|I'm Just a Girl|
|Summary:||Rowan/Rose reveals herself to Jarod. He takes it badly.|
|Related Logs:||Pretty much every Rowan/Jarod/Lady Nommy log.|
|Jarod's Chamber - Four Eagles Tower|
|A messy boy's room.|
|Tue Aug 09, 288|
The evening finds Ser Jarod in his chambers, sitting at a table beside his window, which has the curtains open to try and breathe some coolness into the room. He's nursing a glass of summerwine and squinting at a scroll of parchment, quill in hand as he goes over it. It's probably some business to do with the Guard, as the knight generally avoids scholarly pursuits when it comes to his leisure time. Candles are burning to give him some light, though the room's dim other than the area around the little table.
There's a knock at the door, followed by the faint squeak of the hinges as it opens inward. Just a crack. "Jarod?" Rowan's soft contralto — never deep enough to be a tenor, much less a baritone — creeps around the corner and into the room. "May I come in?"
"Rowan?" Jarod looks up from his accounts, or whatever. "Sure, sure. Watch the door as you close it. Don't want the cat getting out again." Said cat, a sleek tom, is curled up on his bed, snoozing, an empty plate of what was probably chicken (judging by the bones) set by his nose.
Just the head of dark curls pokes in the door at first, locating the cat before the slender rest of him slips inside. He eyes the beast warily and with some bemusement, taking a seat on the edge of the bed. "When did this creature adopt you?" he wonders, long fingers reaching carefully to scratch the tom behind the ears.
Jarod grins. "He's Amelia of Seagard's." His favorite whore. "She's leaving the Roost. Already left it, likely. I told her I'd look after him. His name is Mittens, though I'm thinking of changing it." He regards the cat. "Hey, pussy puss puss. What do you want your name to be, then?" He may just call it 'Pussy,' which seems to amuse him.
Rowan's eyebrows rise a bit at the news of Amelia's departure, but it doesn't sound like unduly alarming news as it's delivered. He nods a bit, lashes lowering to consider the cat. "I think he looks like… a BatholeMEW." He smirks at his own joke. See what he did there?
Jarod does chuckle. He's easy that way. "That'll do as well as anything. You want him? I was thinking you or Lucienne'd be best to look after him. I'm more a dog sort, and I think he's used to gentler attention. You want some wine?" He pours another glass from his flagon anyway, and tops off his own while he's at it. "I told her - Amelia, that is - that what she should do is go see if your sister's minstrel company down in King's Landing would hire her own. She didn't seem keen on the idea. Not sure why. Seems perfect to me. You may want to write your Rowenna anyhow, put in a word for her. Maybe she'll change her mind. Don't quite understand why she didn't go for it. Seems like the sort of life she wants."
The wine is accepted, the squire listening in silence. He breathes in through his nose, deeply, and gulps down the wine. All of it. "I… would do that, certainly. But…" he coughs, looking pale. "More?" he asks, hopefully, holding out the cup.
Jarod pours more wine. "But?" Not that Jarod waits for elaboration before launching into conversation. "You ever manage to talk to your cousin while he was staying here? Seemed like he had business with you, which I confess I didn't really think too much on until just now. Everything all right with you and your folk. I mean…all right as it could be, you serving us the way things are now."
Rowan nods gravely, taking another healthy swallow of wine. "I did. Talk to my cousin." He looks down, one hand still absently scritching Bartholemew. "I can't write Rowenna because — " his voice catches. "She's… not in King's Landing." He looks up again, trembling — not visibly, but a keen eye might see the ripples in the wine.
"Well, write her, wherever she is. Might not be so bad for Amelia to try her luck in King's Landing anyhow, the way things are in the land now. It's summer, Rowan, in hearts as well as season. The Seven Kingdoms are as one and good King Robert sits the Iron Throne in peace and fealty. Fine time to see what the place has to offer." Jarod takes another gulp of wine. "So what'd you two talk of, anyway? You and Ser Rygar, that is. He's an interesting man, your cousin. We talked a good deal as well. I do want us to talk on what he and I said to one another. I think you'd find it instructive. I think I might be neglecting certain important aspects of your education, Rowan. Or not giving them the attention they deserve, at least."
"Jarod," Rowan whispers, in pain. Almost in tears. He shakes his head and stands, pacing a few steps again. He drinks the rest of his wine. "Do you remember… when I…" His voice catches on a miserable laugh. "Fuck it. Just fuck it." He turns around abruptly. "Jarod, I'm a girl."
Jarod laughs at that, as if it were a fine joke. "Well I'd not go quite that far, lad, though I was hoping I'd be able to put more meat on your wrists than I've managed over the years. What? You sore about that big Westerlands bastard knocking you around the yard a bit? Don't be, fights we lose teach us more than those we win. Though I do think we should start working on some different sword techniques for you. Maybe Ser Anton, or Ser Gedeon, can show you something of how the Braavosi fight while they're in residence. It's not really compatible with how I go at things, though I've always just been able to brute when finesse failed, and that's not a thing you'll be able to fall back on."
Rowan doesn't laugh. There's not even the shadow of a dimple on his smooth, whiskerless face. Not the smallest twinkle of mirth in his eyes. "No, Jarod. I'm quite serious." The squire shakes his head and breathes deeply, eyes lidding. "I can't write Rowenna because she's here. It's Rowan that went to King's Landing, no me. I — I came here in his place." Slender shoulders lift in a helpless, defeated shrug. "I'm a girl."
Jarod blinks at Rowan, squinting at him. "What do you mean you're a girl?" He's still not taking this seriously, though he has figured out it's not just a joke.
Rowan — or… if not, Rowenna? The person who's been Jarod's squire and friend these past four years, turns their face away. "I'm sorry…" the whisper trembles with its inadequacy. "Rowan… never wanted this. He was… frail. And gentle-natured, and fainted at the sight of blood. But I did." Dark eyes, long lashes lift to meet Jarod's green ones. "I did. I wanted this. I was never well-suited to… to much at all. Handicrafts, music, dancing, administering a household — I was a disaster. But I was quick and nimble and tough. I picked up what I knew of the blade, pike, and bow by watching the militia drill and practicing in secret, in the middle of the night. And when Rowan ran away, rather than come here… I took his place. Because I knew I could do good with the gifts the Seven gave me, as they made me…" The lashes lower again, voice dropping to a whisper. "It didn't seem like such a terrible lie when I first came."
"No." Jarod shakes his head, firmly, standing and backing away from Rowan. "No. This is a joke. And it's not a funny one. Stop it, lad. You can't be a girl. You're…you're Rowan!" His brain plainly refuses to process any of this information.
"I am the person you've known all this time, Jarod," Rowan/Rowenna/whoever-the-hells-this-is protests. "I am exactly who you know me to be. I have been your friend, companion, sweated and bled for you, borne both your bruises and your praise. I have laughed and drank and fought with you… I have loved you and your family more than words can say." She… she shakes her head, pain etched on that pretty, pale face. "Does it matter so much that I'm not a man? Does an accident of gender change everything I am?"
Jarod shakes his head, laughing. Because this absolute cannot be anything but a joke. That's just impossible. "All right, all right, my lady Rowenna." More laughing. "If you're a girl…" He croses his arms over his chest, looking her up and down. "…show me your tits. C'mon. Take 'em out, then. This is stupid, lad. Are you drunk? Didn't look drunk when you came in, though if you've been at that whiskey again, I'm going to have to ask you to lay off it. Makes you weird. Er."
Rowenna blinks. "Seriously?" There's a short bark of a laugh and she looks away again, blowing out a breath. "Gods." Dark eyes back to Jarod, brows knit. "I don't even get dinner first?"
"Figured. You've got nothing under there but a chest with too little hair," Jarod teases, just fully embracing the joke now. He bows mockingly to Rowan, trying to put some extra flourish in it, though bending too much still makes him wince. "C'mon, m'Lady Nayland. Prove it. Or tell me what in seven hells is really going on with you, because this is getting bizarre."
She stomps a foot in a most immasculine fashion, huffing a breath of frustration. "Fuck! You can be so thick!" It wouldn't be nearly the first time Jarod's stood thus accused by his squire. She strides across the room and takes his wrist, staring up at him. "What color are Rose Rivers' eyes?"
"What in seven hells…" Jarod mutters as Rowan takes his wrist. Staring down at the squire's hands. Then at her eyes. Blinking. Blink. Blink. Blink. Then he stops blinking, and his green eyes widen in slowly creeping horror. He doesn't answer her. Her just takes a deep breath and quotes, from a bit of correspondence Rowan Nayland would never, ever have been allowed to see. "…I would ask if you are noble born, or hold some other name or secret that would make it shameful for you to meet a bastard knight, like a man and woman properly should meet. But I hesitate to know the answer, I'll admit. It is sweet and merry to love a thing you do not know…"
"…and by your letters I can easily say you do not know me very well," says the brown-eyed girl softly. Keeping his eyes, she continues, a passage from a letter Rowan Nayland could never, ever have read. "But I know you are a rascal, a scoundrel, a whore-monger, and a rake. I know that you are entirely incorrigible, delightfully funny, and tell jokes so lewd a Dornishman would blush. I know that beards do not suit you, and that you are the loyalest of brothers, sons, and friends. I know that my heart sings and my head spins at the thought of you."
"Oh fuck me." Jarod pulls his wrist from Rowan's grip. Roughly. And steps back, back, back from the squire, as if he - she - were suddenly a pillar of wildfire ready to explode at him. "Oh sweet seven…" He stares at her, green eyes still wide and horrified. Perhaps replaying four years of everything he's said, and done, in her presence over again in his head. And then he slaps his face into his palm. "Oh fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck…" He'll be doing that for awhile.
Rowenna… Rose Rivers… whoever she is… the girl-in-squire's-guise sucks in a deep breath. "Right." She pulls a faint grimace. "Not precisely the ending I'd hoped for, but my brother will love it." She folds her arms and cocks her hips to the side, shedding masculinity as though it were a garment which had always fit her ill. "Do you still want to see my tits?" Or is this entirely sufficient?
"Holy fuck no!" Jarod exclaims, keeping his face in his palm defensively now. "This can't be happening. This is a nightmare. This is a fucking nightmare. I'm going to open my eyes and I'm going to be awake…" He raises his face, eyes closed. "…one…two…three…now!" He opens his eyes. Rowan/Rowenna is still there. "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck…"
Rose — let's call her Rose, we have to call her something — looks just a little put out. In fact, she pouts, lips forming a moue of displeasure. "Do you think it's possible you're being a little melodramatic?" she ventures. She goes to pour him a drink of something with a little more kick than wine, bringing him a cup of strong brandy. "Drink something. You'll feel better."
"Get away from me!" Jarod jumps back again, hands upraised to defend against…the cup. "Melodramatic? Fuck you, my lady. You think this is some sort of mummer's game? Play dress-up knight for somebody stupid enough to let you get away with it? Being a knight is the only thing in this world I have that's just my own, Rowan, and I try harder than you clearly know to be a good one and now…I'm a disgrace. I've disgraced my vows. I'll be ruined when this comes out. Oh seven hells…they'll probably think I was bedding you. That this was some sort of…fuck…this is going to be a disaster…"
"I am not a lady," Rose retorts heatedly, setting the cup down on the nearest available surface so hard the brandy splashes. "If I thought it was a game, I wouldn't be here telling you at all. You haven't disgraced your vows! You've done nothing wrong — no one knew! No one — for four years no one's known, how could you be expected to?" Her eyes fill with sudden tears and she turns away, pacing back toward the door. "I… don't know if that's true. That you'll be disgraced. If it is… it's better you simply say I've fled. Let the disgrace me mine. If there is any disgrace, that's where it belongs."
"For four years, I didn't know. You think anybody'll believe that, Rowan?" Jarod can't seem to get it out of his brain that that isn't her name. "We trained together every day, you knew every in and out of my life, we shared a tent…oh seven hells and all that time you were a girl…" More slowly creeping horror as he flashes back on…everything. "Why'd you do it? Eh? Tell me that, at least. Not sure if I'll believe it, as plainly you lie about everything as easy as most men spit, but I'd like an answer either way."
"There is a great deal of truth I told you," Rose answers after a moment, swallowing hard. She isn't able to look at him. "A great deal. By both word and deed, I have been true to you in so many ways." She turns abruptly back, striding over — but at the last minute veering to reclaim the cup of brandy she'd poured and left near him. She downs it in a swallow, throat flashing, and slams the cup down once more. She shoots him a look, then turns for the door. "I've already told you why I did it. Rowan wasn't suited to this. I was. Am. I. Am." Paused with hand on the latch, head bowed, she breathes deep. "I must go break with your father. I had thought to tell him first, but… this seemed more important, somehow."
"Oh fuck your 'truth'," Jarod snaps, going over to sink down in a chair. Shoulders hunched over, arms folded on his knees, though his eyes are raised to follow her, glaring at her. "You know what one of the knightly virtues is, Rowenna? Honesty. Somebody calls you 'Ser,' it's supposed to mean that your word counts for something. But you're just a liar, down to your toenails, everything about you has been a lie for four years. A liar and a false friend who used me every day to…I don't even know." Mention of his father makes his eyes sharpen further. He's unable to hide anything he's feeling most times, and now's no exception. He's near radiating anger, but there's deep hurt under it as well. "And then what, Rowenna Nayland? What'll you do for yourself then? And why in seven hells are you telling me this now, after all this time? Couldn't have been some moment of realization on my part, as I did not have a fucking clue."
She flinches at the pain and fury in his voice. Hand still on the latch, her shoulders twitch, as though wanting to hunch up and ward off his words like blows. "I know what the knightly virtues are," she says softly. Whispering to the door. "I was just a girl when I came here, Jarod. Old enough to know right from wrong, yes, but too frightened of being married off to a Frey and too… too naive to really understand just how grave a sin I was committing. Claiming to be a boy seemed such a small thing, at then time. Then… then when it wasn't — wasn't small, anymore, I was too afraid of… of this." She draws a slow breath. "Of losing the home and people I'd come to love. I never used you," she says vehemently. "I worked for my place at your side. Thrice as hard and long as any boy."
"You lied to me, every day. I thought we were friends…" Jarod does look away from her then. He breathes in deeply. Which still makes him wince, not that he even seems to notice right now. And exhales slow. "If you've business with my father you'll settle it on the morrow. After I dismiss you from my service. The doing of it is simple, just requires a witness. But until then you're still my squire and if you want to disgrace yourself you'll do it after we're finished."
"I'm more than your friend," whispers Rose, resting her palm against the door, her forehead against the back of her hand. "I never meant to hurt you, Jarod. I'm so sorry." She nods very slightly as he gives her a final order. "As you wish, Ser. I'll go pack my things, by your leave."
"Just get out of my sight." Jarod picks up the wine flagon again, but he doesn't drink from it. He just turns it around in his hands, staring at it rather than Rowan.
There's a soft click as the door opens — just a fraction, just enough for her to slip through — and Rowan, Rowenna Nayland, Rose Rivers, Lady Anonymous… is gone, shutting the door behind her.
There's the crash and shattering of the glass of the flagon breaking against the door after Rowan leaves. And then, silence.