[AW] [M] So it's you then

WARNING: This thread contains material exceeding the general board rating of PG-13. It may contain very strong language, drug usage, graphic violence, or graphic sexual content. Reader discretion is advised.

Specifically, this thread is marked mature because of: drug use.

Open for 1, preferable for Troupers (but not limited to them)
He should never have been able to find her. The messenger should not have been able to connect so many disjointed dots and piece together exactly where to find Adrianna Julia.

And yet, he had. He had come to the Estrella, paid the fee, and failed to stand out as anyone other than a simple new patron. He had walked through the doors, past Gaston, and strode into the Cantina like everyone else. Nothing stood out about him and he just milled about, participating with a slight disinterest.

Adrianna had a client early in the evening and she had returned from her tidying up. Her hair was done up back to usual and there was no suggestion of her even doing anything tawdry at all. Vivian had disappeared into their shared working space with a pair of clients on both arms, the faint giggling from behind closed doors suggesting three women having a very good time.

At the bar, the Madam poured herself something light and refreshing to quench her thirst. The man at the bar was unassuming but his intense stare in her direction made the hair on the back of her neck stand up. She put on her best smile to try to soften the unease in her spine.

"Can I help you, <my dear>?" she asked, Italian burbling out as she leaned forward toward the man. Her eyes were half-shut and seductive as she wrapped a long strand of hair around a finger.

<I'm looking for someone.> The man had clear, fluent Italian and his lilt was reminiscent of the accents of Rome. Her spine froze tight as he reached into the satchel at his side. His eyes left her only to confirm he was grabbing for the correct item, but it was too brief a respite from his intensity. <Adrianna Julia. I have a letter for you.> The man slid a cream colored folded up letter and a small leather package.

<Who are you?> she asked sharply as her hand settled over the bundle and papers. Her voice would have quivered if she had not been so well trained to be careful. <Who is this from?> Her eyes were narrowed at him.

The man's lips tightened for a moment. <The Julii sent me. Why, I don't care. They paid, I found you, that's it.> He stood, pushing his empty tankard toward her as well. Adrianna didn't move as he tipped his head before turning to leave. Her fist tightened over the delivered goods, the paper crinkling between her digits.

She took the tankard and slid it at the bin of dirty drinkware. She slowly slipped the paper and package into her dress's pocket, unable to put it out of her mind.

Adrianna rushed in as leisurely a way as possible -- which honestly looked more like the brisk walk of someone about to vomit -- and rushed out the door past Gaston.

By the quiet firelight, she pulled out the letter and slowly opened it, smoothing away the crinkles on her knee.
As much as he had enjoyed the trip north, Sawyer had to admit he was glad to be home. It was peculiar to think of this little establishment as such, but the old dog supposed it was as good a place as any. Better, even: he had food and drink a plenty, a place to grow his plants, and the hot springs were an excellent added bonus. The boys and Holli had enjoyed themselves in any case, and while Sawyer couldn't shake the idea that he had cost them a pretty win with the cooking competition, he was all right with this. Cook was just a moniker, after all. If he had wanted to spend his life making food for others beyond the close circle of friends he had now, he would have settled in one of the frontier towns he passed coming this far north.

They settled back into the routine of their day to day lives. He could tell from the cool nights that autumn was coming soon, and was already thinking ahead to what he could do to preserve the smallest of his plant collection. Those outside would fend for themselves. One last harvest before winter, and then he'd need to ration the (admittedly substantial) amount of flower through the cold spell. Travelers would be fewer once the roads were bad.

He had stepped out for a quick break and now made his way back to the warm glow of the firelight and gentle hum of voices and music from within the tavern. Sawyer might have gone back inside without pause, but he spied Adrianna reading something out by the little fire they kept going (both as a beacon and for those who needed it to light their smokes or sear off a good piece of meat). Though he considered leaving her alone, something about her face or posture made him linger.

Casually, as if he had been meaning to be there all along, Sawyer made his way to the other side of the fire and sat with deliberate slowness in a makeshift chair crafted from found logs.

“Feels like its coolin' down,” the old man said as a way of greeting.

The older you get, the better you realize you were.
The words blurred on the page as the firelight flickered over it. The paper was sturdy and likely expensive. That her family had hired a courier specifically to find her shocked her but the words were far more shocking than she had ever expected them to be.

So long she had done her damnedest to put her family out of her mind. Nearly six years old and she could finally say that she was free of her family's shackles. Then, one random night in the summer they found her again. The feeling of being smothered pressed over her face and air seemed thicker than possible all of a sudden; she could smell the orange water perfume her mother had used when she was young.

She could smell the iron of chains.

Adrianna saw movement out of the periphery. She slowly looked up and watched Sawyer move to join her at their little fire.

"Only outside. It is still, ah, hot inside," she said with a jerk of her chin toward the Estrella. A door opened nearby and laughter rumbled out. The moment it closed, the sound of amusement grew muffled and distant.

Absently, she folded the paper in half.

"Have you ever wanted to go home to the places of your youth?" she asked suddenly, looking through the smoke at the aging man.

Her question was peculiar and pensive.

In turn, Sawyer's face turned solemn, and perhaps a little sad. He reached into the pocket of his old and repeatedly-repaired vest. While he was more inclined to roam around with nothing on, the old dog thought it helped make him look more professional. More importantly, it was a good place to keep important items close at hand.

The long wooden pipe needed a proper cleaning, but the tip of his nail worked well enough. This done, Sawyer produced a much smaller leather bundle, which he began carefully unwrapping. The process of packing the pipe was a good way to keep his hands busy and his mind half-focused elsewhere.

“I've thought about it,” he admitted. “But where I was born isn't my home. Hasn't been for a long time. Think by now I spent more time away from there than I did as a kid. Probably younger than the boys were when they found me,” Sawyer went on. Equating an exact time was difficult. Had it been one summer or two before he left Erie entirely?

“You know, I grew up near a lake like this,” he nodded to the west, where the dark expanse of Loch Fundy sprawled beyond their sight. In the summer the grass grew too tall for them to see it, though on very clear winter days one could stand on a high rise and just make out the water for what it was. “Maybe even bigger. I spent a lot of time moving around, and I guess I never really thought about going back.”

He leaned forward and picked up a skinny stick near the fire. The narrow tip of this was stuck into the flame, then removed when it was hot enough to light the contents of his pipe. Sweet-sour, skunky smelling smoke soon joined the woodsmoke smell in the air. Saywer took a few puffs to get his pipe started, and then reclined back into his seat.

“Did you like where you grew up?” The old man asked his companion.

The older you get, the better you realize you were.
Sawyer's age meant that a lot of the things he did were slow and deliberate, but Adrianna wondered if that was just how he was. She didn't push or press him to hurry up answering her; she waited patiently, staring at the fire or glancing down at her lap and the paper held in her hands. The hand that wrote the words was not familiar to her, but she had been gone so long that she doubted any of the "familiar" things were still actually familiar.

His story was not extraordinary. A lot of people had come and gone with similar ones; plenty of folk left their birthplaces and never returned. Adrianna had abandoned hers entirely and never returned.

Her nose wrinkled a little at the pungent odor of the burning material in Sawyer's pipe. It wasn't something she partook of very often, certainly not on the job. The smell was not something she wanted lingering on her person whenever she tried to win a client into her bed. Some might not have cared but it did not help  her overall brand of a sophisticated madame.

Adrianna gave a small smile. "I did, at the time. It has been longer than I want to admit since I was last there." She paused, looking at the paper as though it would give her some amount of guidance.

"This note is from my brother. My father has passed and I am commanded to return." She gave a sharp, dry laugh. "Commanded. Like a servant. Torna a casa e fai il tuo dovere verso la tua famiglia," she read off, dark amusement slowly rising as she truly began to process what her family had decided to demand of her at last. "Five years gone and only now they want me home. Because I was an embarrassment and I was not needed. But now? Now, I am wanted? Comical." She shook her head.

They didn't even have any polite pleasantries in the letter, like "hope you are well" or "you have been missed". No, they just wanted her back to do her duty to her family name, as though they had been indulging her departure as the juvenile whims of a petulant teenager.

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