Simple Signs

Title: Simple Signs
Time Period: January 4, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Communication isn't as easy for some people.

"It's not all bad," Aislinn is saying as she wipes the blood from Cas' face with a warm cotton cloth doused in water and soap. The pain hasn't yet begun to subside, but his nose is at least back in alignment — or the closest that the healer could manage. Dornie is one of the most technologically sophisticated settlements in Scotland, yet some of the past's simple surgical procedures are beyond the means of its inhabitants. General anesthesia is too risky for injuries like the one that the stablehand earned, and localized anesthesia too costly for what it is.

That is to say: not life-threatening.

"My brother Regan broke his twice," she adds with a smile. "It looked like someone took a cudgel to him, but all the local girls thought it was very handsome."

By the wood-burning stove on the other side of the room, Colm sits sullen and silent with his back to the wall and his long legs stretched out in front of him, fingers idly combing through the fur of the sleeping ermine draped across his lap.

"Still hurts," Cas says quietly, grimacing at the pain that still sits in the middle of his face, making it difficult with his mouth closed. Besides the different texture to his voice caused by the injury, the pain is evident and without any attempt to hide it— Because it's helping cover up a different kind of hurt, really.

More than just his nose was broken, it seems, and he's in a bit of a sulk. More so that he wants to let on right now.

"I try to avoid… things like this. Not a big fan of pain. Or any of that." Rather than continue to pay attention to his own pain, he glances over to the boy and the weasel in his lap, watching them for a moment before looking back at the boy's mom. "Think it'll heal okay?"

"It will heal," Aislinn promises. "Whether or not it heals well, I can't say." She rises from the table where she and Cas are seated, sets the bloodied cloth back in the bath of lukewarm water she warmed over the stove, and reaches into the pocket of the white apron she wears.

"Take these." The instruction is accompanied by the rattle of pills, which she shakes out of a bottle into the palm of her hand and places on the table in front of Cas. There are two. She points to his cup of tea. "And tell me who."

For a moment, Cas is looking at the pills skeptically, until she gives him that specific 'order'. Who. That is when he reaches for the pills and stuffs them into his mouth and takes a long drink on the tea. It could just be following the first command first— but there's definite stalling in the way he's doing it. It's a question he doesn't want to answer.

When he lowers the teacup, he continues to avoid her eye as he subconsiously touches his nose around the break, but never quite on top of it. "No one that works here," he says after a moment, still half hiding behind his hand, as he looks over at the boy. "First time I've seen him with a pet."

"Jain MacCruimein."

Evidently, that was all Aislinn needed to know.

"Whatever it was you did to upset him," she says, "I suggest that you don't do it again. You're lucky a broken nose is all he gave you. If he wanted, he could have cut it right off your face along with your ears."

There's a sudden cough of surprise as she answers the question, even more than he could have. Cas stares at her in surprise, touching his nose again as she describes in detail what could have happened. "Guess he does that sorta thing a lot— punching people who… All I did was…" He doesn't finish, shaking his head.

"I'll avoid him. He's not exactly the kind of man I want to be around. Ever again." And now that he's no longer trying to hide it, just talking about the man carries how worried he is over him. Scared, really.

Aislinn seems to study the expression on Cas' face for a very long time, saying nothing, but the truth of the matter is that she's looking past it and examining something deeper and unseen. When she lets out the breath she'd been holding, it's in the form of a sympathetic sigh. She reaches up and brushes the hair from the young man's forehead. "Ah, love," she says.

"I'm so sorry, Cas."

"What?" Cas says with a blink, looking up at her face in surprise, but also confusion that seems to have widened his otherwise tired and hurt eyes. "There's— it's not— I— there's nothing for you to be sorry about, Lady Aislinn," he adds after a second, shifting a bit in his seat. "It's just a broken nose— those only take about a month to heal, right? Not too bad."

He shrugs his shoulders and looks away, before he adds almost as if he just remembered something, "And you helped with that, thank you— do I owe you anything. I mean this is your job."

"Marriage is a partnership, and you work for my husband." That's a no. "I'll speak with MacCruimein. He has no business hitting Eamonn's stablehands over a woman, especially when he has no care at all for her heart."

By the stove, Colm looks up and squints across the room at Cas and his mother. Aislinn's back is to him, and although he can't make out what it is she's saying, her posture and body language tell him most of the story. He scoops Hush out of his lap, ignoring the indignant squeak that the ermine makes.

Almost as soon as she says that, about the same time Colm is standing, Cas also gets to his feet, sudden panic in his eyes as he raises his hands in a selfconscious, stopping gesture. "No, no you shouldn't— if he's that dangerous— " he looks over the woman's shoulder to her son, then lowers his voice some as if trying to whisper.

Even if urgently. And never mind it doesn't matter if he lowers his voice at all where this kid is concerned.

"He hit me because I told him he shouldn't be rude to… to a lady— and I don't know him well, but he— he's bad. Good men don't do— that. What he did. I couldn't stand it if he even just spoke unkindly to you because of me."

"He speaks unkindly to me because he enjoys it," Aislinn says, "and that is one thing. It's quite another to split someone's nose apart for being decent. Belonging to Donagh's militia doesn't entitle him to free reign over everyone and everything." Just most. That much is implied by the pinching at the corners of her mouth.

"It's time someone told him so." She adjusts the collar of Cas' shirt and smoothes away invisible wrinkles under her hands, preening at him like she might attend to a small, rumpled child, though Cas' injury is a little more serious than just a scraped elbow or knee. "I'll be all right."

Despite the fact that being groomed has a very distinct feel to it, Cas barely stops rocking in place, like a boy who is barely able to contain his worries and fears and emotions. Nevermind he's only a handful of years younger than the woman in front of him. Finally a twinge in his nose makes him stop.

"As long as you actually are all right— I just— " he settles back on his heels, looking away, lips pressing together for a moment, before he has to breathe through his mouth again. He seems torn between discouraging even more and agreeing with her. "Just be careful, aye? I really— don't want anything to happen to you."

"I'll be all right," Aislinn reiterates, and turns to sign something at Colm, who responds with a curt nod of his head. He gives Hush a light toss and sends the ermine sailing gracelessly through the air— until he snaps out his wings, now a white raven, and floats like a leaf the rest of the way across to perch on the healer's shoulder.

On her way out, she pulls the door gently shut behind her, leaving Colm and Cas alone in the room.

"Whoa," Cas says with a jump away from what he thought was a pet. Following it with his eyes, he goes from showing genuine surprise to looking rather impressed, a hand coming up to point at the door it vanished through, looking over and down at Colm. "Did you know it could— of course you did— that was— really kind of cool."

He looks back at the door, tilting his head to the side. "I guess that means your mum's a mage, huh." He doesn't really expect an answer to that as he turns back to the boy. "So— How you been? You seem kind of… Well, I'd say quiet, but you're usually quiet aren't you?"

Now is as good a time as any, Colm decides, to start teaching Cas how to better communicate with him. He balls his right hand into a fist, which he bobs like a nodding head: his sign for yes.

It takes a few seconds for him to realize what that motion actually means. Cas raises his own hand and makes the gesture with an inquisitive look on his face, before it hits. "Oh— oh! Right— that's— like the thing your mum was doing with you…"

Dark eyes shift from the boy's hand to his own, making slight adjustments to the motion. "Means… yes, right?" With his other hand he's pointing at the gesture, which he keeps making.

Yes, Colm mouths.

"Cool," Cas says, grinning widely as he looks back at the hand. "Shouldn't be too hard to remember…Kinda looks like knocking on a door," he says with a laugh that shows more in his smile. When he looks back, he's expression a little more serious and less joking, "Sorry, I talk a lot, must be pretty annoying for you, how much I talk."

This time, Colm touches the tips of his middle and index fingers to the pad of his thumb while shaking his head to indicate the opposite. No, Cas doesn't annoy him. "Slow," he says then, elongating the vowel more than is probably necessary, and likely not on purpose.

He points to his lips as if to tell Cas that his will be easier to read this way.

"Oh, yes, right— Sorry again, it's the— " Cas winces when he realizes how fast he's talking, slowing his voice down some and paying more attention to what he's saying. "I'm English, we tend to talk a little— fast. Faster than the lot up here, does, at least." He takes in a slow breath, but smiles at the end of it, looking relieved.

Colm makes a noise that sounds like a snuffle of laughter and cups his hand, then brings it to his mouth with both pale eyebrows raised to mime the act of eating. Is Cas hungry?

As the boy makes the gestures, Cas tries to mimic them, as if by doing them he'll understand what they mean. Or perhaps he just thinks he'll remember them better that way. When it hits him, it's obvious, he lowers his hand and opens his mouth and then stops. The words not forming. Instead he raises his right hand again and looks at that, making the fist and bobbing it, before looking back at the younger stableboy expectantly.

Colm's mouth twitches into a hesitant smile. He places the fingers of his right hand on his lips and moves it down into the palm of his left, both facing upward. Good, he tells Cas. Good.

He steers around the back of the front counter and crouches down behind it. Aislinn does not close the apothecary to eat lunch unless she's bringing it out to Edmund out on the heath, and what's left from this afternoon is a wedge of soft, smelly cheese and a quarter loaf of fresh bread from the baker, which Colm brings to the table and unwraps.

The motion is repeated a few times, while Cas even repeats the words out loud, as if to associate them verbally with something. When he's done, the bread and cheese are already being put on the table and he quickly moves over and makes a gesture towards his mouth, so that the boy looks up. "Have you ever tried training a horse to recognize these signals? I'm sure you could, for simple commands. They'd probably learn it better than me, even."

Colm makes the sign again for no and takes a knife out of his back pocket, the kind boys use for work, not to fight. Training horses isn't his job, and Cas simply bringing it up has him averting his eyes as he tears off some of the bread from the loaf, separates gooey section of cheese and slathers the two together before holding it out to the older man in offering.

"Maybe we could— the two of us. Assuming the boss approves me for training horses, at least," Cas says, shifting his head to the side as if trying to stay in his field of vision, whether successful or not.

After a moment he takes the bread and cheese instead. "Sorry," he says with a tight lipped grin, as if he realized he might have said something bad. To keep from saying anything else on that vein, he bites down on his food and chews on a bite, until he suddenly stops and winces, before quickly swallowing so he can breathe again.

It occurs to Colm that Cas might have an easier time if he had something to wash the bread and cheese down with, so he sets to refilling his cup. The tea has steeped long enough that it's strong and dark, but the taste isn't important for its intended purpose.

Ask, he suggests. The sign for this is his hands pressed together as if in prayer.

The motion for prayer is imitated and Cas grins after a moment, nodding as if he understands, "I think I will— I always loved training. You get to know the horses better when you actually…" he trails off, realizing how fast he's talking out of habit. "I'll ask."

The next bite is smaller than the first and swallowed more quickly, so that he can breathe again. And speak as well. "So you'll help me with that? If the boss says we can."

Again with the bobbing motion of Colm's fist. He slides the cup across the table to Cas.

"Great— that'll be fun. I think you'll really enjoy that," Cas says with new found energy and excitement as he settles down into his chair. He looks down at the cup as if he forgot about it and reaches out to take it, washing down any bread that stuck to his teeth. When he lowers it again he continues. "It'll be good for me, too. I always learn better when horses are involved. So while we teach the horse you'll be teaching me."