Innocent Eyes

Title: Innocent Eyes
Time Period: November, 134 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Often they are not as innocent as one might think.

The sun must be nearly at it's highest point, even if it's barely visible through the cloud cover today. No rain, not for a few hours yet, but the sight of the dark clouds in the eastern sky might make one second guess that prediction. Most people, at least.

Every day there's many jobs inside the stables. Hooves must be cleaned and checked, legs must be felt, horses must be allowed a chance to exercise— and in the case of one Cas Blackburn, tact must be looked after as well.

Upkeep of the saddles and harnesses may not be on the top of the list of things he likes to do, but that doesn't mean it isn't his turn every so often. One of the saddles sits out on a wooden stand, as he rubs the leather down, moisturizing and sealing it to keep it from cracking. He'd much rather be working with something living. The fact he's not talking to the saddle might echo this.

The small shed isn't far from the stable, smelling of leather and oils, mixed in with the hay and horses of the building beside it.

Not everyone has to make predictions when it comes to the weather. For Mairi Fairbairn, knowing for certain what the weather will be like means she knows when it's best to go out and when it's best to stay home. Today she's determined that going out is perfectly acceptable, and a nice enough day that warrants a promised visit to the stables.

It wasn't too hard to get a stablehand to direct Mairi towards the shed where Cas works, and so she trekked the small journey from stable to shed, stopping when Cas comes into view. Basket hanging from one arm, she approaches the shed's door, peering in his direction.

"I hope I'm not interrupting something terribly exciting."

"Not unless you can get high sniffing this stuff," Cas says in a rather honest, yet joking fashion. Such things aren't really something he thinks too much about, but he's sure there's some stablehands who might actually like the light-headed feeling the smell of the oils causes after a while. Especially if one closes the doors to keep it in.

Cas didn't, which is why the door was open, letting in fresh air while letting the smells keep from becoming completely overpowering.

"It's good to see you," he says, looking up with a smile, a tired kind of excitement in his eyes. Her visit is something to smile about, however. "Let me finish this really quick, then I think I'm entitled to a break— Wish you would've come when it was my day to do something else…" Instead of take care of tack.

His hands rub a little faster, trying to finish up more quickly, but still being thorough. He has to show the boss he's worth keeping around, after all. "So how you doing, Mairi?" he asks, glancing up toward the door as he works.

"I'm not judging you on your habits, you might enjoy the smell," Mairi says with a playful smile. The basket is shifted, just slightly before she glances at it. "I brought you some water and some food, I didn't go out of my way to cook or anything but I figured if you took a break you might need something to get your energy up."

The widow watches him work, seeming content to observe what it is he does. She doesn't mind waiting. "I think it's probably better that you were doing this. You could clearly use a break. But I'm well enough, much better for having gotten off the farm. I think I'm finding more excuses to come into Dornie. I'll have to be careful not to get carried away. It may be more difficult without the wagon."

The work with maintaining the saddle is given pause as Cas looks tilts his head to the side in interest. The idea of food alone may make him smile, but a lot of things seem to make him smile, as she has probably noticed already in the few months of knowing him. But it is the last words that made his head tilt to the side, "Without the wagon?"

Raising his hands from his work, he adds on, "You do need to get out more, so I'll gladly be an excuse to."

"You're a good excuse to come to town for, if not for deliveries," Mairi says with a smile before her lips press into a fine line. "The wagon met with an unfortunate demise after I made a delivery two nights ago. Nothing of the wagon can be salvaged." The widow offers a smile, albeit this one a little faded.

"I was going to try and find a way to build it or replace it myself, but my rescuer generously offered to get me a new one. It's not something I can really say no to, so I suppose I must find a way to repay his kindness. I'm not entirely sure what I can offer to anyone in exchange for something like that."

"Unfortunate demise of a wagon and a bold generous rescuer… This sounds like an interesting story." Cas says, genuinely interested, even as he returns to his work, half his attention on the saddle work. At the same time he doesn't pry about the details she may choose not to offer. Except on one detail.

"Are you alright?" He looks up toward here as he continues, "I mean you look alright and all, of course, but some people are better at hiding it than others. I'm not. Everyone knows when I'm hurt." That last is said with a dimpled grin.

Mairi's expression is not long worried. Cas's grin quickly spreads and moments later it's mirrored on Mairi's face. "I'm alright. Thankfully not hurt, though it could have been very bad. I was more worried about losing the stallion for a while, considering the circumstances." There's a small pause before Mairi speaks again.

"Have you ever seen a dragon, Cas?"

"I try to avoid dragons." Cas immediately says, then suddenly stops his work again and looks up at her, as if he just realized what the question she asked means. "Wait, a dragon? A dragon. Scales and breaths fire and walks around on big claws with big teeth and eats cattle and horses and… A dragon?"

It seems he may need a moment to process this. "That is… Wow. Are you sure you're okay? You and Cyrano both? I've never— I mean you actually saw a dragon? A real dragon? What color was it?"

"We were both terribly spooked. I didn't have time to be too scared until after it was dead, but I was shaking the whole ride home. I was lucky Cyrano even came back at all. I was worried I was going to have to send—" Mairi pauses, mid-sentence for a moment. "I mean, I was worried I was going to have to try and find him."

She leans forward a little, looking at Cas. "Green. I think it was going to eat us. It was sick, you could smell it… rotten and it lost a large bit of it's wing and I think it was desperate. The axel on the wagon broke and it got the wagon's wheel with fire so I had to ditch the wagon in order to get away. I fired on it, luckily, but I couldn't quite scare it off myself. I didn't exactly want to kill it so much as just get away. I thought he'd eat Cyrano for sure."

"I can't imagine. I'm probably the worlds biggest coward. Not that I would abandon the horse, but me and Cyrano would have been booking it at the first sign of trouble." Cas says with a wrinkle of his nose, trying to imagine the situation. "Closest I came was being chased by a giant white bear who turned out to be a man recently. That almost gave me a heart attack. Whatever that actually means."

A few final rubs of the oil rag and Cas moves around the saddle and puts his rag and oil away. Time for that break it would seem. "I'm really glad you are both okay. I'd hate to have lost either of you. Especially you, honestly. I mean I like horses a lot, but…" His eyes trail downward for a moment, especially since he had moved closer to her. There's even a hint of color on his cheeks. "Who else would bring me lunch!" He gestures to the basket with a grin.

"You've met Jorn, then," Mairi says with a small laugh. "He nearly got the pitchfork when he showed up at my farm some years ago. People have a habit of sneaking up or just appearing on my farm without warning. You'd think they'd learn not to. Jain was too quick for me to really be a threat, though. Jorn's the one that saved me, oddly enough. I think he felt bad about the wagon so that's why he offered to replace it."

But Cas isn't the only one blushing. Mairi looks down, almost shyly for a moment, then looks towards the basket. "You can always count on me to bring you lunch." She looks back up, smiling in his direction. "Don't worry, you won't lose me Cas."

"Guess I'm less unique then I thought if people keep dropping in on you unexpected."Cas says with a grin despite the words, showing no signs of jealousy. "But I'm the only one you brought lunch to right now." Meaning this exact instant, most likely. He doesn't expect her to be feeding only him, really. Speaking of the food, he reaches for a towel to clean off his hands so that he can get eating on the snacks she's packed for him.

"But yeah, Jorn is the one I met. Ser Wartooth. He seemed really interesting. He helped me after scaring me, but he had the chance to gnaw me to death… Or worse, and he didn't so that always earns points with me. Saving you just makes him more awesome in my mind." In fact the man just earned hero points, likely, based on the impressed look on Cas' face.

"People may drop in on me from time to time, but I've never come to town to visit anyone but you," Mairi points out. She offers forward the basket, looking for a good spot for them to sit outside—probably best not to get too high on the smell. "And never for surprise lunches. I'm just lucky you hadn't eaten yet. I was afraid I might show up and you had…"

She smiles, none-the-less. "Jorn seems kind enough, despite the bear, and he looked out for me. I'm certain I'll have to prepare some kind of feast or something to somehow thank him for the wagon."

The more she says, the more it looks as if he's blushing. But as they are moving away from the shed to find somewhere to sit with the basket, Cas can hopefully blame it on the chill in the air outside. "That makes me one of the most fortunate of the unannounced guests on your farm then." He does say after they've moved a bit away. Just like he'd felt lucky that first day.

"But I don't usually have time to eat much until I finish, and if I do it's usually a small snack. So you never have to worry about me having a full stomach if you stop by again." Which as he reaches for the first bite of food, he probably hopes for often. Snack as it may be.

"I'd say you're pretty lucky," Mairi agrees, settling down on the most open looking area. Once Cas is seated, she sets the basket down in front of him for easy access. She's doesn't touch it, likely already having eaten so he can have whatever it contains. "I'm glad you're hungry. It makes it a lot easier to just show up." Well, it gives her an excuse.

"You getting on well with everyone here? I'm sure you get on with the horses just fine so I won't bother asking you that."

"I am always hungry," Cas says before taking the first bite of the food. It takes time to chew, but from the look, there might be a story or two behind his expression. "Well, I… I get along okay with them, I guess. I don't really talk to most of them. Except the kid, Lady Aislinn's son. I talk to him, he doesn't say much back, though. But I like kids. He just needs to smile more. I haven't found a way to do it yet, but I will." A challenge he's taken, it would seem.

"Oh? Her son works in the stables?" Mairi questions. "I'm sure he's a hard worker. And I'm sure you'll be able to befriend him. I imagine you'd really get along well with children." She looks away, lower lip drawn between her teeth in a worried gesture she likely hopes he won't pick up on. "Weather's nice today, isn't it?"

Her sudden change of conversation is less subtle.

"Kids are less jaded than adults. Or at least they should be." Cas says, leaving out the fact that many adults seem to have reasons to be jaded. Life isn't easy, not even for people like Cas who has a ready smile. At the question of the weather, he looks up, chewing his food as he examines he sky, "Yeah, it seems nicer than some have been lately." There is a question in his tone. He doesn't quite get why the subject change.

The subject is not brought back up, and Mairi's gaze stays on the sky. "Yes, it's much better than it's been. I'm hoping it will stay a little warmer for longer. I don't look forward to the winter storms. Huddling up in the snow can be dreadful."

They aren't alone for long, however. Perhaps right on cue, there's a soft mewling nearby as a kitten emerges from behind the shed. It pads its way over to Mairi, bumping it's head softly against her hand. She looks down at it, smiling softly. Stalwart's got a way of showing up where he's needed.

Speaking of jaded… Cas watches her as she talks, head tilting to the side with a quiet interest. The smile is gone for a moment, as he just watched her. At least until the mewling sound is heard. That draws his eyes over and immediately brings his smile back. "Hello there, kitten," he says, reaching into the basket to find something that a feline might like so that he can hold it out on his hand. "Haven't seen you around here. Maybe she's why the weather is nice today." One can claim anything as the source of good weather, right?

"He," Mairi corrects, then blinks for a moment. Well, hard to explain how she knows that offhand. "I'm sure he's bringing us good luck. I'm sure there are some kind of old proverbs about finding kittens when the cold is close meaning there'll be more sun for a tiny bit longer, right?"

The kitten is scratched gently behind the ears, but Stalwart is quick to move towards the food. He'll be friendly. She smiles at the kitten as he sniffs at Cas' hand, then nibbles timidly at the food.

"Really? He? Never would'a guessed," Cas says, not bothering to ask how she might know this. "I don't really know cats well, but— they're so cute when they're young. Look at those little innocent eyes." The food is held out gingerly, and only once the kitten has most of it does he attempt to move his fingers to brush them up the kitten's nose, between his eyes.

"He's so tiny— I hope he's got a warm home. Do you want to stay under my bunk? I promise it will be warm and I'll give you scraps of meat every day— I have a small collection of salted meat for when I need it— you'll even get fresh fish when I manage to catch some."

Mairi smiles as she watches Cas and the kitten, but it's not long before she's a little misty-eyed. "They are cute, aren't they? So innocent and sweet…" Her hand reaches up to brush quickly at her eyes. She sniffles lightly, turning her gaze up to the sky again. "He seems to like you."

The kitten purrs at Cas' touch, but he turns in Mairi's direction as she speaks. He hops over to the widow, climbing onto her lap and proceeding to rub up against her and purr. This causes another tiny sniffle from Mairi.

The sniffles draw Cas' attention even before the kitten climbs over to her to try and give her some kitten comforts. "Oi, Mairi— what's the matter?" he asks, tilting his head to the side and look serious. Like the kitten, he scoots a little closer, reaching out to touch her upper arm in a soothing gesture like he may use for a horse.

Still, he's keeping some semblance of distance between them. Just within arms length, but with plenty of personal space for her. And the new lap kitten. "It'll be okay." For once, it's said without much of a smile.

She's trying to keep her composure, but it's become a little difficult, what with Cas being sweet and Stalwart equally so. Mairi wipes her eyes with one hand, shaking her head a little in response to his question. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to," she murmurs. She turns to face him a little more, then offers him a smile amidst a few tears.

"I don't mean to go ruining a nice break for you, I'll be alright, no need to worry."

"Don't apologize for that," Cas says as he moves a little closer, to lift a hand up and rub his thumb under her cheeks for a moment. She already wiped away some of them, but they're still there. From his expression, he almost looks as if he's doing something between a frown and a smile, if such an expression can be named.

"I wouldn't even be having this break without you, so if you need to cry, you totally can— Maybe you should take the kitten home with you in the basket— keep him warm. You'll have someone to talk to, as well. The kitten likes you way more than me, too."

"He likes you well enough, better than most," Mairi's free hand comes to rest atop Stalwart's head with a gentle stroke. "But I'll keep him safe. He'll be my good luck charm and keep me safe too." She looks back at Cas, blinking away whatever tears are left as she tries to regain composure.

"I don't normally cry in front of people, something just occurred to me and I couldn't help myself, I'm sorry," Mairi apologizes again. "You are one of the kindest people I've ever met, Cas. Perhaps the kindest."

"Well then he'll need a name, and you can't name him after me. Cas the Cat would be a dumb name," Cas says, grinning down at the kitten despite the serious topic at hand, his hand starting to move as if he may pet the kitten where it is, but the location on the woman's lap seems to keep him from doing that. Instead his eyes meet hers again. It's the apology. And the compliment.

"You're only saying that because you don't get out much," he says as if to nudge the compliment aside. "But thank you. You're pretty kind too. Could have got me with a pitch fork months ago and instead you pointed me toward this job. I wouldn't be here without you. And you keep feeding me. I'm sure the kitten will be in great hands." His smile grows for a moment, soft— but his hand drops away from her arm as he smiles.

Mairi watches him silently for a moment before she realizes she hasn't said anything. "Oh…" Her eyes tear away to look down at Stalwart. "I suppose it's good I'm keeping him. If you had something cute to pay attention to, you wouldn't need me to visit. That'd be a shame."

Stalwart moves out from under Mairi's hand, promptly hopping down into the space between the two of them and seating himself, tail flicking back and forth as he looks between them as if questioning which one of them will pet him next. Or perhaps he's thinking something else entirely.

It seems awkward silence has become contagious. For a long moment Cas says nothing, not even noticing the kitten has dropped down. At least not for a moment that seems a lot longer than it probably is once it's done. There's a noticeable shake to his head.

"Cute things don't… have everything. I'm— more of a horse and dog guy, anyway…" he says, looking away from the red head toward the kitten.
It takes a little longer before he finally reaches out to pet the tiny animal. "Though this guy is tempting me to become a kitten person too, I admit."

"Cats don't need as much attention as dogs. They do well on their own with a little food and somewhere safe to sleep… they can be quiet but also fierce fighters when they need to be. Maybe not as strong or exciting as dogs, but they don't always need taking care of, at least when they're bigger," Mairi murmurs, eyes back down on Stalwart.

The kitten mewls, rubbing up against Cas' hand at the attention, little blue eyes shutting as it clearly enjoys the petting. Mairi, too, reaches over to pet the kitten, though she glances back up at Cas. "You can be whatever kind of person you like if you understand the creature, I think. Maybe that's why I'm just not as good with people."

The kitten is small enough that, while they both pet it, their hands meet up occasionally. Cas' own attempts to pet the kitten slow, and finally stop, after a few brushes, pulling back some. "I— uh— I should probably get back to work before one of the stable hands decides I'm being lazy and tells the boss…" his voice is kind of absent, as if he's not really thinking too much about such things.

But a few moments later he's getting up to stand, saying while he points down at the kitten, "You take care of her now, cat." Like he expects him to be able to. Little does he know, right? "And thanks for the lunch, Mairi" he says while he moves forward, taking an action that's a little bold. But not too much.

He leans closer to kiss her on the cheek.

"Right," Mairi murmurs a little breathlessly. Her cheeks are flushed. From the cold, of course. She studies him for a long moment, then offers a somewhat distracted smile. "I should leave you to your work anyways. I want to make sure to finish a few things and get back before the evening… I wouldn't want to run into another dragon on the way home. I'm not sure little Stalwart would be able to handle something like that right now."

The kitten mewls, perhaps in response to Cas' request, or perhaps in agreement that he very much does not want another dragon to come swooping down on his mistress. Then again, what does an innocent little kitten know? Stalwart retreats from nearby the two and promptly jumps into the basket. Whatever crumbs Cas might have left will soon be devoured.

"I hope dragons aren't that common," Cas says emphatically, looking between her and the protector kitten. "Cause if they are you should see if Ser Wartooth will walk with you more often. I expect he'd know how to slay a dragon if it needed to be slayed— " There's a pause, a frown, as if he thinks that word was wrong.

Shaking his head, he waves toward the woman and her kitten before making his way back to the shed that smells of oils and leather.

Mairi offers him a smile. "I've got Stalwart to keep me safe, no worries about that," she replies. "Not a thing will need slaying." She waves back towards Cas, the basket tucked under one arm. She begins to walk off as the kitten peeks out the top of it to look up at Mairi with innocent blue eyes.

"Not a word, you," she tells him. "Not a word."