|Family And Honor|
|Summary:||Jarod visits Anais post frog hunt to deliver another warning…and gets a little more than he bargained for.|
|Related Logs:||Mired In The Mire|
|Guest Quarters — Fortress of the Sevens|
|A nice place for guests to stay.|
|May 27, 289|
Jarod enjoyed himself on the frog hunt once he got into it. Mostly when he was too distracted by Rowenna to focus too much attention on watching Anais and Lord Riordan. He returned to bathe. Probably with his oft-scandalous wife if he could manage it. And listen to whatever she to say to him after the day in the mud, and fool around. So it's several hours later when he manages to dress himself again and knock on the door to the guest chamber Anais occupies. Three loud and rather rhythmic taps. He's never ever subtle.
Several hours is probably to the best, because it's taken several rounds of washing to get all of the mud out of Anais hair and pluck off the few leeches that managed to get through her clothes. By the time Jarod knocks on her door, she's probably already changed into sleeping clothes, which explains why it's Nina who opens the door, peeking out to see who's there. "Just a moment, m'lord," she says with a small smile, closing the door behind her once more. It's a few more minutes before she opens the door again, and Anais wears a heavy dressing gown around her shift, though she's left her hair down.
"I hope you don't mind if I didn't change into a dress again," she says, moving to pour a cup of tea from the pot by the fire. "I trust you won't assume I'm trying to get you into my bed. My husband, your brother, wouldn't appreciate it, I imagine. Tea?" Anything that bland should be a warning.
"If you tried, Rowenna would hurt you," Jarod replies, though it's said with good humor and a crook of a grin. He's acquired a new bruise on his neck. It may have come from a leech. But probably not. "Thanks. And you can tell your maid I'm still no lord. I suspect I'm fortunate to still have my head attached, come to it. For now, at least. We'll see how that plays." He's about three-quarters joking.
"She knows," Anais answers, glancing up and lifting the pot. "Tea? At the Banefort, my mother taught all of us that it's better to be more polite than necessary than less, particularly if you're one on one. Very few people take offense at being treated above their station, but plenty are quick to take offense if they think they've been undervalued." Her voice takes on a practiced cadence, softer. "Always treat people as they /want/ to be treated, and you will find yourself with many friends and few enemies."
"I guess I'm one of those odd ones that wants to be treated as I am," Jarod says. "Never wanted to be treated as a lord. And I'd feel wrong if someone heard me called it around here. They might start thinking I'd wed Rowenna as I did with some idea of gaining a title. Besides, I'd hope Nina'd know me well enough by now to…well, perhaps not." He sniffs at his tea. "Do you have any wine to go with this? Always liked that in the evenings. Black tea and red wine, warm in front of a fire where you could watch the rain through the window. Used to drink like that with Luci sometimes."
There's a flash of color in Anais' cheeks at the mention of Lucienne, a tensing of her jaw, before she bites down on the inside of her cheek. "I don't have any in the room, but I'm sure Nina can find some. Nina?" At those soft words, the handmaid nods, then slips out of the room to seek out wine. In the meantime, Anais adds an entirely gratuitous amount of cream, lemon, and honey to her tea before moving to a chair in front of the fire and settling in. There's a gesture to the other chair as she leans back, quiet. "I would save you the time and effort and simply tell you that I am not going to do anything untoward here, but I don't imagine you'd believe me the fifth time I told you any more than the first."
Jarod eyes the tensing in Anais jaw when he speaks of his sister, sighing some, and seeming to mentally bite his own tongue. Not that he looks particularly regretful. "All right…" he mutters, finding a place to sit down. He sips at his tea unsweetened, though not much. He's going to wait for wine before he gets properly into it. He waits until he's quite sure the maid has gone to get alcohol before replying to that. "You act as if I'm the one imagining all this, Anais. But I'll tell you. Lord Rutger and Lady Roslyn are thinking far less kindly things about what might go on between you and Lord Riordan. Do you know they wanted to have him removed from negotiations with the Terricks over it? Can you imagine that sly courtier bullshit Lord Rutger traffics in going over with Lord Jerold?"
"Frankly, Jarod, this would be easier if none of the Naylands dealt personally with Lord Jerold," Anais says wearily, taking a sip of her tea before setting the cup aside. "What do you want, Jarod? What do any of you want me to do? I've tried everything I can to help get the Roost through this lean period. Crab pots, clam digging, rabbit hutches. I spoke with every family in the Riverlands and some of the North and the Westerlands at the tourney looking for anyone with a surplus to sell and anyone who might be willing to make a loan or take payments on a flexible schedule. I'm trying to make peace with the Naylands in the hope of salvaging something of the Stonebridge situation. We're not going to get it back, but if we make common cause with them, maybe we can at least get out of some of the tariffs. You sold my dowry. I'm not going anywhere. What more do you want of me?"
"I'm just saying, Anais…people are talking, so don't act as if I'm the only one who notices it. Or that there's nothing to notice." The recitation of all that makes Jarod looks more tired than anything else. And not a little guilty. "There's still the harvest with the Groves. You're negotiating for that, aye? That'd do a lot of good. I'm not asking anything of you save…" He sighs heavy. Green eyes lifting up to try and meet hers. "…please don't hurt my brother, Anais. I know the pair of you are unhappy together and I'm sorry for that but…it's not all his fault and please don't hurt him."
"/I/ shouldn't hurt /him/?" Anais arches a brow, her jaw setting against tears that she refuses to let spill free. "Really, Jarod? Please, don't hurt Jacsen?" She sets both hands on the arms of her chair, gripping them like anchors. "Jaremy ran off to follow his principles. And did I leave the Roost? No. But neither I nor my father forced your father to hold to the betrothal. When the Ironborn came, I stood with the Roost. I faced down Maron /Fucking/ Greyjoy. But do you know who your brother was overjoyed to see return to the Roost? Who he was thrilled to see safe and sound? Who he goes to when he needs advice? When he needs comfort? When he needs anything except a reason to tell his father that yes, he's doing his duty?" Her hands tremble against the wood, every muscle tense. "I know I don't have to tell you. You know your brother."
With that, she pushes up out of the chair, robes swaying around her feet as she moves to the window. "I have been nothing but proper in regards to Lord Riordan. I have been chaperoned every minute. I have taken a step back for every step forward he's taken. I have told him very clearly that I will not betray my husband or his family. I have no feelings for Lord Riordan, Jarod. I only appreciate that he isn't judging every move I make and finding it lacking." She draws a breath, marshaling the last of the shaking from her voice. "If it will make you feel better, I will request that Lord Rickart assign Lady Roslyn as his liaison to the family instead. If she may be joining it, it only makes sense."
"You and Jace are both able to hurt each other a good deal, as it's plain you know." Jarod looks around for that wine. Which finally, thankfully, arrives. He offers a "Thanks, sweetling" to Nina and spices up his cup. "And actually I don't think that'd be better. I think she'd be worse. He's at least trying, and he's the sort who gets on well with Lord Jerold. Better than the others would. I just…they're watching and judging you too, is all. I do think it might've been better to bring Lord Justin along with you. Have him get to know Lady Roslyn and…well. Just might've been better, but that's done."
"The difference, Jarod, is that I respect Jacsen enough to care if I hurt him." Anais pauses, head tilting with a humorless laugh. "No. That isn't true. It was, once. The difference is that if Jacsen chooses to hurt me, there is nothing I can do about it, but if I choose to hurt him, I'll swiftly find myself in an unlivable position." There's a motion that might be wiping her eyes, though it's hard to tell from looking at her back, before she turns back around to face him. "The only way to deal with rumors, Jarod, is to treat them as the ridiculous things they are," she says quietly. "Dignifying them with a response only lends them credence. It only gives people more to talk about. Bringing Justin along, the way you keep following me around and glaring at me, only make it look as though something did happen, or I can't be trusted not to let something happen. Please stop acting as though smiling at them is the greatest betrayal in the history of the Seven Kingdoms. Diplomacy done right involves smiling."
"When I saw Jacsen he didn't seem in good enough health to be so malicious as you seem to think," Jarod says. "I have often thought these last days how things might've been different if he'd been less under the weather when things with Rowenna and me broke. Or if Luci'd been home. But…" Shrug. Drink. "Little point in thinking too much on that, I suppose. Fine. I'll glare at you less if you want. Though you seem to enjoy the company of Lord Riordan as more than just diplomacy. You can't pretend I'm wrong, I don't think."
"Well Stranger forbid that I might have a friend," Anais says wearily, returning to her chair and rubbing a hand at her brow. "We could have a detailed discussion about the features that I like in a man, but I really don't think that's something you want to talk about. Suffice it to say, I have no romantic inclinations toward him. What I do have are some other very serious feelings like anger, loneliness, and helplessness." She draws her feet up in the chair with her, tucking them under herself as she reclaims her cup. "Maybe you got used to being treated like dirt, Jarod, but I'm not really accustomed to it."
"Treated like dirt, Anais. That how you think my life was?" The anger in his tone is barely restrained. He puts down his tea-wine first, so he doesn't break his cup as his fists clench. "I think I might need to leave before I say something unkind." He sounds more sad than anything else. But apparently he's not leaving just yet. "I'm sorry you think the Roost so horrid that you have to act as if it's some kind of punishment for you each time it's brought up, but I loved that place, Anais. I loved the cliffs, I loved the eagles, I loved the gulls, I loved the horses. I loved fishing on the beach and swimming in the sea and hunting in the north woods with my brothers. And say what you will about Jacsen and Jaremy - and you can say a lot, I'll grant - but they never treated me like anything less than their full brother. And I never found a warmer confidante, or wiser one, than Luci, much as you cringed when I so much as remembered drinking with her fondly. And I was loved by my lord father. Who acknowledged me for now better reason than he loved my mother. And I…if you hate it so much, I'm sorry, but I loved that place, Anais, and I'd do just about anything to trade places with you and go back to it so…perhaps it's better I just go."
"Well that must be nice for you, Jarod." Anais looks up at he stands. "But you chose your path here. You chose Rowenna, and you chose her secret, and you chose everything that went up to it, just like I chose the Roost. Except here, despite everything, they treat you like /family/. They're /warm/, and they /laugh/, and they /joke/. But from two days after I married Jacsen, no one at the Roost has treated me like anything other than a stranger. Except for you. Which lasted until Lady Evangeline gave you the cold shoulder, or you went chasing after Rowenna. You talk about all the fun you had, but whenever I dare to do something other than sit and stare at ledgers all day trying to make the numbers come out differently, I get nothing but disapproving looks. Lord Jerold won't hardly even look at me, and rejects every proposal I put to him. We haven't made an offer for the Groves harvest because they want /land/ for it, Jarod, and your father doesn't want to do it. I happen to agree, but it's not as though we're not buying food because we like going hungry."
She stands up once more, words starting to come faster. "Do you know what your precious Lucienne said when she met me at the tournament, Jarod? That the people were starving and turning against me, and it was my fault. That Lord Jerold needed wise counsel, which he obviously hadn't been getting, instead of yes-men. That clearly she was needed at the Roost because I was such a gods-forsaken failure. So maybe she was the bosom companion of your youth, but so far as I'm concerned, she's a weak-willed, poisonous little pit viper who ran away as soon as things got difficult, then thinks she can judge what those of us who've had to stay behind and make the hard decisions have done. Do you know what I'd like to do, Jarod? What I think would be the best way to deal with two problems at once? I'd dearly love to give the Groves that land, so long as it came with the food and they took Lucienne with it! That would solve every problem except the one where my HUSBAND doesn't give TWO SHITS about me!" Whoops. There went the last restraint.
Jarod's expression hardens, as to that. "Please do not insult my sister in my presence again." Deep breath. More deep breaths. "I wish very much Luci had been with the Roost these last months." He leaves it at that. "And I never said you weren't working hard for it. If anything…I am sorrier than I can say that I cannot help you. I love the Roost very much. I'm sorry that you don't. If you would prefer Rowenna to act as your escort around the Mire from now on, that'd be just fine with me."
Anais' eyes narrow as she takes a slow step forward, hands fisting. "Do you honestly think that I would be this upset if I didn't care about the Roost? The land, the keep, and the smallfolk are the only things that make all of this worthwhile. It's Terricks I've had it up to here with!" She holds a hand well over her head, eyes flashing with anger. "All of you, acting like you're saints! Like no one could possibly live up to your expectations, and the rest of us are just dirt on your shoes! You're all constantly /disappointed/ in the rest of the world! Well the rest of the world has value, too! /I/ have value! I have people who love me! I'm somebody's sister, too!" And then the tears are threatening again, and she turns away with an inarticulate sound, breathing hard. "Go away, Jarod. Just go."
"You think I'm acting like I'm a saint?" Jarod stares at her. Blinking. And snorting. He tries not to but, finally, he can't help but laugh. "A squire-fucking, exiled saint? Holy fuck, Anais, I'm acting like a lot of things but…" He laughs more. He can't help himself. He will need a minute to go.
And that's the final straw. Which is probably just as well. Anais wheels around to shove him square in the chest. "You're the worst!" she exclaims. "You pretend you're just like everyone else, you smile, you act like you're a friend. Until /they/ disapprove, and then you turn around just as cold as they are. And it hurts more, because I thought I could trust you. Because I thought you were as much a friend as you were a Terrick. But you're not," she shoves again, adding a punch at his arm that does - as Riordan warned - involve knuckles. Granted, it's less a knight punch and more a little sister punch, but the sentiment is there. "You belong to whoever has your oath for your honor. Your stupid honor-" Another shove, another punch, "Is more important than people."
"Ow!" The punching makes Jarod stop laughing. "Hey! Hey!" He does turn and try to grab her arms, to stop the punching. If he's remotely successful in that, he'll try to hug her. "Hey…stop it…I'm sorry…you're being a idiot and that's not true and you know it but…I'm sorry…"
Anais isn't really equipped to keep punching once Jarod is resisting, but she does stomp at his foot when he calls her an idiot. "I'm not an idiot!" But that's as much fight as she has in her. "/You're/ the idiot. Blind, stupid, Terrick idiot. You're more of a stupid Terrick than Jacsen is." She sniffles, wiping at her face with her sleeve. "If you weren't a stupid Terrick, running off with Rowan wouldn't bother you." She's still tense, but seems less a threat of violence. "You wouldn't be talking about how dishonorable it would be to do anything here, or how it would hurt your family. You'd tell me that he doesn't actually care about me, that it won't actually make me feel any better, and that it's only going to hurt me in the long run. But if you were my friend, you'd know that I know that. You'd know that I'm only trying the best I can."
"Women are insane!" Jarod proclaims. Limping over to fall back into his chair once she's stomped on him. But he's not storming out, it seems. "Yes, Anais, I'm a Terrick idiot. Who was in love with a Nayland girl, far more than my honor. So now I'm in the halls of a man who made his bastard daughter into a whore and a spy, while never even acknowledging her. That's the worst sort of man I can imagine, whatever his name is. And I'm willing to do that for her because…she makes me feel so…" He doesn't even have the words, but thinking it makes him smile. "…and I'm sorry you don't have that. And I'm sorry Jacsen doesn't either. And I wish…I wish things were different between you. If you think that's less about people than honor, I'd call you wrong, but think as you will."
"Jarod…" Anais sighs, wiping at her face again and pacing a few steps. "I wasn't raised to think I would marry for love. I never expected to marry someone who would make me feel the way you feel about Rowan. I expected…I was /prepared/ for the possibility, even likelihood, that my husband would have lovers. What I wasn't prepared for was for him to have lovers for anything other than sex. I could share his body. But to have him go elsewhere for matters of politics, or the household? It's a slap in the face, Jarod. Again, and again, and again." She moves back to her chair, though she doesn't sit, taking her cup once more. "What is the one thing someone could take away from you, Jarod, that would kill your soul?"
It's a long beat before Jarod answers. As if he's considering the question seriously, for his part, and not trying to suss out what she means for herself. "They could take away my ability to follow my conscience, and call me to do black acts. To go along with black acts because I tell myself it somehow served a better cause, though that was a lie. All not for honor, or to protect those I love, but for power, and money, and comfort. To lie, and cheat, and steal, and do murder to defenseless innocents, and to make me believe it was worth it, when it's never worth it…" Strangely, it doesn't sound like he's speaking hypothetically. He takes another deep breath, lets it slow, and makes himself get off that particular train of thought. Without looking at Anais he says, "If I were a woman, I'd say rapers do worse than killers. Like was done to Mistress Avinashi by Maron Greyjoy on the Pyke. Anais…I saw her, when we liberated the Kitchen Tower. She was a salt wife, not a common thrall for him to ravage but…she has not returned here the same woman she was. She is closed off, perhaps from what was Avinashi Ruhi, and to him as well. She is strong and will perhaps rebuild herself, but it won't be the same. So you won, my lady, and what's left after that?"
"Won?" Anais looks up, a flicker of disgust in her eyes. "I haven't /won/ anything, Jarod. In any way. First, nobody /wins/ at people being raped. Second, you don't /win/ because the other person can't compete. That would be her losing, not me winning, and there is a difference. And third, if it ever /was/ a competition, she wouldn't be out of it because of what happened to her. She'd be winning it. Because when the attachment is an emotional one to begin with, there's nothing to strengthen it more than adversity." She takes a sip of her tea, then sets the cup back down again. "All of which is moot, because it's not a competition, and there's no winning anyhow. It's not a competition; it's my marriage. It's the rest of my life, Jarod. And while I can make peace with many things, the one thing that would take…everything that is /me/ away, would be to take away my ability to be useful. Lock me away somewhere."
"You could ask her to leave the Roost if you wanted, I don't think she'd be entirely against the idea," Jarod says, pouring himself more wine. "Please don't tell her I spoke such to you. I thought perhaps you didn't know and you might understand better if you did. Maybe not, though." Drink. "Well, you're neither useless nor locked away. So I don't see why you're so worried over that. I…Anais, I don't understand why you don't go swimming, or fishing, or climbing on the cliffs. Perhaps you couldn't dive but…seven hells, break your neck if you do it wrong, I shouldn't either. Lord Jerold and Jace have never forbid you from doing such, yet you act as if they have and I think…I think you make the place your prison, when you might find much joy in it."
"They don't have to forbid me, Jarod," Anais says wearily. "They just have to disapprove. Do you have any idea how sensitive your brother is about his damned leg?" Once more she drops into her chair, weary. "I don't care about it. Honestly, I don't. But he won't let me touch it. He gets touchy if I walk faster than him. Forgive my bluntness, but you brought it up: If I don't carefully arrange our lovemaking so that he doesn't have to think about it, he shuts down the minute it comes into play, locked up inside like a vault. So how do you think he'd react if I went out saying, have a nice day, dear, I'm going to go climb the cliffs? Don't you know what he'd hear? He'd hear 'like you used to be able to do, but can't now.' And that would do nothing to help us."
"So sensitive that he cheered me on as I rode as his wedding tourney, even though what he wants more than anything is to be a knight?" Jarod asks. "All I can say is that he's never been that way toward me. Or, I figure, he just knows me well enough to know I don't think any less of him for it. Which he'll only believe if you're…happy with him. Which you might be if you climbed the cliffs once in awhile."
"You're his brother, Jarod. And I'm just the woman he had to marry when his brother ran off." Anais leans into one corner of her chair, staring into the fire. "Do you think I didn't try? Do you think I don't want him to love me? Do you think I haven't gone in, every night, and tried to make him happy in every way I know how? I'm /good/ at making people happy, Jarod. I am. But he's as cold and hard as the Wall, and I'm all out of dragons."
"You can't try. Just…happens." Jarod gets that half-doofy smile on his face again. Which he tries to smother, because it doesn't quite fit her mood. "Or not. As I said, I'm sorry it hasn't for the pair of you. I don't think making yourself miserable will do it any more than trying did, though so…I don't know." To fill the not-knowing space, he drinks more wine. "I'm sorry if I spoke harshly to you before it's just…it's hard, you cringing every time I mention the Roost. I'm not trying to bait you. But I miss it. I miss talking about it. I'll not do it anymore, I guess."
"It isn't exactly easy for me, Jarod," Anais points out quietly. "The Roost is my home now. It's going to be my home for the rest of my life." She reaches up, pulling her hair over her shoulder. "But it doesn't feel like home, no matter how hard I work for it. Because /home/ is about the people. And your family is so busy being /formal/ that it feels like they can't be bothered to feel. At least when it comes to me," she concludes wearily.
"Of all the things my family's been to each other, Anais, complicated as some matters have been, I never felt unloved. I'm sorry you can't see that, or that you just…haven't." Jarod sounds tempted to argue about that some more, but he just leaves it at that. "If you want to know what I think? I think they still don't feel very comfortable around you. And that you sometimes…look at them more as an obligation, or something you have to act a certain way around, than as people you might actually like. You like me." He grins. "Or I thought you did, at least. I am grateful you've still be a friend to me, after everything with Rowenna. And more that you've been a friend to her. She doesn't have many proper girls who're friends. She could use them."
"They're not an obligation. But they have all the power over me, and they've given me little enough reason to trust them. Your sister especially," Anais adds, frown flickering across her features once more. She draws a deep breath, shifting in her chair. "I should sleep, Jarod. I'm going to need my wits about me to meet with Lord Rickart, and I'd rather not look like I've been crying all night."
Jarod makes some effort to school his expression when Anais speaks of Lucienne again. Though he does say, "I think it'd be best if you avoided saying anything about Luci around me. She's my little sister, and that's not a fight you can win with me. I'd hope your own brothers would treat you the same." He nods, finishing off what's left of his drink in a gulp, and standing.
Jarod does add, "I'm sorry if I made you cry. I didn't mean to but…be careful."
"Well, that depends. Torsten would likely agree with you about my various faults. Quentyn might just beat you to a pulp." Anais moves to stand, pausing to level a steady eye on Jarod. "But if I had to name the better brother, it would be Torsten." At the last, she closes, her eyes, drawing a deep breath through her nose. "Jarod, please leave before you question /my/ honor one more time, or I will start saying a very nasty thing about Luci every time you do it." She might be joking. Or she might be making a point. Or both.
"You still don't understand that it wasn't your honor I questioned. Just your sense. And I'm very afraid of your ability to hurt my brother, and yourself, without meaning to. Good night, Anais. I hope we're still family." Jarod does actually take his leave for real, with that.