|Summary:||Hardwicke shares his ransom with his wife.|
|Date:||May 23, 2012|
|Related Logs:||Tourney at the Twins|
|Terrick Tents — The Twins|
|It's a tent and stuff.|
|May 21, 289|
The afternoon is beginning to darken into evening when Hardwicke returns to the Terrick camp, aimed most particularly at the tent he has been staying in. He's dressed in his cleanest tabard and has done his best to look presentable, and now he returns with — something of a dazed expression. He grips a small leather pouch in one hand, his fingers tight enough to crumple the strong fabric. He makes it back to the tent with barely an acknowledgment to anyone else.
He's met just inside his tent by his wife and a kiss fit for a champion, like she's fallen in love with him three times since morning. "You were magnificent," she whispers against his lips when she (eventually) allows them both a moment to breathe.
Hardwicke doesn't seem to know what to do at first. He stands there as she kisses him, and then gathers her up in one arm as he remembers himself, pressing hard into the kiss. And then, once she allows them space to breath, he presses the leather pouch into her hand without saying anything. And inside — well. Inside is more money than either of them would ever expect to see in their lifetime.
Belle blinks at the pouch, looking confused, then peers inside — and yelps, clapping a hand over her mouth, big blue eyes enormous. "Maiden fuck me TWICE!" she gasps. "This — that's… I need to sit down." And she does. Fortunately, there's a camp chair nearby, because she kind of just falls into it.
"It's only a quarter of what Stevron Frey's horse and armor is worth," Hardwicke says faintly, somewhere between awed and disgusted.
"That's… oh my gods, Hardwicke…" Belle actually looks pale, then laughs. "What — what do we do with it?"
"We—" Hardwicke hesitates a moment, looking her over. "—give it to the Roost." He watches her reaction from underneath lowered brows.
Belle blinks, then bursts out laughing. She puts the bag aside as though it were lighter now, somehow — and of considerably less interest, in any case. "Oh, balls…" She laughs again, breathing a deep sigh. "Really? I mean, I assumed some of it — perhaps even the majority — but…" She wrinkles her nose. "All of it?"
"How much—" Here Hardwicke smiles, albeit small and faintly. "How much should we keep? I never — had much use for money before. But now—" His gaze dips perhaps inevitably to that small swell beneath her skirts.
"Is that — that's allowed? That we keep some portion?" Belle frowns, her gaze dragged to the pouch again. "It… I'm glad for the Roost to have most of it, really. People are suffering there, and it's our home. But…" she settles a hand over the swell of her belly, caressing absently. She takes one coin from the pouch. "Perhaps just this? If your lord allows?"
"If we have a son, the Terricks will provide him with horse and arms when he is knighted," Hardwicke tells her. "It's his right as their sworn's firstborn. But any others we may have—" He draws close to curl his fingers lightly about her wrist, eyes dropped to that single coin. "It is still more than I would ever think to see in my possession. Just the one."
"Just the one is a fortune," Belle agrees, also gazing at the coin. "The best tutors for a scholarly child, a good marriage for a girl…" She smiles faintly. "A house to raise them in."
Hardwicke takes the golden dragon gently from her hand, setting it flat on his palm as he holds his hand out to look at it. "I will ask," he says eventually. "It is — not an unreasonable request."
Belle gives him a moment to look, then puts the coin back in the pouch with its shiny sisters. "Let's not think any more about it," she suggests. "Even if your lord decides the Roost needs the lot — there will be other tournaments." She smiles, gazing at her husband with nothing short of adoration. "And you will still be magnificent."
"I am not exactly a tourney knight, Belle," Hardwicke says with a dry little smile. "I do not have the luxury of leaving my post every time I hear word of one. And I will not always have the benefit of another house standing behind me to ransom my horse and armor."
Belle nods, lifting her slender shoulders in a shrug. "Well. Be that as it may — if there's never another opportunity? You were — are — amazing. I could have swooned and fainted from pride. Just having been there for that — and you carrying my favor for the feat… is worth a few dragons, at least." She smiles faintly. "Money is money. We'll have it or we won't. But we have each other."
"Such a romantic," Hardwicke murmurs, crooking a finger under her chin. "I believe tradition dictates you take quite a bit of credit for yourself. Surely the gods looked longest at the one carrying your favor and all that."
"Hah," Belle retorts with quiet mirth. "I'm a pragmatist. I didn't marry you for your money, so it damn well have better been for love." She smiles, shaking her head gently. "I believe in the gods, of course, but the day was entirely yours. You promised me you'd fly… and you did."
"I unhorsed an old, rich man without any reputation as a jouster," Hardwicke says, tone drying once more. "How he stuck in his saddle for his first two challenges, I've no idea."
"I was there, and I saw no such matter," argues Belle, stubborn. "I saw a storybook knight — passing fair and strong, skilled and honorable — unseat a man no one else had managed. I wish Bean were already here and old enough to have seen — I'll never be able to do the story justice."
Hardwicke smiles, faint but irrepressible. "Perhaps you did," he says to her, leaning over to press a kiss to her brow. "I'm not like to unseat a man of that stature again," he notes. "Heir to the Crossing."
Belle smiles and shakes her head. "But you did today," she says, aglow with pride. "You did today. And if I'd never loved you before, I would have fallen in love with you that instant."
"Well, I certainly hope nobody else had that inclination," Hardwicke drawls, for all that he's snugging his arm about her waist.
"Oh, come now," says Belle, smirking. "You're only human. I'm sure you'd be very flattered if you'd won the heart of some dewey-eyed young thing out there."
"This sounds like something you'd be pleased about," Hardwicke dries back at her.
"It's sort of adorable," Belle admits, a dimple on her cheek. "But that's because I don't feel particularly threatened by your theoretical admirer. Wait until I'm bloated to the size of a fire whale and no longer have ankles — then I might be of a mind to kill any female who so much as talks to you."
"That," Hardwicke says, "sounds a little bit of an overreaction." His gaze slides to that leather pouch once more, and he takes it back up in one hand and sinks down into a seat. He's quiet a long moment before asking, "What if you could have anything, Belle? What would you want?"
"A better question might be, 'What if I could have everything…'" Belle muses with a soft smile, settling into his lap. "I'll always been torn between two worlds — before the Rebellion, and after. I want a long, happy life with you, children and grandchildren, and to die in your arms." She pauses, resting her chin atop his head, fingers playing in his hair. "And I want the menagerie back. The greasepaint and the glitter, the exotic beasts and marvelous freaks, the lovely creak and sway of the wagons, like land ships, lulling me to sleep — and every night, flying high above it all."
Hardwicke winds an arm about her as she settles into his lap. "I can't give you that," he tells her with a sad smile. "I would if I could. Ask me for something I can give you."
"Besides children and grandchildren and dying in your arms?" Belle chuckles. "Oh, I don't know. I'm all the hells to buy gifts for, I really am." She shrugs, kissing his temple. "A cottage with a garden. A great, big, sweet-natured dog the children can ride like a pony. All under a big, spreading tree fit for climbing and hanging a swing."
"A cottage, garden, dog, tree, and swing," Hardwicke summarizes, setting down the money to trail his fingers through her hair. "No new dress for you to look as beautiful as a lady?"
Belle shakes her head, smiling. "Only if you see one that would please you."
"I'll keep an eye out," Hardwicke promises her before pulling her in close for a kiss. Likely they'll just be comfortable for a long while, basking in their sudden wealth, however temporary.