Tea and Scotch

Title: Tea and Scotch
Time Period: March 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Algernon reluctantly returns to the working world and Luna would like to know why he hasn't been by her office lately.

Algernon's first night back on patrol will be a quiet one. He is sure of it, given that he's gone to great lengths to remove himself to the region whereabouts Cruikshank's camp was stationed before to listen to the wind howl in place of more inebriated ambiance. He's been stiff in the saddle and he is just as stiff about getting out of it, stitches pulling taut through shoulder and neck until he has both feet down — the left taking more weight than the right, once he's tested that it'll take weight at all.

The horse he ties off to a low hanging branch. The rifle he leans against the trunk. The canteen he swigs from twice.

Thrice.

Before he tucks it back into his coat and squints up after a cold sliver of moon. You shouldn't be working, Forge observes helpfully from somewhere unseen. What will you do if someone acts out of line? The pause that follows isn't long enough for Fogg to answer in before the wildcat reminds, You've already shot one of their horses this week.

It's not a place that she frequents anymore, not since the gypsies abandoned the tents for ramshackle accommodations in the poorer regions of town. Luna isn't an excellent tracker, in fact she's not much of one at all, but everyone she asked pointed toward this area. This is where Fogg went.

A leather bag is slung over her shoulder, it looks suspiciously like a small saddlebag. More feminine if only because it's daintier and decorated with stamped flowers, something new. New to her. A gift. It's about to be regifted, her specialty, along with an item inside. She holds the pack tight over her shoulder as she makes her way toward the once colony. Twigs snap under her feet, simply because she's not trying to be stealthy, better to let the man with the gun know that she's coming rather than surprise him.

It's Owens.

Having sat himself down on an abandoned trunk partway through the process of collecting wood dry enough for a fire, Algernon doesn't look, but slumps further forward over the wide set of his knees. Too far from his horse for any hope to hide it. Or himself. Part of a rotten tent flags feebly in the wind behind him. The leather stink of a glove finds his face. Can't you turn into a bear or something?

Don't sulk, says Forge.

"Why are you out on patrol?" The first question out of Luna's mouth when she first spots the militia man. Picking her way over new growth, old debris, and avoiding slippery mud, she finally makes it to the trunk to sit. The saddlebags are passed over to him, of course the gift inside is sloshing. "Scotch, I hope you like it. It's a get well sooner present."

The little pile of sticks is eyed with a little interest before she sets to work finishing what he started. What she collects is dry twigs, mostly. They're likely to burn up in minutes. "I've been waiting for you but you don't come around at all anymore," the prostitute says, there could be a slight pout in her tone and expression but with her back turned it's nothing that can be proven. When she turns around again, the sticks are dropped to allow him to light the fire. She's never been good at this sort of thing. "Was it something I've said or done?"

"Why shouldn't I be?" There's an acrid friction to question answered with question, bags and bottle received without protest for him to weigh the contents. Not bad. Not grand enough to expose anything like guilt for being impolite, but — he straightens his back and looks at her to nod a mute and slightly awkward 'thank you.' If not outright apologetic, it's certainly milder mannered than his initial rebuttal. The fact that he already smells somewhat like the gift she's brought may be at fault.

Soon after that she's up collecting sticks and he's left to set her gift in her place next to him, taking more time and care about it than is necessary to stave off acknowledgement of an inevitable line of questioning. In the semidark he looks fine. A few superficial scratches around his face are nearly healed. The rest is masked by high collar and long sleeves, evidenced only by a lingering hitch in his posture when the sticks drop and he has to look her over again. "It's complicated," he tells her. Decisively. An unbecoming, kind of gruff, you're-probably-too-silly-to-understand-so-don't-stress-yourself decisiveness that has a look to match.

She gives him a raised brow and a withering look down her nose that may have sent many a man down her stairs to the other floor. "You were hurt, attacked by dragons no less. You shouldn't be patrolling while you're recovering, I think it's a rule somewhere. In fact, I'm quite sure of it." Luna's lips purse into a thin line and she sits near Algernon, straightening her dress underneath her before settling.

"Have you been going to one of the other girls?" She can't help the offense that creeps into her expression, at least initially, it's quickly masked by a tight purse of her lips. "Was I unsatisfactory? I don't like losing clients, Mister Fogg, when one suddenly drops away… I have to wonder. Because clearly, you're not dead, so it can't be that."

"Very small dragons," Algernon mutters — half-hearted crosstalk while she re-settles herself and he gives the lock of his jaw a workout. Clamp and release. A hard look off into the abyss stalls Forge before he can remind him about the horse that fell on him as well, pride still more sensitive than anything.

He draws in a deep breath that sounds like impatience when Luna presses on about his supposed 'infidelity,' right hand already feeling in again for his flask. "No," he answers truthfully (resignedly), "and no. Frequent episodes of unwarranted mania aside, you've been more than satisfactory."

"Dozens of dragons," Luna corrects, ignoring the small bit. Lacing her fingers together, she tucks them between her knees, curling her shoulders in a slight hunch. A quick glance is cast to the gift given before lifting to his face. The breath has her looking straight ahead, into the pitch. It's as though she's trying to pick out single beetles in the grass, only not so focussed.

"That's good. I'd be forced to rip someone's hair out and Madame Edme doesn't seem to like it when I do that." Whether it's a joke or not… well… Algernon has seen her with Florentine. Still staring straight ahead, she clicks her tongue a few times as she lapses into a moment of thought. "Will you visit before I leave?"

Dozens of very small dragons. Rather than protract that argument any further, Algernon drinks, simultaneously giving himself less to talk about and less of an interest in the ache of his leg. This time he offers the open flask to Luna. Hopefully for her to have some and not under the impression that she should refill it for him.

"No violence will be necessary," he assures her pile of sticks, "and probably not. Although." His ears are cold and he has to pause to think about the reason why. He still hasn't found his hat. By the time he's back around to what he was going to say, between his own reservations and Forge standing in for his superego, he fails to finish the thought. "When are you leaving?" is what he asks instead.

Flask accepted, Luna tips it to her lips and takes a long drink. He might need to refill it himself before long. "That's a shame," she replies, candid enough in its delivery, "I do like having you in my bed. Since I've been cut from all of my medicine, I don't think it would be wise to replace you with anyone who shares in those habits." She takes another, smaller sip this time, before passing the flask back.

"I hoped to leave sooner, rather than later. When the weather warms enough, I suppose." It's a vague timeframe but Luna's never been one to be completely punctual or plan out anything before taking action. "Sometime before summer, I think. As soon as I've learned to ride a horse and have enough supplies. I'd hate to get five miles from Dornie's limits and fall off, that would be a bit embarrassing."

"I am confident that you will manage," says Algernon, for whom tact comes less naturally after scotch. "Drug-addled soldiers are surely a minority in a settlement so advanced." He may consider this a kinder elaboration. His flat affect makes it even more difficult than usual to tell. "You haven't done anything wrong," is reiterated once he's prompted to reiterate it a few seconds later.

Terribly embarrassing, Forge further assists from afar, steeling out Fogg's glare again. "Yes," he agrees aloud, tolerant with great effort. "I suppose it would be."

It takes a while but finally a light sparks somewhere in Luna’s mind and she turns toward Algernon. Her lips part slightly but no sound comes through only a long sigh, the sort he graces her with every once in a while. “It’s Duncan Rowntree, isn’t it?” She sounds disappointed, looks it too, in the way that her posture sags and her head rolls downward to point at the ground instead of looking at him. “Because he’s taken an interest, you’ve decided to leave.” Her arms fold over her chest, either she’s feeling a bit chilly or a bit perturbed.

“Well,” her voice turns short and her jaw begins to work much like his does when he’s feeling the same way toward her. Irritated. “That is quite selfish of you. What will happen when he decides that there’s a different woman in the house he’d like more? Would I be able to count you as a client again?”

"The argument could be made that self-preservation is inherently selfish," Fogg agrees (reasonably) without actually agreeing. More of a grouse, voice receding a degree or two as he pushes to his feet with his flask in the same stuffy stroke. There is an entire field full of scrap laid out for him to occupy. So. He has to rely on alcohol and his ego to stifle a sluggish uneveness to his gait as he makes his way over to stoop for a length of wood more substantial than what's been gathered so far.

"I'll cross that bridge when I come to it."

The gift is opened, whether Fogg wants to save it or not. Breaking the seal, Luna takes two swallows in rapid succession before tipping the lip of the bottle toward the militia man. "It's not as though he'd take your legs or arms off," she points out, "I'm fairly certain that he knows I have other clients. For one, he plucked me out of the common room of a whore house. Two, he pays for my company."

Watching Algernon is a painful endeavor all on its own. Luna's eyebrows dip at the inner edges and she pushes herself up to hurry after him. "Go back, I'll bring the wood." She might do a better job this time, the kindling's been taken care of at least. It takes a few minutes but true to her word, a few bigger pieces are pulled from the scrub and piled into the crook of her arm. "Perhaps when I leave the Dovetail, you'll visit then."

Algernon, with his one piece of wood, watches her collect the rest in the same grim silence her optimistic spin on Mister Rowntree evokes. The stoop of his brow is distinct in its set; he does not go back, but does hold position rather than continue on in whichever direction.

"For tea?" he posits once she's nearer, dry and cut clean as the lapel of his suit. His plank is laid across what's already been collected so that he can reach for his tinderbox instead.

"I suppose we could have tea as well, aye," she smiles. Luna seats herself at her previous post and tucks her hands between her knees again. This time her posture is a little more relaxed, the alcohol taking its own effects and warming her as well as putting her at ease.

"We could talk as well, you like reading." It's not so much a question, she's seen his literature. As he breaks out the tinder box, the blonde leans forward in expectation of more heat than the few sips of alcohol can provide. "When I come back from Liverpool, I'll have my own house and be more respectable than a silly girl from the Dovetail. It might make you more inclined to be seen with me."

Bit of cloth arranged with a grunt, Algernon strikes the wood pile to feeble life and returns to retake his seat, content to let the flame build as it will, at its own pace. Fortunately most of the wood is dry and robust enough to hold as fuel, a few brown needles in the mix glowing at the tips before they curl blackly in upon themselves.

"If," he corrects, inevitably, once the fire's set to crackling, "you come back."

Warmer, now, he eases a touch under his coat, careless enough in his current interpretation of his duty to be comfortable with only Forge on high alert at his makeshift camp's outskirts. Uncharacteristically lazy. Ultimately inebriation is as unbecoming for him as it is for most. "Do you mind if I ask what manner of wealth it is that you expect to find."

Luna's feet are stretched out to gain full advantage of the fledgling fire, before it becomes too hot to stick too near. "I'm not sure," she answers honestly, her tone becoming a little softer, like she's telling a secret. "I could come home with crate loads of things from the past or nothing at all. Books, wine, maybe even something electric! Wouldn't that be wonderful? I'd be the most envied woman in Dornie, I'll tell you that much."

While musing about her prospects, Luna's head slowly tilts to the side, until her ear touches the material at her shoulder. Then she let's loose a long sigh. "I'm hoping to find things I know the value of. If I could persuade the right people to join me, it would be simpler but …" but.

Through this, Algernon remains silent. His silences tend to not be very encouraging, save maybe for people who prefer to hear themselves talk anyway. But firelight is flattering and fails to catch in tired lines around his face, lending him a version of the same impassive air it's easier for him to maintain naturally while sober.

A pair of eyes flash once far out from the fire, close to the ground.

At least she's acknowledging the possibility that she might return with nothing. That's — something. Enough that he doesn't ask how she intends to get it back to Dornie or to make it work once she has, in the case of electrical wizardry. An itch under his collar after stitching there is the best answer he can come up with for her plight.

"Who would take such a journey with me, hm?" she continues on her own, since he didn't fill that blank in for her. Still, she's smiling at the prospect of adventure, apparently undaunted by the prospect of going alone. Turning slightly, Luna gives him a sidelong glance, perhaps a small attempt for a volunteer. "Regardless, I'm going and I'll be back, even if it's just to prove that I can." She has lofty goals, even if they are silly ones.

"Have you ever been near Liverpool?" She makes the effort to look him in the eye with a slight duck of her head to gain a better angle to read his expression. Flat or perturbed at questions that could be construed as prying, no matter how innocent. "I've never been out of Scotland, but if this goes well I might attempt a trip to France. Could you imagine that?"

Fogg doesn't take the bait. He doesn't even touch it or test it or turn it over, fingers still curled under his collar when he glances back at her and away. One of those blood-from-a-stone endeavors. He is either not interested in going to Liverpool or not interested in leaving Dornie. Both. Either way, he pointedly classifies her first question as rhetorical.

He simply says, "I haven't," in answer to the second, glove glanced to for evidence of grime. He hasn't been to Liverpool, or near it. The look he gives her once he's finished with the glove has a haggard edge of warning to it. Not a fan of the question game. Especially not tonight. "I imagine people speak French there," he 'imagines.' Dully. "I imagine that it is also grey and that most of its inhabitants are dead."

“Old Missus Rowntree is French, or was, she came from France at any rate. I’ve always wanted to ask her about it but she always seems so…” Both of Luna’s shoulders rise a touch and fall quickly in a shrug. “Distant.” is a good word for it, rather than anything too unkind. Who knows what that sort of gossip would lead to, even in such tight lipped company.

She lapses into silence for a time, wilting a little from the look. However belatedly. The gifted bottle is reached for again and another few sips stolen before she passes it back, this time for him to take. A thought has her parting her lips but a quick glance toward her conversation companion snaps them shut again before any sound is made. She inches an arm’s length away from him, just in case, before her blue irises drift to the corner to eye him slyly.

“I think you might be colorblind, everything is always grey to you.”

"On the contrary, Miss Owens." Scotch is taken up again when the neck bumps his knuckles, glass tilted and weighed against gravity's pull. "I see more clearly than most." He sets the bottle at his opposite side with care taken not to leave it off balance, as if he doesn't completely trust his own spacial awareness. It would be a shame to lose the rest before he's refilled his flask.

The same hand is reached for her knee in lazy reassurance at best — a brush to deliberately disrupt her focus onto his touch at worst — only to find it's edged out of easy grasp. Brows twitched into a lift as he looks forward, he returns it into his own lap instead.

“Am I grey, Mister Fogg?”

Grey is an awful color, in Luna’s world. Any dresses she has in that shade are called silver or pewter, not worn very often because she doesn’t think they match well with the golden color of her hair. Still, she has them if only to say she owns them. The prostitute watches Algernon’s hand reach out, not in a striking motion for her audacity but something much different. This earns him a smile and a slide back to his side, a curl of her arms around his and her head nestled against his shoulder.

It’s probably everything he didn’t want conveyed.

Too sedate now to angle himself against her encroach, Algernon resigns himself to it without acknowledgement, in the habit of his familiar. "Of course not," he accommodates, manners perpetually present for all that they're prone to flagging under alcohol's influence. "Most people aren't, anyway," he tells the fire.

"To assume otherwise opens the door for miscalculation."

And we couldn’t have that, a sentiment that she doesn’t actually voice. Instead she leans up and presses a kiss against his cheek before pulling away again. “I am a rainbow,” she informs him as she gathers herself up, straightening coat and cape before flushing the wrinkles out of her dress. “Sometimes I am red with anger, yellow with fright, green with envy, or blue because I’m depressed about something that hasn’t gone right.” She stops and angles her body toward him, even if her boots don’t quite match, their toes pointed back toward town and her cozy bedroom.

“I’m always purple though,” a wicked grin is imparted before she grabs his hands and squeezes them in farewell. “I would like you to visit with me again before I leave.” The prostitute is reluctant to let go, but she does all the same. Keeping the warmth of his hands tightly locked in her fists as she pushes them into her pockets. “For tea or scotch and conversation. I have things I’d like to show you and give you before I’m gone.”

There's a silence in the back of Algernon's mind. One too oppressive to ignore, so that he's more than ready to parry the inevitable What color does that make us? with a cinderblock No. as his hands are grasped and Luna disengages herself at last. Cross distraction shows in the hardened stoop of his brow and a deliberate smooth at the sleeve she'd been camping on, but it isn't on her account. Not directly, anyway.

The fire spits when a length of wood collapses near its middle and Fogg nods passive appeasement again, shoulders injured and uninjured rolled in towards the warmth to recover what the wind's started to wear away. "We'll see," spoken aloud is a formal gesture for his pride’s sake and holds less stock in his posture than unspoken agreement.

"Splendid," Luna's answer to Fogg's half answer is a bit more cheerful. "I'll be seeing you sooner rather than later then." It's a small town and with militia members on regular patrol, it's quite possible that she will, even if it's not in a social capacity.

Thick material gathered in both hands, Luna turns away from Algernon and his fire. It's late, as it always is when he's on patrol, and the call of the most comfortable mattress in Dornie is something too irresistible to ignore any longer. A long walk back to the Dovetail will just make it seem that much more welcoming.

Fogg waits until she's gone off a ways to twist a look around after her, a massage at his knee staved off until she's well and truly gone. "I," he announces to the fire and the darkness and somewhere in the mingling of the two, his familiar: "am going to have a nap."

Say it isn't so.

"It is," says Algernon, who is already levering stiffly to his feet, "so."