Closed Peas in a Murky Pod
#1
Grateful to be back, Sean trembled, hugging his thin frame that was soaked to the bone and chilled to his very core. His teeth chattered as he had gotten Lily safely back and was now trying to walk quietly though the large mansion, the muddy boots left at the door to be cleaned in the morning. He tried to keep the dried grasses and clumps of moor that clung to his clothing and skin from crumbling off of him as he made his way. He paused as he heard something and saw a light. 

He was tired and wanted to rub at his eyes. He'd already made that mistake once and felt the sting from grinding in the sand and who knows what into his eyes. His hair felt stiff and slick against his scalp and neck as he craned his head to see who it was. Upon seeing the visage of his fellow footman, Felix, he turned red, glad that he couldn't see it. 


"Ah.. g-good evening. What are you doing up so late? I was just about to have.. a .. bath." he said softly, the humiliation of being seen in such a state making some of the chill from the moment leave, but it was only briefly. He could only image how ridiculous he looked, and prayed that the man before him that he hadn't had the chance to really speak to wasn't one to spread rumors or joke at his expense.
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#2
Often, Felix felt as though nature had made him a nocturnal creature by birth. If nothing else, he had grown accustomed to spending more time awake in the evenings and through to the early morning, when the cities' came alive with the shows, and the clubs in which he had so pleasantly occupied himself. And while it was fun to go down to the local pub, he still had a job which required him to rouse early in the morning. And was reconciled to that, mentally. It was only that physically Felix was having trouble adjusting to actually sleeping at night. Even with nothing to do.

After spending over an hour trying to sleep, and an hour reading Byron, Felix had decided to go to the kitchen to make himself a nightcap. Preferably alcoholic but that would require more effort. And then . . .

for one horrifying moment, in his exhausted state, Felix believed he was witnessing some ghastly creature from the bog. Possibly the mummy that his father had found. Then he knew it wasn't, but a man covered in muck. Only when he spoke did Felix realize it was Sean, and sigh heavily, relaxing.

"I couldn't sleep, so I thought perhaps a nightcap would help matters." Brows furrowing slightly as Felix wondered how the other Footman had come to find himself in such a state. "Is everything all right, Sean?"
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#3
Sean looked away embarrassed and nodded. "Ah, I went for a stroll in the moor at night. It's fairly embarrassing. Other than a slight sprain I think in my ankle I am just dirty and very cold and wet."

He tried to smile though it was next to impossible to see. He nodded to him as he moved slowly towards the steps. "I hope it does the job  It can be quite a chore to sleep when the body simply won t allow it."

He was about to go up the steps when a thought occurred to him. He shuffled to get back to Felix's view.  His eyes were down as he did nit want to ask but it didnt hurt to , he hoped .

"I know you wish to sleep and it isn't polite or professional to ask but... I am filthy. Could you perhaps draw my bath for me? I will only make everything more filthy by touching it. I swear I will make it up to you by some favor in the future. Take over your tasks for a day on my time off or something. I know I am at a strong disadvantage and you are not required to.."

He looked up softly and resisted the judge to timidly rub his arm and make a bigger mess.
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#4
Though they were not close, the two Footmen, save to pass a few idle comments in quiet moments between more pressing tasks, Felix knew enough to guess at what might have driven the nightly exploration of the Moors. And while Felix was no stranger to night-time walks himself, nor was he against the idea of wandering restless spirits in the artistic or romantic sense. . . neither seemed reason enough to hazard the moors without the sun overhead, or at least a companion to pull one out of the bog.

"Thank you, you're very kind," Felix replied, thinking it best to keep the conversation on his insomnia and not question the ghost-hunting further. About to continue to the kitchen, and then Sean was back again. It was really quite difficult to imagine what circumstances could have resulted in his being so coated in muck.

At the request, Felix waved away any question of impoliteness. "No, please. I'm happy to. Don't be silly, it's hardly worth giving up your free time for. . . though perhaps, once you're done, you could share a cup of tea with me? Though I imagine you're quite ready for bed. . ." Felix did not mean to, but even so, he may have pouted a bit at the other man.
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#5
"Me? No.. " Sean didn't go on though, but he was cheered slightly by the kind word. His head cocked to the side as he listened to Felix but was already starting to turn towards the bath. Thoughts about being clean and scrubbed was starting to float in his head but he didn't ignore the other man. A smile came to his features though it was hard to see through the grime.

"Do not say another word on it. I would love to have a cup of tea with you, it would be the least I could do, and I would enjoy it. Nothing wrong with sharing a drink late at night." He left it open as he knew many would prefer something a bit stronger, but tea was calming and he wasn't much for alcohol, though he had enjoyed it with others socially.

Sean carefully started down the hall and waved off his fellow footman. "I normally would be tired, but I'm used to being up at night. And I've had a bit of a night, so I think I'm still a bit.. on edge. Thank you for the offer , I don't get invited to things like that much. "He admitted quietly but let him walk ahead to open the door when they got there. He tried to be friendly and social most of the time, but he didn't go out of his way and he put his job first. From an outside point of view, he could only imagine how he must have looked. His fingers dug into their palms as he was still chilled to the core. "As soon as I'm clean and warmed up, I look forward to this."
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#6
As the other man started moving in the direction of the small bath room shared by the servants, Felix felt a small twinge of guilt in not immediately doing so himself. It had been terribly thoughtless of him to leave Sean standing there in his cold and filthy clothing. Walking along beside him, he couldn't help feeling sympathy for him. And there was another twinge of guilt, at neglecting Sean.

It was true, there was little to do in Madsmoor beyond wandering the Moors or drinking at the Madman's Bluff, the second of which Felix could not imagine Sean enjoying. Though he scarcely knew what he'd enjoy, and the theatre might change things.

"Oh," Felix said, his brows knitting together in a slight frown. "I'm sorry to hear that." Going in to the room to check if it was properly equipped with soap and towels. "It'll take a few moments for me to warm up your water, and I'll get the tea started as well."

Felix offered Sean a hesitant smile. "I could loan you a nightshirt, if you'd rather I didn't go into your room?"
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#7
Sean looked over his shoulder at him and carefully waved him down, "It is not a worry. I don't expect friends to flock to me, I keep to myself sometimes and take my job a bit seriously. I should be more social, I just haven't had the time. No better place to start than today, eh?" He tried to send him a small welcoming smile but it was obscured heavily by the mud.

"I understand, and that sounds wonderful. I think I'll feel better just being shed of this heavy filthy mess. I am easy with any choice you make. I do not mind you going into my room, I have nothing of interest for anyone, but if you are uncomfortable I could wear your shirt. Until you decide, would you like me to go ahead to the bath to wait for you to return with the water warmed? I must repeat how gracious I am for all you are doing. It is a lot to ask of someone you barely know, even at the best of times. Much less at such a wicked hour." He chuckled in a merry mood despite the way his body trembled.
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#8
As coated in mud as Sean was, Felix failed to notice the smile, but his shivering was apparent. "I'm terribly sorry, I'm sure you are quite ready to be out of all of this." Gesturing at the mud, trying to push his thoughts away from the suggestion of Sean out of everything which was suddenly intruding on his mind, so weakened with insomnia as it was. "Right so I'll . . . be right back with that as soon as possible."

While getting the water heated, Felix got the water started boiling for the tea, glad at least that he would have someone to share it with. As soon as he felt the bath would be warm enough, he gathered up a nightshirt from his room, not feeling sure which room, exactly, was Sean's.

"It's one of mine, I hope it fits alright," he said, returning to the washroom and setting the shirt on a chair. "And I've got the tea started, so whenever you're ready, I'll be in the kitchen." Felix offered Sean a small smile. "Is there anything else you need before I leave you to your bath?"
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#9
Sean gave his companion a slight nod as he left. When he returned with the night shift, he had already stripped down to his pants. He felt warmer with nothing on than the cold and wet clothing. He wiped his face with the undershirt he'd worn, at least clearing some of his expression before turning to him and smiled brightly.

"Thank you. That is her kind of you, I am sure it will be perfectly fine. "He wasted no time before shaking his head and he turned on the water, looking rather pleased as it warmed against his chilled fingers. He looked over his shoulder at him and walked towards him, though it was merely to drop the filthy clothing into a hamper. "You've done far too much already. I will be alright. I will see you down stairs soon. I am looking forward to that tea and the good company."

He flashed his small timid smile once more then turned towards his bath as he stripped off his last bit of clothing, feeling certain the other man would have been leaving by then. He brushed off what dried bits of mud that he noticed onto the floor to be swept later as he waited for the tub to fill.
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#10
Sean's trust is not misplaced. Felix might be a wanton and coquette by his own admission, but he was not a peeping tom, nor force his predilections where they weren't wanted. As Sean began to undress, Felix returned to the kitchen and the kettle, locating the tin of tea and setting the table. What is tedious work when he must do it as a part of his duties, feels far more pleasant and homey when doing so for a friend.

Or a potential friend, at least. Felix does spend a few moments considering whether he wanted to pour a dash or two of whisky into his tea, but eventually decided to wait 'til Sean had returned, and offer him the same.

Everything prepared, Felix waited, idly wondering if Sean has ever found what he has been searching for. A true spirit, returned from the grave.
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#11
Sean felt like he had died and gone to heaven when he was able to warm his bones in the steamy bath water. Normally he was reposed to a quick luke warm bath. Needing to heat up and scrub away the thick muck required stronger stuff.

After soaking and washing until his skin was pink did he finally get out. He could have relaxed until the water cooled but he knew Felix was waiting for him. As he headed downstairs he made quick note of how soft and comfortable the clothing was.

"Sorry I took so long." He spoke softly when he stepped in and eyed the other man. He nodded to him as he sat and smiled with pure contentment. "I feel like a new man, I really do owe you."

He sat across from him, eager to reach for his cup. "And this is the perfect addition to the night. A good tea and good company."
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