|Summary:||Between homes, Rose stays a night at the sept. Josse checks in.|
|Related Logs:||Goodbye, Armistice|
|Spare Room, Sept of the Seven, Terrick's Roost|
|Clean. Tidy. Cot. Candle. About the size of a walk-in closet.|
|11th day of Eighthmonth, 288|
Night outside, the air cool after the blaze of the day. There's a small cot set up for Rowan in a room that she'll probably recognize — she and Gedeon lay side by side (fully clothed in those days) recovering from pennyroyal. The room doesn't stink of sweat and vomit anymore, scrubbed down and subjected to incense several times over. There's some burning in here even now. A calming, sweetish smell wafts in thin ribbons of gray smoke. A quiet young septa settles Rowan onto a cot and leaves him be for the time being.
One night at the Rockcliff is about all the recently dismissed squire could afford — so thank Seven, once again, for Josse. Rose — in Rowan-clothes — has brought hence the heavy footlocker that contains her worldly possessions, settling it into a corner of the small room before she is, in turn, settled by the septa. Sitting on the edge of the cot, hands braced on the edge, she breathes deep and slow, heart heavy. With no comely young knight to distract her, sorrows crowd in — an increasing, suffocating weight on her chest. She toes off her boots and, finally, turns to collapse face-first into the cot, hiding her head and wishing the world away.
Nothing answers her except the sound of crickets in the garden outside the single window. Not for quite a while. Eventually she can hear footsteps, one set that passes by her door without stopping and then — a few minute later — one that does. Someone's hand raps gently on the thin door, barely a screen. "Rose?"
She sits up in the darkness, startled and muddled — she must have dozed, for it takes her a minute to piece together where she is. Again. "Josse…" She pushes her hair back, swinging her legs off the cot and stepping very carefully through the dark — and ultimately stubbing her toe, despite her caution. "Oh, sodding hells fuck me!" she hisses, hopping about on her less-painful foot.
"That's not my last name, no." Josse folds his arms on the other side of the door, listening to her fumble about and hiss. "Are you dressed?"
Despite her pain, the question makes her choke to stifle a giggle. "Yes, Josse. Quite dressed. Seven bless, you'd think you'd never saw a — well, I know for a fact that you have. And we're practically siblings. So come in." There are a few sharp clicks made by flint striking steel, and a few moments later Rose has a candle lit. She leaves it on the small table, limping over to the cot to sit and examine her foot. "I think I broke my toe," she mutters. "Which… really… is simply perfect. A perfect end to this horrid series of days."
"Sometimes I think you just enjoy thrashing about, Rose." Josse pushes on the rickety door and lets it shudder closed behind him. A short puff of air blows out the tiny candle he'd travelled up the stairs with. "Siblings." He makes a slightly dry-sounding chuckle that he then doesn't explain. "Let me see your toe."
Rose rests her weight back on her hands, lifting and extending her leg so Josse can inspect the offended appendage. "Sometimes I think you enjoy telling me what I enjoy," she sighs, bickering without heat or edge. Then, softly and sincerely, "Thank you for letting me stay."
"Don't think you're scot-free. We've got mopping to do in the morning. The Maiden loves mopping." Josse's deadpanning teases her, and he glances up from under his brows. He settles back on his heels, holding his hands out for her foot.
Placing her foot in Josse's care, Rose smirks. "If you think a little housekeeping's going to put me off, you clearly don't know what good use Ser Jarod made of his squire." She sighs, smiling a bit painfully. It likely has little to do with her toe. "The end of an era, isn't it? Everything changes now."
"Yes." Josse turns her foot just enough that he can see if the toe's started to swell. "But to hold on to what we want just because we want it is selfish, and you did an unselfish thing. What did he say to it all?"
"I keep telling myself that," Rose murmurs, studying the rough blanket on the cot. "But righteousness is such a cold, unsavory dish." She twitches another pained smile. The toe is bit swollen, but doesn't appear broken. "He can't even look at me. He says… he says it's as if I killed Rowan, his friend… and that he doesn't know who I am. And doesn't want to."
Josse pats the side of Rowan's toe, the all-clear signal. Instead of getting up he leans back against the chilly stone wall, folding his hands across his waist. "Do you feel wronged by that?"
Rose nods, lips twitching a rueful smirk. "Yes. Of course I do. But I know I've no right to." She shrugs. "We feel what we feel. That we can examine those feelings and discern which are… right and reasonable, and which are not, well. That's a gift from the Crone I try not to neglect — though I'm sure She despairs of me often enough."
Josse smiles slightly. "I'm sure she doesn't. Just being self-aware enough to think she might be disappointed is wisdom right there." He picks some half-imagined speck off his robe. "Ser Gedeon told me he was extending you a great honor." His eyes come back up. "In humbler words than that."
"He is," Rose confirms, a fond smile taking a bit of the weight from her melancholy. "Provided his lord will allow. I still have not met Ser Anton, and I fear he may dislike that my loyalty to Oldstones… could be limited by certain factors."
"Well. That's their game to play." Josse's shoulder makes a soft crack as he lifts it, stretching out the left side of his neck. "Oldstones and Nayland and Terrick. If you get tired of it all, come back here and I'll tell nosy Baelor we have a new septa. The robes aren't terribly itchy, I promise."
Rose laughs, shaking her head. "I doubt the Seven would have me so, Josse. I'm a miserable, craven lair. I can barely abide myself." She sighs, sinking her hands into her hair and propping her elbows on her knees; she studies her toes and the floor. "Is there any way to eve be free of it, do you think? My lies? Without winding up a brood mare for some gouty old man?"
"All men are liars," Josse says, quiet and firm. "If it were the Seven's decision, sometimes I think none of us would be here." His fingers idly pick just under the collar of his robe. "What do you mean, be free of it? In what sense?"
"A fair question," Rose murmurs, parsing just what she does mean for a moment. "I suppose it means… to be able to live as a woman? Be called by my name? I lie a thousand times a day, every day — little things. I tell people I don't know how to swim. I give them a name not my own. I say I wish to join the Kingsguard. I tell people about my sister Rowenna. I mean — sweet Seven!" she laughs unhappily, now that she's really considering it. "It's… every other word that falls from my lips is a lie!"
"It's not so uncommon," Josse replies. His tone doesn't exactly condone, but somehow he sounds like he might understand. "The consequences of truth tend to be immediate, where the ones for lies can be delayed. It's…human to prefer the latter. Unfortunately." He pauses, his mouth opening again a second before he talks. "How will they present you at Oldstones? As Rowan Nayland? Or as Rose Rivers?"
"As Rowan," Rose replies. "The plan is still to make myself known as a woman, just… not until I'm released from Gedeon's service and knighted. That way there's less… salacious speculation about what he's doing with me. And so no one can gainsay my skill." She drops back to lie on the cot, staring at the ceiling. "The plan, the plan, the bloody plan. It changes moment to moment."
"Then there's your answer," Josse replies, his shoulders making a slight shrug. "You'll be free when you free yourself, and not sooner. If you want what other women have, then behave as other women do. If you want to be a knight, then that is a different path. But…" The last word slips out as his mouth goes ahead of his mind, and nothing follows.
Rose turns her head at the silence, eyebrows lifting as she studies Josse by the light of that single candle. "But?" she prompts softly.
It takes Josse a few seconds to start talking again. "Rose, an anointing ceremony isn't just a simple step that one vaults over to become a knight. It's the holiest pledge you'll ever make, the changing of your entire self from an old being to a new in the eyes of the Seven." His blue eyes look at hers. "Confidences involve dancing around as we must sometimes…but we can't dance around the gods. We can't put someone's soul in that grave of danger."
"Then will you anoint me, Josse?" asks Rose, rolling onto her side to better view him, dark eyes for blue. "In my own name. Before the knight who sponsors me, and his lord, both of whom know the truth. No one will be lying then. Not to each other. Certainly not to the Gods."
"In your own name," Josse repeats, with a slight stress on the third word. "If and when Ser Gedeon and Lord Anton declare you ready and will swear so before the gods…on that day, yes. Provided we're all still alive." That's not a joke. "I will do my duties to the knighthood, and no less."
"Of course, Josse," Rose says softly, a very faint touch of rebuke in her voice at the stressed syllable. "I would never ask or desire you do otherwise." She props up on an elbow. "You're my friend. You know that, right? Not just a convenient, on-call confessor and physick. I care about your feelings and how… all of this affects you. I'm sure I must seem self-involved at times, and I fear I can get that way, but…" Her lips quirk up in a tender, sad way. "I love you terribly."
"Don't take this the wrong way, but I know you're a woman when you go on like that." There's no malice at all; rather they're pitched out to distract from the fact that Josse's ears are slightly reddened. "Try not to let all this wrench that out of you."
"Oh, fuck you," Rose retorts, delivering the words with the same warmth and tenderness that preceded them. She grins and rolls her eyes, sighing. His next words touch her, though, and bring her from the cot as well. She pads over and slides down the wall beside him, resting her head on his shoulder. "Even Rowan used to tease me for being tender-hearted," she says with amusement and rue. "I do have a woman's heart."
Josse chuckles at the vulgarity. He lets the back of his head against the wall, giving her more room to rest her own down. "Every heart has its place. Unfortunate that some never find it. Your Rowan sounds like a good brother to have."
"He is," Rose agrees, her tone fond. "We were very close, growing up. Only ten months between us, we were good as twins." She shifts her head a bit, looking up at him without really leaving the comfy spot on his shoulder. "Do you have any family? I can't believe I've never asked you that — now I do feel self-involved."
"Good as twins indeed," Josse says, sounding a little amused. At her question he glances absently at the flickering candle nearby. "I, um…" After her beginning tale of happy noble siblinghood, he sounds almost embarassed. "No. Or rather…I don't know. If I do I don't know where they are."
She lifts her had to study the young septon's profile as he looks away. "Were you orphaned? Or…?"
Josse hesitates. "I don't know." The mantra of this part of the conversation. "I remember holding my mother's hand, in front of an alleyway. She said to wait for her…she never came back." His voice is slightly stilted as he talks about this, detached in a way that only many years or good acting can do. "It was a long time ago, it doesn't matter now."
"It does," Rose counters, softly. She takes Josse's hand. "I'm sure she loved you very much. And would have come back for you if she could."
"I couldn't tell you," Josse replies, in a tone that doesn't believe Rose's words one bit. "And no, it doesn't matter. I have what family I need." He chuckles faintly. "Knowing my luck a true sister wouldn't be half as kind as you."
Rose threads her fingers with Josse's, resting her head on his shoulder again. "You are the kindest, most patient, gentlest person I know," she asserts. "And anyone who doesn't love you is stupid." So there.
"I wish I could agree with you. We both know everyone does things they aren't terribly proud of…often." Josse gently squeezes her hand. "I think we all shield each other from the worst of ourselves. Good and bad as that may turn out."
The girl squire clearly doesn't look like she's buying that. "Be that as it may," she replies to that theory. "Love forgives much. So come — let's switch roles. Let me be your confessor." She shifts around to sit in front of him, cross legged, taking both his hands one she's settled. "What terrible things have you done?"
Josse smiles at her, a pang of fondness rather than amusement. "Take my word for now that I'm human, Rose. I wouldn't understand quite so much about the idiocy of love and the regret of lies if I had never done either, now would I."
Rose smiles back, a touch of sadness in her expression. "Oh, we're all such fools, aren't we?" she sighs. "How the Gods must laugh." She squeezes his hands and leans forward to kiss his cheek. "Very well. But know that I am ever here for you, Josse. Even when I am gone away."
Josse looks down, again giving her hand a gentle squeeze. "And I you, Rose." If there was anything to follow this simplicity, it's cut short. Footsteps go past the door at an uncharacteristic running pace, and a high-pitched voice far down the corridor calls out Josse's name — in panic. The septon frowns, letting go of Rose's hands and getting quickly up to his feet. "Leave me word if you go. Try and get some rest." He's already heading for the door.
Rose looks up in alarm, climbing to her feet as he does. "Go carefully?" she requests, unsure what the matter is — but these are dangerous times, with innocents often caught in the crossfire. She watches him go, says a brief prayer, and blows out the candle.