|A Tense Stables Encounter|
|Summary:||Alek and Harlyn have one of those uncomfortable conversations full of obscured motives and just the right touch of manhandling.|
|And verily, stables were to be had in The Roost and such stables were where some martial guests had left their horses.|
|January 16, 289|
Harlyn is checking on his little dappled grey gelding. The horse is a placid one indeed and hasn't been used too roughly, but perhaps hasn't been used much at all, considering how tentative he and Harlyn are with each other outside riding situations. Harlyn is just outside its stall, patting awkwardly at its nose, while the horse regards him a bit suspiciously.
Alek's own horse is surely stabled somewhere here, though it is towards Harlyn that he moves as he catches sight of the man, a smile curving on his lips carelessly as he takes a bite of a whithered apple. "Ho, Haigh," he greets in a drawl.
"Ho," says Harlyn, then … pauses, his own expression gone a bit thoughtful, his hand still on the horse's nose. "You rode with the Valentins, didn't you?"
"Aye, though I am afraid there is little of us as it is. My lord Anton has returned to Stonebridge to fetch a lady, and Gedeon still recovers there," Alek murmurs in easy response, though his brow curves upwards curiously at the question, waiting for the man to elaborate. He leans past him to offer the rest of the apple towards the horse in the flat of his hand.
"A lady, hm? Anton is your liege, then, as in you are—" Harlyn lifts his hand from the horse's nose, to let it quest as it wishes. And it does so wish, leaning across the stall door to nibble. "You are as common as Senna, aren't you. All these faces I perhaps ought to know, but I've been too long in my books and numbers," he demurs.
"Well, I would not call myself /as/ common. After all, they do tell tales about me." Self-deprecating smile lifting his lips crookedly, Alek draws closer to hold the apple more naturally to allow the horse to take it. He questions wryly, "Do you dislike drinking with commoners, then?"
"Do they now? I think I saw you in the battle - you held your own. Is that what they mean?" Harlyn asks in that sidelong, casual way he does. The horse streetches out its mouth and nabs the apple entirely. "I drink enough with commoners. I drink with anyone, really."
Left without it, there really is no reason for Alek to remain so close, except that he does as he hitches against the half-fence of the stall with his forearms lazily. "Came out without a single scratch. I more than held my own," he disagrees with a warm huff of a breath, half of a laugh. "You drink with anyone? How unpicky."
"I am interested in the people of Westeros." Harlyn gestures broadly with his right arm as if to encompass the whole stable. "I can only miss out by picking and choosing."
"Why are you so interested?" Alek murmurs his question with a quiet interest, the slant of hooded grey eyes sliding sidelong towards the Haigh.
"Why shouldn't I be?" Harlyn's arm drifts back down to his side. "I'm a knight, yes, but otherwise my work requires understanding the ebb and flow of coin from one place to another. For that, I have to understand people. Including those like you."
Alek nods slowly, dismissive as he replies, "My coin flows freely, when I have it. When I win it. Though, I am sure it is no surprise to you that Valentin has a limited amount."
"If the Haigh had nothing but coin, they would not need me, would they?" Harlyn laughs, glancing from Alek to the horse. "No House has endless coin. But I expect you are like my brother - a man of tourney, largely."
"Tourneys and the prizes that come with," Alek answers with low, suggestive warmth as his lips lift in a slow smile.
"Money and women." Harlyn snaps his fingers at about the level of his knee. "Yes, I know."
"Not simply that." The words are dismissive and careless, Alek shifting to straighten and slide fingers over the gelding's mane soothingly. "What would you have as a prize?" he asks.
"Oh, I don't tourney," Harlyn says dismissively his own self. The gelding nickers.
"But if you did?" Alek presses, amusement sliding along his tone as he glances only briefly to Harlyn before returning his attention to the horse.
"Coin, I'm sure," Harlyn says, rubbing two fingers together, not quite snapping this time.
A grin breaking boyishly onto his expression, Alek admits, "Ah, well. Perhaps you're better off finding another way for that. Tourneying isn't the best pay out in coin." He straightens away, finally, giving Harlyn back his space.
"What are those other /meaningful/ rewards, then?" Harlyn suddenly presses, if only verbally. Not in Alek's space per se.
"Fame, fear, the ability to do what you want and get away with it," Alek answers casually, his gaze sliding with a weight of attention over Harlyn at his sudden press. "Most of the time."
There's a subtle shift to Harlyn's expression. Not a discomfort so much as a slow, pitched awareness. "Oh?" he says. "So your prize is the freedom to misbehave. I'm familiar enough with that aspect of a tourney."
"I thought you did not tourney?" is challenged with a wry amusement, Alek watching with interest to that change in Harlyn's features.
"My brother does. Most knights do," Harlyn says, with a swift, whatever sort of gesture.
"Most, yes," Alek agrees in a mild murmur, his fingers hooking carelessly on the band of his pants for lack of anything better to do with his hands. "So, you're familiar with the aspect from your brother, then?"
"My brother is also a lord, as am I." Harlyn's smile pulls slow across his face. "Is that the real prize, then? Getting to feel like a noble?"
"Feel like a noble? Do you think you're freer than commoners, to do what you want? To take what you want, without anyone watching?" Alek questions, voice drawn dangerously low and sharp as he steps once again into Harlyn's space to catch at the man's chin with lean, firm fingers that bare evidence of many hours practice with blades. "Do you think I envy you?"
Harlyn is not a weak man, but he is a thoroughly average one of indifferent muscle. He is also taken by surprise. Alek wins his chin-clutch, but Harlyn's reaction is all fervid-angry eyes and snapped, "Are you mad?" He pushes against Alek with both hands. Gerroff.
"Of being told that I wish I were a /noble/ by one that couldn't match me for skill?" The words practically drip with his sarcasm, the solid knight not budging against the push before he is ready to release Harlyn. Alek does, fingers dropping away with a dry laugh. "No, /lord ser/," he answers with a lazy salute.
"You are all implication and implication." Harlyn takes a long, long step back and brushes himself off. "And pride, of course. You are either a bastard with a chip on your shoulder or you are after something. Which is it?"
"And if I said I was after something, would you only use my answer for your study of people?" Alek questions slowly, studying Harlyn with a particular edge of interest for his answer.
"That would depend entirely on what you were after." Harlyn brushes himself off once more for good measure. "Wouldn't it."
It is the brushing off that arrests Alek's attention for a moment, murmuring a simple, "I suppose it would." Then he smiles carelessly, raking fingers through his hair. "Nevermind, Haigh. I think all I need is a drink and a clean whore."
Harlyn lets his hands drift back down. The awareness is still held careful within his expression. "Of course," he says. "Perfectly reasonable goals."
"You should find something sweet to give him," Alek suggests with a tip of his chin in a gesture to the gelding, advice seeming to do as a goodbye as the knight turns to leave the stables without checking on his own mare.
"Perhaps a young lady's heart," Harlyn says with something approaching a bizarre sarcasm of his own. He returns to his gelding. To make sure it isn't poisoned or something.
A laugh follows Alek out of the stables, an echo of his presence before he disappears.