|An Agreeable Man|
|Summary:||The Terrick Ser Rivers laments his Lady Nommy, and his own ability to compromise what he wants. Then he compromises some more things he wants.|
|Related Logs:||Takes place between Broken and Boons of Kinship|
|Riverrun — Various Places|
|Guards, angry septas, fires.|
|Mon Nov 14, 288|
Ser Jarod Rivers is bunking - when he's actually there - in a communal room in the tower with the other Terrick guards that've been brought along for the Riverrun trip. And he is there now. He returned to the castle proper in the very early hours of the morning after his exploration of one of Riverrun's finer brothels. He's just finished changing into the Terrick livery he's generally wearing when roaming the castle halls during this trip and is, in general, getting ready to face the day.
"Rivers, your lord brother is on his way," one of the men warns their Captain, as indeed the sound of Jacsen's cane-assisted gait can be heard coming down the hall, and in Jarod's direction.
"Let's all look productive and sober, boys," Jarod quips, albeit without much of his usual easy joviality. He isn't hung-over this morning, at least. So…there's that. He opens the door to their room, so Jacsen at least won't have to trouble himself with that. "Lord Jacsen. Merry morning." His tone lacks actual merriment.
He frowns when he hears that tone in his brother's voice, but manages a "Merry morning," of his own. "Have you a few minutes to walk with me, Jarod?"
"Aye, I've a few," Jarod says, leaving the communal quarters behind and stepping out into the hall to meet his brother properly. "Should look about finding some breakfast, I suppose. Oh, and I spent all your coin." He shrugs. "I'll pay you back when we're at the Roost again. Most of it. Merry Trout doesn't come cheap, but they provide fine service for it, so I'll not complain."
Jacsen nods to the mention of breakfast, leaning heavy on his cane as he keeps his best pace alongside Jarod. "I'm sure I'll get the coin back, but, really, it's not the coin that I'm after…" He sighs through his nose. "What happened, Jar?"
"Not much to tell, really," Jarod says, not looking at his brother as they walk, though he slows his pace to match Jacsen's as well as possible. "My company made my Lady Nommy - or whatever in seven hells she's calling herself today - unhappy, and she decided she wanted no more of me." He says it very quick, like he's ripping the wrapping off a wound. Which still clearly stings. "And I can't fix it, Jace. I can't. I fucked it up too much for too long and now she's…I love her but she doesn't want to love me back anymore."
He heaves something of a sigh at that, and shakes his head slowly. "I'm sorry, Jar, I am… though for what it is worth I don't know that I can quite believe it's your fault. More her's, if I'm to be honest. And biased, but hells, you're my brother."
Jarod does look over at Jacsen at that, managing a faint smile. "Thanks for that. I just…I've never been with a woman like that before, Jace, not really with her and I just kept trying so hard to get it right and the harder I tried the more it seemed like it pissed her off or made her bored of me or…fuck, I don't know." He sighs heavy.
"I knew a man at Seaguard, whom served in Lord Mallister's household guard," Jacsen shares with his brother, "Whom told me that the surest way to a woman's heart was to make her think she could not have you, and the surest way to lose it was to make her think you were hers." He smirks, shaking his head. "They're not all this way, but… it would not surprise anyone should we call your… lady… a woman whom strives for those things she cannot or should not have, hmm?"
"Everybody wants what they can't have, little brother," Jarod recites his familiar refrain, not without a good deal of bitterness. "I think it really fell apart after the melee at the Roost. When I asked her…well, I did do it like you said. I told her if the whole dream of hers went tits up, she had a place there. With me." He does more sighing. "Which was apparently such an awful thought she just had to get rid of me quick as she could."
He frowns, at that. Jacsen draws a careful breath, and lets it out slowly before he says… "I don't know, Jar. Well. I know I'm sorry for that, I truly am. Maybe she's more the Nayland than she thinks she is, after it all."
"I don't think she knows what in seven hells she is," Jarod mutters. "But Jace…I mean, don't do that. Don't be…I shouldn't have gone and done this in the first place. It's just been such a mess and…she did the Terricks years of real good service, and she still has a good deal of affection for our House." He shrugs. "Just not as much for me as I'd like. That shouldn't be…it shouldn't be bigger than the pair of us. Though it's…thanks for saying it. Somebody loves me best, at least." He snorts, though it's not really a joke. He is quite grateful for it just now.
Jacsen reaches for his brother's shoulder with his unencumbered hand, and grips it firmly. "Blood of my blood, Jarod, I'll always love you best," he tells him. "Everyone else is just trust, and trust can be broken. Blood is unchangeable." He's quiet for a moment, and his hand slips away. "Has she found someone here at Riverrun? Is that what caused all this?"
Jarod shakes his head in a negative as to her finding 'someone at Riverrun.' Though it's a beat before he replies verbally. "It's not like that. Even if she did, I think the pair of us were doomed anyhow. You ever get the feeling…you'll never be quite enough? That there'll always be something that's not quite right, even if everybody spends time telling you what a 'good man' you are." Another snort. "Fuck that."
He snorts in kind. "I don't look for women that find me a good man, and I suggest you don't either," Jacsen tells him, "Better that they love you for your flaws, or your title, or your influence… they are all of them more concrete than being a good man. Fah, anyways, women are feckless things that hardly seem to know what they want most of the time." He levels a look at Jarod, "Don't tell Anais I said that, though." He grins, and then laughs. "Shit, forget I said it altogether. We're surrounded by willful women, Jar."
Jarod does get a soft chuckle out of that. "I think I'm don with the whole love bit altogether. I had it right before. A bit of fun, no fuss. So just keep loaning me coin for a bit and I'll be a happy bastard again in no time." The bit about Anais makes him shake his head a little, though. "Truth, Jace? I think some in our house…" Which is as close as he'll come to criticizing Lady Evangeline. "…have been too hard on her. She's trying. And she's got a good heart. I came looking for you after things crashed down with Rowenna - guess you were in council or something - and she took care of me well as anyone could've. She was real sweet, and I'm sure I made a right ass of myself. Would you want someone it was always easy with? Doesn't seem quite worth it to me." Snort. "Not that I know anything about it, look where I've got myself."
He does not ignore his brother's words, though Jacsen doesn't quite answer them right away. "You know… it's not that I like what… some have done to her, the way they have treated her," Jacsen finally does tell Jarod. "I've done what I can to console her, advise her, it's more… Sometimes we must endure things that are unkind or unfair or even unwise, and we must endure it gracefully. Anais did not, until recently, seem to understand that. But I think we've an accord, and certainly more peace between us now. I hope between her and the rest, as well."
"I think that's a common trait among noblewomen," Jarod says wryly. "You are not shaped by the world, the world shapes itself for you, and if it doesn't you'll just scream and kick at it until you break yourself on it." Though that does seem to make him consider something. "Maybe it's not so bad to have a bit of that in you. This whole thing's got me thinking…do you think I'm too…bendable?" It seems to make sense to him, at least.
Jacsen breathes through his nose. "Yes?" he says, after a moment in thought. "It's not altogether different with how I was cross at you for making friends so easily with that Oldstones knight, what was his name, Ser Alek? So swiftly after his incident with Lucienne. I'd not want Ser Rygar for a brother, but you seem to have not any stick at /all/ up your ass, Jar." He grins at the last.
"None will ever accuse me of buggery, that's a fact," Jarod replies to the last joke with one of his own. Though the humor fades quickly. "I just…it's always seemed…people are less unkind to you in life if you get along with them, when it's not impossible to get along."
Jacsen dips his chin, not able to completely disagree. "But it's not always important that people are less unkind, I think," he remarks. "I mean, in some cases, yes, but not all. Sometimes it is better to simply be respected, or even feared, if need be."
"Perhaps," Jarod says, not able to completely disagree, though he doesn't agree either. "I've always figured the world's unkind enough on its own without me helping out. I'd have very little in life if our lord father wasn't a kind man, under all else he is. There are…there're many others who weren't so fortunate in that." He frowns. "Though perhaps that got theirs without it anyhow."
"Well. It needn't be one way or the other, I don't think," Jacsen tells him. "There's room enough to be kind to some, and yet stern or harsh even to others… you'll never have ice in your veins, Jarod, you might just do well to make sure people know you're… you're not one that should be crossed. That's all."
"I can hold me own with my fists or my sword, Jace, never had any hesitation about a fair fight," Jarod says. "Or seeing justice done. I dunno. I was thinking on the time I spent fooling around with Isolde Tordane and…it was just so easy. Stupid, but always easy. I figure that's because we're the same sort of people. Hard to displease someone who's only fear is not being pleasing. If she had more of the sort of woman Anais is - or Rowenna is - we'd likely still have Stonebridge and then some. She and her land seem to have come by little good from it. Maybe that's so for me as well."
Jacsen lets out a breath, and spares a look at his brother. "Maybe you've found your own answer then, Jar." He looks about to say more, but the dining hall looms. "Come on, let's get some breakfast, and forget this depressing shit for a while?"
"I could do with that," Jarod says, content not to say anything more on it for now. "You're ever kind to me, at least, my wise lord brother. But don't worry. I won't tell anyone and risk ruining your reputation."
Later that morning…
Ser Jarod Rivers had made the rounds at Riverrun over the last couple days, from its bottom-shelf taverns to its top-shelf brothels. This morning, however, finds him in the castle library. He's the only person, other than a septa who helps keep the records, there at the moment. It's just after breakfast and, with most of the actual study of the letters presented to Lord Tully done, there are more popular places for both the castle residents and its visitors. Jarod, however, is there in earnest. He's staked out a table and is writing. And rewriting. And rewriting again. He's surrounded by bits of crumpled up parchment that now number more than a dozen. He's scratching halting at the thirteenth parchment, which is apparently also not the charm. He plucks it up and makes a fist, smearing undried ink all over his hands as he discards it. With feeling. For a moment he just stares down at his calloused and now stained palms. And then, he picks up his quill and starts another. He's not hung-over, though he is sporting some love-bites on his neck that he probably paid well for.
The peace is not so much shattered as it is quietly nudged. The footsteps are not the heavy boots of a nobleman but the soft scratching of someone's sandals. Josse drifts past the shelves of bound books and ledgers without his usual satchel with him — just some papers in a brown portfolio in the crook of one arm and a mug of some kind of tea in his left hand. The septon wasn't at breakfast, though that's not terribly unusual, his hair still slightly damp as though this morning's wake-up routine had involved dunking his entire head into some water.
Jarod notes not the soft shuffling of Josse's sandals. After scratching a few halting lines down on his fresh parchment, he stops, frowning down at it. And then fills the library with much less gentle noise. "Oh, fuck it! Just fuck it!" This time, it's not the paper that's crumpled. He just grabs the inkwell he likely borrowed and throws it at the wall. Where it shatters. And sprays ink all over Lord Hoster Tully's library carpets. This gets the septa's attention. At first, she just shrieks with the rage only a librarian can summon for such an act. Then she turns to stalk toward Jarod's table. She is not pleased.
It gets Josse's attention too, though the pained wince that cracks across his face is far less from the breaking inkwell than from the breaking voice. "Sister." A wonder his soft voice can ever be heard, but in the vacuum after all that noise it's as noticeable as a trumpet. "I startled him, forgive me." Given his distance from Jarod this is likely highly doubtful, but the septon has a fantastic 'this is my story and I'm sticking to it' sort of manner. "Some rags and water and I shall be sure it leaves no mark."
"Get out!" the septa shrieks at Jarod, rather ignoring Josse. "Get out! Get out! Get out, young ser! I have had enough of whatever weepy harper's song you are trying compose with my kindly-lent parchment. I have put it up it kindly, despite your rudeness, for the last many hours, but I will not have you damaging Lord Tully's collection. Get out!" This is not likely the first exchange she's had with Jarod this morning, but she sounds like she's hoping to make it the last.
As for Ser Rivers, he blinks at his own thrown and shattered inkwell. Like he's not quite sure how that happened. Then he blinks at the parchment crumples he's surrounded with. Then at Josse. Then at at the septa. "Right. All right." It's sort of tersely bitten off. He stands, and starts picking up his trash, which it seems he intends to take with him.
Okay, then. Josse's expression is wry as the septa goes on with her loud eviction. He glances at the ink stains as though still half-tempted to clean it up anyway, then sticks a finger in his ear to block out the worst of the noise, glancing up at the titles on the shelf by his face.
Jarod collects his parchments in short order and flees. The septa begins cleaning up the rest of the mess on her own. "My apologies, good Septon but…that young man is extremely trying. I will light a candle to the Mother tonight and pray for greater tolerance." That's followed by a little hand gesture that shoos Josse, too.
Josse just grunts, which covers for the fact that his head's now pounding. And is far more polite than what he's thinking. Only too happy to be shooed, he abandons his search and holds up a hand in surrender, stepping cleanly over all the ink and trudging for the door. Tea with him.
Jarod hasn't gotten far. He's out in the hall, leaning against the wall, holding all his attempts at correspondence in his hands awkwardly. "Is there anywhere in this fucking castle that is absolutely free of women, Jos? Anywhere at all? Because that is where I'd really like to be."
Josse's brow raises at the sight of Jarod hanging about, which turns to an expression of very mild sympathy as he glances at the crumpled papers. "You're welcome to come to my quarters if you like." Which is apparently where he's going to retreat to himself, as he turns to start walking even before he's done speaking. "From the lingering scent of the last guest, I reckon there hasn't been a woman there in years."
"There a fireplace there?" Jarod asks. "Because I got a sudden urge to light something up." If the answer is an affirmative, he'll follow Josse in that direction.
"A very small one," Josse's voice carries drily over his shoulder. "As long as it isn't someone's body I should hope it will fit." He sips his tea as they walk, taking the back stairs down towards the servants' quarters. Not quite there is Josse's room, but clearly even though their hosts thought septons warranted private rooms, said private room is far removed from the sight of those with noble blood.
Jarod hasn't been bunked with the nobles either. The guard contingent from the Roost and Lord Jason Mallister's Seagard are stowed in communal quarters that technically are servants rooms, albeit for those of martial inclinations. That's near where they've got the trueblooded Terricks sleeping, however, and Jarod's spent little time there as it is. He sniffs the air of Josse's room as he enters. Trying to place the smell he was warned about. "Nah. Just paper. And it burns real easy."
It smells rather like feet. And not Josse's. The single bed in the room is made so neatly that one might get the impression it's never been slept in at all. There's a desk with a wooden chair and a small, slightly more comfortable padded chair by the aforementioned tiny fireplace — that seat bears a Tully crest as though something in the room had to remind the guest of where he is. Josse makes a mild gesture at the fireplace, settling into the desk chair and slouching his back against the wall. "Have at it, then."
"They have unbathed Wildlings bedded here before you?" Jarod asks, as to the smell. Not that he's squeamish enough to mind. He drops his papers unceremoniously on the floor, takes some flint and a striker out of his pocket, and kneels to get a small fire going. The parchment bits, what remains of them that're legible, appear to be stop-and-start attempts at letters. To one 'Lady Nommy.' The lines that're still intact are apologies and promises and reminders of sweet times. Ser Rivers is no poet, but he writes well when he puts his mind to it. Heartfelt honesty intact, just more filtered and thought-out than what he tends to verbally inflict on the world.
"If there were, at least they were kind of enough to remove their fleas with them." Josse picks through the few papers he'd brought up to the library with him without much interest. A minute later he's abandoned that and has both hands wrapped around his tea, idly watching all the activity that's about to heat up his tiny room. "You know," he drawls, with a faint sort of endearment. "This is an incredible amount of angst, even for you."
Jarod gets the fire going in short order, promptly kindling it with one of his parchment balls. It's thrown rather violently into the fledgling flames. Though Josse's remark prompts a rueful chuckle. "Aye. Is at that. Just stupid, this. I'm done with it now."
Josse smiles slightly. "Jarod, if you'll pardon the vernacular? Bullshit."
"What're you on about?" Jarod asks rather tiredly, turning from his burning to look back over his shoulder at Josse. "Only bullshit in this is out of the ass I've been making of myself these last months."
"How so?" Maybe Josse's just tired himself, as the slightly bloodshot eyes might suggest, but the question lacks that loaded quality he sometimes has when he asks for the sake of asking. This actually sounds like someone having a conversation.
Jarod sighs heavy, dropping his gaze from Josse to the flames that're curling around his not-quite-letters. "I fucked it up, Jos. I fucked it up repeatedly and maybe this wouldn't have been useless a month ago, or a week ago, but it's a waste of my fucking time now. She's somewhere probably fucking that girl-faced want-to-be Braavosi Gedeon Fucking Rivers and I can't…I can't fix it. I love her, Jos, and I can't…fuck me to seven hells."
"Gedeon, hmm?" Josse replies softly, one brow quirking up and then back down. "Well obviously something's happened. What makes this something different from any past something, you'll have to explain."
"Gedeon, hrm, is right," Jarod says. "That makes it different. But that's…I don't know, it's more than just that. It's me, Jos. I love her, I swear to Seven I do, but I didn't love her well enough, I guess, and she says I make her unhappy and she wants no more of me in that fashion. I tried, Jos. I swear I did. I'd never been with…I've been with lots of girls but I never let a woman…I tried to treat her as a knight should treat a lady he loves, you know? Didn't know what the fuck else to do. I guess she got bored of me, or pissed off at me, and decided her life'd be a happier one if I were not her lover." Another parchment scrap is thrown into the fire, with feeling.
Josse makes not the least little motion to stop Jarod from burning his hard work, though he does watch the progress. "It can't be easy," he says after quite a silence, "Being in love with someone quite so headstrong. Did it really make you happy, her doing what she's doing? Or are you attached to the idea that someday she might change?"
"What sort of man would you say I am, Jos?" Jarod asks softly, looking back up at the septon again. "If you had to pick one word, what would it be? Myself, I figure 'agreeable' is probably right up there." He sounds bitter about it. And this seems to hit on a thing that's bothering him even deeper than the Lady Nommy Fail. "I think that's why she…why we…I think that's why I don't work a lot of the time."
Jarod goes on, rather than answering Josse's question. Or, rather, answering it in a different way. "I sometimes wonder, Jos…what my life would've been if I'd been a daughter. Or if I'd been sickly or just…not agreeable, in some fashion. If I would've had any kind of value to my family. But I was a son, and I was strong, and I made myself good with a sword to serve my lord father, and I got to be very good at…being agreeable." Jarod sighs roughly. "It gets to be like coin, with people. Being easy. You think if you are, all the time, that those you meet…that they'll look on you kindly and then maybe they'll be your friends, they'll let you be their family, and if you're comely and charming and agreeable enough they might let you love them for a night. And if you're like that long enough it just…that's the coin you use to pay your way through life with people. And you don't know if they'd like you at all if you stopped…being that way. I told Rowenna, lots of times, she'd need to learn to compromise if she wanted to go through the world without making herself miserable. Well…I've made a lot of compromises in my life, Jos. And a lot of them, you know what? I'm not happy with, and they maybe weren't worth it, but I did them just so I could…get along with the world. And maybe that's not a good way to be, either. Because I think it's cost me…something that could've been, actually…real. And that I didn't feel like I had to pay for in some regard every gods-damned day."
There's more than one moment in that long speech where Josse looks like he might interject, but if any breaths were amounting to words they never come. At one point — and it's difficult to determine what the exact spark is in that flood of words — he looks down at his cup instead of at Jarod, picking twice at a small divot left by someone's tooth. By the end he's pulled his eyes back up, hand stilled. "Are you saying…that it frustrates you that she demonstrates the unwillingness to compromise that you wish you could walk around with?" His voice is quiet as ever.
"In part, maybe," Jarod admits with a shrug, seemingly a little embarrassed to have gone on so. "I admire it, envy it, wish she'd take more time to think about how she went about it, or at least listen to another way without getting pissed off, like I'm trying to control her or something. But in all…maybe it wouldn't be bad if I had more of that in me, drive to shape the world rather than bend to please it. I never really stopped and thought on it before. Before she…I've a more than decent life, Jos, it's not like I've any call not to be happy about things." Now he sounds like he's half-apologizing for feeling such a way.
"If we were all happy all the time nothing would happen," Josse replies, looking back down at his thumb. A little bit of clay tumbles from the chip that he's started picking at again. "Anyone who tells you they're completely satisfied with life is lying. That's what we are, beings that spend our entire lives trying to get to greener grass, and we move the world along the way." Pick, and a short silence. "So let's assume I'm not judging you for wanting something. You wish she'd take more time to think. Is it really that?"
"That's part of it, though I don't think the main part," Jarod says. He stops, letting out a long breath. Looking down from Josse's face a moment. "She thinks…she thinks I wanted her to be different…for me. But…it's worse than that, Jos. It wasn't even about me, I don't think." He sounds ashamed to admit it. "You know what I worried over the most when we were together? Of what might come if it became known what she was doing? I mean, there were lots of parts I worried over but…the one I couldn't get around was that if my lord father found out he'd never approve of it, ever, and he'd make me stop with her. So I kept trying to think of ways she might stay on that he might not…mind so much…"
A french farce of eye contact, Josse looking up just as Jarod looks away. "And what did you come up with?" he prompts, gently.
"I don't know, I didn't really come up with anything," Jarod says with a shrug. "I never knew what in seven hells I was doing with her, in case that's not obvious. Lord Jerold'd not have her at the Roost as one of his knights, but it's not like he'd force her to be a lady's maid or something. She could help in the kennel and the stables, like she likes to do now, hunt and ride and perhaps scout with the sheriff's men and carry a bow or even a sword. I never asked her to do anything, I just said to her that she had that option if she wanted it, and we could be together openly that way, and the idea of even that just seemed to…bore her or scare her or something that made her have to get rid of me as soon as she possibly could. I was just…trying to think up ways we could be together that'd make both her and my lord father a bit happy." The people he was trying to make happy in that compromise do not seem to include himself.
The omission is obviously noted, for Josse's next soft comment (after a slow sip of tea) is a plain one: "Let's make the assumption that the only happiness we can determine with any real surety is our own…so…what would make you happy, Jarod?"
"I…" Jarod doesn't seem to quite know how to answer that question. "…I don't know. I just…I wanted to wake up with her in the same bed as me, not sneak around like we were doing something wrong, and fall asleep with her that way after we'd been wrapped around each other for hours. I wanted to care for her when she was hurt, and I wanted her to do the same for me. Go riding and hunting and fishing with her, make her laugh. Just be with her. I mean…I'm not saying we were easy together. I think I tried so hard to be…to do things right or act a certain way I somehow got even more fucked up than I would've been otherwise…but…I mean, she's on like it was all bad, or all hard, and it wasn't. Not for me, at least. There were times, Jos, I'd forget about how I was supposed to be and just…it was good, when it was like that. I've never been with somebody like that before. I wanted that all the time."
"Unfortunately nothing is 'like that' all the time. Frankly I think both of you have a problem figuring out what to do with the time in between." Josse almost smiles, though not quite. "Have you ever told her what you just told me? In words like that?"
"I…" Jarod has to shrug and admit. "No."
"Well I'm flattered it's all coming out to me," Josse says, settling his cheek against his closed hand. "But I am a poor substitute. She's got a nicer figure."
"Aye, and that nicer figure is presently wrapped around Ser Gedeon Fucking Rivers, who I guess is willing to be her sworn knight and her lover, though I can't for the life of me figure out how that serves her earning her knighthood very well." Another shrug. "Just sound jealous, I suppose."
"What makes you think she's in Gedeon's bed?" Josse's thumb rubs under his eye, pulling at the loose skin there.
"She was before," Jarod says. "Before she and I took up. I mean, I don't think she was with him while we were…but I think she thought on him. I felt like I wasn't…that I didn't quite please her like she wanted me to." Which no doubt just made him flail more for the 'correct' way to be with her. "We never really talked on it but sometimes I'd start to say things and just stop because…Jos, how the fuck do you ask the woman you love why she thinks on another bloke while you're together? And now she's…I think she figures he'll make her happy in a way I don't. That it'll be…easier with him. Maybe it will for her. Who the fuck knows." He burns the last of his parchment balls. "And what, Jos, I'm just supposed to go pour my heart out to her and beg her to take me back like I'm some sort of damn lapdog that'll just trot along happy behind her when she's wanting to fuck another man? Fuck that. No. I've got some speck of pride."
"I think you're making things up to give yourself something to be pissed off at," Josse replies bluntly. "Which is all well and good, but I think you're painting pictures that aren't real. And you'll regret that. The idea of Gedeon's been threatening for a long time, hasn't it."
"I asked her before we broke and she as good as admitted it," Jarod says. "Go and ask her about it if you don't believe me." As for that last, he shrugs. "I just thought if I could love her better that it'd make her forget she'd ever been with him…" Whatever 'better' means in this context. He doesn't seem to know.
"Ahh. She knows just how to get under your skin." Josse still doesn't seem to be taking that particular threat seriously, shifting in his chair and crossing his legs. "It wouldn't have hurt quite so much if it were nearly anyone else, would it. A knight, same as you, without the unfair advantage of money or extra status. But one that doesn't have to compromise as you do. One that can encourage her to be what she wants to be without fear of having to please everyone else. And now…one who might actually see legitimacy. Everything you don't have." For the awful bluntness of the words his voice is so gentle — even slightly empathetic. "It's not really Rowan that you're jealous of, is it."
Jarod does make eye contact with Josse again when he says that. "No," he admits. "No, I suppose it's not."
"And I can't soften that for you," Josse says. He doesn't break eye contact but there's nothing in his blue eyes that's sharp about this. "But I can say, and I know this well, that it isn't about Gedeon. No moreso than those marks on your neck…" His brows lift slightly. "…no more than that night was really about those whores." He clears his throat quietly. "She thinks you don't understand how it feels to not want to just accept how life is…to want something different, something more. She thinks you don't understand why she does what she does. And I think that at one time you really didn't understand, but you're starting to now. Especially with Gedeon around, you're starting to desire more…and exactly how you'll get there I don't know yet, but there's still tomorrow."
Jarod flushes, reaching up a palm to finger his whore-chewed neck. "Spent all my brother's money on a pair of the most beautiful women I've ever seen in a brothel, Jos. They knew their work, too. Felt real good. Except it didn't, because all I could think on while doing it was her." He sounds angry about it. "I never fucked around on her when we were together. Never wanted to, which I don't think she can say."
"No?" Josse asks, raising an eyebrow. "You loved Isolde at some point. And for her, whatever Gedeon offers it isn't love. It's always been an afterthought behind you, something she did because she couldn't have you in your entirety. Whether you can live with that I don't know. I wouldn't blame you if you couldn't. But she loves you. No matter how much better you think Gedeon is, he has never had that."
"I don't know what the fuck Gedeon offers her, save that it pleases her more than what I've got to offer," Jarod says. "As for Lady Isolde…" His manner softens some. "…I do love her, Jos, always will care for her, though not in the fashion we're talking on. Iz was…we were always kind to each other. You'd think it's a small thing but it's not. So few people in this world are. And when I came home from the war and her father and brother had died…I was there for her when Jaremy was fucking around having daydreams about the Kingsguard and listening to Amelia Millen sing at the Rockcliff. I was taking care of my brother's responsibility. I am real good at taking care of other people's responsibility." He doesn't even bother to mask his bitterness. "But she was sweet, Jos, and very lovely, and it was stupid but fuck you do stupid things when you're seventeen and it's funny but I do regret…I regret not letting myself love her proper. Not because it would've lasted, I don't think we'd have been good together in the long. But because it's just one of a lot of things I didn't do because I thought my brother had more of a right to it. I denied myself it without even questioning why I was doing it. And I look at her now…me and Iz…I think we're both the same sort of people. We try and please everybody but ourselves. And it's gotten her nothing but precisely what she doesn't want out of life. And I look at that, and I think she deserves better, some part of happiness that's just hers. And I think maybe I might deserve that, too." As for the last, he shrugs. "Well, Gedeon's got it now. Like I said, Jos, this might've been all well and good to realize a month ago, but it's too late now. Rowenna is gone."
"Seven's breath your skull is thick," Josse replies to that very long speech. "If you're giving up because you want to reserve the right to be angry at Gedeon for living the life you want then fine. But don't do so because you want to write her off as a bed-hopping whore. She isn't." He exhales slowly through his nose. "If you can tell yourself — not me, yourself — that you want to turn away because you are not happy and you'd prefer your life without her…then do it. I don't fault anyone for that, and I could never call you bad for it. But if you can't say that and mean it, then you are just compromising again and you were right…it is costing you something real."
"I never called her a whore!" Jarod snaps at that, shoulders squaring. "I know she's not that. I know." His voice softens. "I don't make her happy, Jos. What's it matter what I want if I can't manage that? And perhaps I am compromising again. Perhaps I'm just…an agreeable man. And I know that's something she can never be happy with." He turns go. "Thanks for the use of your fire pit. I've business to be about."
"Do you really?" Josse smiles just a little. "I am being rather rough with you, I know. But even I don't like a friend to leave upset. Sit for a few minutes."
"No you aren't, Jos," Jarod says. "Being rough, that is. I appreciate the ear, I just figure the time when this'd done any good has come and gone, and I'd best get on the way to accepting that, because I don't think I can take feeling this way for much longer." He doesn't sit, but he does linger, arms crossed along his chest. "If you've got anything more to say, say it."
"I suppose I wanted to ask something first," Josse's chin lifts towards his dying fireplace. "What was that going to be?"
Jarod shrugs. "Letter to her. My dear Lady Nommy. I wanted to…say some things I should've said before. Always seemed easier to say things to her like that. It's too late, though, and it doesn't matter anymore." And he does pivot to go on that note, not even bothering to make up an excuse. He just has to go.
"There is tomorrow," Josse says, though his voice isn't raised and it's anyone's guess how far they carry. Or even if they're exactly aimed for Jarod, as that's not where his eyes are looking.
Once Jarod's gone he stands up, picking up his leftover tea and heading over to the fireplace. Kneeling down, he's about to toss the water on the smouldering paper when one clump of parchment in the back catches his attention. He fishes it out carefully, standing up as he uncrumples the scorched paper — and promptly folds it without reading a word. He tosses his tea onto the rest of the ashen mess and takes the folded page to his desk, slipping it under a few books. "Still tomorrow."