Trouble Is A Friend Of Mine

Title: Trouble Is A Friend Of Mine
Time Period: March 26, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Masque attempts to be encouraging and helpful, but possibly could have better timing.

As the natural light fades and the artifical lights in the stable need to come on, some of the stablehands are still working. There's always more to do in a stable like this, schedules to keep, hooves to clean. One of the ones staying behind to finish up his work is Cas Blackburn.

Dtessed for work, he speaks soothingly to the horse who's stall he's invaded, with her leg turned up and held close to his body so that he can run a long metal rasp along the hoof. Other instruments lay nearby so he can grab them without having to stand, but this is the last thing he needs to do, patting the horse under the leg as he releases her hoof to the floor and begins to gather up his tools.

"That wasn't so tough, was it," he says, rubbing a hand along her nose, before he reaches into his pocket and pulls out the thing she'd nipped towards, but couldn't get, a few times already. A fresh apple. The real reason he'd been picking them. "Don't tell anyone, kay?" he jokes to the horse, as he hands it over to her, and starts to leave, to the sound of juice munching.

With Mariah off in her own version of meditation, Masque has been left, as he often is, to his own devices. And that seems to be coming to bother Cas at the stables. He doesn't invade the stall to get the stablehand's attention, but the moment Cas steps out with his tools, there's the familiar golden retriever, sitting just outside.

It's hard to tell how long he's been there, Masque is good at being quite, after all. And being sneaky. But when he sees Cas, jaws part in a canine grin and his tail wags. Possibly, this is just a greeting, but it looks very much like the familiar is glad to see him.

The sight of the dog earns first a surprised laugh, that ends up as a pleasant smile. "Hello there, mate," Cas says to the golden furred dog as he steps over to put away the tools, one at a time. It doesn't take him too far from the horses, but some of them lift their head or twitch their ear, as if thinking he may be talking to them.

"Didn't she tell you I'm no longer in danger? No need to watch my back for her, you know," he says in a soft voice, much the same as the soothing tones he used for the mare.

Masque answers the hello with a rumbling woof as he stands up and trots along behind Cas. But the words have the dog's ears flattening and he lets out a snort. He knows. It's not why he's here. Apparently.

He lets out a soft howl, though, and walks a bit of a circle before taking a single step toward the exit. He stops there and looks back at Cas again. Expectantly.

From the way the horses react to the sounds of a dog in their stables, leaving is a good idea. Cas glances over at the ones making the most noise and says, "Calm down, you— it's not even a real dog." He glances towards Masque as if to apologize for that, as he puts the last tool away and makes his way toward the door.

"Good call," he says to the dog, reaching down to rub the dog on the top of the head. "So you're not here to make sure I'm okay— must mean you missed me," he says as he closes the doors to the stables to leave it behind. There's another stablehand in there from the way hay spills from the hayloft to take care of the lights.

Those ears stay flat for the rub, but by the way Masque leans into it, it's just a show of grumpiness rather than actual displeasure. He does answer with one bark while Cas closes the doors. And he lopes away a few steps only to run back again, rounding Cas' legs.

He's happy about something, anyway. Something Cas related.

"You seem in a good mood," Cas grins down at the creature while he says them, stepping further from the stables and pulling his coat up higher as if to block out the colder air of the night. Not as cold as it has been, at least, but scarfs aren't something he can wear while working with the horses. They sometimes to eat them.

"Shouldn't you be with Mariah, though? I guess she's working tonight…" From the way his lips press toward one side, he's may not be happy with that particular thought.

He's right that Mariah should be working. It's one of those nights. But all the same, Masque barks a few times together, because she isn't at all where she's meant to be tonight. And for whatever reason, Masque seems entirely alright with his mage's misbehavior.

He comes along to walk beside Cas, jaws parting again. Grinning. His shoulder nudges against Cas' leg, and his tongue lolls out of those open jaws.

"She's… not working tonight?" Cas says after a long moment of trying to translate that barking and the apparent smile and happiness. For a moment it makes him smile too, before he suddenly asks, "Is she not feeling well? She seemed fine the other day when I saw her, not at all sick, but I heard about people getting sick— " he says, looking worried.

When he probably shouldn't be. "Though I guess you wouldn't be so happy if she were sick, huh…"

One bark answers his first words, but as Cas goes on, Masque is left at a bit of a loss as to when to bark or which answer to give, so instead he buts his head against his leg. He's being silly again.

It's there at the end that there's a low growl that bleeds into a pair of bark, a clearer answer. He would not be. But he runs over to get in front of Cas, walking backwards awkwardly with his gazed fixed on the man. Ears up, as well as his eyebrows— or the dog equivalent anyway.

"Don't look at me like that," Cas says after a moment, pressing his lips together and looking embarassed even in the diminished light. He's probably grateful for the low light to hide the blushing he wants to do. "If I'd known she wasn't working I would have gone to see her," he says, as if missintrepting the look.

"Did she want to be alone tonight?"

Masque snorts again, amused this time, likely at Cas' blushing. But the question has the familiar stopping to sit his back end down. Instead of a bark or several barks, he tilts his head, one ear perking up skyward. Not a yes or a no, which is… helpful.

But he huffs out a breath and straightens up, only to look out at nothing, exactly, brow lowering and looking deep in thought for a long moment. It brakes with a bark as he looks back up at Cas, those brows lifting again.

"That's a 'she wants to be alone', right?" Cas asks, trying to remember the code from before, and perhaps looking a little… disappointed from the way he rubs his hand over the back of his neck. The two dark strings of his necklaces are visible over the collar of his shirt and coat.

"Did you just ask her that? Is that why you were all— staring off into the distance?"

This time, the barks are louder, longer and they carry Masque's more trademark grumpiness. To all his questions. Something is getting lost in translation.

The familiar reaches up to bite gently on the end of his coat, tugging downward before he lets go and sits back down again. If only he had arms to fold, but since he doesn't, he watches Cas with no small amount of expectation. Try again.

"Oi— you're going to tear my coat," Cas complains a little, before he kneels down in front of the dog to look at him on the same level. "I'm not getting anything you're trying to say, am I?" He scratches at the back of his head again, eyes squinting in the darkness.

"Who'd've thought there'd be something harder than trying to talk to a deaf kid," he mutters softly.

Masque whines a bit at that complaint, ears drooping and everything. But when he kneels down, the dog grins again and steps closer to butt his nose against Cas' chest. He doesn't quite hit where those pendants hang, being difficult to find through the coat and various layers, but it's close enough. his head lifts, this time to lick at the stablehand's face.

He sits back again a moment later, watching Cas closely. It is rather difficult, when it goes beyond yes or no questions.

The dog's nose may not manage to touch the pendants exactly, but the gesture isn't missed. Cas looks down at the dog, then his shirt, and then moves his hand around to tug at the leather cords that hold the pendants in place, pulling them up until they can land over his shirt.

"Are you okay with her giving this to me?" he asks, holding the bee in his hand. "You're probably the closest… person to her— And she says you like me, and if you didn't you'd probably bite my fingers instead of my coat…" He trails off, not really sure what else to say, and not wanting to add too much potential confusion to his answer.

When the pendant comes out, Masque reaches out a leg to rest the pads of his feet against Cas' arm. The bark that follows is gentler. Kinder. More pointed.

But he steps back again, rounding Cas to nudge him from behind. He circles back around to the front, waiting only a few moments for Cas to get up before he starts a slow trot off away from the Rowntree lands. He does glance back, though, to make sure Cas follows. And so that the man doesn't assume it to be an abrupt goodbye.

"Hey— " Cas starts to protest as he's pushed from behind, stumbling onto his feet and taking a few steps forward, spinning to look back at the dog, then spinning again as he trots off away from the Rowntree lands. He gets the hint when the dog turns to look at him again, pressing his lips together and glancing behind him toward the stables…

And them taking off at a slow run after the dog. "Where we going, mate?" he asks, even if it's not a question that can be answered by a bark or a tail wag.

Masque only answers with a pause to let him catch up and a howl that tips to the excited side of the noise. But as soon as Cas is close enough, he's off again. His pace is steady, but not too fast, in the end. Just a touch tiring, is all. The path he takes is off the beaten trail, not one of the routes taken from place to place by the townsfolk, but a duck through trees and clearings. Close enough to civilization, but far enough to be alone without interruption.

Mostly. If you don't have a pushy familiar.

It really isn't the time for anyone to be out alone, though, especially at night, considering wolves and trolls and any number of dangers out there. But there Mariah is, strolling through the woods idly, not seeming to be paying attention to where she's going. Instead, she looks deep in thought. The movie might have helped give her a reprieve, but Jorn left her with thoughts to ponder and it's terribly hard to ponder in the din of the town or the atmosphere of the Dovetail. Particularly if you're supposed to be working. Masque stops short when she comes into view, and he looks up at Cas to let out a gentle huff.

The dangers are certainly known to Cas, who even mutters as he tries to keep up something about how he hopes the familiar isn't trying to trick him into a giant's den, or something of the like. By the time the dog stops, he's winded, breathing unsteadily as he tries to catch his breath.

There were some steep hills he had to climb up!

"Finally stoppin' so I can…" he starts to say, before he spots something behind the dog, voice trailing off as he says, "rest…"

It may be dark, but he can still make her out, with eyes adjusted for the outdoors at night, after that long walk. "Oh," he says quietly, between breaths.

Rest. That's it. Masque's jaws part in a grin again at that note, and he rubs against Cas' ever abused legs before he trots off toward the woman there in the trees. He seems to expect that Cas will follow, because he hasn't switched from dog to badger; he even barks to get her attention.

"Masque?" She's pulled from her inner monologue at the sound and she comes to meet him, kneeling down to scritch him behind the ears a bit. If I didn't know better, I'd say you were starting to like being a dog.

It isn't that. I've been trying to talk to him and he doesn't understand a thing I'm trying to say. Grump. Whine. It's a hard life.

There's something tenative about Cas' approach, as if he's not sure it's Mariah-approved and thus she may not actually be happy to see him. Or something of the like. He almost seems to half hide behind the trees as he steps forward, following after the dog, even stopping to rest against one for a moment as he catches his breath.

"Uh— hey," he says quietly, finally, still a decent distance away. "I was following him," he says, pointing down at the dog. "He made me," he adds, like a kid who's afraid he'll get in trouble. He suddenly wishes the dog would have given him time to change into nicer clothes, or at least check his hair.

He who? She knows who, though, because Masque doesn't much try to communicate with people. Mariah looks up at that voice, surprised to see him, but a smile comes to her face all the same. "Hey yourself," she says back, perhaps a caught a little off balance. It is even more difficult to ponder with him standing there.

His explanations draw her attention back to Masque, who gets a look. "Made you, did he?"

Don't give me that look, it's for your own good. He ended up thinking you were sick and didn't want to see him. Couldn't leave him with that impression, could I? Innocent as ever. He even whimpers softly toward her.

Mariah lets out a sigh, but she stands to her feet and looks over Cas' way, her smile soft, but it's clear she's not angry. "He's terribly pushy. I'm sorry if you were… busy." There's a bit of a woof from the dog before Mariah continues, "But if you're not…" She doesn't quite finish that thought, though.

"I wasn't busy," Cas says, though he still seems cautious in the way he's speaking, still like a kid who's been caught doing something he's not supposed to. He glances back behind him, as if checking for a place to run, making the two pendants revealed over his shirt catch the little bit of light from the moon. Only for a moment.

When he looks back he fidgets a little, shifting his weight on his feet. The limp he'd had a few days ago seems to be gone. "I finished all my work for the day— just a bit ago, actually. Was probably going to get ready for bed." Or find the stable boy and try to learn how to read handtalk. One of the two.

That he's cautious seems to make Mariah a little nervous. She takes a few steps closer, to find a tree of her own to lean on as she watches him, trying to read some sort of meaning in his manner. Probably reading too much meaning, really. She does catch that glint against the metal, her head tilting against the trunk as her fingers reach up to touch the stone at her neck. Like she need to make sure it's still there.

Her hand drops, though, as he goes on. "Oh, I— I suppose it's getting late. Do you… I mean, if you have to wake up early—" Her words cut off as she receives the headbutt from Masque this time, and though it makes her look down at the familiar, she sighs gently and turns back to Cas. "Perhaps I could walk you?" It's a testing question, dipping a toe into the waters. Like she isn't sure if he was entirely on board for this excursion.

There's enough worry to go around between the two of them. Cas' eyes focus on her hand for a moment, before sliding down to the dog, who isn't as nervous as either of the humans, that's for sure. "Well, yeah, it's getting late. I mean it's dark," he says, pointing up at the sky, despite stating the obvious. The super obvious, really.

That joke seems to lighten him up a bit, letting him smile lopsidedly at her.

Glancing behind him, back the way him and the dog came, he hesitates for a moment. "I— do have to get up early tomorrow— I'm supposed to help with the herd again." His favorite job, as she knows. Even if he likes most everything he does for the horses. When he looks back, he tilts his head to the side, as if pondering something.

And he seems equality as testing when he responds, "Do you… want to walk me?"

Mariah looks up, as if having needed his direction to notice the color the sky is at the moment. "Oh, so it is." But when she looks back at him, there's a crooked smile on her face as well. "I suppose most sensible people are getting into bed, aye?"

When he hesitates and explains and ultimately puts the ball back in her court, Mariah presses her lips together, looking off into the woods for a moment before she looks back again. But a smile slowly curls her lips and she moves to step forward, her expression just a little amused. "Always. If you don't mind a little company?" So it's only sort of back in his court.

Oh, for the love of— is Masque's groaning commentary.

"It's… kind of a long walk. And you wouldn't be able to go inside and get out of the cold after," Cas says, looking back toward the woods again as he steps closer, following her voice and the memory of where she was. Only when he stumbles on the roots of a tree and catches himself on the trunk does he turn his head to face where he can see her again.

Her and the dog. He may not be able to hear the commentary, but he can see body language.

Pressing his lips together, his eyebrows lower and press together, wrinkling his forehead. "I never mind your company… but I think— it would be best if— maybe…" he trails off, sounding doubtful. And looking down at ground in front of the mage and her familiar.

When he trips, Mariah takes it upon herself to close the distance between them. Her hand searches for his in the dark, to weave her fingers between his. "Some things are worth the cold," she says gently, looking down between them.

"It's only right, anyway, what with Masque dragging you all the way out here and all," she says, although there's a hint of something bittersweet in her tone. As much as that voice comes with it's comfort, it's pretty clear it doesn't work on the mage herself. "But if you'd rather I… not…" Her free hand lifts, fingers brushing along the collar of his coat. Her eyes watch their movement, which has her looking up, but not quite at him.

Worth the cold. Cas keeps his eyes downcast as she speaks, visibly and verbally hesitating, letting silence fall on his side of the conversation for the moment. Perhaps even making the poor familiar groan more, internally. As she plays with his collar, though, his hand raises up to touch hers, followed by his eyes.

"No, I— " he starts softly, pressing his palm against her hand for a moment before he takes in a deep breath. It almost seems as if he's steeling himself. For something.

"Can I go home with you, please?" he asks instead, looking in her eyes.

It all seems to ricochet back and forth, nerves and hesitation and even that hint of bracing himself echoes back on Mariah, too, as he starts and stops. She manages to keep an outward calm about her, save for a tremble in her fingers he can feel once his joins hers against his coat.

Whatever she expected he was about to say, it wasn't what comes out of his mouth. Her gaze tilts slowly upward, and she studies him for just a moment before it seems to sink in. And when it does, there's a flash of a smile and a relieved sigh, but it doesn't last long because her fingers curl around the fabric of his coat to pull him in toward her and into warm, passionate kiss. She'll ahve to do that thinking, you know, later.

Later isn't always better, but Cas certainly leans, even more than she pulls him down. But he's more than a little aware of how he must smell, like horses and hay and other unpleasant side effects of horses eating hay and he pulls back quicker than he may have normally, smiling down at her.

"Is that a yes?" he asks in a mildly cheeky fashion, grinning as he does. "I will have to wake up early and head back to the stables, but Masque should be able to walk me, make sure I don't get picked up by trolls or anything."

Pulling away might just have tipped her back into worrying, if not for that smile of his waiting for her. His question gets a breathy laugh, and she cants her head to the side to answer in a far more cheeky fashion. "I'll have a think on it."

But a laugh follows soon after, taking away any impression that she might have meant that. Her hands move to take his, though, and she tugs him along back in the direction of the Dovetail. "Please come home with me, Cas. For a moment there, I thought you were going to send me away." And that seems to have been the source of her worry.

"Who, me? Send you away?" Cas says in a light voice, seeming to find the very idea funny. "You're kiddin' right?" he jokes as he moves along beside her, nudging her with his hip as he goes, and sliding an arm around her as they begin the long walk through the cold back to the Dovetail.

Before they get very far he glances over to the familiar, raising eyebrows and asking, "This anything at all close to what you wanted, mate?" After that he looks at the one person who can actually understand what the dog might mean, "He seemed to have a purpose for dragging me out here…"

"Don't laugh!" Mariah says with a laugh of her own despite her words. She nudges his hip right back before her arm slides around his waist and she settles comfortably under his arm. "It was a legitimate worry." In her mind.

she looks back toward Masque, too, who trots along behind them, his tail wagging lazily. But he doesn't answer, exactly, preserving plausible deniability while he still can. No, he just picks up his pace, slips from dog to badger and seems to dart off into the trees. Possibly to keep an eye out for those trolls.

Mariah watches him go with narrowed eyes, but she looks up to Cas after the badger moves off, her expression embarrassed. "I— He's troublesome, is what it is." Plain and simple. "And for the record, I wasn't sick. Or dodging you. He tells me he might have accidentally eluded to something along those lines."

"Reminds me a bit of you, actually," Cas says in a quiet manner, sounding as if he's joking, but it comes off as more of a tease and less something he doesn't actually think. "Sometimes I feel like I understand what you're trying to say just as little as I do him," he says, squiting into the darkness, before he looks back at her with a smile.

"I knew you weren't sick, I just… thought you were working tonight, and he said you weren't, so I wondered if you were not feeling well— or… if you just wanted to be alone."

"What, me? Troublesome?" Mariah chuckles at the tease, she doesn't really have any good defense against that particular accusation. His next one, however, gets more of a sheepish look. "I believe I did mention once that it would take some time before I mastered the art of being direct."

She looks down at her feet, watching them press against the dirt as if this were somehow interesting. "I was feeling… not up to it," speaking of still learning about being direct, "and I took a walk to town to sort myself out. Sat down for a movie. Ended up out here."

"Could be I like you troublesome," Cas says with a smile, though he's looking straight ahead and slightly up as he says it, making his neck stand out as he moves on ahead. His throat moves as he breaths, before he lets out a soft sound.

"In that case, we should just sleep, after I get cleaned up, at least— I'm sure I would like just sleeping with you as much as the other." There's a pause. "Well, almost as much."

"Well, I hope so," Mariah says, and she would laugh, she really would, but instead, she sounds a bit distracted. It is possibly because her gaze happens to catch somewhere around the neck area. And eyebrow arches just slightly and it's almost certain she's let her thoughts wander off toward things that are definitely not sleep.

"Hmm? Right, yes," she says, smiling up at him as her arm squeeze him a little closer to her. "I wouldn't mind a bath and a decent night's rest. So long as you're there."