Implied Agreement

Title: Implied Agreement
Time Period: January 1, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Luna's weaseling doesn't work when it comes to Algernon Fogg but he does respond to a direct approach.

Moonlight highlights the road better than the streetlamps, half of which are burnt out due to neglegence in favor of party preparation and celebration. The few stars in the sky peep out in intervals, as the clouds allow. So far away from the masses, the town feels dead.

The scrunch of snow under boots is the only sound louder than the chatter of teeth far from the square. Of course the noise belongs to the woman stumbling a few feet behind Mister Fogg. The night is cold, even colder with the bonfires of the festival getting smaller with each step. Their heat has long been lost, at least to the wet woman whose dress is freezing in the front.

"Sorry for tearing you away, I didn't want to walk back there by myself." There being the Dovetail, a place she refers to as her 'room'. Running a few paces to catch up, she links her arm with Algernon's and uses his momentum to keep up her own. "If you'd like an ale to replace the one on my dress, I have— well you know. I have most everything, you can help yourself." Not to the ale on her dress, presumably.

"Best that you didn't." Not with ill-intentioned creatures of the night and inebriate townsfolk stalking the darkened roads of Dornie. Better bolstered against freezing wind by the wool of his coat, Algernon is conscious enough of her shorter stride to slow his own when the crunch and falter of her progress quickens behind him.

He is rewarded, as ever, with close contact that he tolerates with a look away and a puff of foggy breath. Also as ever.

Too far behind to be seen or heard, a robust, thickly furred feline fords its way through snow up to his chest off the roadside with an off bunny hop mixed in when he sinks too fast or too deep.

"And best that I don't." The half a smile he wrings out for her is not particularly genuine, but it isn't ill-tempered either. So that's something.

She smiles back up at him, her a little more genuine. Streaky makeup, raccoon rings under her eyes from rubbing and a few tears, Luna leans her head against the arm she hugs tightly. He's warm, after all, and she's not. The wool, even only a small strip of it, is better than the soaking taffetta of her gown.

"You could take the bottle with you, if you wanted." Instead of being forced to stay with her, she might mean. "You could even take a sealed one." An offer in case he might think she's tampered with them all. She turns another smile up to him, this time weaker. Her steps slow, perhaps due to drunkenness. Her breathing, on the other hand, deepens and grows a might quicker as they approach the brothel.

She's trying to build up her courage.

Her steps slow and so do Algernon's by default, the grip she has on his arm weighing him into a lean that eventually pulls carefully back into a shrug out of his coat. The better to drape it around her shoulders instead.

It already smells like ale anyway.

"I might take a bottle of wine," he allows, at length. "If you're in a giving mood. Is something the matter?" Offhand. Like he's only just politely noticed that she's a hot mess.

"What— Matter? No." Pulling the coat tightly around herself, her fingers peek out at either side of the front as much as the rest of her shrinks inside of it. "I might have wine. If I don't, I know one of the other girls does. Mine's usually a stronger fare." Of course.

Holding her breath, Luna slips up the steps of the Dovetail. She uses her full body weight to force open the door with her shoulder instead of fully pushing the latch. Security here isn't as tight as one would wish but that could be because of the sheer amount of visitors that pass through each day.

"Did you see my dance?" The question is a little too loud, given the empty feel of the parlor. Everyone seems to be at the festival.

"Of course," answered beneath her hypothesizing about the wine in regard to nothing being the matter, Algernon is not interested enough to insist that she pursue the acquisition of alcohol. He can buy his own and endure rumors about his drinking alone in his room later.

In the mean time he follows a step behind and aside, empty parlor scanned across a shade uneasily. Different, without noisome occupants. Could just be the cold shirking off the shoulders of his suit.

"I did."

Luna crosses the room, to the stairs, looking over her shoulder at Algernon as she progresses. Pausing at the first step, she waits for him to ascend so she can follow a few steps behind. Spiders, other things that creep and crawl or go bump in the night, any number of dangers could await her arrival.

And she did ask him to escort her to her room.

"What did you think?"

Her curiosity is coupled with the coy trail of fingers up the bannister just ahead of her, almost touching his with every climb forward. It could be called flirtatious except for the state that she's in. Her free hand goes to quickly rub underneath her eyes, clearing them of excess makeup and unsightly trails.

"You're very talented." Algernon says to the stairs ahead of him as he ascends. He has a way of saying close to the right thing promptly and evenly when he's being cooperative. Without actually cooperating, beyond the bare minimum.

He is mostly immune to flirtatious fingers same as he is mostly immune to tracks of eye makeup and tantrums and scandal. Having been asked to operate as an escort, he is doing that, and so far he feels he is doing it very well.

At the top of the stairs, nary a spider in sight, he steps aside to allow her to key in her own entry without looming.

"Did you turn away?" She doesn't unlock her door. Pressing her back against it, both of her hands cling tightly to the coat around her shouldersm holding it hostage until such a time that she's ready to let the real prisoner go. "Or did you watch the whole thing?" She pauses for a slight yet slightly audible breath. "Did you like it?"

Luna's worried. Worried that he didn't, why he didn't, or why anyone else didn't. Unremarkable in nearly every way without makeup, her blue eyes widen slightly as she looks up to Fogg. "You weren't very close, is it because you were on duty?"

Doubtless Luna is learning to recognize a certain familiar distance that creeps into the corners of Algernon's eyes when he looks up over her head at nothing and reaches to tamper restlessly with one of his sleeves. It's a distance that says he is not interested in having this conversation. Among other things. Like a total lack of comprehension over why this is important and an unfavorable assessment of Luna's priorities as they relate to the backdrop of Dornie. And all of Britain, for that matter.

"No, yes, yes and also yes," he answers, accomodatingly, with an air of having rehearsed in his head and again at length. "Though, if I may say so," and he probably shouldn't, "it's curious that someone so self-professedly aloof should be so interested in the opinion of a soldier. Or anyone else."

One thin shoulder comes up almost invisibly under the mantle of the heavy coat. As if reminded of the disposition she professes to possess, she looks away toward the frame of the door. One of her hands reaches to it, caressing the wood lightly as she sways back and forth on her feet.

"I'm not, well I am… but only to make my dance better. I don't like it when people turn away," her eyes slide to one corner to sneak a glance at him. "It makes me feel ugly and I don't have anything else. Once I'm not pretty it'll be over for me." The weak smile comes back for a moment before she lowers her eyes shyly to the floor.

"I suppose so, if being a whore comprises the highest peak of your personal aspirations." There isn't much of anything for sneakiness to scrape from the way he's looking at her: like he'd look at anyone. Grounded. Logical. Slightly put out that he is polite enough to endure being lead around like a circus pug.

The more she caresses and shies and diverts her eyes and whatever else, the more his affectations parallel those of a grown man being forced through a The Notebook / How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days double feature.

An ugly scowl forms before Luna can stop it and she turns her head further to allow the emotion to run its course rather than bottle it away. Or let it sink to the bottom of a bottle. "I'm not a whore," she argues, her voice strong and insistent. "I sell my company, not my body."

Her hand slips back into the coat and she pulls out her key, finally fitting it into the door. She twists and once hearing the click, she kicks it in with a flare of temper. "I'm not a whore!!" She yells back out the door, probably to him. The coat is thrown on the floor but then gingerly picked up and brushed off. It's not the garment's fault.

Naturally, Algernon's eyes gravitate to her abuse of his coat before they care to acknowledge the rest of her tantrum. The arguing and shouting and the rebound of the door on its hinges, which he deflects with a raised hand upon tailing her more mildly inwards.

"You live in a whorehouse. You tease and flirt and — touch." A push closes the door quietly after his entry, but he doesn't linger to tamper with the lock. "You're a whore, Miss Owens. Or playing as one. By choice. You're just clever enough about your earning or supplemented by your parents such that you don't have to put out." He doesn't proceed to the middle of the room, preferring to linger in relative safety near the door. "Much."

"And you're one of the militia," the prostitute retorts with a smug expression and haughty raise to her chin. "Does that mean you're going to beat me and confiscate all of my things?"

Uncaring about whether he's in the room or not, Luna turns her back to him and begins stripping away her wet clothing. She's cold and he's seen her in much less already. For his benefit, she leaves most of her undergarments on. The dress itself is hung carefully in her wardrobe before she pulls out the shapeless nightgown that he's seen before. "I'm sorry," she says, wringing the delicate material through her hands before unfurling it with a snap. "That wasn't very nice…" she trails off there, whatever she was about to say is left off.

"Not tonight." There's enough of a drawl tagging lazy at the end of Fogg's delivery to insinuate sarcasm for all that the barb fails to catch in his hide, if it was even meant to. One of those things that requires him to have actually done it, perhaps. Or for him to have actually done it and then felt guilty about it afterwards.

His lukewarm lack of bristle makes it difficult to tell.

But she's taking off her clothes and he watches through narrowed eyes, too arrogant for performance of propriety where she's given him that look first. "The truth often isn't."

"It used to be," Luna says with a small sigh. Reaching one arm behind her back, she wrestles with something before looking over her shoulder at him. "Would you be so kind? This string isn't going to untie itself and I can't reach." Her long index finger points to a knot in her laceup that she can just touch but not manipulate. She might not have been counting on undressing alone tonight.

Thank goodness she isn't, not really.

"The truth used to be wonderful when I was younger," she explains as her hand rises to lift her hair out of the way. "I used to sit on my da's lap every night and tell him all of the things that happened in Dornie. Now he won't even look at me."

Algernon is (warily) willing to be so kind. He crosses the room as asked, gloves stripped and pocketed along the way to setting his hands to working at the indicated. Lacing.

Breath hot on her neck and the rest of him a shade closer on her back than is probably strictly necessary, he listens while he works. A not-quite-captive audience to the woeful world of Luna Owens.

"Well," he says, "as a wealthy man, I imagine he has some difficulty understanding his daughter's desire to master in the art of prostitution."

The wash of hot air against her cool skin causes a chill to course through her spine and a rush of goose pimples to appear over both arms. "That wasn't very nice," she repeats in a lower tone, not for herself this time. "It was right harsh, it was."

Pressing her lips together, she takes a deep breath in when she feels the give of the string. Then she turns to face Algernon as she holds one of her arms over the garment in question, to keep it up. "I'm not like the rest've them here, I won't say yes to any man whose pocket jingles a little." That said. "By the by, have you heard anything about the books?"

"You don't have to. But a highly skilled and exclusive baker," says Fogg, who yeilds half a step back to counter for her about face, "is still a baker." There he smiles again. Same as before. More infuriating, probably, in this context.

"No."

Clenching her jaw at the smile, Luna drops all pretense of propriety about the same time as the last of her clothing. "Very well then," the clipped words are spoken as she advances a pace, to step out of the puddle of clothing. She brushes by him, deliberately touching his hand with her bare hip. "You're a good judge, I'm sure." Even though she holds the gown in her hand, she doesn't put it on.

Until she reaches the bed. Then her long arms reach into the sleeves and she pulls the light fabric up over her head. It drifts down, settling on her slight curves much as it did the night she met him in the hallway. The light is about as good.

Just as deliberately, Algernon turns his hand into the touch to trail it light across her ass in passing. Personal, as far as deflections go. Also un-pursued — he maintains his post at the puddle of ale she managed to dribble out of her dress, turning back around to watch her settle at her new perch without hurry.

An unconscious glance to the window marks fog fading from the flat of the center pane. He draws in a deep breath around the same time, gearing up for departure. "My point, Miss Owens, is merely that — if you wish to be something else, you should be something else. Otherwise you'd do well to take more genuine pride in your work; relying upon outside validation is a recipe for disappointment."

"Nothing ever really interests me for very long," Luna sighs, stretching out on top of her covers in languid fashion. Rolling onto her stomach, she lifts her feet, kicking them lightly back and forth. "I've tried to leave before, I do for long periods of time but it always finds me and I keep coming back."

A roll of cloth is stolen out from under her pillow and she picks at its edges before glancing at Algernon again. "If I lived in a different house and slept in a different bed, would you come to visit me like this?" Her eyes sweep over his form and she raises her eyebrows slightly in question. "Or would you try to avoid my company like you do now?"

"At your behest, you mean." As it has been every time they've spoken. Too direct to qualify as an implication and too indirect to impact as an insult, Algeron lifts his brows in inquiry for clarification that he does not actually expect to receive.

"The location does contribute significantly to my suspicion, but your mien is substantial cause for doubt on its charming lonesome. Is there anything else I can do for you before I return to my post?" So that he can continue to avoid her company like he does, right hand hooked up under the collar of his ale-damp coat.

"Yes," she says, rising to her knees and sinking into the soft mattress as she crawls to the end of the bed to watch him. Looping her arms over one of the posts, she leans her chin against her wrists and leans her cheek up on her arm. "Will you promise me something before you leave?"

Luna doesn't ask straight away, rising from her perch and crossing the room to arrange Algernon's collar, even though it doesn't really need it. It's an excuse to drown him in the scent of her perfume mixed with his ale and the wine on her breath. "The next time you visit the Dovetail for her services, will you come to me instead of one of the others?"

"Yes."

For all the time it's taken Algernon to answer most of her questions, the turnaround on this one is relatively quick, once she's in close.

Collar thus set slightly off-kilter, he glances down after her before he shrugs the coat up on his shoulder into the process of putting it on.

Even after the posturing Luna has done over the course of their present visit about not being a whore, she seems quite pleased with the last answer. "I look forward to your next visit then, Mister Fogg." Said with a smile and a hand out for his, presumably to seal the bargain with a shake or some such nonsense.

Her eyes stray to his collar and she diverts to straighten it with both hands. Drawing unnecessarily close, she tips her head forward to touch her forehead against his shoulder. Her arms encircle his waist in a hug that's likely unwanted and a slight squeeze before she pulls back a touch. "Then you should go."

Having never had to shake hands over an implied agreement to do sex, Algernon looks uncertainly down at the one she's proferred only to be saved an awkward pause by her propensity for distraction. She's back at his collar and into a hug, which. Manages to be more unsettling than the handshake dilemma, somehow.

Gradual, creeping regret sets into second-guessing.

He stands and is hugged the same way he might stand before a firing squad, motionless and somewhat slack about the shoulders. Down below — his right vest pocket is still host to a distantly familiar ring of metal.

"Right," he agrees. He should. Go. A lean sideways agrees.

Algernon didn't bolt the door on their way in but when Luna guides him to the back to it with a hand under his coat at the small of his back, the sound of the key slipping into the lock is louder than the creak of floorboards underfoot. Leaning against the wooden frame, she watches him descend much like a teenaged girl straying to look after a first crush. But it's not like that at all.

Once he's rounded the corner, she shuts herself in and makes for a clear bottle on the nightstand. She doesn't bother preparing the drink. Tipping it to her lips, she gulps greedily until it's drained.

It's only moments later that the glass rolls from her palm to hit the floor. Whatever sound it makes, crash or clunk, she doesn't hear.