Romantic Complications

Title: Romantic Complications
Time Period: December 24, 134 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: The kitchen is the best place for Edme's little chickens to cackle and gossip about their current situations.

Mornings are not Mariah's best time of day. One of the perks of having a night job is that she gets to sleep in usually. But this morning she's up and around in the kitchens. She's not cooking or anything like that, but she does have a mug of coffee nestled between her hands. She looks tired, like maybe she didn't get any sleep last night. Which is a distinct possibility.

Those around the room also seem pretty sleepy, some of them already snoozing against walls or in chairs about the place. Mariah singing a gentle lullaby probably isn't helping. At her feet, there's a small badger curled up and likely sleeping itself. Mariah's familiar isn't really something she talks about or explains, and her magic is generally unknown by most but a select few even here at the Dovetail. But keeping it quiet helps clients be less suspicious. It's not always her fault when her more unpleasant Johns sleep through most of their time. Honest.

The rest of the time it's Luna's fault. Well, the fault of her drugs. Hearing the song outside the room, she plugs her ears and stomps into the kitchen while shooting a glare at the other woman. "Don't make me scream, because I will." It's the warning that Mariah receives to stop before the blonde is lulled into the same trance.

She's somewhat under dressed for Luna, her shoulders are bare and the sleeves of her dress cut off around the crook of her elbow instead of at the wrist. The skirt is velvet, to ward off the cold, while the top is… not quite put together yet. She's still in her nightshirt, the top of her dress is hanging off her arm. "I need help getting ready. I want to look perfect for when I bring bread to the vagrant camp."

Mariah does stop singing at the warning, and replaces song with a little, crooked smile instead. "No one should be awake at this hour. Or getting dressed," she says with an eyebrow lifted. Masque is roused a bit when Mariahs feet move, and there's a little wail from under the table before he resettles. But Mariah is up and walking over to help Luna get put together.

"Got some deliciousness waiting for you over there?" She doesn't mean the bread, either. "When did we get a vagrant camp?" Someone hasn't been out to town in a while for the latest news. But then, that's what friends are for.

"They aren't really vagrants but they live like it, I suppose, in tents," Luna explains as she turns and lifts her hair to give Mariah good access to the strings of the corset wrapped around her trunk. "Pull it tight, I want him to think I'm thin— I want him to think I'm perfect." Self confidence and ego aren't something she usually has trouble with. "Does this color make me look too washed out? Or do I look like I'm in mourning? Should I wear the gold one instead?"

The blonde turns her head to look over her shoulder, shooting a glare at one of the other girls dozing at the table before giving a look of worry to her friend. "And you're not allowed to go out there, you'll lure him away with your lovely voice and discard him like yesterday's washing."

The strings pull tight, as requested, Mariah working Luna's already small waist all the smaller with the help of the metal skeleton within the lush fabric. "I think it makes you look stunning, Luna. And you'll stand out. I'm assuming there are other women there…" Because she wouldn't need to try nearly as hard if there weren't.

Those last words make her laugh, and while she doesn't deny the possibility of her voice being a lure, she puts a hand on Luna's shoulder and both the touch and her voice carry that trademark comfort of hers, "I wouldn't dream of it. Besides, the men are plentiful enough around here. But who is this mystery fellow that has you as fluttery as a girl about to have her first kiss? I must say I am intrigued."

"Yes, there's other women… but I think I have the best prospects. Even if— " Luna stops short and swallows a painful gulp before lowering her head to look at the floor. The wood is cold against her feet, even though she's wearing thick stockings. Her breathing becomes shallower to match the depth of wind she can catch in the tight skeleton. "— even if I'm here. I have a name, my family has fortune, I have enough of a fortune… I think… no one there has anything of the sort. They can't even feed themselves."

Turning, she slowly pulls the velvet sleeves over her arms and begins to button her top at the back, as far as she can reach. "His name is Fletcher, he's a bit older… but bewitching all the same. And this is different, I'm not as fluttery as when I was about to have my first kiss. That was— that was ruined."

"Don't be ashamed of this," Mariah says, with a wave of her hand to the building over their heads, "It's what you do, it's not who you are. Plus, like you say, you have plenty of wealth to be a proper lure. But, if I do say so, I hope he likes you for you, not for the fortune."

She takes over buttoning when it gets to those awkwardly placed few, and she straightens the bodice before circling around to face Luna. "Fletcher, hmm? Nothing wrong with an older man, so long as everything still works." Those last words bring her hands up to her hips, though, "It isn't like it's the last kiss you ever got."

Shaking her head, Luna's eyes don't move from the floor, even as she turns to have Mariah finish with the rest of the buttons. "No, it was only the most important one." Giving the other woman a weak smile, she pulls the purse hidden at her waist and empties its contents on the table. Jewelry. "Silver or gold? I think silver would be better with this color, more festive, don't you think? I don't wish to put on airs…"

Pulling out a thick bracelet, she slips her hand through it and studies it for a while before taking it off again and holding it out to Mariah. "He's back, Baizey came back, I saw him in my— in Slainte's room yesterday." Her room now. "Do you think she called him?"

"Only so far. Especially if Fletcher is at all promising," Mariah sing-songs the name a little, just a playful tease to try to get a better smile out of her friend. "Silver's good. Not too much, though. Just a touch. Does he know yet? About this place?"

When Slainte's son is brought up, Mariah lifts an eyebrow a bit. "Anything's possible, I suppose. You won't know unless you ask him, though." There's a moment's pause before she goes on, though, leaning a hip against the table near her coffee. "Tell me you two aren't hung up over something that happened when we were all kids. When he was odd and we were little brats." There's just one more pause there before she adds one more thought.

"He isn't still odd, is he?"

"Fletcher seems promising, he knows what I am and it doesn't seem to— I'm afraid that he's not as put off about it as he should be. Does that make any sense?" Luna slips the heavy bracelet over Mariah's wrist before turning back to the pile and picking out a smaller bangle for herself. It's pulled over her lace cuff and she keeps a grip on it for the length of a fleeting thought.

The tease only works to bring a sparkle of tears to her eyes before she flops down into a chair and dramatically flings her arms to the table to give her head a pillow to land on. "He's not hung up on anything. He didn't even remember me. I'm sure she called him, she had to've. He came back just as I'd found someone else to pine over, that can't be coincidence." Her eyebrows knit into a frown and her lips downturn in defense of their former playmate, well, Luna's. "He's not odd, it's not his fault any more than it is yours."

There's a blink as the bracelet slips over her wrist instead of Luna's, but Mariah smiles after a moment and slides up to sit on the table, picking up her coffee as she does. "It's better if he isn't, you know. Jealousy is flattering and all, but it gets messy. Best that he's magnanimous and accepting."

When Luna flops down, Mariah can't help but smile at the grandness of it all. "Well, no one said you can't pine over two at once. Besides, if he doesn't remember you, that means you get s fresh start. And it could very well be coincidence, but it's a far better story if it isn't." She looks away at then end there, a hand lifting to brush her hair from her face. "I can't imagine what you mean. Of course, it isn't anyone's fault. We were children."

"Magnanimous and accepting is all well and good… but what if he's a little too accepting and decides that since I am a courtesan it's fair that he sees another? What if he came to you?" Shaking her head, Luna presses her lips together and raises her chin. "I won't have him welcome here unless it's to see me, someone else'll find out how wonderful he is and they'll try to take him away. I won't have it." She's never been known to be willing to share her favorites, until they're no longer her favorite.

"He remembered after, Mariah, after I'd made a bloody fool of myself." She eyes the bracelet she'd just given up and shrugs one shoulder and flicks her hair as she turns away from it. "You were right, all those years ago, I'm not good enough to hold onto anyone. Especially not— " she motions toward the badger under the table and gives her friend a pointed look. "— not anyone like Baizey… or Fletcher. Why do I even try?"

"Are you planning on not seeing other men once you catch this one? And if he came to me, darling Luna, I would insist my night was already full," Mariah says with a crooked smile. "I think the other girls will stay away from him, too, when they notice your claim on him. But I think you have little to worry about. If he can't feed himself, I doubt he can afford to be around the Dovetail, either."

But when the conversation turns more maudlin, Mariah slides off the table to come over and wrap and arm around the other girl, and a hand comes up to pet that blonde hair gently. "Oh, don't you listen to me when I was young and terrible. You're beautiful and lovely and any man would be completely mental not to jump at a chance for you. And as for Beisdean, you don't even know him anymore. Who knows what sort of man he is. And you think very little of him if you think he'd be run off by one foolish moment."

Guilty, Luna looks down at the table and forms a tight line with her lips. Without moving her head, she flits her blue eyes up to looks into Mariah's and winces. "I'm not so wonderful; I'm vicious and cruel, spoiled and ruined. It would be fair turnabout if I lost everything." A long sigh escapes through her nose as she leans down to rest her head against the cool wood. "I stole that bracelet. It was a gift for you… but I went into a fit when the man grabbed me from behind. He left it on my bed but I think he wanted you to have it."

She doesn't raise herself to receive the admonishing she expects, she's not that gracious. "Cas Blackburn, one of your clients. He was looking for you but chased after me when I went tearing through the hallway." Only then does she risk a glance at Mariah, is if to confirm exactly how terrible she really is.

"No one deserves to lose everything, Luna," Mariah says, her tone somber. After all, she has been through that particular horror, she should know. "And maybe you've some flaws, but who doesn't? You're my very best friend and I wouldn't have another for anything. And I fancy myself an excellent judge of character."

She looks at the bracelet and a soft smile comes over her face. It's a far more genuine expression than what she usually sports, especially on the subject of her various clients. "Well. Isn't he sweet?" She states mildly, her gaze lingering on the bracelet a moment longer before she takes in a breath and looks over at Luna. "You see. If you were so bad a person, you wouldn't be telling me this story, would you? Forgive yourself, Luna. You're not so bad as you think."

"You'll tell him that I'm sorry, won't you? I don't believe I'm ready for something so character building as humility toward a stable boy." Luna lifts her head only so much as to change the guilty expression to one more watery kitten-like. Her blue eyes are as wide and round as a soft white persian's, with a quivering chin to punctuate exactly how distraught over the entire mess she is. "Maybe it'll give me some good luck with Fletcher, this kindness, do you think it all works that way? Kindness repaid with the like and cruelty paid back tenfold?"

She lifts her head even more, propping her elbows up onto the table and cupping her face with both hands. "He's so intelligent and crafty…" Giving Mariah a secret-ish smile, she bites her lip and lowers her voice to a whisper. "He gave me a ring to wear, one that he'd made himself."

"I'll let him know. But maybe you could be nicer to him next time, hmm? He is my favorite, after all." Which she would never say if there were clients around, but since it's them in the kitchens, she speaks a little freer. "If you scare him off, I might have to tell your Fletcher something truly embarrassing," it's just a tease, Mariah's never been one for inciting drama. At least not since she grew up.

"He gave you a ring? Well, well, well. Let me see it!" She does keep her voice down, too, but there's no mistaking the spark of gleeful excitement, even in those that can't hear.

"I can't show you now, it'll have to wait until nightfall or when I go to my bath. It's not a finger ring— " Darting her eyes around to make sure everyone around them is listening, Luna leans in to Mariah but whispers a little too loudly to keep it a real secret. "It's a navel ring, he pierced me himself. It's also a charm to ward against pregnancy, rather than a tonic or counting days. So I don't have to worry that I'll accidentally conceive with one of the clients. Isn't he thoughtful?"

Leaning back with a bigger smile, Luna places both of her hands over her mouth and tries to suppress a giggle. "Madame Edme will be pleased as punch if I can get more for the others, I think Fletcher will be more than obliging."

"Terribly," Mariah says as to Fletcher's thoughtfulness, her tone amused at Luna's manner. "It would be nice to have a little insurance. You ask him what he'd want in exchange for such a thing, maybe we can make sure they're fed for a bit, while he makes sure we don't get… extra mouths to feed." Seems fair.

Her hand comes to sit on Luna's shoulder, her tone suppressing her own laugh, "I think this man better be fantastic, as giddy as he's making you right now."

"We have quite a bit in common, aside from his living conditions…He's quite intelligent and crafty, he was making some jewelry when I first met him." Intelligent and crafty is something Luna considers herself. "He also likes to read, though his books were taken by the soldiers."

She pauses to glance up at Mariah with a weak smile and laces her fingers together pleadingly. "If you get paid in any books, will you trade me for them? I know you see quite a number of the soldiers and you know how I detest them in my bed. I have quite a bit of jewelry, favors, and even lace I could give."

"They're so gruff," the soldiers, she means. Mariah often disapproves of their tactics, at least outside the bedroom, particularly when it comes to them taking precious things from people, like books.

There is a moment's hesitation, though, on that request. "If I get paid in books… we can trade, but after I've had a chance to read them. Fair enough?" She isn't one to mention her client's tastes or requests, so she leaves out that she mostly wants new ones for Cas' benefit. She does like to read, so it's an easy enough cover.

"Aye, that sounds fair but being extra used I'll insist on a discount." Never mind that books are hard to come by as it is, Luna doesn't care if they're antiques or not. "I didn't know that you liked reading so much… What if you were paid for one night with ten books? I don't wish to wait a fortnight or however long it takes for you to read them all."

Placing her elbows back on the table, she folds her arms in front of her rather than keeping them up near her chin. "Aside from that, when did you begin liking to read so much? I never knew you to lift a book unless it was for assignme— OH!!" Touching her nose with one finger, she begins pointing at the brunette over and over with her other hand. "You have a school teacher hidden in your bedroom! You DO!! You're playing school!!"

"Then you can go try to buy them somewhere else," Mariah says with a laugh. She, for one, knows the value of the printed word these days. "If I'm ever paid in ten books, I'll let you know. I'm not sure there are many people who have ten books they'd be willing to part with when I take jewelry and pretty clothes just as readily."

The accusation makes Mariah laugh again and she hops back up onto the table. "You've found me out. I keep one tied up in my closet and make him lecture to me on my days off. Be careful if you go in there, he bites," she says with a touch of innuendo there at the end.

"I'll let him out, you just wait Mariah Larke, you'll be shopping one day and I'll let out your secret school teacher. I wonder how Mister Cas Blackburn feels about that, he is your favorite and you're not even keeping him in your closet." Snickering, Luna waves a hand in front of her face as if fanning away a smell. "Your fancy dresses will begin smelling like horse manure soon, you'd best get him into a bath."

Her eyes dart to the doorway and then she turns her head back to Mariah with a smug look on her face. "I have a proposal, Mariah, a good one. If you can help me collect all of the books that were confiscated, I'll give you my dark green velvet dress, the one with the cream lace. It's worth a hundred books in embellishment alone."

"Only because I like the view when Mister Blackburn walks away," Mariah laughs a little longer before she cuts off to take a drink of her coffee. An eyebrow lifts at the proposal, but she takes her time mulling it over as she drinks her coffee.

"Alright. But I still get to read them first because I'm fairly certain you aren't going to be taking the militia into your bed during this endeavor. And believe me, I'll deserve the extra time after all that." She holds the cup between her hands, letting the liquid within warm her hands. "Any idea what the titles are that he's missing?"

"I'll try…" Luna answers quietly, wringing her hands together as her eyebrows furrow deeply. "I've a lot of herbs, so I'm certain I'll be able to swallow the bile long enough to let some of them to touch me. But only for books, I'll take no other form of payment."

To the second question, the blonde shakes her head. "No, he just said many of his books were confiscated and that he'd show me things if I could manage to get them back." Drawing her leg up, she wraps her arms around it and hugs it tightly to her chest. "While I'm curious as to what he's going to show me, I'm also quite afraid of the price it'll take to get them back. I don't like soldiers touching me, they're much too brutish."

Mariah looks flat out surprised at that reply, and she gives Luna a quizzical look for a moment before she goes on. "Well, before you take any drastic actions, Luna. Let's see if the other girls that have them as clients would be willing to trade for the books as well. Since they'll already be sleeping with them. And if you're willing to entertain the notion of taking some of them on, I think you might be able to handle trading some of your pretty little things to the other girls in lieu of calloused hands and a rough manner. Yes?"

There's a long pause before she adds, "I hope he learns to appreciate how much you like him."

"I don't want him to know, Mariah," Luna says quietly, getting up from the table and gathering herself together again. "Just in case he leaves or if I'm not pretty enough or good enough to hold him."