|Duty and Love|
|Summary:||Anais and Jacsen discuss the finer points of their relationship - in a bathtub.|
|Date:||1 Jul 2012|
|Related Logs:||Tense Terrick logs.|
|Lord Jacsen's Chambers - Four Eagles Tower|
|A bathtub, this time.|
|Sun Jul 01, 289|
Anais is nothing if not a dutiful wife. She does all that's required of her without complaint or question, and has spent the better part of the morning in the village speaking with the families there and taking note of how far rebuilding efforts have progressed. Now she's returned to the Roost, and the stream of servants coming in and out of the suite is proof that it's time for a nice, hot bath. One bucket at a time. At least they're not running out of water.
Honey, I'm home! It's been a long day with all sorts of fun conversations with family, including a surprise visit from the Half-Eagle himself, and Jacsen all but collapses into their chambers, waving away Willem's concerned protests that he should wait on his lordship until after he's taken his medication. What he needs now is some alone time. "Anais?" he calls out when he hears noise from within, groan-limping his way to the doorway. It's getting on time for another dose from the look of things - and the time between each one seems to be getting shorter every day.
"In here," Anais calls from the bedroom, where the tub has been set up and is part way full of water. The call is followed by the lady herself, though her hair is already down, a brush in her hand, and she wears a simple shift and short-sleeved dressing gown. It only takes a moment to mark the difference in his gait, concern lining her brow, before she's stepping forward to meet him. "I was just having a bath drawn." Her smile flickers as she steps forward to meet him, reaching out to link her arm with his. "Maybe you'll join me?"
"I—" Jacsen looks down to where their arms meet, then smiles up at Anais. "Yes, a bath may do me good," he answers, changing his mind from his previous response. "It's been a long day." He does sound tired. No, more than tired - weary. Worn down. He starts to unlace and unbutton. "Any news from the smallfolk?" he asks her, making conversation until they jump in.
"Excellent," Anais approves, leaning up to brush a kiss to his cheek. "It might be good for your leg. As for the smallfolk, they're worried. They still trust us and your family, of course. Your father is well-loved in his lands. But they see as well as we do where things are going. And have less power to do anything about it." She guides him to the couch, sitting down to wait for the tub to be filled. "What about you? You seem to have been busy so far."
"Jarod stopped by today, looking for armor," Jacsen grunts in response, taking a seat. "Saw him for lunch, he seems to be getting on all right. Telling stories about the joust to the whole Inn, you know how he gets." He chuckles fondly, the tenser moments of that lunch apparently forgotten. "And then a conversation with Justin. That did not go as well as I'd hoped." He purses his lips, sighing a bit as he puts an arm around her waist and pulls her closer absentmindedly. "He has his heart set on rebuilding the port for sea trade. I tried to explain to him why that's a poor economic investment in our current state, but…" He shakes his head. No dice.
Anais sets her chin on his shoulder, hand stroking over his damaged leg. It's not medicinal, it's not professional, but it's /something/, and she's trying. "I think we both know how he feels about that, though," she points out. "You and I want to see a port there as well. It's just…now isn't a very good time for it. Unfortunately. In a few years, though, things will be different. How's Jarod? He must have ransomed well if he's shopping for armor. I was surprised he didn't ask for his old armor as ransom, though."
"Yes, exactly," Jacsen says, latching onto her words. "The port is one of my greatest dreams for the Roost. But this is not the time." He was sure of himself, but he's glad to have the validation nonetheless. "Jarod's… Jarod. I don't think he'll ever change, no matter what happens." That brings the smile back to his face, and he rests his head against Anais'. "He said he didn't take the entirety of the ransoms from everyone, so he was looking for a set of maille at a discount - or he'd pay Ser Riordan for the partial one he's got now." And of course, that's just a ridiculous idea - or so it sounds, coming from his mouth.
Anais wrinkles her nose at that idea, shaking her head. "I wish your father hadn't tossed him out the way he did," she admits, still rubbing at his leg, letting her thumb dig in a bit. "Jarod's…Well. He's not perfect, but he's at least got more experience than Justin, and is better known here. Which isn't very fair to Justin, I know, but I can't help but feel that it would be better if /we/ were getting Jarod's best efforts instead of the Naylands."
"Jarod's far from perfect," Jacsen snorts. "But he's one of the best we've got, for what it's worth. Justin needs more time and experience. He'll come into it, I'm sure - he has the keenness, but lacks the temperament and knowledge." He shakes his head again, his hair rubbing against hers with the movement. "I told Jarod — before — to bide his time and wait for his opportunity. If he can do something to help the Roost significantly from his current position, then I might be able to try to convince my Lord Father to bring him back to the fold. I've already lost one brother; I won't lose another, not when I don't have to. And not when we so need him."
"And you told him that?" Anais looks up, a small smile touching her features. "Because I think he needs to hear it. He feels…He knows what sort of damage his relationship with Rowenna did, and more what damage it could have done to the family, and it hurts him. Jarod bleeds purple and gold, no matter who he loves. And Rowenna isn't so tightly tied to her family that she'll let them hurt him, either." She tips her chin just enough to press a kiss to his cheek. "I'm glad you and Jarod are getting on, though."
"Yes, I've told him. Though I think he's a bit conflicted with his oath to Stonebridge." Jacsen seems unsure of whether or not his brother will take decisive action if it means going against the Naylands - but he can't begrudge the man the decision either, even if he doesn't like it. "Jarod and I will always get on. He's more brother to me than my brothers are. It's Rowenna that I have…" What's the right way to word this? "Difficulty accepting. But, she goes where Jarod goes. I've made my peace with that, as much as I can."
"Good." Anais seems to approve of all parts of that. "Because barring Saffron, Rowenna may be one my best friends. And she's my champion." The last brings a flicker of a smile, the memory of their wedding tournament a fond one. "Justin…" She trails off, considering. "We're really going to have to find some way to make him happy. Even if it's something small and silly."
"I've decided to make him sheriff," Jacsen says offhandedly, his eyes closing as he sighs a long breath. "Master Mortimer apparently won't take the post, and Justin's eager. So let Mortimer be his second, and he'll have something to keep him occupied. And become better known to the Roost." That's his plan in a nutshell. "He may not consider me a friend for some time, but that is just as well. I was sharp with him today. Regarding his letter to Lady Roslyn. He asked her to petition her father to have Ser Riordan put back in charge of the negotiations." Unthinkable.
"Sheriff would be good for him," Anais agrees, watching the trail of servants filling the tub. "Very clever of you." As to the other, she stops to consider for a long moment. "I can't really say much about him interfering in the betrothal arrangements," she admits. "Seeing as how I basically wrote home and told my father he could arrange something here. But we did agree that Lord Riordan was more genuinely interested in a peace than Lord Rutger, didn't we?" she asks, looking back to him again. "Not that Justin should have taken the reins on that, of course."
"It was his idea," Jacsen says, eyes still closed. But at least he's not writhing from the pain anymore. "I merely approved it." He won't take the credit for something that isn't his. "Yes, but you're a woman," he counters, as though this is reason enough. "Whereas he went to a woman, the one he's supposedly to wed, instead of going directly to Ser Riordan or Ser Rutger - or even Lord Rickart, I would have allowed. It was not proper."
"At least it's a sign that he'd respect her?" Anais offers, though she doesn't seem entirely convinced by the possibility. "The Naylands might appreciate that, given Lord Rutger's concerns. Still, I think he might…" She pauses, grimacing faintly. "Justin needs someone to love him, and that he can love back. I'm afraid it may just be that simple. He'll not be happy with duty alone. So he sees Roslyn, he sees that he may have to marry her. She's pretty enough, and gentle enough. So he tells himself he loves her, or he will, and he acts like it, and eventually, maybe he even fools himself."
"Love has no place in business. Love confuses business," Jacsen says, cracking open an eye and glancing at her, even though he can only see part of her in the edge of his vision. "And it's not his decision besides." He'll marry who he's betrothed to, and that'll be the end of it - or so the Young Lord expects. "Are you speaking of Justin, or of me?" he asks with a humorless chuckle.
"Of you?" Anais echoes with an arch of her brow and a low laugh. "No. You don't seem unduly concerned with falling in love, Jacsen." As the last of the servants nods that the bath is full, she moves to stand, offering him a hand to rise. "And Jaremy, on the far end of the spectrum, could have fallen in love with a dressmaker's dummy. I'm just suggesting that, with Justin, it might be safest to not let him meet the girl until the betrothal is signed and the wedding's almost here."
Jacsen takes her hand without hesitation, letting her help him to the bath. There might've been a time when he would have recoiled from it and reached for his cane instead, but… he's trying. "That's the way I would have it, were it in my power," he admits to her thought, carefully balancing himself so he doesn't slip while entering the water. "You are pretty enough, though 'gentle' may not be the other adjective I'd use," he says with a small crooked smile. "Would it surprise you if I were to love you?"
Anais casts a sidelong glance his way, watching from beneath her lashes as they move to the tub in the other room. She's quiet for a long moment, even as she starts to undress him. "Yes," she finally answers, loosening the ties of his doublet and reaching out to help pull it over his head. "Other men it might be easier to believe. But you're not a simple man. It's not enough to be pretty." She pauses, stepping back to dip her hand into the water and test the temperature. It's steaming, which should be some indication at least. "I'm not sure what is enough, really."
Jacsen moves with her, facilitating his undress. It's like a strange dance they do that he's gotten used to now. "I'll take that as a compliment," he says dryly on the remark about him not being simple. He slowly lowers himself in, letting his body take the hot water bit by bit before he continues. "What is enough? Surely love cannot be quantified so easily," he says, bemused. "But. You must have thoughts on the subject." He wants to hear what she thinks he's after.
"If I had thoughts on the subject, I wouldn't be surprised if you were to love me, Jacsen," Anais answers with a faint smile of her own, stepping back as he moves into the tub and untying her robe. Removing a shift is a good deal easier than his clothing, so she sits on the edge of the tub as he gets comfortable, dragging her fingers through the water. "If I knew what it took, then I would do it. Not knowing, though…" She trails off, looking back to him again. "I can only try to please you instead."
Jacsen listens, submerging himself up to the neck and relaxing his muscles slowly. "I should seek fidelity and honesty," he says, closing his eyes and leaning his head back to breathe in the steam. "Trust and devotion. Prudence and wisdom. Strength and modesty. Wit and industry." He opens his eyes and reaches up to Anais - slowly, taking a moment to admire her naked form. She is pretty enough. "Those are the qualities I should name in a wife, if not in love. And you meet most of them, do you not?"
"We weren't talking about wives, though," Anais points out with a faint smile, flicking the water from her fingers before she steps carefully into the bath herself, sitting between his legs to rest back against his chest. "We were talking about love." Making herself comfortable, she reaches down to rub at his leg once more, her thumb tracing the line of the scar that cuts across his knee. If nothing else, she's certainly never seemed put off by the injury itself. "It doesn't really matter what we look for in a husband or a wife. What we get is whoever is most advantageous to our houses."
"No, we weren't," Jacsen agrees quietly, his arm coming to wrap around her midsection. "But it matters all the same." His other arm comes around from the other side to hug her against him; and though he tenses at first at her touch on his bare leg, he slowly relaxes. "Then am I enough?" he asks into her hair. "Or am I your duty, and your love elsewhere?"
Anais tilts her head back and to the side to look up at him at his question. "Who else would I love?" she asks in turn, a note of amusement in her voice. "I'm a married woman. It isn't as though I've suitors lined up outside the gates." One arm wraps over his as she leans back against him, letting the water and the heat soak into her. "Duty yes," she answers belatedly. "But duty is easy to define. And love is so much less clear. I know when I thought about you leaving for Seagard during the war, about you going into battle, my heart seemed to stop in my throat. I know when I watch you suffer, it pains me. I know when you look at me like…" She trails off, words falling short. "I know you looking at me as though you truly see me makes my heart swell."
Jacsen shrugs, his shoulders rubbing against her. "You don't need suitors to love," he murmurs, though it's given somewhat carelessly. "There are dozens of stories of secret trysts." Even amongst married noblewomen. Or perhaps especially so. "I do try — to please you also," he says, his hand wandering across her skin under the water. "Or have started to try, I should say. And I… see your qualities. And your spirit. I try to understand." It may not be much, but it's something.
Anais ducks her chin, turning her head to brush a kiss against his shoulder. "But it's not what you would have chosen for yourself," she observes quietly, her features hidden by the turn of her head, the fall of tarnished gold curls against his chest and around her cheeks. "Is that it, Jacsen? Did you want someone who never made a move without your direction? Someone who…needed you to protect her, or couldn't stand on her own?" She pushes away from him, though only enough to turn and see his face. "Someone no one but you ever really saw?" It's not anger or accusation in her voice. Rather, she seems sad, all too certain that these are things she can't be.
"No, I — " Jacsen frowns as she turns around, his arms loosening enough to make the movement easier for her. He scans her face as he tries to think of an answer. Not just the answer that she wants to hear, but the right answer. "I wanted you, but with… patience," he says at last, swallowing with those words, unsure how she'll take them. "And, yes, someone who needed me. Not those things — " Not someone to protect, or to own, " — but someone for whom I was…" He grasps for the right word and fails, ending with just a shrug.
Anais is quiet for a moment, turning back to lean against him once more. "I'm working on the patience," she admits, a note of apology in her voice. "It was never my best trait, and I'm afraid all of this chaos has just made it harder. The archery helps some, though. It reminds me how to…focus." The last requires more thought, though she strokes a hand over his arm as she thinks, absently reassuring. "It isn't that I don't need you, Jacsen," she says quietly. "It's more that…That I'm afraid to. Because what if I need you, and you don't want me?"
"I know," Jacsen murmurs, his lips brushing the back of her neck. "And if I didn't want you… then I wouldn't be trying." Back to their previous position, he continues stroking her skin gently with the backs of his fingers. "Isn't that what they say love is? Compromise? Then if compromise should be the heart of love, then I would say I love you, and no small amount." It's said half a joke, but… also half not.
"People who say love is compromise are people who are compromising," Anais murmurs with some amusement, though the last brings an uncertain silence. "I've always thought love was laughter, and acceptance. Warmth, and sometimes fire. Fidelity, in every sense of the word. Trust. Honesty. But laughter and acceptance were always a large part of it." Once more she falls silent, then confesses softly: "I'm always a little bit afraid to laugh here."
"Have we not had all of those things at one time or another?" Jacsen asks, trying to gauge where she thinks they sit on that spectrum. "Perhaps not as much laughter as you might have liked. But all the rest, even acceptance. I always tried to make you feel accepted and welcomed." The arms tighten around her. "Are you afraid to laugh with me?"
"Always with such reserve," Anais sighs, though a smile plays at one corner of her lips even before the words are out. "Well. Almost. There was the parapets." She settles against him a little more, almost comfortable. Almost. "I'm afraid to laugh /here/," she says. "Around your family. Afraid that someone will take offense at it, or find it inappropriate. Afraid that it will be misinterpreted. I tried to apologize to your sister, and she got cross at me for daring to smile at her," she points out, wrinkling her nose. "Said she didn't want to play kissy-face games, and I was a terrible liar. But I was only trying to smooth things over, so it wouldn't be a strain on you."
"There's no family here now. Just me," Jacsen points out. He's just gonna gloss riiiiight over that part about Luci. "Naked and wet, just like on the parapets. Less of a storm and more of a… bathtub, but." He smiles faintly and kisses the back of her neck. "Close enough." He tries to coax her to turn around again, but more fully this time. "Trying or not, loving or lacking, you are my wife and the Lady that the Roost will have. If that means I must take you at the parapets every day, so be it."
Anais turns at his urging, kneeling across his legs and slipping her arms around his neck. "I'd rather you just look at me with…" She trails off, searching for the word and tracing a finger along the curve of his ear. "I think I could be content if you smiled when you looked at me," she says softly. "I don't want to be your duty, Jacsen. Gods know, the Roost is enough of a duty in its current state. I want to be the thing that makes the duties not nearly so terrible."
"You are," Jacsen says quietly, a small smile spreading on his lips. "As much as you're what gives me the headaches to begin with, you're what makes them bearable at the end of the day." Aww, how sweet. "I have a duty to you, but that doesn't make you my duty. If you were none of those things I looked for in a wife, then things should be very different between us."
"Oh, I give you headaches, do I?" Anais replies archly, though a smile teases at the corners of her mouth, dimples playing hide and seek in her cheeks. "Maybe I should leave you here to see to your own…headaches, then." It's not much of a threat, given that it's said with a smile and a shifting of her hips that leaves her very close. "I wouldn't want to be a difficulty to my lord husband."
"About as often as not," Jacsen responds in kind, though he's far more unsubtle about his intentions when he slides his hands around behind her and pull her forward just a little bit closer. Closer than very close. "I don't think so," he says, not letting her escape even in jest. "She who hurts, should heal," he quips, grinning at her.
"Shut up," Anais laughs softly, leaning forward to claim a kiss that turns into a soft gasp as she sinks onto him. "It's time for your medicine." And oh, how thrilled the servants will be to clean up the small lake worth of bath water that will be on the floor by the time he's finished with his dose.