Man's Best Friend

Title: Man's Best Friend
Time Period: January 24, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Communications are primitive, but the company's decent.

The door to the Dovetail opens and closes quietly in the early hours of morning. Some wouldn't even call it morning, with the sun not even lightening the overcast sky. The cold is the only thing keeping the moisture in the air from becoming fog, so instead a light snow floats down to land on the roads and grass. Not quite thick enough that it will survive the morning except in the shaded places.

Pulling the coat more firmly around his body, Cas huffs out a warm breath that melts the snow it comes into contact with and decides to shove his hands into his pockets instead of leaving them bare to the cold.

A glance is cast behind him at the warm building he's leaving behind, before he shakes his head and starts off onto the road, seemingly alone, his step a brisk walk, the paths known so well by now that he doesn't have to worry about getting lost in the dark walk before dawn.

He doesn't get too terribly far before there's a familiar (familiar's?) chittering from behind. Masque hurries along after Cas, leaving the Dovetail behind as well. When he's nearly on his heels, the familiar takes advantage of the empty morning to shift up from his usual badger form, and in the steps it takes for him to get to Cas' side, he grows into a shaggy, golden retriever.

Mariah may need the badger, but apparently he doesn't think Cas does.

He greets the stablehand with a low woof and a nudge against his legs. Apparently, he's coming along this morning.

The chittering draws Cas' eyes back, and he'd just started to slow as if to stop and allow the small legged creature to catch up, when he spots the shape change in the low light, and become something else entirely. "That, mate, has got to be the coolest thing ever. I'll never get tired of seeing that," he says with a grin, walking backwards until the dog nudges his legs.

Spinning so that he's looking in the direction he walks, he lets out one of his hands to rest on the dog's neck and back, scratching at the long hairs— and also using the animal's own warmth to keep his hands warm.

"Glad you decided to walk me to the stables. These walks are pretty lonely with no one to talk to, especially before dawn. You'd think I'd be used to it, walking nearly the whole way here from down south by myself, but— not really. Course I talked to everything then. Trees, fish, bugs. Meself." He laughs and shakes his head. "Least you can talk back— somewhat. With barks."

Whether it's the compliment or the scratching, Masque's jaw opens in a canine grin, his tongue lolling out as he leans into Cas' hand. As the man talks, he tilts his head to look up at him, the eye contact lasting far too long for a dog, but perhaps he wants to make sure Cas knows he's listening.

At the end, he straightens up a bit, but only to let out a bit of a howl in reply before he slips his head back under Cas' hand.

The desire for attention is definitely met, without much pause except when the dog moves out of reach. Cas keeps a brisk pace down the road, intent on beating the sun to the stables, but probably not as fast as he might go if he had only himself and the wind to talk to.

"I wish you could tell me what Mariah says about me," he says in a soft voice, a curious tone to the way his mouth twists, as he looks down at the dog. "I mean I know you can't, so… It just— "

He shakes his head. "Sorry. You're probably not the best. person— is it okay to call you a person? — To be rambling about this too. Her being your …" He glances to the side as if trying to figure out the word. "Uh. With you being her familiar and all." There's a nod, as if he's agreeing with his own words.

Masque keeps up with his pace easily enough; could be that he's glad for a little company, too, considering his life is a fairly solitary one. But, as Cas talks himself out of talking about the one for sure subject they have in common, he falls back a step to stick his nose into the back of Cas' knee. Not hard enough to make him fall, but certainly enough to make him stumble.

And he strides forward a few steps, to sit himself down in their path forward and regards Cas for just a moment before letting out one clear bark. He's all ears. They're even perked.

The nudge does make Cas stumble, as planned, and he can't even catch himself well with one hand buried in his coat and the other one no longer having a dog to grab onto. A dog that's seated himself in the road. "…Is that a 'you can talk about her' face?" he asks, straightening himself with a brush on his hands against his coat.

"Um— maybe you can bark once for… yes? I'd say nod and shake your head, but I kind of have a bad habit of looking elsewhere sometimes." Like the road. Or anywhere other than the person he's talking to. "Is it okay if I talk about Mariah? Can it stay between— you know— us? Man to…" he waves his hand at the dog.

Masque's jaw parts again and there may— may— be some wagging going on toward his back end, but get him to admit it. He replies with a bark, just the one, before he runs a semi-circle around Cas to get back to his side and facing the right direction.

Between the ears and the panting and the generally excited demeanor, it could be that the familiar is a bit of a gossip, too. Just a little.

The excited nature of the dog seems to make things easier for Cas, from the way he walks and holds himself, and the way his speaks. Even if he would normally be stuttering over half the sentances, he manages to make it through them rather quickly. Sometimes too quickly. Though it's hard to say he's excited really. His energy still seems anxious.

"I think I like her. Mariah. No, I know I like her, probably even more than I should. I'm not really good with that, though. Liking girls. I mean, last girl I really liked I knew I couldn't have cause she was too good for me. And I know I can't really have Mariah cause… you knowg."

The lack of stuttering didn't last.

"I'm afraid to say anything to her cause it might… I don't know. Complicate things more if— you know. I say it. So I probably shouldn't. That'll just make things worse for her." The slouch to his shoulders is visible as he gets to that point, the fingers forgetting to sritch as he walks beside the dog.

The confession and concerns that follow get a soft whine of commiseration. After all, Masque's relationship with her is a bit complicated, too. But, the whine cuts off when he notices the lack of attention and the dog nudges Cas' hand again. But this time, there isn't a bark, instead there's a droop in his tail and his ears as well. Advice is hard to give in this situation, but sympathy comes a little easier.

"Sorry," Cas says as the nudge draws him out of his thoughts and reminds him that he's no longer giving the affections to the creature who is nice enough to listen. And sympathize. Even if he can't give advice. "Sometimes she seems like she's about to say something, but then she doesn't— and I wish she would, but at the same time I'm relieved she didn't say it cause… Then it would be…"

He trails off. Perhaps he doesn't have to finish it, really.

"I also can't shake the feeling that I'm using her, I told Baze as much already," he adds to the confession, before looking down at the dog, suddenly remembering teeth and breathing in his face. "Not that— I'd never try to hurt her, or anything. I don't want that, but— When I started going to her for… more… I did it to try to get over her. The other girl. And I told her that. I did. I just…" he trails off again. But at least he keeps scritching as he walks.

It isn't the bit about using her, or possibly using her, that gets a reaction out of the familiar. He came to terms with people using Mariah— and her letting them— some time ago. He even understands why she does.

No, it's the tail end of what he's saying that brings out the teeth. He nips at Cas' hand, although, not enough to break skin, or even really hurt. His ears fold back and his eyes narrow. It's not exactly and aggressive posturing, but definitely an annoyed one. He does bark this time, but not once in agreement, but several times in a row. He's protesting something about what Cas is on about, anyway.

"Oi," Cas says, pulling his hand back to shake it at the air, whether it really hurt or not. The barks cut off any words he might have added, for a few moments, and wakes up some animals.

"A'right a'right," he intones, not missing the definitely lack of 'yes'ing in that bark. "So maybe she wouldn't feel like I'm using her. You obviously don't."

That may not change how he actually feels about it, though.

Masque lets out a sigh of sorts, and somewhere Mariah is being kept awake with a speech about how difficult people are, as he's got to express it clearly to someone and she's the captive audience.

But outwardly, he barks just once, and lets out a snort as he shakes out his fur and steps closer to Cas' legs. He still looks grumpy, but by the way Mariah tells it, that's not terribly abnormal.

Poor Mariah. Doesn't even have to have the old fashioned nose itching— she just gets to have a mental mouthful. Cas doesn't even know much of this, but understands the dog's demenor. To a point. And the bark. "I am glad that I started it, though. With her. Even if— when…" he trails off.

"I do like her. And the pain of… of leaving… it's less. So I guess it worked. Fixing my… broken heart, for lack of a better word. Kinda would've liked to have done it without the broken nose, but— "

There at the end, Masque's jaw opens again and his posture relaxes. Amused, no mistake. He comes around to get in the way of Cas' path again, but this time, he lifts up to flump his forelegs against Cas' chest. It isn't a jump, there's not enough energy in it for that, but he takes the opportunity to lick the man's cheek.

That may even be affection.

He drops back down to all fours just after and trots a bit ahead before turning to bark at Cas again. He paws at the ground a little, then turns back to keep onward.

There's a surprised sound from Cas as he's suddenly licked on the cheek, and he doesn't have much time to do more than stand there and keep from falling under the added weight. At least until the dog is back on his own four feet and is in front of him again. A hand rests on his cheek as he walks, until he reaches down ruffle the dog's ears.

"I like you too, mate." And now that the awkward confessions are behind them, he can ramble about other things for the rest of the walk.

Like his job.