|Blood and Bone|
|Summary:||Gedeon and Rose visit the godswood in Riverrun. There is a revelation, of sorts.|
|Related Logs:||Anything having to do with Gedeon and Rose being an item and then not, and also anything having to do with Jarod and Rose not being an item and then being one.|
|Godswood — Riverrun|
|A forest of tall redwoods with an even taller weirtree in the center.|
|10 November 288|
Studying is well enough. It's admirable, really, but when one is obliged to spend their days primarily keeping out of the way of agitated parties to avoid agitation (or any nefarious attempts), it also gets boring rather quickly. Or, at any rate, the blond knight of Oldstones has had enough of walls and the inside of rooms, and so he looks up from the writing he's perusing in the common room to peer over at his equally studious squire. He closes the book on his lap with a definitive snap. "Come on," Gedeon says, "We're getting out of here."
Rowan looks up as the book snaps shut, blinking and in the midst of an eye-rubbing yawn — when the declaration of departure if made. The yawn is arrested mid-squeak and flashes into a big, bright smile. "That sounds promising," she says, shutting her own book and standing to stretch, arms up over her head. She grimaces at the pull on her ribs, but it's apparently a good pain. Things are improving. "Let's."
He watches that stretch, and for whatever he sees, Gedeon offers a small nod of approval. Innards mending as innards ought. He stands with a small stretch of his own and heads out into the corridor and then down and out of the keep. The godswoods aren't hard to find, the red of the weirwood's leaves arched up and high above the rest of the trees clustered close in a place where, from the outside, trees look as if they ought not to be.
Their footsteps are almost silent, cushioned by the dark, leafy humus of the forest floor. Rose is silent, just breathing — enjoying the open air, the deep, green scent of things… the peace. Nearing the weirwood, the hush of the forest deepens. Soon, it seems no animal dares scurry and no bird dares call — only the trees whisper. It's easy to fancy there are voices in susurrance of the leaves, even if one isn't given to fancy. Even Rose holds her breath and listens.
Gedeon lifts his gaze to watch those leaves shudder and whisper, and then he moves slowly around the wide, white trunk until he finds that carved face with its weeping red eyes. He blinks at the figure who, in turn, offers nothing back save one more slow-rolling red tear. "The old gods," he murmurs. "I can see why the septs wanted these symbols gone."
Rose reaches out, gingerly, to touch the gnarled and ancient face, as though she'd brush that tear away — though she doesn't dare. "They say there's a godswood in the Mire," she says, her voice barely a breath. "Hidden in the swamp. I've never seen it — not… that I remember, anyway. But my mother swears all her children were named there."
"Named beneath a weirwood," Gedeon murmurs, smiling faintly. "Of course you would be. It's funny, isn't it? I've been inside a sept, I can't tell you how many times, and I don't think I've ever once felt as if something was really paying attention. But here…" he draws in a slow breath, glancing around at the woods and its strange, blood-and-bone heart. "The air is heavy with it."
"Yes," Rose agrees, very softly. She looks up into the red leaves overhead, as though searching for something. "But… I don't feel unwelcome. I feel…" she searches for the right word, discarding several in the silence. "Known," she finally decides, adding with a faint laugh, "which is, in itself, a little unsettling." Without looking — perhaps without even realizing it — she reaches back for his hand.
"Perhaps it's trying to recall who you are," Gedeon teases softly, his hand turning so that Rowan can slip hers into it. "The face and the name have changed, after all this time, and you gone so long from the godswood."
Smiling, Rose shakes her head, fingers lacing with his. "I don't think the gods are misled by faces. Or names." She looks faintly puzzled… and a little wistful. "For the first time in… ever, I think, I'd like to see my mother. I'd like… to ask her. About my naming."
"No?" Gedeon asks, his voice still a little hushed in the presence of this… presence. "Where's the fun in that?" For Rose's mother he considers for a moment. "You could write her," he suggests, "and ask her to tell you of it."
"I might," Rose murmurs, nodding. She steps back beside him, hand still laced with his. "I feel like… I should have brought something. Like a candle to the Sept, but — not, obviously. Fire's probably not looked on too fondly, when you're made of wood." She studies his profile intently.
"No, I wouldn't think so," Gedeon agrees, staring up at the face of the tree. "I think, in such a place as this, with such gods as these, if you wish to offer something, it must be of yourself."
Rose considers this a moment, eyes turning back to that ancient face, so full of wisdom and grief. She draws the knife from her belt, and wraps her left hand around the blade. A quick flick of her right hand, and blood wells — so deeply scarlet if looks like wine — from her palm. She curls her fingers into a fist, watching the drops spatter on the ground.
Perhaps it's sacrilege, perhaps Gedeon knows no better or perhaps the weirwood wouldn't care at all. But, the knight reaches up and curls his fingers around the stem of a single, red leaf. He plucks it down and reaches for Rose's hand, to press the crimson of its skin flush against the crimson of hers.
Utterly silent, as though they were conducting a ritual — weaving a spell — Rose stands close to him and watches him apply the leaf to her hand. She looks up to search his face, eyes drowningly dark, and then offers him the knife, hilt first.
His blue eyes, storm-pale, hold hers as he accepts the little blade with one hand. Gedeon turns the other palm up to the sky, so he can copy Rose's motion and slice a thin, clean cut across his palm. His hand closes around the welling blood, and he holds his arm out so that his drops might fall where Rose's did.
Reaching out, Rose clasps Gedeon's hand once more, fingers threading with his, palm pressed to palm so their blood is indistinguishable, mingling as it falls. The precious red leaf is clasped carefully in her other hand as she watches their offering — the very quickness of their lives, their hearts — soak into the sacred ground.
His fingers curl fast around hers, and he watches the blood drip, pit-patting softly against the earth, unable to say which bit of blood belongs to who. It is a long stretch of quiet, until the cuts begin to clot, the dripping stops, and the drying blood serves to glue their hands together until one of them thinks to pull them apart.
Rose doesn't. At least not right away. She's very still, very quiet, even breathing carefully. If one's very observant, one might see the pulse in her throat racing and fluttering. But otherwise… she's listening. Whether her attention is turned inward or outward, it's impossible to say.
The blond knight's gaze lifts to stare up at the leaves, or perhaps, through them, at whatever, beyond the wind, makes them murmur and stir. "What do you hear?" he whispers.
"I don't," admits Rose, abashed, her own voice still a whisper. "Just… the rush of my blood. And my heart pounding."
"Then find your answers there," Gedeon murmurs. "In a godswood, blood and bone have their own voices."
She watches his lips as he speaks, swallowing, her own parting slightly. The slightest of nods — again, barely breathing. "And what do you hear?" she wonders.
His smile is faint and a tiny bit sad. "Things I already know," Gedeon answers softly.
Rose hesitates, shifting just a fraction closer. "Tell me?" she asks.
Gedeon huffs a faint, defeated laugh as she creeps closer, and there is a quick look around the woods to make certain they are, indeed, alone. And then tell her, he does, not with words but most certainly with his mouth. His lips crush into hers as firmly as their hands are clasped together.
She jolts — not a startle, but a visceral response, a reaction to the electricity that lances through her as their lips meet. Her free hand grasps a fist full of his tunic as her whole body shudders — and then she's returning the kiss, ravenously, giving in to all the longing steeped in her blood, branded to her bones.
He makes a sound, somewhere between a growl and a groan, against her mouth before claiming it properly with a famished sweep of his tongue and the bruising force of his lips. She grabs his tunic, his free hand curls around her upper arm, squeezing tightly.
Her hands rise, trembling — one still streaked with their commingled blood — to frame his face as she gives herself over entirely, knowing nothing but him, lips, teeth, tongue, the fingers digging into her arm, his scent and warmth. Whatever it is in him that resonates in her, that deep, sonorous call that's robbed her of sleep on so many nights, drowns out even the gods. She utters a low, sweet mewl of longing, fingers sliding up into his hair, body cleaving to his.
That small sound, the curl of her fingers, spurs him on, his hand shifting from her arm so both can come up around her back and press her close, one leaving a ruddy smear against the cloth of her shirt. But then something, some whisper through the leaves, or some internal urging that has no tie to gods old or new, cause Gedeon to lift his chin and break their hungry kisses with a soft gasp. "No," he murmurs, perhaps more to himself than to Rose. "No, no, no. You made your choice and this isn't it. And it wasn't what I was after in bringing you here." His lips brush against her forehead as his arms begin to unwind from around her. "Forgive me."
Rose breathes a sob — a laugh. Both. There are tears on her cheeks, but as she looks at him she smiles beautifully, blissfully, and laugh-sobs again. "Oh, Gods," she whispers, looking around as though expecting to see some panel of celestial beings arrived to render judgment for her epiphany. Or applause. "I've… oh, Gods…" she whispers, punch-drunk on revelation. Stunned. She sits, abruptly, right at his feet, like her knees have given way. "Holy fuck. I have — fuck, I'm gifted." She stares up at Gedeon, eyes huge and dark and wet. "I've done everything wrong." Another laugh. She drags her sleeves across her cheeks. "How do I manage it?"
Gedeon blinks as she drops, rather suddenly, down to the leaf-covered ground, and after a beat, he's lowering himself down beside her, adding more crackles and whispers as he settles and peers over at Rose. "Perhaps you're just a little scattered from the bleeding and the long walk," he suggests gently. An easy explanation and a perfectly respectable way out.
That makes her giggle. "Really?" A long walk and a little cut? "You've met me, right?" She looks at him, mirth ebbing, replaced by wonder — baffled. "Mother of love, what do you even see in me?" She smiles again, this time melancholy and tender. "I'm absolute disaster."
"You were beaten within an inch of your life rather recently," Gedeon points out reasonably enough, "that can slow a body down. Even yours. For a time, at least." He's smiling faintly, unable to help it, despite her tears, as she asks him. "I suppose I just like disasters." Then he shakes his head, wiping the words away to offer ones that please him better. "I don't know where this path you've chosen will take you, to glory or ruin, but you've such fire in you to follow it. You are stubborn and impossible and half-mad, I think, to live as you do, to want what you want. But I… I don't know. The world needs a little madness, and it seems… so do I."
"I… am so, so sorry," Rose finally manages after several long, speechless moments. "I — don't — know," she shakes her head, breathing and pushing a hand back through her hair, "how… how I could have mangled this all so badly." She swallows, rue and regret and sorrow furrowing her features. "Can you ever forgive me, Gedeon?"
"It's not mangled, Rose," Gedeon assures gently, reaching his uninjured hand to rest it, just briefly, on her knee. A brush of reassurance, now that he doesn't dare any more. "We'll go back, wash up, and it never happened, all right? Things will be fine, he never needs to know. It's just… it's forgotten."
Rose stares for a moment, blinking. "Huh," she muses, looking away with a faint frown. She looks at the weirwood, studying its face, then returns her gaze to the knight beside her. "You know, I decided I was in love with Jarod Rivers when I was eleven years old? He was — " she sighs, a little impatient with herself, for some reason. "He was handsome and kind to me, my friend when there was no one else, my knight when no one else would have me. I wasn't always well-loved at the Roost… when I first arrived — I was nothing but a Nayland. People didn't treat me well." She shrugs. "No one, I think, was prepared to let me be anything but a scrawny little representative of my house and all its naked ambition. But Jarod was. And I just… I worshipped him." Her brows draw together a bit, searching his expression for understanding. "And then, later… when I actually fell in love? I didn't… get it. I didn't recognize — it wasn't what I thought I wanted all my life, so I thought… or didn't. Think." She laughs, looking up at the scarlet canopy, as though begging assistance. "I am fucking this up so badly." She turns back to Gedeon suddenly. "Am I making sense? Any? At all?" A beat, then hopefully, "A little?"
Gedeon listens, his gaze resting on Rose, a gentle, comforting thing. See? He's no threat, he's repentant, he'll be good, now, pinky swear. There are small nods and a bland, encouraging smile as she goes on, explains how she loves Jarod and why. All quite expected, really. Until her words veer and fail to properly line up with what the blond knight anticipates should come next. His brows lower, perplexed, even as his expression shifts from mild and interested to intent. Even as his eyes shift from blue, closer to black. He swallows, slowly, and his tongue flicks out to wet his lips. "No," he whispers, but then, makes a liar of himself, "Tell me."
She swallows, as well, taking a breath. There should be better words. But in the end, there are only those hackneyed three — the tried and trite and true that have been used in lieu of the inexpressible, the impossible, for millennia. "I love you, Gedeon," she whispers. "Gods help me, but I love you."
And they serve, as they always have. Tried and trite, but true enough to have lasted. To have been worn rough and squandered and flung at passing fancies by some as carelessly as they have been hoarded to the end of their days by others. And today, uttered in the middle of a godswood, they cause Gedeon Rivers to swallow once more, to blink rather quickly and to grab his lady squire by the arms again so he can haul her close, claim her mouth and hide the sudden wetness on his own lashes.
Rose melts into that kiss, cheeks still wet — or wet once again. She tastes of tears and deep, unutterable sweetness, twining her arms around his neck, shivering with a thrill of joy. And that joy soon bubbles up to her lips, laughter combined with tears again, uttered in a breath between kisses. And she kisses him again. And again. "I probably just should have led with that, huh…?" she mumbles against his mouth, delivering kisses around a radiant smile.
"Well," Gedeon murmurs, between the small kisses that he cannot quite seem to stop any more than he can stop breathing, "it would have cut to the point." And then, after a few more, "Fuck." A few more. "What now?"
Laughing in earnest now, though the sound is still a little wet and choked, Rose quips, "Those three little words every woman in love longs to hear… 'Fuck, what now?'" She kisses his chin and jaw, his cheekbones and the bridge of his nose, always returning to his mouth, unable to have enough of his lips. "I recommend anything that involves more kissing."
"No, I mean…" But whatever Gedeon means is discarded for more kisses as a hand works its way under her shirt…and encounters bandages there for two reasons. He sucks in a sharp breath and draws back, giving his head a small shake. "Godswood," he points out. "Holy. Outdoors. Public. We are very stupid people."
"I'd be more worried about what the Old Gods thought if I didn't feel like this was partially their fault," Rose murmurs, leaning in to kiss him again. But only once. Alright, twice. "The outdoors and public thing — very sensible." And again. "Oh, sweet Seven, how I've missed you…"
"Maybe they like us. More than the new gods do, anyway," Gedeon murmurs. "I think I prefer them, too." Kisses and sacrilege! What a keeper! "I've missed you, too," he murmurs, "a great deal."
Tender fingers trace his jaw and the edge of his ear, feather light. She nuzzles his cheek, breathing him in and sighing in longing. "Well, then," she says softly, drawing back just enough to meet his eyes as she hands him back the question, "What now?"
Gedeon's fingertips slide down the side of her throat, one hooking around the leather cord that rests around her neck and drawing it out so he can study the stylized wave that hangs from it. His smile is soft and pleased as he does so, his cut hand curling around the charm for a long moment. "Now," he murmurs a little regretfully, "you go away. And you think. And you make a decision. And then, if it comes to it, you speak to Jarod. We both owe him that much, at the very least."
Rose nods, lowering her lashes. "Ah, gods, that'll be painful," she whispers. But it's unquestionably the right thing — the only thing — to do. "We made such good friends, Jarod and me. And a truly fine knight-squire pair. The lovers thing — " she chuckles ruefully, sadly. "We're both so bad at it. At least with each other. He wants me to change. I want him to… not want that. And that's never far from the surface, even in our best moments."
There's nothing to say to that. Nothing Gedeon has any right to say. So, instead, he moves his hand from the little wave, the silver marked now with red, back to the leather cord that carries it. This he lifts and lowers, resettling the necklace beneath Rose's shirt. "Then you know where you can find me, when you're ready."
She leans her forehead against his for a moment, brushing the side of his nose with hers, eyes shut. That luminous smile touches her lips again, and she, in turn, touches them to his. Very briefly. Sweetly. Her fingertips touch his cheek, and she stands, carefully plucking that scarlet leaf he pulled for her from the ground before turning to make the long walk back.