people need help (and apologizes) to stop sulking.

It's taken a couple of days, and several aborted trips, to work up the courage to come out to find Cas. Mariah is dressed simply, in a wool skirt and a riding jacket with heavy boots on her feet to make the walking a little more tolerable. It's worse, because she walked herself all the way into town before she was able to get her feet pointed in the right direction. The drink or two she had while there wore off just a bit ago, and since then, it's been sheer stubbornness keeping her from turning around and going home.

She carries a basket with her, which shows that she might have done a little shopping while she was out, but nothing too cumbersome, thank goodness. She can likely be spotted long before she gets there, being a lone figure striding through the grass. Striding except for the few stops and starts here and there.

Stubbornness is needed, because the person she's wanting to see is not making himself easy to find. One of the stablehands spots her first, asking her what she's about, and then grinning in a fashion that likely will lead to gossiping later. "Oh, Blackburn, eh— ?" Goeff, one of the stablehands that has been working for Rowntree for quite some time. "He's been sulking right good ever since someone busted his pretty face up." He says with a grin, wiping muck off his hands. He's got the job of clearing out the stables today, it would seem, based on the stinking wheel barrel he's carting off toward the dump site. "He's in the stables, givin the horses their monthly baths. It's the last stall," he gestures, pointing her into the stable, before he continues wheeling off the pile of soiled hay and horse feces.

The recent cleanig does at least mean the stables don't smell as bad as usual.

There's the sound of water being pumped up into pipes in the ceiling, showering down on the horse that is in the stone floor stall with a drain in the middle. Hair damp, Cas turns away from the pump to rub soap through the mare's newly dampened coat and mane. This would be one of the few times he's not talking while he works— His nose sports a few healing cuts, on the side and across the bridge, and a black-blue bruise that discolors his face. But there's little sign of swelling or crookedness in his nose— and he doesn't see her approach, all his attention on the horse.

"It should make us all sulk," Mariah says with a grin that probably won't help the gossip, "Or me, at least. Thanks for the help." She points questioningly in the direction of the stables, and upon getting a nod, she heads that way.

The sound of rushing water at least helps hide the sound of her steps approaching, although Mariah isn't sure if surprise will necessarily be a good thing. She lingers back, watching for a few long moments. Likely because she hadn't ever managed to figure out how to start this particular conversation.

"I suppose mid-lather wouldn't be a great time for a break," is what she ends up saying, although she sort of cringes at her own choice. But she doesn't walk out, despite a strong urge to do so.

The voice stops his hands from moving, showing that he heard her, but Cas takes a few seconds to move so that he can actually see her. It makes him inhale slowly, before he looks back at the horse and continues scrubbing. "Not really— I have to finish these today, and I still have to…" he trails off, voice hoarse and tired. Maybe something else, actually.

His hand stops scrubbing again and he sighs, stepping back to rub a damp hand through short hair and leaving some soap behind by accident. The horse even seems to respond to his fidgeting and stress, but turning toward him.

"So what are you doing here?" he asks, looking at the horse instead of her, likely because he's trying to hide the wavering emotions in his eyes.

And Mariah, in turn, looks down at her feet, bravery spent elsewhere, perhaps. "He shouldn't have hit you." For a moment, it seems like all she is planning to say, although she does slide her hand into her basket like she might pull something out. She doesn't, though, not just yet. "I wanted to say sorry, for all that. It was my fault. I should have handled it… better."

She looks over at him there, her expression steadier than his, but mostly by force. "I didn't know he was going to be there. I just… it all went so wrong and I thought you deserved an apology. He shouldn't have… hit you." She said that already.

"And you shouldn't have slept with him afterwards," Cas says rather loudly as he shoots an angry look toward her after the round about apology. "After those things he said about you and…" His voice has changed quite a bit rather suddenly, closer to how it sounded when he said the things that got him punched in the first place.

The scrubbing brush is thrown into a nearby water bucket, splashing soapy water over the edge before he adds, "I don't care what that man pays with, he doesn't deserve you."

The accusation makes her step backward, as if the words forced distance between them. And for a moment, her steady countenance breaks, but she turns away in an attempt to hide it while she shakes it off. "It's my job," she starts, which sounded like a better defense in her head than it does when she says it out loud. "I didn't want — I couldn't… let him keep hitting you."

Her fingers brush at her cheeks before she turns back around, and while she looks mostly together, there's a redness budding in her eyes. "People always say those things about me. Even people who partake. It's… sort of a hazard of the job." At his last words, she pauses and swallows hard before she can call up a crooked smile, weak though it may be. "Oh, I don't know about that. I'm just a prostitute, when it comes down to it. I'm not some lady with prospects and the like."

"It's my job to take care of horses. I may clean up after them and feed and water them no matter what they do, but I certainly don't give them an apple when they bite or kick someone," Cas says with a grunt, not quite liking her defense, no matter how she meant it to sound.

Clenching his teeth, he looks up toward the mare, who's side stepping and looking nervous. He reaches out to rub her soapy neck lightly, working some of the soap deeper into her long mane. His voice lowers, most of the anger vanishing as he starts to sound tired. It's almost a whisper. "Maybe I shouldn't see you anymore."

"But you still tend them, even the bad tempered ones." Mariah Seems like she might say more but his latter words cut her off. For a moment, she can't seem to reply, but just stands there, looking like someone kicked her right in the gut. Eventually, there's an incredulous breath let out, but her brow furrows as she looks over at him.

"You knew what I was," she starts, fumbling a bit over her words. It's not usual for her to have a difficult time stringing them together. "It isn't as if we met over a drink down at the pub. You can't… you can't mean that."

"Mariah, I…" Cas starts, but doesn't get much further as he rests a hand high up on the mare's neck and his forehead against his arm for a moment. It hides the tears that start to fall, at least until he turns away, rubbing his hand over his face as he goes over to the pump on the wall, though doesn't even reach up to use it.

"I knew what you were, and— I never should have let myself… You were right— you know. I'm not like them. Those other men you see. I— I like you— and it hurt and it shouldn't. I know it shouldn't, but it did and I can't…" He trails off, voice getting tight to the point it must be difficult to continue.

She watches him, brow still furrowed as he goes on. Mariah blinks away extra wetness of her own while he's turned away, but when he trails off, she just looks for a long moment.

The first eventual sign of movement is the sound of her setting her basket down, but after that her feet carry her over to him. From behind him, her hand reaches out to settle on his arm. "It's my job, Cas. It's food on the table and a roof over my head. I don't have either of those things without it."

There's another pause, although her hand doesn't move away from him yet. She clears her throat quietly before she continues. "I sell my time, and my services, but not my affections. Those are mine to give out as I choose. He doesn't mean anything to me. None of the others do."

When her hand touches him, Cas seems to be holding his breath. Not for very long, but for a moment, until she gets to the end, when he exhales everything he was holding in. "I really do want to keep seeing you, Mariah," he admits after a moment. Voice still tight, and when he shifts his body to face her again, his eyes are watering more than before.

"I'm sorry," he says after a moment, biting down on his lower lip before he raises his hand to wipe off his face again, as if he were apologizing for the emotions. "You might want to step out of the stall," he adds weirdly after a moment. "You'll probably get a little… damp. If I start pumping the water." He points at his other hand, the one holding the water pump.

When he turns around, Mariah's hands go up to cup his face, being careful of the nose, of course. She shakes her head at his apology, her thumbs running over his skin softly. "I am sorry. I never meant for you to get hurt." Judging by her tone, she doesn't just mean in the physical sense.

"I don't mind the water," she says softly to him, while her hands move to rest on his shoulders. "If it's alright… I'd rather be with you." Her brows furrow again, as if she's not sure he'd actually let her linger.

There's suddenly a sound that's half exhale, half laugh, eyes sliding shut between her hands. Cas may not look the same as he did a few days ago, but the nose isn't so bad really. It could have been a lot worse. In a month there may just be a few small scars to mark that it happened at all. The worst part now is the bruise, which spreads under his eyes.

It takes a few seconds, but he starts moving his hand, pumping the water. It makes the pipes groan and begins to pour already used water down on the horse. It splashes up on their feet, gets on their clothes, but most of it lands on the horse, who side-steps around on it and shakes her head around.

The pumping stops, but it takes a while for the water to stop dripping down, while the excess drains into the middle of the floor, likely into the same tank he's pumping from. His voice is soft as he opens his eyes to look down at her, "I'll try to stay out of your— uh— other costumer's way from now on."

Mariah takes that as a good sign, and she shifts to slide her arm around his waist while she watches the water hit the horse. She must have been telling the truth, because she doesn't so much as flinch when the water hits her clothes. But, it helps that she didn't wear her nicer clothes.

She glances up at him, too, and those words make her smile a little sad. "Let me worry about them, okay?" Her hand comes over to take hold of his shirt. She looks very much like she's got something else to say, but nerves keep her from actually getting it out. "I really am sorry, Cas," is what she ends up coming out with.

As she grabs his shirt, Cas looks down at her, listening to another apology. "I know you are," he says in the same soft tones, before his hands suddenly raise up to touch her face and he leans in closer to kiss her, the motion rather sudden and even bold for him. Usually he waited for an invitation.

It doesn't last as long as it might because he pulls back with an "ow" against her mouth, that makes him laugh a little, or at least smile. "I'm sorry too," he says, breath against her lips, but no longer pressing his nose against her.

There's a surprised noise at the kiss, but Mariah's eyes close and she kisses him right back. There's a bit more passion there than usual, even if the embrace is a brief one.

When he pulls back, there's a bit of a laugh from her, too, breathy though it may be. But her forehead crinkles in concern all the same, for his nose, and when she leans in to sneak just one more kiss, it's softer and more careful. "You don't have to say sorry. Just say that we're alright?"

Instead of answering with words, Cas leans back in for another kiss— also light and careful. It could be that's his answer, with the smile that she can see right before he does it. And they could keep doing this for a while, if someone wasn't clearing his throat just outside the stall.

Immediately jumping back, Cas looks to meet the other stablehand's eyes, who's grinning knowingly. "Good to see you're not going to be moping about all day. Your work's really getting shotty and you're upsetting the horses," the same man who was mucking out the stables says, stepping in to grab the horse by the lead rope and untie it.

"I'll cover for you, but you have to muck out the stables tomorrow for me. You make sure he's back to his old self when you're done with him tonight, Miss."

Cas' mouth works, but no words come out as the stablehand starts to lead the mare away.

It's a good enough answer for her. And really, she doesn't seem to notice the other person there at all, not until Cas jumps back, anyway. She glances over that way, but has to turn back toward Cas to try to hide a laugh against his shirt. It sort of works.

So when she looks back, it's all smiles and knowing glances of her own. "I consider it my duty," she says to him with a bit of a bow his direction, playful of course, "He'll be good as new. Except the nose, that'll have to be left to mother nature." As the horse is led away, she reaches over to take his hand in her own, giving him a little tug as if that might give him his voice back.

"We weren't— " Cas tries to say at first, after the tug gives him his voice back. But the man he was trying to explain to is already gone, taking the rinsed off mare to her own stall to get her dry and comfortable before he lays down the light hay bedding on the floor.

Looking back at Mariah, he looks embarassed for a moment before he clears his own throat. "Ah— would you— like to go for a walk? Cause— I think I just got some time off…"

"I would love to," Mariah says, her surprise this time is softer and even appreciative. "And actually, I brought you something," she adds, and it seems to be her turn to look a little embarrassed. "I meant to give it to you earlier."

She leads the way out of the stall and over to where she set her basket down, but she doesn't pull out the gift right off, she just loops it over her arm and looks over at him. "I suspect you know which way is best for a stroll?"

"You didn't have to bring me anything," Cas says immediately, but he's already looking toward the basket as he walks, shivering a little once they reach the outside and the cold air. Being damp and it being winter don't exactly compliment each other. Whatever direction he's choosen seems simple at first. Away from the stables.

And happens to be in the same direction that she came from.

"I didn't even know you brought something— I was a little… uh— distracted. Not that I'm not still now— just…" He's not angry and upset so much anymore?

"You say that every time, like I'm somehow going to stop wanting to give you things." Mariah looks over at him, shivering as he is and given than she's also feeling the cold air hitting wet clothes, her first order of business is to pull out a swath of fabric to unfurl. It's clearly not a blanket, technically, but rather and uncut length likely meant to be made into something else later. But she wraps it around him anyway. It'll do.

"This isn't it, by the way," she notes as she slips under both his arm and the fabric as they make their way from the stables. "Well, I didn't say before. I had thought about throwing it your way and running, but then you were getting everything wet in there and that wouldn't do." She's joking. You know, sort of.

"As long as you want to," Cas says, looking at the uncut fabric that is draped around him as if it were a blanket, before he grabs hold of an end and raises his arm to her shoulder, half draping it around her as well. It keeps the wind off— and keeps her close. Much how they walked back to her place at the end of a different night— that somehow seems ages ago.

"I'm glad you didn't throw it at me. It was likely to hit my nose and knock me out from the pain," he teases back, but keeps looking down at the basket.

"I wouldn't do it if I didn't want to." Mariah tucks herself there against him, her arm around his waist. She even leans her head against him for a moment or two. At least until she wants to look up at him again. "Oh, that would have sent the completely wrong message, wouldn't it have? It's a good thing my aim was never that good. I was more worried about hitting the horse."

Noticing him looking, she swings the basket behind her, a playful smile coming to her face. "You're trying to peek. You're shameless!" She make her accusation with a laugh, though.

"Whaaat," Cas says in an exaggerated way about the accusation, even if she's laughing while she does it. "I'm not peakin, I just want to— I thought you were going to— you are actually going to give it to me, right? You're not just teasing me?"

There's a pause where it seems he might actually think she's teasing him now. With promises of gifts. "Do I need to— do something first?" He finds himself looking down at the basket again, before he catches himself and looks at her face. "I won't peak until you… want me to?"

"Well, now I might tease you a little," Mariah says, full of wry humor. But, whatever she says, she doesn't actually make him wait much longer. Only as long as it takes for her to fish out from under the other things she's carrying.

What she holds up us a small, rectangular, brown paper wrapped item, with a simple string holding the wrapping on. "You tempt me to demand a kiss first, but no, you don't have to do anything. I rather like what you're doing right now." She holds it out to him, and she even seems a little excited about seeing him open it.

Inside the wrapping, he'll find a small book, with a worn blue cover. A flip through will give away that it's a book of poetry, rather than a novel, but on the inside cover, there's a pair of handwritten messages. One is old and faded and that one is addressed to Mariah, but under it, there's one addressed to him instead, his name penned out in her flowing script. She might have promised the books she earns to Luna, but the small few she owns already, those she's freer about.

Of all the things she could have pulled out of the basket, that's the one thing that makes Cas stop walking. With his arm around her and hand firmly on her shoulders, he slowly pulls her to a stop as well, giving a few steps for her to get the idea before he looks from her to the book again. Biting down on his lip, he suddenly looks even more nervous than when she was teasing him.

But he's quick to say a sudden, "Thank you, it's— thank you. No one's ever given me a book before. I mean they— they're really rare and…" He doesn't finish, raising his hand as if to touch it, before he looks down at his hand. "Oh, my hands are still wet. It's a good thing you didn't try to give it to me earlier."

When he stops, Mariah looks a little worried at that nervousness, worried he might not like it. However irrational that particular thought might be. But when he speaks up, she smiles again, and lifts a shoulder a bit as if to shrug the gesture off, even though she knows how special books are.

"It was my mother's. She had this sort of tradition about books. She didn't believe in keeping them. She wouldn't even sell them, she'd just give them to people who really… cared about them. My father hated it, but they were hers, not part of the inventory. He wasn't the type to claim ownership over them." She gets a bit of a wistful sorrow about her at the story, her gaze going distant for just a moment before she looks back to him.

"Anyway, she gave me this one when I was ten or so, and I hoarded it like it would disappear if I let anyone else touch it. I dare say she was a little disappointed about that. And given that I got your nose broken and very nearly drove you off forever," she says, attempting to make it sound light there, although she doesn't quite make it, "I thought it might be a good time to pass it along."

"Mariah… this…" Cas starts to say, voice trailing off into soft whispers as he tries to find the words. He stares down at the bared pages, but doesn't let himself stare too long. Instead he wipes his hand on the dry spots on his own clothes until he's sure that at least that hand is dry, so he can touch it, and push it closed with his hand.

"Thank you. It means a lot to me that you would— I know how much your mom meant to you. And this…" There's that hesitation and anxiety that seems to show sign of embarassment— "I probably would have come back eventually— Just… so you know. Who else is going to bathe me?" he says with an off-hand and self-insulting smile.

"You're welcome. She… she would have approved. A man who comes to a whorehouse to get read to, she'd've loved that," Mariah says with a sudden, much wider smile. But when she looks up at him, she gets more serious, although not unhappily so. "Well, whether you were coming back or not, I thought… it'd be nice to let you know in some sort of tangible fashion, that you've… you've come to be…"

She sighs a bit there, but after a moment's pause, she smiles again, "You've gotten under my skin. In a good way." That seems to satisfy her enough, and she lifts up on her toes to give him a kiss on the cheek. "And I just hope the job wouldn't fall to your friend back there. He needs bathing worse than you ever have."

With his hand still twisting around the book as if he's afraid to drop it, Cas leans down as she leans up to kiss her again, albet carefully. His nose doesn't get in the way if he's careful. "I think it's safe to say you got under mine too… I'm usually not very… bold with… you know…" He doesn't finish that thought, but he probably doesn't have to, from the tilt of his head toward her.

"But— would it be okay if— if I walked you home? It… sounds like I may not be needed back here til tomorrow morning… And I can always— leave before dawn. This time… Assuming your— uh— time isn't… already…"

That kiss pulls a smile out of her, and she lingers there, close up against him. "I have noticed that. You know, it's alright. You're bold when it suits you."

Mariah hmms softly at the question, and she nods her head slowly. "I'm free, or well, I was until just now. And you can leave whenever you'd like, there's no rush. However, I do have one condition," she says, lifting her chin up a little, "That when you're feeling a bit better, you give me another dance."

"I think I can do that," Cas responds with that smile that causes a dimple to appear. It's wide enough that he realizes it hurts a bit, but he doesn't stop doing it. The bruise only makes that look a little odd. "Actually I could probably do that now— I don't need to use my nose too much for dancing… That's more a feet and arm thing."

His eyebrows raise in punctuation to his own form of teasing, before he starts walking again. In the direction of her home. "But I guess we'll need to get music for it to be a proper one, so it can wait til then."

Mariah lifts a hand to touch his cheek, the one with less bruising, "I do believe you're the only one around who wouldn't milk the nose for all it's worth, you know that?" It's teasing, but warmly so. "I don't mind a bit of a dance without music, but I had hoped not to freeze while doing it."

She kicks up a leg, where the bottom of her skirt is still quiet damp. "I didn't think that whole idea with the water pump through very well, obviously." She walks along with him, her arm tightening around him, "But, the way I figure it, it gives us an excuse to sit in front of a fire for a bit. Perhaps with an actual blanket."

"I'll milk it, just— not with you, though if it gets me a discount…" Cas says, trailing off while a smile that shows he's kidding and doesn't mean it or expect it, before he looks back the way they're going, perhaps imagining the destination. The warm fire waiting for them. The promise of a real blanket.

"While we're getting warm, you can even read to me," he says, in a hopeful voice as he holds up the book of poems as if to indicate she could read from that one. "It sounds like a great night to me."

"Not with me, huh?" Mariah seems to find some sort of irony in that, given the wry expression on her face. The matter of the discount just gets a lift of an eyebrow before she tugs him along at a quicker pace.

"I'd be glad to," she says with a warmer smile, "Sounds like a good night to me, too." And while they head along back toward the Dovetail, she leans her head against him again, which might just be how a good night begins, in her opinion.