|Aspects of Love|
|Summary:||In the wake of Rose's latest romantic catastrophe, she and Josse discuss many different aspects of love.|
|Related Logs:||The Replacements and others.|
|Josse's chamber, Sept of the Seven, Terrick's Roost|
|The Sept of Terrick's Roost is not a grand spectacle but achieves its power through the feeling of community and peace within. Like any Sept, the mood is generally quiet so people might offer prayers or thoughts without interruption. Along the sides are the seven statues in life-size form of the seven Gods, each in its own particular pose familiar to anyone who knows of them. All but the statue of the Stranger have small offerings lain at their feet or candles lit. At the very head of the Sept is a large window that faces out across the water, the altar rising in front of it. Directly to its front are a few rows of pews and behind that is the standing room for the peasantry. In that area the floor is lain out with a bright seven-pointed star in representation of the Gods.|
|Eighth day of Ninthmonth, 288 AL|
Evening in the Roost, the early September sun having sunk below the horizon about an hour ago. As street carts and businesses close for the night the taverns are heating up, the noises of early revelry already spilling into the darkening streets.
The sept, of course, never locks its doors. Tonight the interior is quiet and candles flicker the memories of prayers. Josse is up in the cell he calls 'his', the privacy being what might be the one and only perk of moving up on the ladder. Sitting on the floor with his back resting against the cot, there are two books laid open within reach and a bottle of wine even closer, a setup for a comfortable evening.
Having visited the septon countless times over the years, Rose knows most — if not all — the places to seek him out. It may or may not be the first place she checks, but she does eventually poke her head around the door of his cell. "Hey!" she whispers. She flashes a quick smile. "Can I come in?"
Josse's head is bent over his folded legs, elbows on his knees and thumb tips pushed with determination into the curving bones above both eyes. He lifts his head at the sound of Rowan's voice, letting his hands down. "You may. But I hope you've brought another cup, because you're not using mine."
She wrinkles her nose and slips inside. "Don't be a churl. I rise my teeth regularly, and since I've switched from wine to spirits my mouth is probably cleaner than a chiurgeonry." Rose sits behind him on the bed, a leg on either side of his shoulders, and combs her fingers tenderly through his hair. "Headache?" she asks, keeping her normally boisterous tone soft.
"I guess," Josse replies in a noncomittal mutter. His bed is unmussed, though the septon's slightly puffy under-eyes and heavy lids almost look like someone who's just woken up. He squints an eye shut as Rowan combs through his hair. "Why have you switched from wine to spirits? Someone tell you it would put hair on your chest?"
Rose smirks. "No. I've had no stomach for wine since the pennyroyal," she replies. "I keep thinking I taste mint. And vomit." She massages his temples with her fingertips, craning around to see him better. "Is that a 'Rose stop touching me' face or a 'I need a moment to acclimate to this' face?"
"Ah, right." Josse's tone is briefly dry at the mention of pennyroyal. "That strong awful whiskey from around the corner does the same to me…without the mint. We'll just have to agree to sit far from each other when drinking from now on." His eyes are completely closed by the time she looks at his face, the brow on the side of her voice arching up. "Oh no, neither. This is divine, and I don't say that lightly."
"Oh, good," says Rose, sounding well content with that. "I'm feeling affectionate and if I cuddle Sasha's puppies any more I'll rub the little buggers bald." She alternates between his temples and his scalp, lightly massaging the latter with her nails. "Grooming is very soothing. I'm told the apes across the Narrow Sea pick nits off each other to cement their bonds. Maybe we're just big, hairless apes." She kisses his forehead absently. "What are we pondering tonight?"
Josse chuckles, or at least seems to. There's no sound but his shoulders move as if there had been. The back of his neck is knotted and tense, nothing like the demeanor he consistently projects. "History books," he murmurs. "Faith militant…the old armed order that the Targaryens had banned for so long. It's amazing how much lies buried in graves of time." His head bows further as she works up the back of it. "And what about you."
"What about me?" replies Rose, her dry echo placing faint emphasis in the second word. "My life is placid and uneventful, of course. I live moderately and with consideration. Nothing untoward or unpleasant ever happens, least of all that's my fault." The self-deprecation in her tone is practically self-flagellation, but it's not without its note of humor. She presses her thumbs into the knots at the back of his neck, sliding them slowly, firmly down and up again.
Head still bowed, Josse snorts quietly. "And King Robert Baratheon just won a beauty contest."
"Hah. I have heard that he's very handsome. He's just put on some weight since the Rebellion." Rose continues working the muscles and tendons of his neck with her thumbs, then out to junction of neck and shoulder and back again. "I've fucked things up again," she says softly but matter-of-factly. "But it's nothing to worry yourself over. It won't bring me ruin, just the pain I've earned. Maybe I'll learn something."
"I'm not worried, I'm intrigued," Josse murmurs into the space in front of his chest. "You don't have to talk about it. Or…well. You don't have to, but that means I can come up with my own conjectures of what and who with, and you might not like them."
"Go ahead and conject," Rose replies, walk-sliding her thumbs from between his shoulder blades to the base of his skull. She has remarkably strong hands, but considering how she spends her days, that's hardly surprising. "I'm interested to see where your mind goes, and if it's anywhere near worthy of my actual stupidity."
"Now this is a trap," Josse says drily. "Whether the guess were right or wrong you'd find it cause never to speak to me again."
Rose laughs at that, though she keeps it shy of barking or braying. "Hah! As if I'd ever…" She kisses his forehead again, resuming the massage of his scalp with her nails. "I can't imagine my life without you. I'd have to run away to King's Landing and join Rowan's mummers, for there's no one else who so loves me, despite myself."
"Horseshit," Josse snorts under his breath. "You trail men behind you like ants following honey, Rose. You just don't turn around to look."
"That's not love," Rose argues, wryly amused. "That's… I don't know. It's something. But it's — you and Rowan, it's unconditional. I don't have to be… anything. I can be ugly and stupid and feckless and cruel and selfish and just… wrong. Have been. All of those things. But you always see the best in me — or at least believe in it." Her fingers continue her work, even though her words pause in reflection. She sighs. "I don't know that it's even possible for romantic love to be so true."
"I remember reading a poet ages ago," Josse says. "Who said that in great romance, each person basically plays a part that the other really likes." He chuckles again, but it's just one sound and very soft. "To a certain extent I think that's true. It's a paradox, you know…the more we love someone — in that romantic way — the more resistant we are to telling them the truth. The more afraid we are."
"Romance can blow me," Rose states, all grumbly and pouty. "I should have stuck with Tym Rivers. Sex. Straight up. No problems." She rests her cheek on the top of his head and wraps her arms around his shoulders, closing her eyes — tired. Sad. "What the fuck was I thinking?"
Not the return touchy sort is Josse. The simple resting of his hand on her forearm is worth as much as a bear hug from some. "I don't know, my dear. Why don't you tell me what you think you were thinking."
"Which time?" she replies softly. There are, after all, so many romantic disasters to choose from. "I kissed Jacsen," she offers, for starters.
Josse makes a soft 'hm' that could mean any number of things. "I am thoroughly unsurprised, go on."
"Oh, Gods, really?" says Rose, sounding in agony. "That's so awful. I'm so bad you actually expected me to do something that stupid?"
"Well no, I mean…Lord Jacsen? Who wouldn't?" Josse's smirk is evident in his voice, though he wipes it away. "But really." One shoulder shrugs. "It was fairly obvious at the dedication that he…appreciated you, shall I say. I'm not saying it was likely the best idea in the world but not one that shocks me."
"He does," Rose says softly, wistfully. "Appreciate me, that is. It was… really, incredibly lovely to be… looked at that way. By someone who doesn't think I'm stupid, or a child, or a liar — even though I am — and who doesn't ascribe the worst possible everything to anything I do." She is silent a moment, letting the bitter dust settle. "I guess that's what the fuck I was thinking. Or feeling. How good Jack made me feel to be me."
"And this is a problem because you don't want to let it go?" Josse's question is an honest one, trying to find the next footstep on this path of hers.
Rose shrugs very lightly. "I guess I don't. I mean, who wants to give up what feels good? It's like saying no to chocolate."
Josse nods once, perfectly able to take that into consideration. His hand is still resting on her arm, every so often making an absent soft tap. "And what of Gedeon? What of Jarod?" The names are given the exact same weight.
"I love Jarod," says Rose softly, without pitch or drama. Fish live in the rivers. It's raining. She loves the bastard of the Roost. Fact, fact, fact. "It's not a choice. It doesn't make me happy. He doesn't see me and I don't think he knows me. But I love him. And that's that." She seems to feel the answer covers both questions. All three, really.
Josse's next question is simple, blunt, but not in the least unkind: "Why?"
"Because he's Jarod," Rose replies, laughing painfully. "Why not? Who can help it? Because he's beautiful. Because he's good. Loyal Honorable. Grateful. True. Because he's a fuck-up, sometimes, but he admits it. Because of his passionate devotion to the people he loves. Because he treats people well, because he champions underdogs, because he's a big fucking girl. Because he's the best man I know. Because he can't stay angry — at anyone but me. Because… because he's kind to his fucking horse. I don't know… isn't all that enough?"
"I ask, Rose, because when you talk of Jacsen you seem to crave what he gives you…not him." Josse turns his head just a little bit, towards where her voice is coming from. "Would you love Jarod if he were giving you what Jacsen does? Or would that make Jarod a different person?"
"I'm very fond of Jack — but you're right. I want him for what he gives me — and I know that's not… he certainly deserves better. Even if it weren't all impossible. And… I don't know. Maybe if we had time, and explored it, and each other… but neither of us really want to do that. It would just… hurt everyone and end in disaster. Some things are best never begun." Rose sighs. "I don't think seeing me as someone… beautiful and strong and brave would make Jarod a different person. Because I am, you know." She swallows, and reasserts in a whisper, "I am."
"Yes, you are," Josse replies. "And there is nothing wrong with being drawn to someone who reaffirms that for you…it's what we do. All of us. But without knowing if you can put up with the times that person doesn't give that to you — it's not enough. And you, my sweet Rose, have each half on opposite sides. You've got to figure out which one is closer to the whole. That's who is real."
"I told him," Rose says, sighing and lifting her head, kissing the top of his. "Jack beat me to it, but I was hard on his heels." She laughs softly, wryly. "It's kind of like we'd no sooner kissed then we were racing each other to be confessed." Her faint smile dies, all mirth gone when she speaks next. "He… was so hurt. And I know, I've always known, how he feels about women. That they'll always choose the lordling. That he's good enough to fuck, but not to marry. That he can't give them… what a lord can. He's not good enough." She swallows, playing with Josse's hair, randomly parting it and smoothing it. "But it never occurred to me for a second that — I was part of that dynamic. And he was so hurt, Josse. So fucking crushed. But Seven smite him… how was I to know?"
"Well," Josse replies drily, "He didn't exactly give you what the lord did, now did he." He doesn't seem to mind her messing with his hair, wiry dark strands turning easily to bundles of cowlicks.
Rose sighs softly, pleasantly occupied with making a disaster of Josse's hair. "No. I guess he didn't." She shakes her head. "I don't need him to agree with everything I do. Or think. Or say. Or want, even. Just… to respect them. And me. He thinks the world is going to destroy me, and it might… He thinks I don't hear him telling me that, but I do. He doesn't understand why I have to try anyway… I don't need him to understand. Just… accept. And love me anyways." She smiles faintly, smoothing Josse's hair and kissing the top of his head once more. "Like you."
Josse chuckles under his breath, though it has a tinge of something other than amusement. "You deserve far more real a man than I am." The slight self-deprecation is brief, as he goes on right after. "My point is don't blame yourself for Jarod's reaction. He had no right to be 'crushed', that's…wanting you to pine forever without him having to give anything back. And that's wrong. Now if Jacsen has also had it out with him over it I wouldn't doubt our wise young Lord spoke something just like I'm saying right to his face. Which is good, because otherwise I would have to."
Rose snorts mirthfully. "You're twice the man I am," she deadpans, then grins and HUGS his shoulders. "At least!" Leaning down to rest her chin on his shoulder, cheek against his as he goes on, she gazes thoughtfully at the floor. "Mm. I highly doubt it. Jack and Jarod — I can't imagine them having cross words. And Jarod made it pretty clear that Jack was forgiven, and could be forgiven anything." She shakes her head slightly. "Which is good. I think… if I'd actually managed to damage their relationship, that would have been… just awful." She gives him another squeeze and withdraws a leg so she's all on one side of him, slipping down to join him on the floor, shoulder to shoulder. "That doesn't mean that you should go riding out to smack him, however much I appreciate the impulse. I mean, if he brings it up? Let him have it…" she smirks. "But. I don't know. I'm just… tired." She rests her head on his shoulder. "Can I stay here tonight?"
"I doubt Jacsen would allow cross words over such a thing," Josse says, and sounds quite convinced of it. "I wouldn't worry about that." He shoves a book out of the way to make room for her to sit in this little literary nest he'd made. His face still bears a strange amount of exhaustion for so early in the evening, but he's no longer holding his head like it might explode. "You may stay as long as you like. There's no-one else in that cot room, so you ought to be able to get a good night's sleep."
Rose spends a few moments really studying his face, looking a little worried. "Have you been sleeping?"
"More than I probably should." Josse scratches the side of his thumb over the puffy skin under his left eye. "Have you?"
"Except for the other night when Jarod's new squire tried to climb into my bed and I broke his nose," Rose replies, then puts up her palms and claims, "I've had the latch fixed twice! Honest to the Seven!" She stifles a yawn, speaking of sleep. "You just look really tired." She pauses. "Is there anything I can do?"
Josse just goes 'mm' in his throat at the mention of her lock. Or punching squires. Hard to tell. "Absolutely not. You should get yourself to bed before you fall over. Have you eaten enough?"
Rose sighs and wraps her arms around him, hugging him tight. "I love you so stupid much," she mumbles into his shoulder. "Please keep that in mind, okay? And take care of you accordingly?" She pulls back, kisses his forehead one more time (there's going to be a rut there before he dies), and stands. "I promise I'll eat a big breakfast."
"I will hold you to that." Josse stays sitting where he is on the floor as she gets up. Then much less militantly: "And I'll keep that in mind." He stretches out his legs, grabbing his wine cup before it ends up knocked over and onto all his pretty books. "Go to bed."
Rose salutes smartly, blows a kiss, and goes to do just that.
Josse refrains from actually drinking the wine until she's gone, draining the last of what's in the cup. He turns his eyes to his small desk and then to the floor with his books, something bothering him enough to bring a crease of tension back between his brows — then it's promptly waved off and he flips a page, starting back into the text. He'll check a few times to be sure Rose is sleeping soundly over the night before he goes to bed, himself.