Not Her

Title: Not Her
Time Period: December 29, 134 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: In the interest of letting go…

Everything seems to be ready, with a warm bath drawn and a book laying near the shaving razor and supplies on their little table. And Mariah, of course, and she's back in a dress again now that she's on the clock, as it were.

When he's shown in, she even straightens up with a smile. And while a grand welcome doesn't follow, she is clearly glad to see him. The expression is only there a moment, though, before a more playful one takes its place. "I had heard you were coming, but I didn't dare believe it," she teases gently before gesturing him over.

"Sorry for the short notice," Cas says with as much of an apology as he can manage. Much like when he first showedup, he's dressed in his normal work clothes— though they seem less flithy than they were when she visited him at the stables a few days ago. "I'm sure you're really busy in the winter— cold nights and all," he says with a laugh, scratching at the stubble on his cheeks with one finger.

"You look great!" He says, gesturing at her clothes with both hands. "Not that you didn't look good last time I saw you, you did— but— " From the wince, he's regretting his mouth. "I'm just going to stop talking now if that's okay."

"Busy tonight, anyway," Mariah says, and she tips her head to the side as he compliments her, and shows no sign of stopping him herself. But, the wince gets a soft chuckle and a shake of her head, and she comes over to take hold of his coat. "Well, thank you," she says before she starts to peel it off. "But I wish you wouldn't. Stop talking, that is."

It's said with a little wink before she carries the coat off to hang on a nearby coat rack. "But whatever makes you comfortable, of course."

"Are you seeing someone after… I probably shouldn't be asking that," Cas says, sighing at his own mouth for a bit. "Wait, I— just a second." He follows to where she took the coat, reaching into a pocket to retrieve a few items. "I wanted to give you this ahead of time." He decides to stick to something he knows is okay to talk about, and that's what could potentially be payment.

What he draws out of his pocket is a small red rose bud made out of fabric by a decently skilled artisan. It could be easily pinned to clothes, or added to something else. And also wound up in the hands that he offers is a thin silvery chain of a necklace.

"I tried to find a pendant for it, but I couldn't think of anything— " But together the two items certainly cost him more than he would pay for the bath and other things. And from the way he stands, fidgetting, with little eye contact… he's nervous. Much as he was when he first entered the room.

"I meant with you," Mariah says with a laugh as she comes back over his way. The laugh cuts short as he pulls out the rose and necklace. She blinks a moment, and she looks up at him, a bit of a puzzled look on her face.

"They're beautiful," she says, her voice softer now. And while she might normally take this moment with a flippant witticism, this time she keeps a more genuine expression. "But it's too much, Cas. For tonight, I mean." For some customers, she wouldn't mind getting overpaid, but the ones she likes get treated better.

"Are— are you sure it's too much? I… even if I wanted… more than usual?" Cas keeps his eyes low for a moment, tension across his forehead as he chews lightly on the inside of his lower lip with his teeth. There's an unsteadiness to his breathing.

"Sorry— I knew I had to do this now before I talked myself out of it in my head while I was bathing. I still want to do all that tonight— but…" He takes in a slow breath, before glanding up, a hopeful expression in his eyes. "Would just the chain still be too much? I can give you the rose later— at the dance or…? I don't know, do you have credit or something? I've never really been good at this sort of thing— I only came to places like this a few times before, and only ever when I was bullied into it by stablehands who thought I needed to spend time with women to prove I wasn't funny and they even paid once or twice and none of them— none of the women— were ever quite like you…" His eyes shift to the side suddenly before he looks back and smiles. "Sorry, I ramble sometimes when— You know. Nervous."

"Do you want more than usual?"

Mariah lifts a hand up to touch his cheek, as if that might somehow help the nerves, instead of contributing to them. "You know, I kind of like it when you ramble." Her hand moves to pick up the rose, her fingers brushing over the fabric briefly before she looks back up at him. "I think you're going to have to put the chain on for me. I'm awful with clasps." It seems credit is something she does take, even if she doesn't expressly say so. What she does do is turn around, because apparently necklaces are easier to put on from the back in her opinion.

For a moment, Cas doesn't realize that she turned around— mostly because his eyes slid shut when she touched his cheek, to help steady his own breathing. Though that doesn't keep when they open again, and he's looking at the back of her neck. "I— yeah, I can do that," he says with what sounds like a smile, even if a nervous one. Still.

"I like hearing you talk more than me," he admits, laughing mildly. The clasp is undone and he reaches around her to pull the necklace around her neck. It hangs at a medium length, so that whatever pendant he had bought would have rested just below where her neck meets the breastbone.

Once it's clasped, fingers trail along her neck, slowly, almost tickling. Almost as if he's trying to figure out some puzzle. "I actually never liked the idea of paying for— for this. I still kind of don't— but." He's rambling again, but this time he doesn't stop himself. Or apologize. "This probably wouldn't happen if I didn't. Cause if I pay I— it's not as if— it doesn't have to be… you know. More. Than… what it is. Not that I don't want it, I do— and I hope you won't terribly mind it either… I'm just not ready to— let go of some— thing yet."

Fingers lift to touch the chain where it rests, and her eyes close for a moment, as well, at the touch against her skin. Somewhat unexpected, that. But she turns to face him, gaze searching his a bit. There's a lingering silence, just long enough to start feeling awkward before she speaks up again.

"You know, the men who come here… they're here because they can't find someone willing, or don't have time for the courting and wooing that most women expect, you know, before certain steps can be taken. Or don't care much for that part, the wooing. They're not here for me, not really. They may like me, but if I'm not around, another would do just as well. There isn't much… emotion in it all, if you understand what I'm saying." Mariah looks a bit… embarrassed to admit that part, as if she doesn't usually talk about the details of her job.

"I suppose what I'm saying is, I don't want you to pay for what you aren't comfortable paying for. It does put it on a strange level, I suppose. And if it means something more to you than that, you should keep it that way." There's a pause there and a soft laugh of her own before she points a finger toward him, "And don't you go telling anyone else I'm saying this. I don't want my income cut off. But you're not… like the others."

When she turns, his hands pull back, hovering a few inches above her skin as if Cas is unsure where to put them, but not quite willing to move back just yet. While she speaks, some of the tension fades away, showing what the tenseness was hiding. A sadness in his eyes, and also a fondness. And he can't help but look at the pointing finger.

And then look down away from it. The hands he held over her settle on her shoulders. "You're not supposed to be the one to talk me out of this, you know," he says quietly. Sheepishy even. "But you know I came for me too," he admits. "The first time. Cause I was lonely and I couldn't… I'm not that different… Not… really." There's a moment when he may start arguing with himself in a rambling match again, but he opts to quiet himself, even if that returns the tension along his jaw.

"Well, I can talk you back into it again, if you really want," Mariah says, and this time she is teasing just a little. That sadness about him draws her in a step closer, her fingers taking hold of his shirt. "I think you should just trust me that you're different. In a good way. In a way that makes me feel lucky I was the one around when you came in."

But she looks up at him, her brow furrowed just a little, concern perhaps. "What has you looking so sad, Cas?"

The smile does nothing to hide the sadness, really, but it does make a dimple appear. There's a dampness in his eyes, the forming of tears, but Cas doesn't seem to be paying much attention to that. "When I said I wasn't ready to let go of something— I really meant someone. A… a girl. That I— was with. Before. Before I came here. I think this might help, but if I wasn't… paying for it… it would be… like I'm letting go of her, I guess."

There's a faint shake of his head, and he steps even closer, leaving his head down until their foreheads touch, his eyes closing. "I know you're not her— and I'm not going to pretend that you are her… I just— Am I making any sense at all or am I just being silly?"

"It makes perfect sense." Mariah lingers there a moment, foreheads together, before she shifts just enough to press a soft kiss against his jawline. She doesn't bring up the subject of payment, but probably because it's an easier thing to forget about if they're not talking about it so much.

Her fingers start to work at his clothes, and it's all similar enough to how things usually go, aside from the kissing, but it does promise that the bathing routine they have going is going to be a little different this time around.

"Does it? I feel like I'm… talking nonsense half the time," Cas says softly against her skin, hands moving from her shoulders to touch her neck, thumb against her cheeks, fingers working toward her hair. "This— with you— it does mean something to me, Mariah," he adds, breath touching her lips.

"This— this could never not mean something." Double negative aside, his voice alone carries too much truth for it to be a line.

"Well, then I guess I find your nonsense particularly endearing." Mariah's eyes close at his touch and there's just a hint of a smile on her lips. But when he speaks again, she looks up at him, expression sobered for the moment. "If you mean that," she starts, her smile slowly returning as she replies, "Then I guess you better prove it."

That is met with a soft laugh. "Then you'll have to tell me when I do," Cas says in a much more humored tone. But there's a new kind of tension under his voice. The tension is only amplified by the continued lingering pause with his breath touching her lips instead of him. One might think he were waiting for her to actually do that part, like she'd done with his jawline.

But she doesn't have to wait much longer. The first kiss is light, careful, testing. But it gets followed by one that's a little less of that and a little more of something else— until it seems as if he's stopped worrying about each one.

But that sets the pace for most the night, as tentative melts away into a gentle kind of passion.