The Cock & Bull Tavern

It was a lovely evening, with just a touch of coolness in the air from the earlier rains. Rebecca tugged her hat forward a touch and removed the cigar, blowing a thin stream of smoke from between her teeth. "Ya don' look like a Finn," she observed suddenly out of the blue.

Finn seemed at home in the saddle, and held the reins loosely. Blake simply stayed beside Demon, keeping pace and following along. He continued to smoke his cigar with apparent appreciation, taking his time with every drag and puff, and sometimes blowing a series of smoke rings so they hung briefly in a concentric pattern before the next breeze broke them apart into nothing. Her observation made him turn to regard her for a moment.

He shrugged slightly, "It is the name Benedict gave me. It comes from Finnleagh, but only one person ever calls me that anymore. It's Avalonian, old speech I believe. Very similar to Gaelic I'm told by Florimel." Finn met her eyes, "I think you look just like a Rebecca."

She smirked. "Ya think? Means 'to bind or tie', ya know." She ignored the amused snort from her horse.

"And do you?" Finn replies his eyebrows rising, his lips smiling slightly.

"When the occasion calls," she replies with an every widening grin and sparkling eyes. She ignored another amused snort from her horse and added; "I'm right handy with a lasso."

"I'm sure that you are." Finn nods, exhaling a bit of smoke over Blake's head, making the hybrid sniff slightly. "I suppose the lasso is for jobs that the whip just isn't enough for?"

"Well," she drawled, pushing her hat back with her finger. "Sometimes, I reckon it's more about the chase."

"And once you've decided something is worth chasing. Does it often get away?" Finn asked casually.

Rebecca clenched her stubby cigar between her teeth and grinned around it. "Nope."

Finn chuckled warmly, and looked ahead on the road. "I'll be sure to keep that in mind." He smoked the cigar, another long ash beginning to form at the end of it. "After dinner, I can take you down the Bloody Bill's if you like. It's a bit of local color that I'm thinking your Father, and certainly Florimel, might not have mentioned to you." Finn smiled slightly, "It's a rough and tumble place. Pampered nobles are conspicuously absent."

"Ha!" she laughed as they made their way through the gates. Rebecca tipped her hat at one of the guards. Say what you will about her fashion sense, but everyone knew instantly who she was by it. "Gerard's done told me 'bout that place. Said the fish was worth it, but ta bring my own booze."

"The Piss, Bayle's Piss, its a good beer, but you have to ask for it by name or you get the swill they serve everyone else. Also, the Piss is bottled, the swill is from a barrel, that may or may not have -" Finn paused to puff on his cigar, and tossed the guard a salute. "-optional rodent enhancement." He eyed her for a moment, and leaned towards her slightly, his hand upon the horn of his saddle. "The brawls are epic. It's a good place to blow off steam."

Rebecca laughed; a rich, husky, and honest sound. "We'll haveta see how we're feelin' after dinner, ya?" Her eyes raked over him for the first time — that he was aware of — and she grinned around her cigar before turning her attention back to the street as Demon wound his way towards the tavern.

"Indeed." Finn smiled and straightened in his saddle. He continued to smoke the cigar, very much aware of Rebecca's gaze. His eyes seemed darker now in the flickering lamplight of the city streets. "It's hard to believe this place is as old as Oji, older really. It is like the City time forgot." He lifted his chin slightly, recognizing the street. They were not far now. "Did you home have much in the way of technology?"

"More'n here," she replied with a brief scowl. "Had gun powder, obviously. Gas lights, hot runnin' water, ice boxes. Reckon I'll get used ta it. Ev'ntually."


Rebecca grinned as the tavern sign came into view. It always made her laugh to see it. "I can say one thang for this place; it's right colorful."

"The Castle has some amenities, like the running water, hot and cold. The baths on the lower level. I do miss better lighting to read by at times." Finn nodded, "We have showers in Avalon. The value of a hot shower cannot be overstated." He looked up at the sign and laughed softly, "That much is certain. Even the sky is sometimes a color I can't put a name to." He rode up to the tavern and dismounted with her, warning the lad that offered to keep an eye on their steeds a word of warning about Blake, and a gold coin. "Firearms are — interesting. I'm not sure I'd want it to replace a sword in a duel, but they do have their uses."

Rebecca unhooked her whip from the saddle and attached to her belt. "They'd make quick work of those accursed thangs from the Road," she pointed out before turning to the boy and ruffling his hair.

Finn can do nothing but nod at her observation, "That they would, and likely more of our lads would be getting home under their own power because of it."

"How ya doin' thar, Bobby?"

"Fine, Miss Rebecca," he replied shyly, ducking his head to hide his blush.

"Good ta hear. Get Maggie to give this fella his usual, will ya? An' clean out my saddle bags like ya do."

"Yes, ma'am," he agreed cheerfully before leading off the two horses. Demon was almost leading the boy by the time they got to the stables.

Rebecca turned back to Finn, adjusted her hat, and grinned as she sauntered inside.

The inside of the tavern's ground floor was divided into two public areas; one for eating, and one in the back for the rowdy drinking. Later in the evening, it would all be for rowdy drinking, but for now, Rebecca headed for a table in the corner of the dining area.

Finn could not help but smile in return. His cigar smoked down, he paused at a pot to put it out and dispose of it. He sighed to see it end, but that was the way of all good things. He followed Rebecca in, his dark eyes flicking about the room; from people, to doors, the windows, to the bottles behind the bar. He shrugged out of the simple strap of his scabbard, and when they took a seat, he sat to Rebecca's left, and leaned the sword against the table. He could detect the scent of liquor, but more strongly, the pleasant aroma of good cooking. He put a hand on his belly as it rumbled.

"I hope it tastes as good as it smells. I've been too long on rations, I think." Finn smiled slightly, his eyes on Rebecca.


"Tastes better," she assured him. It was warm in the room; a combination of fireplaces and body heat. Rebecca unbuttoned her denim shirt and shrugged out it, revealing the snug sleeveless black t-shirt underneath. Turning to hang it over the back of her chair, she jerked her head when one the barmaids looked in their direction.

Finn's eyebrows rose slightly, as he quietly observed Rebecca getting more comfortable. It was warm in the room, and he was glad to be out of leather and armor. "Now I'm twice as hungry."

The older dishwater blonde smiled as she approached the table. After giving Finn an appreciative look, she gave Rebecca an amused one.

"The usual?"

"Fer two, Maggie," Rebecca grinned, pushing her hat back. She leaned back in her chair, stretching her legs out. Her boots stuck out the other side of the table.


"Hadn'a made up my mind yet."

Maggie gave Finn another look and then snorted at Rebecca. "Ya-huh."

Rebecca chuckled and turned to Finn. "How ya wantin' yer steak?"

Finn smiled, slightly, but in a friendly manner as Maggie approached. He noticed the look she gave him, and her expression when she turned to Rebecca, and blinked silently through their exchange. His eyebrows rose when the woman regarded him again, and appeared mildly puzzled by the exchange. He turned to the whip-bearing Cowgirl, "Hmm? Oh, medium rare. Err towards rare." Finn smiled slightly, "Otherwise, I place myself in your hands."

"I've a-never heard that before," Rebecca smirked and turned back to Maggie. "Ya heard the man."

"I'll just pencil you in for breakfast, shall I?" Maggie laughed and went off to go see to their dinner. Immediately there was a boy of about 16 scooting to their table bearing a bucket of half dozen ale bottles.

"Hello, Miss Rebecca," he smiled as he set his load on the table.

"Timothy," she nodded warmly. "Thought ya was working up at the military stables now?"

"Oh,I am!" he grinned. "Just during the day though. Thank you again, by the way."

She waved a hand. "T'weren't nuthin'. Jist do good by the horses, an' we're good, yeah?"

After a bellow of his name from the kitchen, Timothy left with an embarrassed smile. Rebecca handed a bottle to Finn and opened one of her own.

"You are well known here." Finn observed, "Is this your sanctuary from the pomposity and circumstance of the Castle's grand events?" He smiled, "Did you find this place on your own? I wonder if anyone else has discovered it. Certainly not Flora, but Gerard's certainly a possibility, even your Father." Finn accepted the bottle and opened it, he had a long drink of it and sighed contentedly. "This place must flood when the ships are in or soldiers are on leave."

"Reminds me a bit of The Silver Dollar back home," she answered while rubbing ridge of her nose. "Dad reckons when I'm not up at tha castle, I must be here. Usually right. He's tha one that tol' me 'bout it. Said he us'ta come here 'fore all the trouble started." She used her bottle to point towards the back room. "They still talk 'bout his stories."


"Aah, " Finn nodded, "Eric was ever a man of the people. It is, perhaps, his greatest strength in his current office." He leaned towards Rebecca, smiling, and added in a dramatically conspiratorial tone. "According to the census, there are far more of them than there are of us." He straightened and rolled his eyes slightly. Rebecca snorted. "That is something the would be invaders did not seem to understand. Even if they had made it to the summit of Kolvir, they would have lost public sentiment, and things would have been more difficult than they likely thought about." Finn frowned slightly, "T'was a bad day." He drank more from his bottle, and smiled again. "I don't suppose I could trouble you for another cigar?"

For his answer, Rebecca shifted and he felt her leg across his knees. "Couple in my boot," she grinned "Help yerself."

Finn's eyes rose to Rebecca's, and then he placed his bottle on the table to free his hands. Without looking away from Rebecca's face, he ran his hands along her long legs, his fingertips pressed against her jeans, and gliding down to the top of her boot. He slipped a hand into the side of her boot, and gently felt around with his fingers.

There were, there on the side facing outward, two cigar tubes like the one she had given him earlier, between the leather and the thick sock that cover her foot and nicely muscled calf.. Rebecca held his gaze during his search. Her body language was casual, relaxed; she had no visible reaction to him touching her at all, but there is a challenge there in her eyes.

One hand rested on her knee while the other found the two cigar tubes. He pulled one out, and then, with his hand sliding along her leg, he retrieved the other and placed it beside the first. He kneaded her taut calf for a moment longer, massaging the muscle for a bit, before he straightened up. His hand remained resting on her knee, almost
casually, as he reached for his ale bottle. He took a drink, and smiled. "It occurs to me that perhaps we should enjoy those after our steaks?" Finn seemed comfortable enough with her leg where it was, and made no move to set it down, push it off, or even move his hand from where it rested. "Or shall I cut one for you now?"

"Nah," she replied with a casual wave. "Got another in my other boot. Savin' mine fer later. They keep a smooth whiskey b'hind the bar fer me, an' I like a stogy with it now an' again after dinner." She tilted her bottle towards him. "But ya go right on ahead."

Finn smiled and produced that small knife again. His hand moved from her knee as he reached out for a cigar, let it slide out of the tube, and slipped the empty case into his breast pocket so he would remember the brand. He cut the end of the cigar, and pulled the squat candle at the center of the table towards him to light it. He puffed happily away for a moment, closing his eyes as he took the first few, and then he turned his gaze on Rebecca, smiling as he did so. "Whiskey is always good. Brandy would go well with these." He drank another pull from his bottle, "I think you'd like sake. It's sort of a very strong — beer — made from fermented rice. Some will call it rice wine, but its not wine, trust me. It it served in what amounts to little tea cups, because it has a kick."

She pulled back and made a face. "Rice? Yer jist haven' me on now." Rebecca took a long pull from her Castle Rock ale. There was a loud burst of laughter and good natured shouting from the backroom that made Rebecca smile faintly and looking that way.

Finn was laughing quietly at the face she made. He raised his right hand up, cigar between his fingers. "I promise, I am not making this up. Sake. Fermented rice. I will bring you a jug next time I'm back home." His eyes lifted towards the back room, smiling slightly.

She took another drink and looked back at Finn. "So. What's a fella like you do fer fun? When he ain't battlin' it out on his meat eatin' horse?"

He smiled when Rebecca turned back to him. "Anything. Anything that isn't battle. I'll try anything once. I see enough blood and mayhem that when I can unwind. I certainly do."

She smiled slowly. "Is that a fact? Anythin'?"

Finn nodded, returning the smile, "I've got the scars to prove it." He drank more ale, "Truth is, Rebecca, I know that I am good. Very good. But one thing that even OSensei has always said is this; there's always someone better. War is full of variables, I can't possibly control them all, so anything can happen." He shrugged elegantly. "So, if I'm not in battle, and what I'm doing is about living and not life and death, why not try - " Finn met her eyes,"-anything."

"That's right pr'found," she nodded and toasted him with her ale before taking another drink. Maggie reappeared with a basket of thick slices of warm bread in one hand and a pot of butter in the other. She visibly noted the toe of Rebecca's boot sticking up over the top of the table near Finn's elbow.

She crossed her arms and look at Rebecca. The cowgirl smirked at her.

"I ain't decided yet, woman. Don't go bein' pushy."

With a good-natured roll of her eyes, Maggie tsked at Eric's daughter and turned away as a large man with muscled arms set two heaping platters of food on the table in front of the pair. The steaks were at least an inch thick and nearly the size of Morgenstern's hooves. A heaping mound of home fries with onions and peppers was piled on one side of the platter, along with field peas coked with onions and bacon. Thick slices of fresh tomatos sat at one end of the platter. Knives and forks were laid across the platters' end, and a pile of napkins were pulled from an apron pocket and left for them.

"Oooh… ya gonna spoil me sumthin' fierce," Rebecca grinned up at the man. "Thanks, Mick.

"Somebody's gotta make sure ya get some real grub," the man grinned. He nodded at the two of them. "Let me know if ya need anying else. Enjoy your dinner," he added, and then he left them to it.

"Thank you." Finn said to the man earnestly, eying his platter. He had not gotten too far into his cigar, so he reached for the ashtray, and gently knocked the ember off, so he could relight it and finish it after the meal. He felt his belly grumble, and chuckled softly. "This all looks incredible." Finn smiled, and tucked a napkin into the front of his shirt, before he took up knife and fork and began to slice into the meat. He checked the center with appreciation. "Perfect. I like it a little pink in the middle." Finn nearly grinned. "And potatoes."

"Tol' ya," Rebecca grinned. She swung her foot off his lap and sat up in her chair before applying herself to her own platter. "An' they don' skimp either." Cutting up her steak, she looked over and grinned. "I sneak down after every one o' those State dinners Dad makes me show up fer, else I'd starve. Gotten to where they have my dinner waitin' when I walk in the door those nights."

"No they do not." Finn cut up the steak first, into neat chunks, with a chef's precision. He did not do this, it seemed, out of any obsessive compulsion, as the fact that his food touched did not seem to bother him. He did so so he could put the knife down, fill his hand with his ale bottle, and cap off forksful of potatoes and peas with a neatly sized chunk of perfectly cooked steak. Finn took a deep and contented breath after the first two well savored bites, and then dug in. "I'm convinced that those dinners are to encourage the talking heads not to linger. To get business done, and not loiter."

"Then they may as well serve BBQ, 'cause it ain't workin'," Rebecca answered between bites. She was no shy little bird about eating in front of a man as too many women were. No, she packed it away like she had earned the right to do it. "Little toadies seem ta think we might jist invit'em to stay if they hang 'round long enough."

Finn rolled his eyes, "I have been descended upon by the daughters of such toadies, each one seeking a husband. It was like I was dipped in honey and every one of them were anxious bees, eager to carry me home." He ate a bit of steak, "I thought I was going to have to stab one to scare the rest off."

She sets her empty bottle bottom up in the bucket and helps herself to another. Then she set it aside and flipped the fabric covering off the bread basket. A puff of fragrant steam assaulted their noses and Rebecca made a disconcerting purring sound as she selected one.

He paused in his eating, listening to the sound she made, and then continued to eat when she'd found her piece of bread. He finished his ale, retrieved another bottle as she had, and went back to eating. Finn did not add salt or paper, finding everything far too tasty to spoil with hapless seasoning. He groaned once or twice, at the back of his throat, as he enjoyed the meal. He ate in healthy mouthfuls, and seemed intent on clearing his plate, sopping up any remnants with a buttered roll.

"Don' be gittin' me start'd on the weddin' hounds," she snorted and gestured with her fork. Finn could see her getting angry as she spoke. "They're fer thinkin' that 'cause I don' talk like 'em that I'm stupid, and reckon I should be grat'ful fer their attentions. Bastards, the lot. I reckon I got to put up with some of it 'cause of Dad, but I ain't puttin' up with much, no sir."

She let out a breath, adjusted her hat and sniffed. Then she went back to eating.

" 'Weddin' hounds'." Finn echoed, and then chuckled. "I like your analogy better. They do sniff around for anyone remotely eligible. I can't imagine the pack of hounds you must attract." He noticed her getting angry and gently patted her thigh, "Twits all. I rather like
the way you talk." He smiled at her, and went back to eating for a bite or two. "Oh, I think you'll find that Eric takes a dim a view on idiocy as you and I do. I mean, what are they going to do? Go tell the King of Amber that his Daughter, and technically, Princess, hit them? Won't they look like a manly and effective bunch." Finn smirked, "Or better, 'Your Majesty, make her be interested in Marriage!' " He shook his head, "I think you'll be just fine." He ate several more bites, and regarded her for a moment, smiling, "You are Amber's first Cowgirl Princess."

"I"m havin' a tiara hat band made fer the next State affa'r," she smirked before taking another drink of ale. "Ta match my di'mond belt buckle."

"Your Highness, if you buy the buckle, I will happily buy the tiara hat band, and the designer gunbelt for the buckle." Finn grinned, and drank more ale, before continuing to stage an assault on his platter.

"I reckon it might be worth it jist ta see the express'n on Flo's face," she chuckled.

"More than worth it. Her face and others." Finn smiled.

Steaks were polished off with more light conversation. He learned slowly that she refused to talk about weighty matters over dinner. Politics had a time and a place and it wasn't when there was excellent grub to be eaten.

Someone was obviously keeping an eye on their table, because as soon as they had both pushed away their empty plates, Maggie swooped in and gathered up their empties while Mick replaced them with thick slabs of hot apple pie and a jug of cream. Rebecca made that purring sound again.

Finn raised his eyebrows at the sound Rebecca made, and tried to focus on eating the obscenely large slice of thick pie. He sighed and sat back for a moment, "Unicorn, this pie is just…" He shook his head and had another bite. "I've not eaten this well in a while." He smiled, and was on his way to finishing the pie as well. "I shall be quite spoiled after this."

"Thang is, I use ta to eat like this ever'day. 'Course, I worked a helluva lot harder too." Rebecca drizzled cream over her pie before she too began decimating it. "O' course," she said casually between bites. "Ya never know when ya might need the energy later…"

"All the time?" Finn asked, his tone saying that he would find that a very fine turn of events indeed. "I've been on rations or whatever game we can catch. After your fifth night of venison, or rabbit, you start to ache for something rich and hardy like this." He followed her example, and dribbled the cream on what was left of his pie. "Oh, this meal's going to keep me going for quite some time. I can promise that." He had a long pull of his ale, before finishing off his pie.

"Thar might be hope for ya yet," she grinned. Finished with dessert, she leaned back in her chair again and stretched out her legs after pulling another cigar tube from her other boot. Maggie appeared with a try bearing two glass of Rebecca's whiskey.

"Everything good?" the barmaid inquired. "Still thinking on it?"

Laughing, Rebecca Broke the seal and shook out the cigar. "I reckon you should put us down fer breakfast. Delivered."

"Everything was excellent." He offered before Maggie left.

Maggie just smirked, winked at Finn, and left them to it.

Finn looked between the two women, and then reached out for the cigar he'd only just started. He made sure it was even on the end, and relit it from the candle. Once he had an ember going strongly, from puffing on the cigar, he offered it to her, to save her the trouble of leaning into the candle. Then he sipped the whiskey, and then had a solid mouthful, and leaned back with a sigh. "I'm going to have to find a way to return the favor. My night has been full of pleasant surprises."

"Ain't over yet," she said matter-of-factly. If he retained any doubts at all that Eric's daughter didn't say what she meant, the next sentence blew that right out of the water. "Unless ya'd rather not have breakfast in bed with me in the mornin'."

Finn's glass slipped from his hand and landed on the tabletop with a slight clink of glass. He smiled slowly, and met Rebecca's eyes, "I did say I'd try anything. I'd be going back on my word if I left now." He leaned towards her slightly, "And I would be an enormous fool if I walked away from the most pleasant surprise of the evening."

"Damn straight," she smirked. She looked down at her cigar in her hand and clicked her teeth a moment. "I'll let ya digest that dinner first, I reckon." She jerked her head towards the stairs on the far side of the room. "I keep a room here." Rebecca smiled. "Fer when I'm avoidin' the castle — or whatever."

Finn smiled at her and blew a smoke ring towards the ceiling. and with another flutter of his cheeks, sent a faster moving, smaller, circle through the center of the first. "Exercise helps the digestion." He smirked and continued to smoke contentedly, and drink the very fine whiskey. "Your home away from home. I'm surprised you're not here every day. I'd be somewhere in town if I could manage it, but it didn't make sense to keep an apartment, when the Castle holds all my things for free and I'm out in the world more often than I am in Amber."

"Bein' the King's daughter kinda keeps me up in the big house," Rebecca points out. "Else I would be livin' down here or else find myself a nice plot and build a ranch." She looked over at him and gave him a languid smile. "Finish yer cigar first."

"Florimel must have certain expectations, I imagine. It's good of you to stick it out for your Father." Finn commented, eying the even burning ember of his cigar appreciatively, before having another slug of whiskey. "I'm not sure that I could, to be honest. The standard Court hanger-on simply does not think in the same way that I do." He smiled, "Or likely the way that you do." He chuckled softly at her words, and leaned back to do just what she had said; finish his cigar, and the whiskey with it. Finn raised an eyebrow at her as he smoked, and patted his lap.

"If tha's an invite to sit in yer lap, I may change my mind 'bout you," she warned him, though he could hear the humor in it. "I ain't no saloon girl."

Finn chuckled and shook his head, "Actually, it was an invitation to put you legs up." He smiled, "What's a saloon? They sound like interesting places." Finn smiled and smoked and drank.

Rebecca looked around the room they were in and sucked her teeth briefly. "Lot like this, I reckon. Only the women are dressed fancier, show more skin, an' do thangs for cash that Maggie'll smack ya fer suggestin'. Place needs a piano play'r. If yer good, maybe I'll take ya to the Silv'r Dollar one o' these days."

"Aah, " Finn nodded, "A bit like a Geisha House then, well, in concept if not atmosphere." He smiled, "It is a very fancy restaurant with — actresses that do the serving, they play a role throughout the meal. Only they're dressed fully in fancy robes and the like." Finn
chuckled, "If you're good, I'll show you how easy it is to get a gentleman out of his Japanese robes."

Her eyebrow inched up. "That don't sound nuthin' like a Saloon." She took a sip of her whiskey and sniffed. "And I don't reckon I need to be shown how ta get a man undressed. Imagine if'n we were in'a hurry, a knife'll work." Rebecca smirked as she drew on her cigar. "We in'a hurry?"

Finn chuckled, "I said the basic concept is similar. The Geisha are — companions after the meal or what have you as well." He smiled, "That's not quite how I meant it, but I'm sure you'll find a way." He appeared thoughtful for a moment, and then answered her question. "Not yet, I don't think, but we're not done here yet, and I didn't bring a change of clothes. Finn smirked in return, "Though I confess — you've made me curious about the knife."

She hummed and watched him over her glass as she took another sip of whiskey. Suddenly she set it down on the table. "Ya know what?" said she as she stubbed out her cigar, crushing it irrevocably. "I reckon I'm done."

"You are?" He turned to her and had time enough to set his glass down.

TOCHow A Cowgirl Rolls

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