|Summary:||Anais and Justin speak about the sorts of injuries that don't leave bruises.|
|Waterfront — Seagard|
The merchant stalls, customs stations and seedy dockside taverns that once thrived here are largely burnt as well, the Ironborn having looted and gutted them before they were driven from this part of the city. The dock - one of Seagard's three major ones - is still intact, however, and there's enough raw space in the stone buildings that couldn't be burned to house supplies. ||
|June 22, 289|
Anais has enjoyed this tournament for many reasons. It's a chance to get away from the stress of the Roost, a chance to mingle, a chance to see the place where Jacsen spent so many of his formative years. And, of course, it is a port city. Which likely explains why she's managed to find so much time to spend down by the waterfront. Anyone looking for her is easily directed to a less-travelled spot of newly-repaired docks with an excellent view of the ships that move in and out of the port. And there she sits, in a folding canvas chair, while Kincaid and Nina play at cards a few feet away. Anais has a small notebook in her lap, but for the moment she seems to have forgotten it in favor of watching a galley push out of the docks.
Justin hasn't been here in months, but it wasn't that long ago either. Due to it being too far for him to walk without having to take a good many rest breaks, he rides his grey gelding but moves slowly at an easy, quiet walking pace. He probably shouldn't be in the saddle at all but a man needs to know if he'll be up for riding home in a few days or will have to stay until he's healed more. The grey's been lent out to run and burn off excess energy, content to come down to the water without being troublesome after being pent up for a few days. Justin stops him when he sees Anais seated enjoying the view, changing direction to walk his horse towards her and her small group.
The sound of hooves is enough to draw Anais' attention from the ships, turning to catch sight of her goodbrother. "Justin," she greets with a small smile, though she looks him over carefully. "Should you even be out here? Come sit down," she invites, pushing up out of the chair. The notebook she tosses to Nina, who catches it without looking up from her hand of cards. "How are you?" she asks Justin.
The horse is halted and he smiles faintly, "That would require me to dismount and then remount later, wouldn't it?" Justin mocks himself lightly. He glances over the others playing cards and feels the pleasant breeze here coming in from the water before he carefully leans to lift his leg over and stiffly dismount. Yeah, that's not real fun. The horse behaves himself at least, no funny last second side stepping, thank you. Justin turns back to Anais, "I'm doing all right. Going slowly. Are you enjoying the tournament, you and Jacsen?"
"Paying for your success, I suppose," Anais smiles ruefully as he dismounts, watching the way he moves. "I'm enjoying it, yes," she agrees with a nod, looking out toward the water. "Before the invasion, I had thought maybe Jacsen and I would be able to come here for a time. Get to know each other in a place where he was more comfortable and was a bit more like home for me. I think we would have enjoyed that." With a slight shake of her head, dismissing might have beens, she looks back to Justin. "What about you? The bit with the favor and Roslyn was nicely done, but you seemed…quiet the other night. Is everything all right?"
Justin lightly ties the horse to whatever is at hand, a shady tree or a railing along the walk or there may even be tie posts along the waterfront here. The horse secured, he walks a few steps over towards the group, hands lightly clasped behind himself, "It was worth it. It was a very good day." He listens to his goodsister and nods, looking out over the water, "You and he looked happier with one another seated together in the stands than I have yet seen you. Coming here may have done you both good anyway." Justin turns his head back and faintly shrugs, mostly his right shoulder, "Aside from our House's many problems, yes everything's all right. Better now, if you and my brother have sorted somethings out, Anais." He is not bringing up the outburst at the family meeting. Not a word.
"He heard about the incident at the Twins," Anais explains with a soft sigh. "We fought. I said some terrible things. He said some terrible things. And we made up just as it was time to come here." Quiet, she chews at a thumbnail. "I just hope it lasts when we get home." She shakes her head as she realizes what she's doing, forcing her hand down to wipe it at her skirts. "Justin, do you want a match with Roslyn? Or are you content to let your family sink that ship?"
"I tried to warn you." Justin says quietly though his doing so was already too late, right before she departed the Freys to go to the Mire. The question unexpected, he looks at her but is slow to answer. "I want my House repaired, Anais. Stronger, our people fed. If that can still be accomplished with the betrothal negotiations with the Naylands, then I want that, yes. I do not really believe Ser Rutger intends to see it through, judging by his opening comments. Do you?"
"I think Riordan wanted it a good deal more than Rutger does," Anais admits, grimacing faintly. "But then, I'm coming to think I wanted it more than your family does as well. I don't think Ser Rutger is really interested in negotiations, no." She chews on her lower lip, staring out at the sunlight over the water. "And so instead they all put their efforts behind arranging a marriage for Lucienne to Lord Stafford, which is going to /cost/ us. I don't understand, Justin." She looks over to her goodbrother, brows furrowed in confusion. "Am I missing something? I just…feel like we're speaking two different languages."
"We are, and my brother isn't interested in speaking to me. He and Lucienne are very close. You are right that we will gain almost nothing to marry Lucienne into the Groves House but it's what she wants, and it seems Jacsen is interested in making friendly with Ser Kittridge and making her happy. And admit, you want her gone so my brother could please you also in that, even if it does not please my father." Justin's tone is quiet, perhaps a little flat. "I want the Nayland betrothal to go through but not at the expense of our House gaining very little of what we need, Anais. I think you are right that Ser Riordan wanted the betrothal and it had a chance with him. I have little faith now it will happen. So we must look elsewhere. Dmitry is marriagable and charming. Perhaps he is a better choice."
"I want her gone," Anais admits easily enough. "But not at the cost of the long-term security of the Roost. Or the short-term, for that matter. I told Jacsen we'd be better served if she married someone rich who was actually interested in building connections with the house, but I don't think he'll listen." She shakes her head, crossing her arms beneath her breasts. "If it brought coin and food to the Roost, Justin, she could stay forever," she murmurs wearily. "It's your life and your marriage, though, that offers some hope, Justin. Don't you have thoughts about that? Feelings?"
If he does, he's reluctant to say. A muscle in his jaw tightens briefly. "Feelings muddy things up, Anais. I'd be better off without giving a shit about any of this. When Jacsen was ill, what I did mattered and was needed. Now Jacsen's better and he will make the negotiations and the decisions like he's supposed to do. I'm to go 'learn from Hardwicke' as he put it. Whatever the hell that's supposed to mean, Anais. Other than speaking to Roslyn to urge her to speak to her brother, I am out of this loop." Justin's angry, but it's a thus far impotent anger with no constructive use for it. So he shoves it down and says cooly, "What do you think can be done?"
Anais recognizes that anger all too well, reaching out for Justin's hand to give it a small squeeze. "Look at the up side," she says, smile full of forced cheer. "No one's threatened to put you out if you don't get pregnant. Or to arrange beatings for you." Gallows humor out of the way, she draws a deep breath. "I know how hard it is to sit and do nothing when everything is on the line, Justin. And for what it's worth, you're dealing with it far better than I have. But don't let it make you cold. If you can find another woman who'll bring a decent dowry, by all means, sweep her off her feet."
Justin's initial reaction is he doesn't want her taking his hand, starting to step back. But no, calm, quiet and let her do as she likes. Anything he says is liable to sound stupid, but he says low, "I think I'm finished with romantic gestures for a while, Anais. We shall see."
Anais presses her lips together slightly at his answer, releasing his hand and looking back out to the water. "It hurts even to pretend, doesn't it?" she asks instead. "You think you're pretending, at least. And then somewhere, you start doing it so well that you fool yourself, too. But it somehow hurts just as much when pretend advances mean nothing as it does when the real ones do." She falls silent again, then offers in a softer tone: "I'm sorry if she was unkind to you, Justin. You deserve to be loved."
Watching her, Justin listens and keeps his own face as devoid of any expression as he can. Though the tension of his anger lurks in his muscles that likely make his ribs ache. Very cooly he states, "When I lay injured after the second joust, she did not come to see if I would be all right. Nor did you, Jacsen, or Lucienne. You could say it was enlightening, Anais. At this point all I care about is seeing our people fed, my house survive. By whatever means that requires."
That said, Justin turns to step back to his horse and untie the gelding's reins.
There's a flicker of something across Anais' features, brows furrowing slightly. She turns to watch him, but uncertain as she seems, there are no easy words to answer that. "I'm sorry," she offers simply, moving to look at him from the other side of his mount, holding the horse steady.
The grey is quiet enough, friendly as the horse wuffles softly at the petite woman, curious. Apparently Justin has paid his ransom owed to have gotten the horse back. He steels himself against the discomfort of mounting but manages it, settling back into the saddle. The reins are taken up, "It doesn't matter. There is much work to be done. A few more days rest, then I go home. Enjoy the waterfront, Anais." Justin turns his horse and instead of heading back towards the tournament fields, he sets the animal to walk into the city.
"It…" Anais stops herself, sighing softly. "Take care, Justin," she says quietly instead, stepping back to make room for him to depart and moving back to her chair to look for answers in the movements of the ships in the bay.