'Tis The Season

Title: 'Tis The Season
Time Period: December 25, 134 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Mariah goes to see Cas at his job and it is a happy Christmas all around. Even for the horse.

Once upon a time, there were presents under trees and stuck into socks. This morning in the Rowntree Stables, there was little of that. The only thing stuffed into Cas' stockings were his own cold feet. It isn't even one of his days off, as he'd just had one not too long ago. The horses don't take days off for the Yule, after all.

Leading one of the geldings along the fence-line outside the stables, he runs a hand down the brown fur on the neck, looking back to watch the stride. Not all the horses get ridden, but they still need to stretch their legs, exersize, get out of the stalls. For many reasons. And walking the horses is one of the jobs he likes. Even if it doesn't include a saddle to ride.

"There used to be a lot of Christmas stories— " the young man says as he walks along, paying far more attention to the horse and where they're both stepping than what's on the other side of the wooden fence. "I was told a few stories about it, read them. I rather liked the ones about Santa Claus— even if he'd have to have been a mage. How else would that have worked— the whole flying deer thing. Should have had flying horses, though."

"In the version I heard, he was the patron saint of prostitutes," Mariah says, speaking up from not to far away, where she sits on the fence. She's not dressed like she usually is at the Dovetail, but is sporting boots, a heavy coat and even pants to fight against the weather. However, those pants are form fitting enough that it's hard to imagine they really help all that much. But suffice to say, she isn't working at the moment. There is also a curiously familiar bracelet on her wrist. Puzzling. "Legend says that there was a man with three daughters, and he didn't have enough money to marry them off, so they'd be left to a life of prostitution. So, he snuck 'round after dark and left their purses full of gold in the man's window. For the girls, you see? That's the version I like the most, anyway."

Whatever most people are doing today, Mariah, too, isn't partaking of the celebrations or any such thing. "They said I'd be able to find you out this way and I figured, if I waited long enough, maybe I'd be able to completely distract you from your work. At least for a moment or two."

The surprise voice makes Cas stop in his steps, turning toward the fence and what comes from on top it. The voice is one he'll not forget, even if he hasn't heard it for some time. His visits became less frequent after that first month—

For a moment, it looks as if he may be trying to catch a bug in his mouth. The horse manages to remind him by continuing to step forward until their shoulders meet. "Oh, sorry," he says to the horse first, before looking back at Mariah.

"I— I didn't expect to— why— " Stumbling over words seems to be a problem, and the horse snorts next to his face as if mocking his lack of words. "What— did— " He bites down on his lower lip before he can finally manage a full coherent question— which doesn't sound like any of the attempts he'd been making, "How are?"

Mariah endures the false starts and half spoken sentences with a smile that lingers somewhere between amused and delighted. "How are… What, exactly?" By the bit of mischief in her expression, she is really just giving him a hard time. Her hand reaches out to rub on the horse's muzzle gently. "So this is what you do? The horse is beautiful, Cas." She says it as more a compliment to him, who cares for the horse, rather than for the horse's actual owner.

"I've haven't seen you for some weeks, and Luna… well, she told me a version of what happened. She is sorry, you know. She's just too… well, saying so herself is a bit difficult, we'll say that."

The teasing voice made Cas close his eyes, a grimace going across his face, as he doesn't correct her by trying to explain the words he was sure had made it out of his mouth. Sometimes he can be so tongue tied. Even if the more she speaks the easier that tended to get for him. Focusing on her voice, his breathing slows down.

When his eyes finally open again with surprise, it's at the mention of Luna. And what happened. And why he hadn't visited since. "Oh— she— she's sorry?" The confusion is there, more so than the tongue tied-ness of before.

"He's not mine. The horse, I mean. Obviously. It's Mister Rowntree's. I'm just letting him stretch his legs…" That comes out as side rambling, and from the way he swaps back to the other topic, it may have been him just talking to distract himself. And failing. "What all did she tell you? About— what happened?"

"Of course," Mariah says mildly, petting the horse just a moment longer before she looks back to Cas again. Hopping off the fence, she steps over to his side, "We can walk him along, if you don't mind the company?"

There's a bit of a crooked smile as she tugs her coat closer around her. "Well. She said she took this bracelet and threw a bit of a fit when you tried to get it back. But she assumed when you left it there that you meant for it to get to me. She asked I pass along the apology. And anyway, I had been holding something for you, for the next time you came around, so it was nice to have an excuse to come looking for you."

With a motion that she can join, Cas can't help but look concerned at walking in the cold snow-crusted earth. Not to mention the presents the horses tend to leave behind them. "Of course you can, just— watch your step," is the only warning he gives. He's watching his step— or he would be if he wasn't distracted.

The gelding is glad to be moving forward again, at least.

"The bracelet was— " he false starts again, looking away and toward the horse and checks the bridle. Whether it needs it or not. "I left it to apologize for scaring her and messing up her knitting," he says after a moment. "I think we both had a lot to apologize for— I guess."

But something else she said makes him seek out her eyes, instead of the horse's. "What were you holding for me?"

"I'll be careful, I promise. I grew up around horses, actually." Mariah tilts her head at his explanation, pondering for a moment. "I suppose I should give it back to you, then. I don't think she felt the need to keep it, all things considered."

Her expression brightens up at that last question, though, and she slides a hand into a pocket, pulling out a small, muslin-wrapped object. "Sometimes I end up with odd things. Because the fabric is nice or what have you, and I couldn't think of a thing to do with this and I thought it might make a better home with you." She doesn't unwrap it, but within is a rather nice tie that just so happens to match fairly well with his fancier clothes. Probably too well for it to be a mere coincidence, but she has her story and she's sticking to it.

"It's a little small for the whole… sleigh and reindeer to-do, but. Tis the season and all that. Happy Christmas."

With one finger's free gloved hand wrapped around the reins, Cas manages to unwrap the muslin and reveal the fancy fabric. The reaction is rather slow coming, except in the form of his steps slowing considerably. The gelding snorts, this time against Mariah's neck, as if to blame her for this interuption.

"I— I don't know what to say," he finally manages words, carefully rewrapping it so that if something happens, if he drops it, it will have some protection. But he has inner pockets in his coat which he stores it in after a few moments. Where it is extra safe. For the time being. "Thank you— and— you don't have to return the bracelet if you like it— I… had don't have anything to give you back right now…" Suddenly he laughs, going back to the pace the horse wants as he says, jokingly, with a teasing grin, "Unless you want a kiss or something."

At the snort, Mariah reaches over to pet the horse's neck, placating the poor, oft interrupted animal. But her attention is really on Cas, and his reaction does pull a smile out of her. "You're welcome. And you don't need to give me anything back, even the bracelet. It is lovely, don't get me wrong. But it wasn't intended for me."

She only begins to take it off, though, before his tone catches her attention. Looking up from her wrist, she smiles broadly back at him. "Don't you tease me, Cas Blackburn. It's truly cruel. And much like this bracelet," she says as she moves to tuck the jewelry into his palm as well, "I only want a kiss if you really want to give one to me. Obligation aside."

Once again, the gelding must stop, kicking at the hard packed dirt with his hooves. Cas doesn't listen to the protests right away, as he holds the bracelet in his hands and meets her eyes— joking grin fading away into something more thoughtful, borderlining on serious.

"I'll bring you something better, something only for you," he says quietly, fingers reaching to grasp her hands with the rough and dirty fingers of work. He hasn't gotten a decent bath in a while, but at least he's taken time to shave since seeing her. A few times.

"And— I think— if we kiss— it should be somewhere else. When I'm clean— and when he won't get jealous." He nods his head toward the horse, regaining some of his smile.

It seems rough and dirty don't really bother her, since she doesn't pull her hands back. "I meant it when I said you didn't need to. But, that being said…" Mariah's smile is even a little sheepish there, just a touch, "I think I would like that."

As serious as the conversation edges, Mariah can't help a laugh at those last words. "We wouldn't want that. Coming between a man and a horse is one of the seven deadlies, I believe."

There's a slow inhale from Cas, silence only really interupted by a swatting of tail against the horse's own side and the impatient rearing of his head. It doesn't jar his hands enough to bother him, though, it seems. "You're not just saying that…?" he says in a whispered voice, as if he's too wary to ask it outloud, but too curious not to.

For a moment, his cheeks seem to redden. They were already reddish from the chill in the air, but it seems to be more now. "I— I heard there was a dance coming up. For the New Years. And I get the night off— If— if I can find something to wear… I'd like to dance with you. If you're going. So we can— see each other… away from our jobs."

"I try not to make a habit of saying things I don't mean with people I like." Her job, after all, has her making nice to people regardless of how she feels about them personally quiet often. Mariah is generally unapologetic of her job, but she gives Cas' hands a soft squeeze there, a little reassurance.

"I did hear about the dance. I had intended to make my way along." There's a little nod to his invitation, too, "Then I'll be sure to keep a song open for you. Maybe two, if you find something particularly dashing." That last is playful and her hands leave his, but only so one can take the horse's lead while her other slides through his arm. "Come on, before he decides to push us into the mud."