You Aren't Old

Title: You Aren't Old
Time Period: October, 134 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: At the end of a long day, two people converge. One offers a gift and the other hospitality and both narrowly avoid emotional conversation.

It's been a long day for Mairi Fairbairn, but it's also often true that she's still out working even as the sun sets and evening rolls in, complete with its chill. Loading seems to be the only thing left, and one at a time she carefully picks up and slides crates onto a shabby-looking wagon that's seen one too many repairs. It's likely she plans to bring things to market tomorrow, non-perishables settled into the wagon with plenty of room left for the others in the morning.

Wiping her face gently with the bottom of an apron tied tightly around her waist, Mairi leans against the wagon as she takes a break. Her eyes move towards the house as she mentally sorts through her supplies and considers dinner. She's tired, so thankfully there's some stew left from the day before that she can simply throw onto the fire and heat once again.

A set of boots make sounds of movement approaching the house. The day has been long for the man walking toward the house, as well. Dressed in a brown leather jacket, nice shirt and pants, he's cleaner and better dressed than he was when he first approached this farm. His beard is gone and his hair has been cut shorter, to the point it sticks up a little thanks to the wind. But he still has a bag flung over his shoulder, carried behind him. The bag is ragged, and plump, full of something. At least it's not a heavy something.

Cas Blackburn pauses as he gets within sight of the house, looking for lights, but seeing something else. A wagon loaded with supplies and the woman he'd been hoping to see. All outside. It's light enough he can still see her.

With hand raised up, he calls out into the wind, "Mairi." The smile on his face may carry some relief. His pace increases some, even if he seems to be a little winded. It's a long walk!

The sound of the voice causes Mairi to look over, then a broad grin spreads across her face as she recognizes the figure. "Cas!" She exclaims, pushing away from the cart and instead moving to meet him as he approaches. When he's a close enough distance that conversation is possible, she speaks.

"I see you stuck around Dornie! I'd imagine Edmund Rowntree was smart and decided to hire you on, given that you're here. It's good to see you're alright. And no beard! That's quite a change. Makes you look younger."

Self consciously, Cas reaches up and rubs his shaven cheeks. The long sleeves of his paisley design shirt droop a little as he does, revealing angry red scratches on his hands. The blood has been washed off, but the hand isn't bandaged and the skin is still puffy and pink around it.

"He hired me. Thanks to you! I mean you pointed me in the right direction. Sorry it took me so long to visit. I haven't taken many days off yet."

He'll leave out he intended to stop by earlier today, but things happened. "Need some help with anything?" he gestures to the cart that looks like it has more room for loading.

"I'm so glad to hear that. I can understand not coming sooner… I know what it's like to be so busy. I worry what would happen if I ever decided to take a day off. I'm done with the tasks there, the rest of the stuff is in the icebox, I'll load it tomorrow just before I leave. I like everything to be as fresh as possible. You know, I—" There, Mairi cuts herself off.

It seems she has noticed Cas' hands. She takes a few steps closer, frowning at the injury. "Did you try to move a cat in heat or something? Those don't look terribly comfortable. You haven't really even wrapped them. You'll never be able to do any work with them like that."

A cat in heat.

For some reason, that seems like one of the funniest things he's heard all day. Or at least he laughs loud enough that it could very likely be. The laugh ends with a high pitched sound that— sounds quite boyish, and Cas presses his hand against his mouth a bit.

"I— you could say that I suppose." There's laughter in his voice, though he's trying to control it. "I was planning to wrap it when I finally made it back to the stables. I usually wear gloves when I work anyway, but…" He looks down at his hands. "I'll take care of it." Though now that she's brought his mind back to him he remembers how much they itch and starts to scratch at them.

"Stop that," Mairi insists at the scratching, taking a step in closer to give the injuries a quick once over. "Gloves or not, it'll hurt if you don't have them wrapped in something. You can make it all kinds of worse." She beckons him to follow as she moves towards the house.

"I'll wrap those for you. I keep some bandages around just in case I've got a little scrape or cut somewhere that might get irritated while I work. I won't take no for an answer, either."

A moment of hesitation aside, Cas shifts the bag across his shoulder and follows toward the house. "It's really not that bad— it's just fresh," he tries to insist, but he doesn't seem to be fighting it too bad, considering he doesn't need to get dragged. And if she knew much about him, sometimes he needs to be pushed a little.

But only when he's being extra stubborn about something. Not so at this moment.

"I might have to lend you hand soon to pay you back for this one." Not that it seems like he dislikes the idea.

Mairi can be good at pushing, from time to time. There's a gentle smile when she opens the door and heads inside, rooting around in a box in the corner until she finds the little box where she keeps her 'emergency supplies'. Taking out clean bandages, she gestures towards a seat at the table for Cas to settle on as she pulls out one for herself and takes a seat.

"You can repay me if you like, but know that it's not necessary. It's nothing," Mairi insists. "You can consider it a gift." She's stubborn enough, it seems. "And even if it's not bad, the tiniest of cuts can be quite painful. Especially when you work with your hands."

"It does hurt— made me glad my coat's leather," Cas says, looking down at the sleeves of said coat for a moment. There's new flaws in the leather from those fingernails, in fact. "A gift…" he repeats as he shrugs off the bag and sets it down, then the coat follows, carefully folded beside it. The sleeves of his shirt, dyed with red and gold dyes in a teardrop paisley design is folded up so that it no longer hangs over the scratches. On both hands.

"I bought you a present," he says after a moment. "To pay you back for helping me get my job— but I… don't have it anymore. Kind of a long story. Scratches are involved," he shows his hands off, before he reaches for his bag and pulls something else out.

"I decided to give you this instead." What he pulls out is a pale yellow scarf, slightly aged, but a soft textile fabric. "Won't take no for an answer, either. It's yours."

The redheaded farmer likely thinks that someone mugged Cas for the present, but Mairi says nothing, setting the bandages on the table in favor of reaching over and taking the scarf. "You didn't have to get me a present," she says, softly, clearly touched by the gift. "Besides, I hardly helped. Just pointed you in the right direction…"

If it's supposed to be a protest, she's doing a very poor job of it, though not really seeming to mind. Mairi clears her throat softly. "But you won't take no for an answer, so I happily accept. It's beautiful and I will certainly make good use of it." She rubs the fabric between her fingers for a moment before she sets the scarf on the table and reaches for the bandages instead.

The smile on his face is softer than it sometimes is, perhaps due to relief of some kind, or a burden lifted from his shoulders. "I'm glad you like it." And if asked, Cas might well say he was mugged. By a screaming woman who threw knickers at his face. Maybe he'd say that.

It's close to the truth.

As she reaches for the bandages, he moves to the chair he'd sat in a month ago and holds up his hands, putting on an expression of some concentration. To keep from grimacing when she starts to clean and bandage him, probably.

"I do like it," Mairi agrees before she scoots her chair closer to his, taking one of his hands gently. While her hands might not be soft, she's being mindful of the scratches as she winds the gauze gently around one hand first. She takes care to make sure his hands are as mobile as possible and that the bandage is not too thick. When she finishes the work on one, she leans back to look at him.

"How'd that feel? Can you move it around alright? I can adjust it if you need me to," she stares, long and hard at his hand, as if it were some kind of puzzle she was trying to solve and she was unsure of the solution.

"Ow," Cas lets slip at least once while she winds, even if she's being gentle. Pain is not something he's ever been a fan of and he avoids it whenever possible. And expresses himself when he feels it. "It's fine. A lot better than it was," he assures though, as he bends his fingers and twists his hand to make sure he still has movement. "Still moves."

A definite bonus.

There's a partial smile on his face again, as his head tilts to the side and looks at her. Looking at him. In a puzzling way. "Something wrong?"

"What?" Mairi asks, distractedly. "Oh, no, I was just thinking. I promise it was nothing more than that." She assures him before taking his other hand and beginning to bandage. "You're doing fine with this. I'm sure these little cuts will heal quickly and this will make sure you're fine until then…"

She neatly finishes the bandaging, getting up to her feet after a moment. "You've walked all the way here and given me a fine present, the least I could do is offer you some food. Proper hospitality. I was just going to put some stew on if you don't mind waiting."

"Me, say no to food? Never," Cas says with a grin as he tests his other hand to make sure it moves well enough. There's still a tilt to his head, though, as he watches her move away. "I wasn't expecting it— but I certainly hoped for it. I have some salted meat in my bag that I was going to eat on my walk to the castle in case…"

She didn't offer him food? Or if she wasn't there, too. She may have gone somewhere else for the day…

"Certainly not gonna say no to food, though. My feet wanted a break anyway."

Mairi being off of her farm is a possibility, but it's rarer than her being present. There's more of a grin that appears at his mention of food. "You're welcome to come by and share a meal anytime," she says, moving to set the stew on to heat. She peeks into the pot as she puts a ladle into it, stirring it around while she waits anxiously for it to be warm enough.

"It would be a shame if you left right away, considering you came all the way out here… so rest your feet and your stomach. Wouldn't be right if I sent you on your way tired and hungry."

While she stirs, Cas gets to his feet, plopping boots down onto the floor, which is when he realizes he forgot to take them off. This time he wasn't mucking out a stable before entering, though, and the dirt from the road was mostly dust. Still he grimaces at himself. Oh well.

Walking across to get closer to the stew, perhaps to catch a look around her at what it is, he ends up standing rather close to her to do it. "Already smells delicious," he states, as he smiles at her.

Then he bursts in with sudden statement, "You're not old."

"I—what?" Mairi is a little startled by the outburst. She looks up from her ladle and stares at him for a moment before she smiles. "No, I suppose you're right. I'm not old." She turns back to the stew, a thick-looking mixture heavy on the potatoes but some chunks of meat thrown in.

Her voice is softer when she continues. "I feel old, though. Seeing a horse grow into a mare, a chick into a chicken… I see them live their lives and sometimes I get see it all to the end. Yet somehow I'm still here. Seasons change, plants grow and then wither and die… it's hard not to feel old. Especially when you're by yourself."

There's a thoughtful twist to his mouth, shifting a lot of it to one side as Cas watches her when she responds. "I can understand that— Being alone, feeling old when you're alone. I always feel… different when I'm alone. But I always act younger than I am, too. It's easier— people don't expect as much from me. And I rather like it that way." From his childish smile, it isn't all an act.

"But I remember you saying I made you feel old. I don't think you're that much older than me." Even if he looks younger than he did before, with only a light sprinkling of new grown stubble on his cheeks.

There's a pause as he seems to recall that he's standing fairly close by, and he starts to take a step back, to return her personal space.

"You make me feel old because you've got so much youth and energy. I feel like I use up all mine out there so when I'm somewhere like in here, I'm so much older. Tired, maybe," Mairi tries to explain. The ladle is abandoned for the moment, staying in the pot as she turns to face him again.

"I like that you act young. It's nice to see. Kind of refreshing. It catches on. But," she pauses for emphasis, looking at him plainly. "It's nice to have someone expect more of you. It's nice to have to push past what's easy. It's how we grow."

The smile lingers for a few moments, even as it fades slightly. Only when she's finished on how people grow does the dimple in his cheek disappear. Cas doesn't need to smile much for it to come out. Even a frown does it. "You should keep your farmhands longer. This is too much land for one person to take care of, in the autumn. I know, cause I grew up on a farm. If I hadn't got a job I could have come back and helped you a while…"

But he did get a job, and he likes his job so far.

His eyes shift down toward the floor, a slight fidgeting in the way he stands, shifting his weight from one foot to the next. "There was one person I wanted to be better for."

Mairi sighs gently. "It's a challenge to do it myself, I'm sure. Maybe I should have kept one or two around, but I should be alright. Once there's more of a frost and my work is just the animals, I'll have plenty of time to myself." She stirs the stew for a moment before carefully leaning in closer to determine how quickly it's heating up. Satisfied that it is getting warm, albeit slowly, she lets the ladle go and moves to face him fully.

"Something bad happened, didn't it?" There's a sad smile from Mairi. "It doesn't mean that you give up. Maybe they may not be able to see you become more, but I like to think that if you do something that would have made them proud, that's just as important."

"Not as bad as what happened to you," Cas says quietly, a tug of a smile on the corner of his lips. A sad one. But he's trying to ignore the fact that his eyelids are getting red— and a hint of moisture is there. Before it gets much worse, he turns away, bandaged hands coming up to rub fingers at his eyes and run them through his hair.

"I plan to have my own horse one day," he says, turning back with a half smile. Perhaps a tangent, perhaps not so much of one. With the added distance it's not as easy to see the redness around his eyes. But it's still there. "I'm gonna put away a part of what I earn every time and put it toward a horse, one I raise from a foal, if the Boss allows that."

"That's noble," Mairi says, turning back to the stew. She stirs it idly. "It's good to work hard and get what you want. I'm sure your horse will be beautiful. Your boss would be foolish to bar you from that dream." She begins to ladle up the stew into two bowls, placing them on the table before she moves to fetch a loaf of bread, as well as proper utensils.

"Tell me what your horse would be like. Tell me what it'd be like if you could pick from anything in the world."

"I may not get to pick that— though I know what I'd raise her to be like," Cas says, letting his mood settle as he moves back toward the table, sitting down at the table for the inevitable cooking that he's going to enjoy. Much better than his salted meat strips. Those can be a snack in the middle of work tomorrow.

"May not even get to pick the gender— but I'd like a mare, if I can have one. She'd be gentle, respond to my voice and whistles. If I could pick a color— black, with white fetlocks— a white blaze on the face. Though I doubt I'd be able to get something that specific. The personality is what would matter most— and hopefully healthy— strong."

Both bread and stew are pushed in Cas' direction before Mairi takes a seat with her own bowl, letting out a weary sigh. As strong as she is, the work is tiring and it's one of the rare moments anyone gets to see her as such. "She does sound wonderful," she murmurs as she reaches for her spoon.

"I think you'll do just fine with her, regardless of what she looks like. I think with the way you treat animals, it'd be hard for her not to turn out like you want."

The weary sigh earns a long look. Even if the subject of horses happens to be his favorite subject ever, he's not blind enough not to recognize a woman that needs a break. And help. "Can I stay the night?" he suddenly asks. It's so abrupt he seems to realize a second later that it might sound bad and quickly stumbles over his words to fix what could sound bad.

"I mean— to help you load your cart in the morning. And it's a long walk and— It's dark and everything. I can sleep on the floor. It's way better than the places I sometimes sleep. I mean sometimes I sleep in trees. Less likely to get mauled by bears up there you know."

"Well, you won't be mauled by bears in my house," Mairi says, assuringly. "But I think that's more than fair… and, to be honest, I could use the help. I'm glad you offered. It makes it easier not to have to ask for help." Dipping her spoon into the bowl, she looks back over to Cas. "Thank you. Again."

One spoonful of stew gets downed before Cas smiles at her, as if he hadn't just been crying not too long ago. Not really. Only just about to. More or less. Less he would say. "No trouble— though if you could drop me off at the castle that would be great too. I even brought a change of clothes!"