Too High a Cost

Title: Too High a Cost
Time Period: January 2, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Dreams remain deferred when Beisdean and Luna visit in the Dovetail.

The crisp air outside makes the warmth of the inside that much more inviting. A huff of breath that begins as a cloud on the outside quickly turns short once one has passed through the threshold. The crowd at the butcher shop is a little more than usual today, perhaps because the bacon has finished curing. It's been too long since a pig's been slaughtered for the purpose of sale to the general populace and the natives are somewhat restless.

When Luna finally arrives, the crowd is large enough that she has to press her back against the door to avoid being touched by dirty children or fisherman. Her shopping basket is out in front of her, keeping those in front at bay. Her wool capelet and the cloak that covers her completely acts as a shield against anyone else.

Nudging to the side, she tries to make her way forward, battling the other shoppers for the right to spy the goods in question first. She can almost taste the crisp pieces of fat and it makes her mouth water. She hasn't been known to eat very much if there's smoking or drinking to be done but bacon is a weakness.

Near the front of the crowd, Beisdean stands a little taller than most, and the gray at his temples might give him away if his gray coat and scarf don't. A paper-wrapped package in hand, he gives a nod to the butcher, thanking the man quietly before turning away to push his way out of the crowd like a salmon swimming upstream. His excuse me's and pardon me's are apparently enough to keep the housewives and housekeepers of Dornie from being too angry when his large boots step on their dainty toes.

His eyes are on the exit rather than on anyone's face. He brushes by Luna without notice, until a voice in his head chimes in.

It's impolite not to say hello, Darklight intones from the bag at Beisdean's side where he's nestled.

Beisdean's brows knit and he turns to see Luna, giving her a polite nod. "Darklight says hello," is perhaps a little immature.

Surprised, could be the description of the expression on Luna's face. Her jaw hangs open an inch or so and her eyes are wide enough that one might doubt that she even knows the man speaking to her. She rights herself presently and clicks her teeth together before giving a tight lipped but kind smile. "If you could relay my thanks and well wishes," is the return.

"And hello to you too, Mister Skye."

Because they're back to that, apparently.

Her fingers twist up near her collar and she stands on her tiptoes to try to gain a view near the front. She seems impatient, expressed out loud by the exasperated huff of air she lets out. It smells of mint and alcohol, or alcoholic mint. It could be either.

"Hello, Miss Owens," Beisdean replies, a tip of the cap on his head. He slips the package into the shoulder bag, then taps the marten on the nose. "Don't even think of it," he admonishes in advance of any bacon theft.

Looking back at Luna, he smiles. "Surprised to see you this early in the day. But I suppose no one can resist the siren call of the scent of bacon, can they? I'm just running a couple of errands for Mrs. Fairbairn. If you have a list you need from her, I can deliver it for you. Thank you again for you help in that, by the way."

Despite his proper tone and demeanor, his eyes are bloodshot, his skin pale, and his beard a little scruffier than usual.

"I don't, the deliveries that you made the other day were sufficient for the week, thank you." The prostitute raises a leather strip and waves it toward the butcher. It doesn't have her name on it, rather the name of one of the other girls at the brothel. "I'll take two, one streaky and one back, aye?"

Luna gets three in exchange for the strip, a pleasure that causes her to tip the man a skein of string.

"Thank you! We'll be seeing you," she calls to the butcher's helper; she won't, someone else will. Then she turns, looking up to Beisdean as she tries to shuffle her way to the door. "The girls'll be pleased with the extra, there's never enough for all of us."

"I think," Beisdean says conspiratorially, eyes crinkling a little with amusement, "that Florentine gets her share, anyway."

He holds the door for her; the wintry wind outside makes him pause to wrap the gray scarf ore tightly around his neck. It's just the color of a certain gray wolf mask, and the scarf that matched the mask two nights past.

Once she's out the door, he lets it close behind them. Once outdoors, Darklight springs from the bag, having somehow quietly gotten into the paper without Beisdean's notice, and sprints away with a strip of bacon in his mouth.

"Scoundrel," Beisdean calls, though he laughs fondly at the little thief. "He gets away with all I wish I could."

"I think you're right about that," the barb at the larger whore has Luna smiling up at Beisdean and pulling a small silver flask from the inside of her cape. It's a sort of a thank you when combined with the smile. "Hair of the dog? You might feel a bit better afterward."

Her eyes catch on the scarf and she tilts her head. The hand with the basket hanging from it raises and she touches the fabric before giving the man a puzzled look. "You were at the mask, aye?" Because no one in Dornie would have missed it, except people who don't know the meaning of fun.

He takes the flask, though shakes his head at the need for it. The want for it on the other hand… he takes a swallow, then another, than passes it back. "Not a hangover. Or rather, my own special brand of hangover, I suppose," he explains, eyes darting away.

Her question draws them back to her. "Of course. You gave quite the performance. Hard to imagine you're the same little girl calling herself a princess and pulling a kitten around on piece of yarn." His words aren't unkind; there's a fond amusement to his smile as he looks from her to the sky for a moment, surveying the clouds.

"They're still bothering you then," he's never given her any indication that his own special torture's been stopped completely. Just a cap. Taking the flask back, she takes a swallow of her own before tucking it back wherever it came from.

Her eyes dart to the scarf and then up to his eyes. "You saw my dance…" her words are a bit of a whisper and she averts her eyes to the ground as if suddenly ashamed. "Those times are long gone, Baizey, you know that. I was never a princess, I'll never be magic, and the kitten… she lived a good long life. She died a few months after I ran away from home."

Perhaps ashamed of his own small prank two nights' past, Beisdean reaches to touch her shoulder. "You were lovely," he says, his own cheeks flushing a little for admitting such. "And if it makes you happy, then you should continue. People need more … something… in their lives here. And you're one of the few daring enough to bring it. God knows I'm no saint."

He pulls the cap a little lower as the wind picks up. "Some times are worse than others. It's not as bad as when I was young. But aye, they still come to me. When I left, I found someone who was a bit like me. He taught me to keep them at bay, and he taught me how to summon them if I wanted." His jaw twitches at that — his words to her the other night about not calling them ever have already told her what he feels about that.

"No one knew what I was, what I could do. But I don't think I can ever pass as normal. Would that I could."

In a sentence, he's summed up the difference between the two — she wishes to stand out. He wishes to fit in.

It's like walking behind a horse.

Luna gasps and recoils at the touch, withering to the side as her free hand comes up, ready to claw at him. She stops short and curls inward, hugging her cloak tightly to her. "Don't touch me if I don't know it's coming. I don't like it."

Instead of raking his skin with her nails, the hand reaches back in to grab the flask. Shaking, she brings the mouth to her lips and finishes off what's left inside. The back of her thumb wipes her bottom lip of excess spill which she wipes off on the side of her long dress. "I'm glad it's not as bad as when we were young, Baizey, I am glad your adventures brought you a bit of peace." Another difference between them comes glaring into the light. Whatever good time did for him, it did the complete opposite for her.

Her startle has him staring at her wide eyed, his hands lifting palms toward her as if to hush or calm that surprised horse, or to surrender to an armed man.

Brows knit again as he watches her, scrutinizing her face as if it would tell him the stories of all that's happened to her since he left. But all that brings is more questions.

He tips his head to the side, and his eyes flick left to right and back again, before he asks, sotto voce, "What's happened to you, Luna? Who hurt you so?"

"You don't want to hear me cryin' and carryin' on any more than anyone else does." Her excuse not to say anything, she does look up at him with a feigned smile and drops the empty flask into her basket. "I could use a little something to keep away the cold, would you like to come back with me? Perhaps share one for old times sake?"

She transfers the basket to her other arm and loops hers through his, forcing a positive answer from him. "I know you said you weren't interested in dresses and costume jewelry, but your ma had plenty. You don't have anything to trade, Baizey, they'd do well for you. At least buy you a month at the inn."

Lips part, the n caught on his tongue before he shrugs, and crooks his arm. "As long as you keep whatever allows you to remember her best," he says. "I would rather anything she had be kept by someone who cared for her… you can give them to the others she was close to, as well. I don't want to merely trade them off like a bushel of apples or the like. I know they're just things, but they were hers. The favorite pieces anyway. I can sell the rest. I've no use for them and you already gave me the most precious of her belongings."

Beisdean glances down at her, still bemused by the strange display. "You do know I'd never hurt you, Luna?" At least not physically.

"You can sell them to the other girls, they'd be more'n happy to pay you for them. You know as well as I do, they got enough to spare. We've three pounds of bacon to your one, well bit of one. Darklight did run off with the end." It's just another fake smile that Beisdean receives as Luna chatters the short distance to the brothel. A way they both know like the back of their hands. "What I mean to say is, men in Dornie are letches. As a whole, we girls've got just as much as any Rowntree or Ross, I'm betting."

Leading him up the stairs, she passes the basket off to one of the others and leads him directly to her bedroom. "That's a funny thing for you to say Baizey," the lock is clicked and the key set on the dressing table. "It's nice of you to say, though, it's nice that you think it."

Her final words are received with a tic of his brows upward, but he focuses on the first of her speech. "I don't want more trinkets and baubles and gowns, and I don't want what they have to trade with. At least not in some sort of transaction. As for how much bacon I got, that's for Mrs. Fairbairn, not myself, so your comparison doesn't mean a mickle."

He looks at the dressing tables and then to the wardrobe. "She was taller than you, but you could have them hemmed. She was slim last I saw her — I don't think they'd be too big if you wanted them," he says, hands tucking into his pockets. "Florentine won't fit in them. Mariah maybe could use them, or the madame herself, though I don't know her well."

"We've got more to trade than just our own chits, we've got chits and favors that've been given to us." Reaching into her writing desk, Luna pulls a few sheets of paper and holds them up. "These blank would get you something, the ink too. Aislinn Rowntree likes to draw, you take this paper to her, she'd likely give you something for it. You promise to teach one of the locals their numbers or letters, make chits of your own, you could do well. You don't want what I've got, but you need what I know." Not just the gossip.

The paper is placed back at the desk and she crosses the room to join him at the wardrobe. She pulls a nearly full bottle from behind a few dresses then reaches in again for a small box. "I'm going to have some herbs, if you want any. My heart is still racing from back there.""

"I know how trading works," he says, some irritation in his tone. "I wasn't living in a hermitage all these years, though Clovelly had a form of currency that was a wee more complex than Dornie's. 'Course, we didn't have as much power. The shop I lived in didn't have any. Spent many an hour reading by candlelight."

Beisdean moves to sit at the vanity, picking up a bottle of perfume to bring to his nose, inhaling its scent. "Why not," he decides after a moment. "Strange reaction to touch for someone who does what you do," he adds, more to himself than to her.

"You might know how it works but you don't see the value in things," Luna retorts with just as much irritation in hers. He's passed the box. "Get the cigarette ready, I'll pour us a drink."

The bottle doesn't contain anything more exotic than a local whiskey. A few mouthfulls are poured and swallowed in a long series of gulps before she begins preparing them both something. Straight up. Both glasses are left on the dresser while she peels the cape off and drapes it across the chair. "I don't like being caught by surprise, especially by hands. They have a way about them, you know. They can blacken an eye, split a lip… all in one swift motion."

The box is opened and its contents investigated before long deft fingers begin the work of rolling. "I'll keep that in mind in the future. I apologize for scaring you," Beisdean says, voice sincere enough as he keeps his eyes down, intent on his task.

The joint is handed to her before he roams through his pockets for a box of matches. He strikes the head against the edge of the matchbook, letting it flare into a flame and then holding it for her.

The first deep puff of smoke is held in her lungs as she holds the joint out in front of her blindly. Luna's eyes are closed as she absorbs the fragrance of the herbs, warmth of alcohol, and the liquid in Beisdean's voice. All of it is hers. When she finally lets it go and opens her eyes, there's a certain calm about her that he doesn't see very often. "It was supposed to be you, you know," she says with a smile as she kneels besides and then slips her hands onto his shoulders.

"I never thought you'd come back, I'd stopped dreaming of it a long time ago and resigned myself to this." Her highest aspiration. The prostitute's thumbs make circles over the weave of Beisdean's coat before she pulls away. "You watched my dance though and you feel sorry for me. I feel somewhat sorry for myself as well."

When she kneels and touches him, Beisdean's gaze turns solemn, eyes narrowing in thought. When she moves away, he reaches for the joint, to pull from its depths the same calm that seemed to soothe her.

"I only feel sorry for you because you're obviously not happy doing it, Loon," he says, standing from his seat to look down at her. "I don't feel sorry for Mariah or Aiofe or the others. I don't think I ever even felt sorry for my mother… she didn't seem unhappy with her work, only with her troubles with me."

He holds the cigarette to her. "There's nothing shameful in this. You please people. You make them less lonely for a spell. And you can always leave it, if you wish."

Something she said registered a little late, and he tips his head to meet her eyes. "I never promised you anything."

"I know," it sounds musical and happy, even when combined with the bittersweet smile. Like she's appeasing him somehow. Reaching up, she takes the small stick of herbs and takes another long inhale. Falling backward, she melts into the bed, drink forgotten. The herbs are all she needs. "I enjoy the scandal, really, having my name linked with the scoundrels that pass through. Most of the time I don't even look twice at them, but they'll say whatever they wish to keep their own pride."

Transfering the smoke from one set of pinched fingers to the other, she looks up at Beisdean and angles her chin like she did years ago when begging for a birthday present. "That first time though, it was supposed to be you. I closed my eyes and tried to dream it was but I couldn't. And then I hated you because of it."

Letting her have the joint, he picks up one of the glasses, taking a hard swallow as he stares down at her on the bed. "That's hardly fair, to hate me, is it?" Beisdean says, a lift to one corner of his mouth in the slightest of smiles. Because it really isn't very funny.

"Do you know," he says, taking another swallow, "if it's my fault you turned to this, then that's two I'm to blame for. My ma wouldn't have had to work here if it weren't for me. Is that why you two were such good friends?"

He doesn't really expect an answer to it. "Don't set fire to your pillow," Beisdean nods to the joint in her hand.

"It's hardly fair that you broke my heart, so I can hate you all I please." Cotton words are spoken through the marble haze of smoke as Luna tries to piece together the right thing to say. She's not very good at it though. "You aren't to blame for your ma, she loved you more'n anything. I think, though, she'd have been where she was whether or not you came into her life. I do know that she never regretted you for a moment, she told me once… she said Loooooona… she said it just like that Looooooooooooona…."

A long silence follows where the blonde drops the joint onto a plate on the night table. Waving her hand through the air to clear the smoke around her, she gives a little giggle and shakes her head. "I don't really remember the rest of what she said, but it's all true. 'Specially the end. I ain't your fault neither, Baizey, but I might change my mind on that tomorrow so love me now for not blaming you, alright?"

His eyes move to the painting on the wall. "I miss her," he says simply. "Being here… I've lived all these years without her in my life, but now that I'm here… this is not my home, not without her."

Long legs take him from dresser to bedside. Beisdean picks it up to take a long drag, then replaces it before sitting on the bed beside her. "I'm not too clear on how I broke your heart. Was I supposed to stay while you laughed at me with your friends?" Beisdean says, lifting his glass again to his lips to finish the glass off. "You can hate me, if it makes it easier for you. I won't hold it against you. It's not like you'll be the only one to hate me, not the first nor the last."

"I never laughed, Baizey, not once, not at you." Luna's words are quieter, more ashamed, and trailing into a whisper. "But I done worse than that, I let them laugh. I don't blame you for leavin', I really don't. I just wish sometimes that I could've gone with you. Dornie's so small and sometimes I feel like I'm drowning in all of the plain and ugly things and people around me. I have Mariah.. but…"

She reaches for his hand, cupping it with both of her own before she places it against her heart. "Do you hate me for everything that happened? Or do you just never think of me at all?"

"I don't hate you," he says, though he doesn't answer the second part of the question. "But if you think the world outside of Dornie is anything but plain and ugly… you'd be disappointed if you left, Loon. There are pretty places, just as there are here, but it's still hard and people everywhere I've been are the same."

His fingers trace her collarbone, thumb running lightly down her sternum. Blue eyes, pupils slightly dilated, scan her face. "I'm not a customer. I've nothing to give, and I don't buy this sort of pleasure, Luna. That doesn't mean there's not a cost when it's supposed to be free," he murmurs, watching her for signs of understanding or indignation.

Hurt and then defiance set into her features, making her eyes a little harder but it's difficult through the pleasure that the herbs and alcohol give her. "I wouldn't— I couldn't— Not you. I wanted to marry you, Baizey Skye, I'd feel like rubbish taking anything from you." Dirtier, perhaps. Shaking her head, she rolls onto her side before kneeling beside him again. Her cheek touches his shoulder before her lips. After a small kiss, she nudges him, off the bed.

"You should go, I don't want you in my bed." She smiles, reaches for her drink and raises the glass to him. "You're a dream Baizey, my dream, and I ain't got quite enough to cover the cost."

"Nor I," he says quietly, a smirk coloring his tone, bending his head to knock hers lightly, then rising again. "I broke your heart after a mere kiss; I'd not want to know what you'd claim after bedding you."

He kisses her forehead and rises. "I doubt I'd live up to your dream, and I'd rather not disappoint you for something I've done. I'll stick with the disappointment for what I didn't do. At least there'll be no gossip of how I sized up to your imaginings."

Moving to the vanity, he picks up his bag to shoulder its strap. "Have a good day, Miss Owens."

"It wasn't a mere kiss to me, I hoped it would to be the beginning of another dozen years together. It wasn't supposed to be the end." The glass is set to the side and Luna falls back against the pillows again, a whistful grin touching her lips. She tucks a hand under her cheek and watches him carefully as he makes his preparations to leave.

"You shouldn't worry about your size so much, especially when there's so many other things to worry over." She pauses before giving what she considers an explanation. "Innes already talked the moment she saw you in Dornie, she said she saw you in the bath once before you left…

"Apparently you've enough to live up to any woman's imagination."

Beisdean pauses in the door, hand stopping on the door jam to hold himself on the threshold for the last of her words. He lifts his head to the ceiling and shakes his head, a low chuckle preceding his final words.

He glances over his shoulder, eyes and lips slanted mischievously. "That was thirteen years ago. I imagine I've grown."

His hat is doffed and he steps out into the hall again.