|Like A Woman|
|Summary:||Venomous marital discord. Anais and Jacsen have at it with words that can probably never be taken back.|
|Related Logs:||Learning to Fly, Talking < Sex, Straightforward Men.|
|Lord Jacsen's Chambers - Four Eagles Tower|
|This is a temporary temporary description.|
|Wed Jun 13, 289|
Anais was out late yesterday, not returning from the beach until well after the sun had set. Her hair was full of saltwater, requiring a good, long bath to clean and brush, and by the time she was tucked into bed, she slept the sleep of the physically exhausted. A light sunburn across her cheeks and shoulders has deepened to a tender red by morning, and a new spray of freckles crosses her nose and cheeks. Still, she's decidedly more content than Jacsen has possibly ever seen her, and as she returns from a few early morning tasks, she's humming cheerfully under her breath.
On the other hand, Jacsen was out as late as he needed to be before taking the long, long road home. Though the road didn't change on the way back, his speed was at least halved once the bruising set in from that magnificent flop. He slept like the dead and woke up in more pain than the day before, leading to his decision to stay in his room for the day - not because he can't move about, but because he's so slow doing it that it's maddening just to see. "You're cheerful this morning," he comments to Anais as she returns. He's sitting at the table, contemplating some documents, which he slides aside.
Anais flashes a smile to her husband as she comes in. "Yesterday," she declares, approaching his chair to lean over and brush a kiss to his cheek, "Was quite possibly the best day ever." Once he's moved the papers, she perches on the edge of the table, looking him over. "Though I suppose today is being a bit less friendly to you. That was quite a dive you took." There's a pause, and her lips quirk into a tentative smile. "Clearly we'll just have to spend more time practicing."
"It was?" Jacsen asks with a confused quirk of the brow when she kisses his cheek. He looks up at her with his head cocked. "I don't think I'll be doing that again anytime soon." The grimace as he settles back into his chair is evidence enough to her comment that this day is not being friendly to him at all. "Though it was glorious, if only for a few seconds," he adds with a smile. "I'm glad Ser Kamron convinced me to go. And that he saved me from drowning." Pause. "You shouldn't have come out for me."
Anais's smile fades a bit, and she sighs. "I know. I'm sorry." She reaches up to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear, looking away for a moment. "I just- I was so afraid. And if Lord Kamron hadn't been there, or hadn't been able to get to you and something had happened, I never would have forgiven myself. You're…You're my whole life, Jacsen." It would probably be more touching if it was said with more emotion and less pragmatism.
Jacsen reaches out and puts his hand on her knee. It's a reassuring gesture, one that completely clashes with his next words. "You still shouldn't have swam out." But what's past is past and he shrugs, taking his hand back. "He seems a good man, Ser Kamron. Solid," he says, changing the subject. "I met with Ser Kittridge, too - seems a simple, straightforward fellow. I like him." He nods emphatically. "Broached the possibility of Luci and Lord Stafford. He seemed receptive."
Anais arches a brow at the last. "You too, now?" she asks. "Of course they're receptive, Jacsen. They sell their surplus to the Naylands for a pretty pile of coin, then they get the land they wanted from us as Luci's dowry. Aside from the fact that it's very clever of them, I'm not particularly interested in stealing from our son to get your sister a nice marriage when she can wait a few years more," she sniffs, slipping from the desk to pace a few steps toward the window. "Especially given that your father also advised she wait."
"I don't get that sense from him," Jacsen replies, shaking his head. "I know it's too early to say with certainty, but he didn't seem… conniving. They gave us the chance, they gave us the time, we didn't respond in time, and they got a better offer. I can't fault them that. It's business." Laboriously pushing himself up off the chair and taking hold of his cane, he starts the stiff walk over to the chairs so they can get more comfortable. "We have to look to the short term as well as the long. I want to see what kind of agreement can be had; my father must come to see reason before people starve for stubbornness."
"It's business," Anais agrees, arching a brow over at Jacsen. "And it's business that they don't have anything else to offer as far as food goes until the next harvest, so perhaps we'd best not hang our hats on the Groveses." She doesn't look particularly inclined to sit yet, pacing a few steps by the window before she looks over to him. "And besides, she's the reason you're still taking the Milk of the Poppy. If you want conniving, you need look no further than the serpent at your breast. Why in the name of all that's holy would you want to marry her to an heir, and anywhere near us? We /ought/ to find some rich merchant who wants a title and give her to him, along with Middlemarch."
"They'll have something," Jacsen says as though it's obvious. "I know they will, because I would if I were in their position." He glances over to her at the window and thinking over his words before speaking again. "Luci is… resourceful." He won't agree to conniving. "But she has always had the best interest of the House in her heart. Pairing her with an heir could prove fruitful to us, especially another House that serves the Mallisters, and one so close by." He looks down at the handle of his cane, fingers tracing over it, as he adds, "Or do you think Ser Riordan might be a better choice? Perhaps Hag's Mire might better suit." Head still lowered, his eyes come up to Anais.
If it was bait, Anais doesn't take it, snorting dismissively. "Ser Riordan is a pretty knight, but until or unless he marries Isolde, he's nothing but Lord Rickart's favored son. Which has its uses, but certainly doesn't gain us anything. Besides, your father will sail to Lys and set himself up as master of a whorehouse before he marries Luci to a Nayland." She meets his gaze, eyes narrowing slightly. "How is it in the best interest of this house to take advantage of your dependency on the drug, Jacsen? She's not interested in this house at all, or else she wouldn't have run off to Middlemarch after your mother died. Your sister is interested in one person and one person only, and it's herself."
"Some might find him pretty," Jacsen says quietly, eyes moving back down to his cane. "There's much gossip to that effect, in any case." He draws in a deep breath - his bait obviously left the line empty. "Luci didn't run off to Middlemarch," he says with a tired-sounding voice. "She was sent. And as for Milk of the Poppy, you don't know if it was her. Besides." He taps the cane against the arm of the couch. "If Luci marries a Nayland, she has the chance to influence that House. Whereas if Justin marries a Nayland, we bring one inside our House. I'm no fan of either option, Anais, but I'm also not a fan of my people slowly starving to death."
"I don't /know/ if it was Luci?" Anais echoes, stalking closer to her husband, cheeks flushing bright even beneath the sunburn. "Don't treat me like I'm stupid, Jacsen Terrick. Don't you /dare/. Since you came back, since you fell ill, I've set the guards on this room. And they keep track of who comes in here. And when you said someone tried to force your hand, I asked questions. I heard from Justin that your precious sister was trying to get his support to take the seal from you while you were ill. I walked in one her running her own negotiations with the Groveses. You don't have to /like/ the truth, Jacsen, but don't act like it isn't there in front of you, plain as the nose on your face." Which she has a finger very close to at that point. "And if you have something to say or ask about Lord Riordan, then just /ask/ it. Don't go fishing around and pouting like- like- like a woman!"
Out of all that, those last words punch straight through the rest to Jacsen. "Is that what I do?" he asks, his voice low and dangerously smooth. "Like a woman. Can't jump from a cliff like a man. Can't dance with a lady like a man. Can't become a knight like a man." In his current state, he can't even muster anything near intimidating, but he rises all the same, face turning to forbidding stone as he looks to his wife with this cold, seething anger. "Is that why you swam out yesterday, because I can't fend for myself like a man? Why you went back to Hag's Mire with Ser Riordan, so that you could be with - a man?"
Anais catches a breath, her own anger stopping short and flash-freezing in her eyes. "I went back to the Mire as a show of good faith for Lord Rickart, which was arranged before we even left the Roost," she answers icily. "So that his pride wouldn't be hurt by everyone always coming here. In the last few months, I have learned a great deal about dealing with people's delicate pride," she adds with a pointed look at him. "Being a man isn't about being a knight, or jumping off of cliffs, or dancing. Being a man is about not always being afraid you /aren't/."
"A show of good faith," Jacsen repeats as though it's the most ridiculous idea ever. "So after your gossip-worthy dance with Ser Riordan, you disappear to Hag's Mire as a show of good faith and return with nothing to show for it." At least, not anything that he knows about. "Is this how you deal with people's 'delicate pride'?" he asks, matching her look. "My pride is not so delicate, Anais, but thank you for your concern." His cold smooth anger has boiled to a snapping sarcasm. "Thank you for emasculating me in front of everyone yesterday. Thank you for letting me find out about your - dalliance - from rumors and gossip." His shaky voice crescendoes as he continues. "But above all this, above all else, thank you for finally letting me know what you really think of me, the husband you didn't want, for cutting through the bullshit image of the loving, caring, devoted wife." Those final words all but spat from his mouth, he turns and starts for the door, though a two-legged puppy could outrun him at his current pace.
Before he can take two steps, Anais is in front of him again, her jaw set stubbornly. "First." She reaches out to press a hand to his chest. "There was no dalliance. No more than there was with Jaremy when I first arrived here. I danced with him, yes. And I wouldn't be jealous of that, because he's quite possibly the worst dancer in the Seven Kingdoms," she adds, dry. "He hardly swept me off my feet, save in an attempt on /my/ part to keep us both from falling. But I had promised I would save him a dance, and I keep my promises. He kissed my hand after. That is all that happened, and I will swear it by any oath you choose." Taking a deep breath, she tries to press past the anger, tries to choose the right words. "He's Jaremy all over again, Jacsen. He's sweet, and more trusting than he ought to be, and he'll fall in love with anyone who's kind to him. And as much fun as that can be, that is not the man you /respect/, or can love the way a woman wants to love a /man/. It's like raising a child, not…not a partnership." Fire and ice both seem to have been corralled to where they belong by the time she dares to meet his gaze again. "If I didn't want you, I would have left when Jaremy did. Nothing kept me here. But when I'm no longer young, I'd like to be married to a man with more to offer than the memory of the days when he could win a tournament."
Well, it's not like Jacsen can push Anais out of the way or get around her if she's determined to stop him. So he stops because there's no other choice. "I don't care what you did or didn't do," he says, shaking his head. "I don't care if it was a harmless dance or if he took you home and fucked you till you thought you saw the Gods. What I care is that there are people out there who question this, our marriage, and what you did or didn't do while I was fevered for months." She might be pushing past the anger, but he's not. "You didn't want me, you wanted the Roost. That's why you stayed - not for me." He narrows his eyes at her, scanning her face. "That's why you despise Lucienne so much, why you want her gone far away - because you want the Roost for your own, and every time she does something, you feel it slip from your grasp." And he moves to get past her to the door, whether she lets him through or not.
Don't shove him, Anais, says the angel on one shoulder. You could just sort of step in front of the cane, says the devil on the other. There's time for him to walk around her while she struggles against her baser urges, and then she turns again, stalking a few long steps to stand in front of the door, arms crossed over her chest. "And you took Jaremy's place because you loved me?" she asks, arching a brow in turn. "Or because the Banefort offered a fine dowry? The 'you don't love me' card is a fairly worthless one when I've one in my own hand as well. I despise your sister on her own merits, I assure you, for whatever that's worth. But if that's your permission to take a lover, then I'll take note of that." Her chin rises, and her voice is smooth as butter as she moves away from the door, though she doesn't look away from his face. "Perhaps that's all that's needed to produce an heir."
"Love?" Jacsen echoes, his voice hollow, the word spoken as though a complete non-sequitur. "When did love ever enter this equation?" But she's already moving on, continuing to deliver verbal blow after verbal blow. And when she's done, his knuckles are white where he grips his cane, the veins popping out of the back of his hand, and his eyes wild. If he weren't in such bad shape, he if could even bear to lift that cane higher than his knees, it's the look of a man gripped with such rage that he would lash out with it. "I imagine you've already taken several, since you want men instead of me," he says, a sneer curling his lips. "But no matter how many men you lie with, your barren womb won't produce sons for any of them, least of all me."
"Only you, Jacsen. Only you." Anais shakes her head, stepping back to the window. "Gods know why, you've hardly bothered to hide your own dalliances. But please, go ahead and mark the date. It's been eight months of only you with nothing. Let's see how long it takes someone else." She settles on the windowsill, arms crossed loosely over her chest as she tilts her head and looks up in a pose of thoughtfulness. "I wonder where I'll start. There's something poetic about a Nayland, I suppose."
With Anais out of the way, Jacsen is about to pass through the door when her words dagger through his back and twist for good measure. "My dalliances?" he asks, his back still to her. "Yes, your crippled and womanlike husband, two weeks awake, has been fucking other women. When for most of that time, he could barely stand on his own. Have you completely lost your mind?" He turns his head her way, speaking over his shoulder without looking at her. "But yes, let's see how long it takes someone else. If you doubt my manhood, I'll show you it's not me leaving us heirless." The anger and venom's gone from his voice now, leaving him just sounding… empty.
"Just go, Jacsen," Anais says from her place at the window, voice quiet. "Now you can blame your wife for emasculating you, rather than your own fears. You've been looking for an excuse from the moment Jaremy ran off. Take whatever one you like and go."
"I trusted you," Jacsen says weakly. "I tried to make this work." He reaches for the handle and pulls the door open with some difficulty. "I see now I was wrong." And he's gone, leaving the door open behind him.