Relations

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

Summary: A funny thing happened on Algernon's escape, he didn't.

Midnight's come and gone, and with any luck, Fogg is set to follow suit. Clean, redressed, business — taken care of, he leans quietly out into the hall as if he has a notion that someone is on their way who he doesn't wish to see. Prior company having dozed off behind him in her bedroom, after a preliminary sweep of surrounding environs he's careful to close the door silently behind him.

Click.

An unconscious sense of freedom coaxed forth from the act dips a sigh into his shoulders and he sets off, hat doffed to chest and back to the more active end of the hall as if to obscure the instant recognizability of his visage at a distance.

He's quiet. Quieter than Luna, certainly, with a feline fortitude and cadence to the soundless fall of boot to floorboard through the course of his retreat. Unfortunately, he is also loomingly tall and wearing a light-colored coat, and unsure if there's even a true exit at this end. Not that he's likely to be picky. A door, a window.

A chimney.

A door.

It leads to a set of stairs that wind upward but the glow coming from there is more natural than lamp, electrical light, or fire. Its soft rays spill down the steps, highlighting the cracks in the wood. It's likely the attic. It's a commonly known truth that the upper floors of the cottage are something of a maze. Housing too many women for the space it occupies the rooms available to customers aren't the same as the ones left for the girls who aren't working.

"Mister Fogg," the voice behind him is hushed and pleasant sounding. Luna curls her arm around one of his and winds around his body to cross the threshold. "A pleasant surprise to see you here, I'd heard the lads had swooped in and napped you from the camp. Are you joining the militia then?"

Her eyes flit up the stairs and she angles her chin to invite him that way. "Come, we shall have some tea," she pivots and places her foot on the first step before looking over her shoulder at him. "I realize it's late but I find something warm in my belly always helps me with sleep. From what I recall of our last meeting, you didn't sleep, did you?"

Algernon is distracted. Free hand posted against the bannister's lowest end, he squints up into the light easing eery white down unfamiliar steps and considers his options.

Breaking a window out of the attic, for example, seems drastic, even as a shape slants grey across the available moonlight somewhere up there and — Luna's voice besets him from behind. He stiffens, predictably, in all the wrong places — shoulders and spine and latissimus dorsi locked flat to bone, the arm she's wrapped around like an iron rail with a mind to rebound her against the nearest wall.

It doesn't.

She's around him in the time it takes him to cool his own jets with a slow breath, hat angled to his lapel in a lazy indication for her to lead the way. Too dignified to be a if you say so. Nothing so impolite. "I didn't," confirmed more mannerably still, he doesn't have to glance up again to know the shape is gone. "And I am."

Apparently she either didn't work that night or has been free long enough to enjoy a warm soak. Her hair is still pinned with a few tendrils trailing wet against her neck and disappearing under the hem if her linen nightshirt. It's modest, shapeless, and confounding as to why such a vain creature would wear such an ugly thing. Until she begins moving up the stairs. From neck to ankle it conforms to her body, rendering the silhouette glued to the wall beside her naked.

"Then I suppose you'll be here often?" They always are. A key is produced dangling from a ribbon at her wrist and it slides into the lock to give its own click. The room at the top of the stairs is large, empty save its two new occupants, and decorated as though a princess was its owner.

Ushering him inside, the younger woman glances down the stairs before closing the door and relocking it. This time from the inside.

Algernon notices. Naturally. The reason she favors this particular gown. Hard not to and all, attention lingering aside on the silhouette until the shape of a key narrows his focus back to where it should be.

Reason doesn't resolve until she has him inside and he has a beat to parse precisely what it is he's seeing: a princess tower. Decorated and occupied as such. That's where the resignation really starts to creep in.

Hat in hand, he half-turns back at the turn of the lock from inside. Measuring. "Doubtful," he says, once that's done. Highly.

The key is set on the dressing table in the midst of other knick knacks, treasured and not. An atomizer, a powder puff and tin, a silver brush and mirror set, all of these likely gifts. Her hands go to the drawer at the side, pulling from it a squarish tin used by the locals for tea.

"You say so now, but he'll insist on it. All the men come here to see the ladies downstairs." She doesn't include herself among them, apparently. "Especially after they've been outside of town. I hear them sometimes, when they've had a particularly exhilarating hunt."

A copper teapot is lifted from its place near her empty hearth. Exotic enough for her tastes, it looks as though a genie could have drifted from its spout at one point in time. Now it's just hot water. Two cups are filled and then a spoon from the tin is mixed into each. "Stir it for a minute or so… It'll have it ready faster."

"I see," says Algernon for the sake of avoiding argument, even as he fails to look or sound convinced.

Nevermind that he showed up this time. For lack of a better use of his time while he's locked in, he tails her to the dresser full of knick-knacks and selects a brush and the discarded key for himself in the same lift to palm the latter while she sets about the process of pouring.

Brush back to dressing table, hand to pocket, he watches her dip spoons into each cup with more apathy than he should. His fault.

He receives his cup and obediently sets to stirring with the same slow absence of attention, mind elsewhere again. Likely on ways to excuse himself. "They are out of town often, then." isn't quite a question.

"Not as often as I'd like, they're the sort of brute that won't be seen in my room." Except for this time. Reclining into a chair, Luna draws her legs up to curl comfortably into the cushions. She stretches one arm and shoulder, catlike, working out some lingering tension not washed away by her bath.

Then she takes her first sip.

It's a long one, drawn out as she watches the gentleman over the rim of the porcelain cup. It's set back into its saucer with a clink and she gives him a rather relaxed smile. The stretch must have worked. "It'll be good wages for you, they generally come back with spoils that are good for more trade here. Mister Rowntree fetched his brother's wife from a raid… Gifted her to him." There's a slightly imperceptible curl of distaste to her lips. "They're happy now. He's a good man."

Hat dropped onto Luna's bed after a few slow paces so that he can take up the tea in both hands, Algernon sinks into a seat after it without so much as a glance to ask permission.

It's been a long day. And turnabout is fair play.

More lazy stirring smacks of disinterest rather than suspicion, and despite a lack of effort on his part to keep up the conversation, it's some time after her first sip before he takes his. Caught off guard (again) he forces himself to swallow it despite the way it catches bitter in his throat and shows his teeth, affect hoarse, eyes unblinking, manners blackened crisp off the bone. Still seated, though.

"What is this."

"Tea, Mister Fogg, a special blend that I enjoy at night. I make it myself with some local flowers and a few more exotic ones. The leaves, of course, are local; I don't mince with foreign spices much." They're either too expensive or she doesn't have a taste for them. Luna takes a second sip, closing her eyes as it courses down her throat, opening them again to gaze at Algernon.

She sets her cup aside, half empty but chilling too quickly. Stretching languidly, she points a toe in his direction and tilts her head closer to her shoulder before speaking again. "You don't enjoy it? It's one of my favorites, good for everything that ails you and then some. I find I can write my poems much better after a few sips, if only because it warms me so."

"You're — incorrigible," Algernon informs her after he's had a moment to smother a rise at his temper, the word grated out through his teeth once he's found one that's amply applicable. Tea cup and spoon still in hand, he runs his tongue past his teeth and successfully resists the urge to toss them both aside like he might if they were outside. And not in a princess tower.

Instead, he rises and glances around himself as people do when in an unfamiliar kitchen, looking for a clear place to set the cup down quickly once he's had another gruff sniff at the contents. In the end he goes with the dresser again, spoon dispensed of among other silver artifacts with a flicker of a flounce.

"Do the men usually stay downstairs because you won't deign to grace them with your presence or because they're wisened enough to give you a wide berth?"

She receives the first growl as a compliment and smiles up at him through a haze, lifting her chin so that she needn't open her eyes wider to look at him. "I would say the first, rather than the second, for they still try to enter this room. You're a lucky man, Mister Fogg, there aren't so many in Dornie that can say they've been here since I claimed it."

She settles into her seat a little more and toys with the string hanging from the neck of her nightshirt by winding it around one finger. "I assume you don't care for tea, then?" At least not her blend. "And here I was going to bring some round when you've settled in. Where are you staying?"

"Your mother's," bitten off with a metallic tang of irony that doubles as insinuation, Fogg blinks hard and pushes a hand to the bridge of his nose against cotton already fluffing dry between brain and skull. "Why are you doing this? I don't buy that you're interested." In this, he means, with a sweep of his free hand from vest to polished brown-and-black boots. His voice hasn't elevated above a base growl since that first sip and shows no signs of pepping up, even if his breathing has already begun to slow against his will.

"If you are you need but ask. I've already — " how to say, he hesitates, "had relations with one of your cohorts tonight."

"Doing?" Her head cocks and eyebrows come down in confusion before she slinks out of her chair and crosses the room. "You mean visiting with you?" Alighting herself in his lap, Luna swings her feet like a child as one long arm comes around his shoulders for support. A playful pout makes its way to her lower lip and she ducks her head to rest it against Fogg's shoulder. "Don't you enjoy visiting with me?"

Her free hand busies itself in idleness, slowly tracing invisible heart patterns along his upper chest. It's flirtatious, perhaps not meaning to be but it is all the same. "Now that you're in the militia, I won't be seeing much of you at all. Even if you do come here often, you wouldn't be making the travel up my stairs, would you?" She wrinkles her nose at the thought of the man underneath her tangled with one of the other girls.

Automatic, wary-in-the-wrong-direction retreat from Luna's advance leads Algernon into an abrupt sit when the back of his knee bumps the edge of her bed. Then she's warm in his lap winding around him like an adder while the butt of his gun jabs into his far side and it's all he can do to shift in just the right way to awkwardly relieve the latter without encouraging the former.

At close range, his tie is missing, his whiskers are scratchy and coarse and he is looking at the closed door, struggling dimly not to become preoccupied. In 2011 this might have been prosecuted as a form sexual assault.

Here it's just — somewhat inconvenient.

"You're remarkably persistent," is one of those non-answers that doesn't actually sound like a compliment and probably isn't meant to be.

"I know." Observation affirmed, Luna keeps along her own train of thought, finding it easier to mentally wade through the warmth of the tea. "But you have no cause to worry, we're simply talking, aren't we?" She nestles in a little closer, fluttering her eyelashes against his neck before finally shutting them completely. She's not sleepy. At least her hands aren't sleepy.

The one drawing patterns on his chest moves up to feel around his collar. The effort is made to allow the gentleman to at least feel a little more chaste when she toys with the top button of his shirt. It's safely put to right, giving him a bit more of a put together appearance, even without a tie. "I met your man Fletcher," Flayt-chur, "he said there're some books missing. They were taken by the militia? Now that you're a part of it, do you think you could point me in the right direction to get them back?

"I'd be grateful, ever so much so."

"Mmm," says Fogg, which is far from a yes in terms of bland acknowledgement. To both of her questions. "Made some promises, did you?"

He's tolerant at least, now that he's relaxed some against his will and she is being better behaved about the hands.

His agreement is still notably absent even after a span of silence has passed that he could have used to consider it, if he'd wanted to.

Not promising.

"Not so much a promise as curiosity, he said he would show me things if I were able to retrieve them." Resting her chin on Fogg's shoulder, Luna wraps her arms around his waist in an effort to pull herself into a better fit in his lap. In this light, the shirt isn't see through and the way she sits makes it easy to ignore the figure it hides.

Letting loose a long sigh, her breath washes over the bit of Fogg's neck left exposed. "Would you like more tea?" Her whisper is faint enough that if her lips weren't so close to his ear, she could discount the sound to breathing. "It is rather pleasant after you make your way through to real clarity. I could recite some poetry for you?

"I don't wish to be left alone tonight, I won't make any advances."

There's something small and round and solid in the vest pocket at Algernon's right side. Not the one he slipped the key into. Ignorant of contact, he grunts when she rustles around to fit herself against him, eyes lifted away to steady his patience while she steadies herself.

The shape at the window has returned. He looks at it and the shape looks back, judgmental orange eyes and moontouched whiskers dipped past Luna's crown. In the off chance he needed any further convincing not to imbibe more of her special tea, her current state is fairly persuasive.

"And in exchange?" isn't prompt for promise of payment. Exactly. The oddness of him even saying so in the setting takes several seconds to strike him in a twitched brow and a hint of a frown. But he isn't, by trade, a pillow.

His lack of acknowledgement for her offer of more tea should, in the meanwhile, be translated as a definite no.

Luna's finger trails around the shape of the thing in Algernon's pocket, her head lifting off his shoulder again to look rather than strain her eyes. "What would you like?" Is an easy answer, considering he's not very forthcoming with his own needs and desires.

"Food, alcohol, entertainment, new clothing, a service of some kind…" The shape at the window isn't noticed but given the strength of most of the ladies in the brothel, she might faint if she did. "I am rather good at dancing, there isn't anyone in Dornie that can compare. Perhaps in the entire region but I haven't traveled much, I only go on the word of others." Apparently there have been others.

A flush of foggy breath bleeds against the glass and the shape is gone, whiskers and eyes with it. Algernon sighs in habitual tandem, right hand reached to wrap around hers at his pocket when prompted. The object is approximately an inch in diameter, perfectly circular and empty in the middle. Ultimately plain. Unexciting. Almost too easily forgotten, once he's broken her touch away.

"I'll have to think about it, I suppose," sees her hand deposited safely back in her own lap, where it will hopefully cause less trouble. "For now you can consider it a favor owed."

How nice of him.

"A favor to you alone. I won't be traded across a table like some trinket without my consent." She seems a little sharper once things become a little uncertain— and not in her favor. Catching his hand before he pulls it away, Luna holds it against her leg as she squints to look into his eyes. "A favor owed to you only, agreed?" There's worry in her tone, marked by a quiver in the prostitute's words.

Still in his lap but not resting bodily against him, the blond swings her legs in lazy circles. The muscle under his hand tenses and relaxes with each kick until the movement slowly comes to a stop. Without a gruff word or gesture from Fogg.

"Did you enjoy yourself earlier?"

"Yes," Algernon agrees easily, the prospect of trade apparently not having actually crossed his mind. Giving up a favor to someone else. How counterintuitive! "Of course. A favor owed to me," eye contact is broken only for him to glance to the hand she has pinned under hers against her leg, "alone." There's no doubletalk in his language or evasiveness around his person. He even half-smiles reassuring-like, puzzled that it should be an issue at all. As for the other thing:

"I did."

"I don't like soldiers, generally," Luna admits, keeping her eyes on his hand rather than his face. "They're rough and I don't like bruising." A good enough reason to stay hidden in her room when the men come in. At least it is from her perspective. "Some of the others don't seem to give a fig about it so long as they're paid."

Giving Algernon a weak smile in return for the reassuring one, she closes her eyes and plants a chaste kiss against his cheek. It's over before, it seems, before it even began. "I'm sorry you don't like my tea." The apology seems sincere. "If I find a different sort, a more everyday sort, would you come back and sit with me?"

Well that's — personal. Algernon starts to say something and doesn't, which seems to happen a lot with her. Symptomatic of efforts made not to be a complete asshole. Even so, there are nicer things he could mutter matter-of-fact than, "Career hazard," once she's pecked him on the cheek and he's looked hard away to the side.

This is not a position he's particularly used to being in.

"I might," he allows, at length and with time taken to measure his decidedly limited capacity for kindness. "I'm not sure I'll drink it."

"Then you can bring the tea and I will drink it." A way to allow him to drug her instead of the other way around or a way for him to be assured that he'll be sober when he leaves.

Luna's pale head rests against Algernon's shoulder again, her breathing finally slowing to relax with his. "You're much too serious, Mister Fogg," she decides. Her hand is still on top of his, keeping it pinned to her thigh. Something she doesn't seem to take issue with. "I feel you should appreciate this time, right now, simply because you'll not have much of it soon.

"I'm afraid you'll become just like the other men."

"Oh," says Fogg, with lazy confidence to spare, "I don't know about that."

It's conspicuously difficult to tell whether he's answering accusations of seriousness or fears of assimilation. Both.

He is aware of where his hand is because he is a man and she isn't, among other reasons. Like the fact that it's been a running source of distraction for the last five minutes or so.

Also, he isn't the only one keeping tabs on it.

"Would it be possible for me to appreciate this time — " he begins after a beat, tactfully, "with you in your bed and myself in that chair over there."

"Why? Don't you find me pretty enough?" As tactful as his bid for personal comfort is, Luna still seems to take it as something of an insult. Lifting her head, she turns away and unfolds herself from on top of Algernon. His hand is moved with considerable care, given the fragile state she seems to be in all of a sudden.

Stepping to the window, the blonde peers outside to the cold, straining her eyes to attempt a view of the campfires beyond the borders. "How long did you travel with them?" The query is made as she reaches for the cup of tea on the dresser, not caring whether it's hot or cold, his or hers. She drinks, closing her eyes to the world outside and all of its troubles. Her as well.

"I've already told you that you're exceedingly pretty, Miss Owens." Impatient for feelings hurt in the wake of so much time spent cuddling against his will with distracting intimacy and uncomfortable questions simultaneously, Algernon does not try overmuch to conceal his relief once she's removed herself to the window.

He stands once she's away, brushes at his pant leg and immediately thinks better of it, standing awkwardly a moment before he draws his duster in around himself and crosses the room for the indicated chair behind her. "Several months," is her answer, meanwhile. He sits. "Try not to overdose, if you don't mind."

"I understand how a style of living such as they are doing now would turn most away." Glancing over her shoulder, she raises the cup to her lips and takes one more sip. Out of spite. It's not quite a mistake but after a few more minutes of staring at her own reflection, she finds herself sitting, then reclining on the bed.

"I met your Fletcher," she repeats to him, as though she doesn't remember talking about him at all before. "He's quite bewitching… and" she says after another slight pause, "he's enjoys having a bit of fun. Do you wish to see my piercing?"

"I was offered an opportunity and I took it." One hand smoothed idly across the arm of her chair, testing, it seems, for quality, Algernon looks up in time to see her take that last sip and his hard-pressed not to roll his eyes. "Fletcher will be alright, if he can stop feeling sorry for himself long enough to get anything done." He mulls as much over for a second, then adds, relatedly: "I thought you two would get along."

Seeing as they have something in common, there.

Several somethings.

No comment on his being labeled as bewitching. Until there is. "Bewitching, you say?" No. No he does not wish to see her piercing.

"Aye," she answers, smiling at the ceiling. With a sigh, Luna rolls to the side to gaze across the room at Fogg. "He was working quite hard on something when I came around. Do you think he'd like it if I brought by some eggs and bread? I don't believe they eat very much out there. I wouldn't wish to see him starve, it'd be right shameful for Dornie to allow mages drop to the death on her doorstep."

The town is a she.

"I was going to ask my mother to put them up somewhere warmer. Which is why it's wonderful that you're staying with her now, you can set the good example." If there's a problem, which the prostitute doesn't readily see. Smiling, she slips her hands under her pillow and slides her leg up the blanket, hooked, to be a little more comfortable.

"So long as you take enough for the others as well," says Algernon. Reasonably. "He won't eat unless there's enough to go around." That's the kind of stand up soul that he is. "It's why he's always so pathetically thin," as an extra little offhand lie is indistinguishable from truth, note for absently-delivered note.

Poor Mister Cruikshank.

"That's kind of you, either way. I'll be sure to be on my best behavior."

"How many, exactly?" She doesn't lift her head, not enough energy perhaps to embark on such an endeavour. Half lidding her eyes, they remain transfixed on the man in the chair. "I could bring plenty, I have enough favors owed to me… but I don't wish it seen as charity, it's not. I was welcomed into tents more than once, it's a debt repaid." The usurping of Algernon's tent is considered a welcome.

"Mister Fogg, will you stay until I fall asleep? The key is on the dresser, just lock the door when you slip out… So no one comes in."

"Nnnine," sounds about right, after a quick mental headcount. "Give or take, if there's someone I'm forgetting. I doubt the thought will cross their minds." Really it's unlikely that they will give a damn, if they're hungry enough. Fogg scratches at the patch on his chin, scuff scuff scuff, then stretches his legs out long ahead of him. Settling in for a haul that he does not actually expect to be all that long, with as much tea as she's had to drink.

"Of course, Miss Owens." No beat missed or eye batted; he slants half a smile across the room and stifles a yawn through his sinuses. "Whenever you're ready." To go to sleep, he means.

Stifled or not, the yawn is catching and Luna stretches out her arm above her head before dropping it back to the mattress with a small huff. "The next time you come," her speech is slower but not drawled or slurred, "you'll come and visit with me again?" Her eyelids fall heavy, pale eyelashes fanning over dark moons under her eyes.

"You can sit in the chair, if you wish."

"If I'm expected to be here often I might as well." Too worn out to give flattery a go, apparently, Fogg is mostly talking to himself until he pushes his shoulders against the chair back and cements it with a better enunciated, "Yes. Miss Owens."