Page 160: Not Exactly Happy
Not Exactly Happy
Summary: Ser Jarod Rivers discusses his new job, and some other odds and ends, with his sometime squire, she who goes by Rowan Nayland.
Date: 23/12/2011
Related Logs: Follows A Very Sound Recommendation
Jarod Rowan 
Rowan's Room — Four Eagles Tower
This small, modest bed chamber is about the size of a large closet, with room for a single bed, a foot-locker, a chest of drawers and little else. Everything is pin neat, the bed made, a large rag-rug covering the rough floorboards underfoot. A half-melted candle on a small, chipped saucer decorates the rickety nightstand, and a number of books are piled up on the low shelf beneath it. The chest of drawers, just left of the door, is wider than it is tall, about waist-height, topped with a pitcher and basin. On the walls are hung the banners of both House Nayland and House Terrick, along with an old but intricate map of the Riverlands, and another of Westeros entire. A single, dormer window looks out on the tower courtyard, the deep sill seeming a pleasant and inviting place to sit and watch the world go by.
Dec 23, 288

It's a little after dinner, when most are probably settling in for the night, when there comes a knock on Squire Nayland's closet-above-the-stairs door. Three rather rhythmic knuckle-thumps. It's somewhat distinctive of Jarod Rivers. As if that wasn't enough, it's accompanied by a call of, "Oi! Rowan? You decent?"

The door opens a bit, just enough for her tall-ish, slender form to block the way. "'Are you decent?'" she asks in a low voice, amused. "Really?" She appears to be decent. Ish. She's in her stocking feet, shirt untucked and breasts are unbound. But. You know. The important bits are covered. His ankle receives a playful nudge and she moves away from the door, allowing him to enter. The candle by the bed is lit, pushing back a bit of the gathering gloom, and a letter — several pages, in the process of being read — lies on the bed, abandoned when she answered the knock.

"It's a polite question," Jarod replies with a snort in return for the amusement. He grins when he's nudged in. The letter receives a glance, but no more than that. He rather studiously tries to avoid prying at it, in fact. Despite the grin there's a serious, and somewhat deflated, mood underlying his manner. "You got a bit? We need to talk."

Rowan tilts him a look, brows drawing down slightly as she gets the vibe. She folds up the letter and puts it on the beside table, taking a seat on the edge of the bed and patting the spot beside her. "Sit," she says. It's part invitation, part gentle imperative.

There's a beat of hesitation to sitting on the bed, but Jarod finally just shrugs, mutters something unintelligible to himself under his breath, and does it. "Thanks." He takes a second settling in, then gets into it. "My lord father's got a new assignment for me. It'll take me - us, I guess, and young Caytiv Hill, as you both should come with me - away from the Roost for a bit. Not far. And I figure we'll be back and forth frequent enough that I'll not be terribly missed. Still."

Now the eyebrows go up, curious. "Alright…" And down again. "So… what's the matter? You seem…" She hesitates. "I don't know. Not exactly happy about it."

"I'm not sure how well I'll do at it, or quite what Lord Jerold was thinking," Jarod replies with a snort. "It's a bit outside my general area of expertise. Hitting hard metal objects with other hard metal objects." He laughs at his own joke. "And it'll be rather complicated, in a few ways. Though at least I'll have Luci to help me." He finally gets to the point. "My father wants me - with her along to advise - to act as an…ambassador of sorts to Stonebridge. It was something Lord Tully asked for, after Riverrun, of both us and the Naylands. To discuss opening up trade again, cooperation, just keeping hostilities low. I guess figuring it'd lower the chance of open bloodshed over…whatever in Seven hells King Robert decides about Ser Gedeon and Lady Isolde."

"Oh!" Rowan says, rather surprised at that. Then, "Oh…" She pulls a faint grimace. "Right. Well. That should be all sorts of interesting, shouldn't it?"

"Sort've," Jarod concurs with a snort. The grimace is noted, and he turns his head a little to more properly regard her. "We will not be staying in Tordane Tower." That's quite firm. "I'd be sniffing my morning tea for pennyroyal every morning, which isn't very comfortable." It's a joke, if a black one. He clears his throat. "Besides, it'd be right strange for you, I figure, living in Lord Ryker's house. Nor do I want to make my father put out for the expense of boarding at Crane's Crossing long-term, though that's the only inn in town Luci would probably abide. It's an option if we have to, though I don't figure we will. Lord Jerold still has a few holdings near the border, and I'm hoping one of them will put us up."

"Right," agrees Rowan with a weak chuckle. It's Ryker that's going to be uncomfortable. She doesn't contradict the assumption. "It's fine. I mean — I'm glad you're taking me with you. Thank you." She sounds sincere enough about that. Then, nudging his knee with hers, she asks, "So is that what's troubling you? The whole fish-out-of-water thing? Or is there more?"
"I do not imagine you'll need to have any contact with the Valentins if you don't want to," is Jarod's reply to the weak chuckle. His assumptions go beyond the Naylands. "The Terricks still have a bannerman near the border. Well, bannerwoman now, I guess, and not much of one. The widow Lady Darant maintains the keep since her husband's death. It's not really a castle, and there's just one knight, but I figure she'll give us a few rooms if we request it. It's in the woods near the river crossing. I recall it as a nice place, from when I was a boy, though I don't remember it too well. Anyhow. It's still Terrick land, but close enough for us to operate out of without having to dwell in Stonebridge proper." The nudge to his knee makes him half-grin, and he returns it. "Aye, that's part of it. Still trying to settle a few affairs here that're on my mind but…aye, that's in large part. I just…don't quite understand why my father would think I'd be…good at this." And he's rather concerned he will not be.

Rowan raises her eyebrows. "Jarod, of all Jerold's children, you'd be the best at this." She shakes her head a little. "I can't imagine it's the kind of life you'd want, in the long term, being in the pond with all the scheming, poisonous fish they call diplomats, but…" She shrugs. "The people-pleasing thing you've been cultivating all your life — making peace and finding compromises — that's a gift for it, right there. Furthermore, you're entirely loyal to your family — you're no self-serving courtier with your own ends and ego for your lord father to worry about. And you're no pussy, either. You won't give in when you mustn't. You're strong." She nods. "You're a good choice."

Jarod drops his gaze from hers, snorting at that. "I am an agreeable man. That is so." He does not sound happy about it. "Well. I half-figure Jace is just going along with this to make me…I don't know. Feel more rooted here, maybe. He's not keen on the idea of me leaving this house for a time. He doesn't get it." He shrugs. "Lucienne is a fair courtier, though. She'll do with that part, and keep me from mucking things up too badly. And my father did say he'd figured me the better for it." Which, mixed feelings as he may have about this, does make him smile. He looks back up at her. "You really think that? I'll do all right at this, I mean."

"I do," says Rowan, sincerely. Then, with a wry smirk, she adds, "Since when have we ever hesitated to say what we really think? At least with each other?"

Jarod's face breaks into a wider smile at that. "Thanks." Her confidence means a great deal to him. He clears his throat. "Well, we'll see how it plays. We'll not be off for a couple of days, I figure. Luci'll need time to ready a retinue, and I've some matters to settle with the Guard." Rather more downcast again, on that note. "I've resigned my position. Wouldn't have been able to do it, with this, and I figured it was better to turn it over to someone else permanent-like now if I was only going to hold it for another year or so anyway."

Rowan sucks in a breath through her teeth, as one might in sympathy at a stinging blow. "Ah. Fuck. I'm sorry." She clasps the nape of his neck — it's as companionable as it is affectionate. No more than a good mate might do. "That couldn't have been easy, however necessary it was. Who's taking over?"

Jarod continues looking down at his hands for a beat when Rowan clasps his neck. Still, he doesn't pull away, and the touch is comforting. "That's not the part I'm…well. That doesn't bother me so much, really. I tried to do well by my father in it, and with the men but…it's not like I ever scraped for the position or anything. Though I was honored my father plucked me for it, even if it was likely just because I was blood to him. Anyhow. There are more senior knights in the household who'll do as well at it, or better. I've recommended Ser Hardwicke Blayne for it. Don't know if he'll accept or not." He frowns.

"Hardwicke the Dick?" Rowan asks, choking on a bit of laughter. She looks legitimately surprised at the choice. "Well. That'll definitely be a different… style of leadership your boys'll have to get used to." She gives Jarod an easy, reassuring smile. "No one can fault the man's honor, though. Or his skill. From what I've learnt about how cheaply the title 'Ser' is sometimes given, I'd rather have more sourpusses like Ser Hardwicke and my cousin in the world. A pleasing way with people isn't one of the knightly virtues, after all."

The nickname makes Jarod chuckle, just laughing for a moment. "Aye the Dick himself. But I don't think it'll be bad necessarily for the men to have a firmer hand. He's not a harsh man, really. And aye. That was sort've where my head was on it. He's one of the more senior knights in the household, and he's of the right temperament and skill to see to the drills and equipment better than most. Certainly, none can say he didn't earn it. I've always admired the man, since I was a boy. Excellent hand with a blade, and he did earn his 'Ser'. His father was a weaponsmith for the Middletons, no highlord, so he really had to work for it. Even if he never…well…" Shrug. "However he regards me, I can't think of anyone better in my mind."

Rowan slings an arm around his neck and drags his forehead in for a MUAH kind of kiss. "I think it's a fine choice," Rowan approves. "Truly. Fine choices all around. And honestly, there's no telling what that man thinks of anything. He's never happy. But you did the right thing, and that's what matters."

Jarod is more than a little surprised when Rowan drags his forehead closer to her. And kisses him. He blushes. Though he doesn't pull away, bringing his head to rest companionably on her shoulder. It's very comfortable for him. "Heh." Ahem. "Well, that's another thing, we'll see how it plays. I figure he was only not picked for it before because…well. If nothing else, my father knows I'm his man first. Ser Hardwicke came to the Roost as part of Lady Evangeline's dowry, and he's ever been her man. Which I don't figure it wrong, really, but I guess that's why I've never been…" Shrug. "Well. He's a solid man. He'll do well for it. The rest doesn't matter."

She scoots in a little closer to facilitate his place on her shoulder. Her fingers thread through his hair, idly combing and soothing. "He'll do well for it," she agrees. After a moment, she ventures, "What do they think of me… being back? Your family?"

"They're all right with it. It's to our advantage in a few ways, like we talked on, and it's my business how I keep my squires. Even Jace seems to accept that. Things're a little less easy between my brother and me these days, though that's not really to do with you. It's funny." Jarod snorts. "Jace is all for me being less biddable with people, been telling me I'm too much so for months, save when I aim to do a thing he doesn't like." Shrug. "Oh, well. We'll forgive each other our faults, as we do. Lord Jerold was quite firm that I would show more fidelity to this arrangement this time." He smirks. "He says it does me no honors to pass a squire around like a sack, so you'll be here until you're knighted or he'll be very cross with me."

Rowan can't help but snort mirthfully at that, hiding her smile in Jarod's hair. "Have I mentioned I adore your father? But, about Jack," she shrugs gently, so as not to dislodge the head on her shoulder, "I think you're right to duck back it and be patient. He's under a lot of pressure, obviously — everything's changed for him, and not for the better. At least — it'd not what he hoped it'd be, I think. And more change? Ideally, he should be happy for you and support you, and I think he will in time. But we're all selfish, especially when we're burdened and weak. Y'know?"

"Aye, I know," Jarod replies. "That's why it bothers me, really, as I know my leaving'll hurt him perhaps more than anyone else here. And Luci'll soon be married, to the Lord of the Timberhall or I hope someone else more deserving, but either way she's gone in not more than another year or two. And this place, especially being the young lord…" He sighs. "You're always something to someone. The good courtier, the good son, the good lord to your subjects…wears on you, not being you with anyone. Jace and I are that to each other, at least more than with most. And things with Anais him and…they're still real new. They aren't really there yet, though I hope they become so in time. And they're tensions between she and Lady Terrick that're uncomfortable for him to manage." He snorts. "I love her for it, but Anais nee Banefort is not the 'proper lady' Lady Evangeline envisioned as the next Lady of the Roost, I don't think."

"Your lady not-mother is almost more terrifying than my grandmama, and that is saying something," says Rowan with a chuckle. "But if any girl has the balls and the brains to get along in Lady Evangeline's house, it's Annie. I think she'd make Jack the best kind of wife — friend and lover — if he'd let her." She sighs softly. "Maybe that's what we really need when we marry — a staunch ally. Gods know it's war out there."

"If he'd let her…" Jarod mutters. More to himself than her. "I dunno. Marriage seems more a thing done for convenience than anything else. Maybe it's best we accept that and lose our illusions on the mummer's tales of it. Lady Evangeline and my mother both learned that well enough." He clears his throat some more. "At worst, Anais can give Jace an heir and spare and they can have their own lives. And aye." The comment about Lady Terrick does draw a chuckle. "She's a formidable woman. She's ever been kind to me, though. I'd have no place here if she hadn't been. That's more generosity than most'd grant, reason I count myself a lucky bastard, really."

Rowan snorts and lightly swats his knee. "How is 'staunch ally' an illusion or mummers tale? I think that's very practical. Sometimes I'm not sure you hear the words that come out of my mouth — you hear what you think I think." She tucks both her arms around him, though, just in case this starts to turn into a fight. Who can fight when they're being hugged?

Jarod cannot, for his part, and he's always good with hugs. He chuckles. "I think you hear the same from me sometimes. So you can hardly take offense at it, can you?" He chuckles. "Anyway. I've no wish to talk of marriage. It'll not be a thing I'll have to worry about for a long time yet, thank the Seven. Don't figure I'll bother until I'm ready to have a few sons, as I'll not make my children Rivers. No other practical reason to, really. How do you feel with being back?" His change of subject is not subtle.

"Yes. Well. Maybe a little," Rowan admits. "I'm trying to be better — and I already know you've been. I really… appreciated how you refused to get into it with me, the other day. It was very… I don't know. Grown up of you." She's easy enough with the subject change. "Good," she says, softly. "Really… good. I'd forgotten how easy it was to be here. With these people. With you." She sighs. "I hurt, still… fuck me, how I hurt," she chuckles painfully at that. "But… this was the right place to come. To heal. And remember who I was before… because I got all lost in another person."

"I'm trying to be better," Jarod says to that, in a sort of echo. "If I grow up a bit in the process, maybe it's about damn time." He snorts a chuckle, straightening his neck a little, so he can look at her properly. "This is a good place. I hope I grow up enough one day that I can make a life in it that'll make me happy as well as…content. What do you mean? Lost in another person?"

Rowan shakes her head. "It's just… I forgot who I was. Or… who I wanted to be, maybe." She sighs. "I forgot… that there was a me. I became very… agreeable." She smirks at Jarod and kisses the tip of his nose. "Anyway. It's good to be home and disagreeable again."

"I'm sorry if I was a part of that," Jarod says soft. "I don't think I've done very well by you since…well. Since I found out you were a girl. And Rowenna…" He takes a deep breath. "I'm so sorry I dismissed you in the first place. And I'm very sorry that because of that you went to the Valentins. It's none of my business how you were used in that house but…" But he plainly imagines things that he doesn't like. "…but I shall always fault myself a bit for being a party to giving you no choice but that, and I'll do better this time, I promise."

"It's nothing so bad as all that," she assures him softly. "And… you did what you felt was right. I'd lied to you, in any event — I… didn't mean to hurt or betray you, but I did, and we… we wouldn't have done well, without the time apart. We needed it to grow. Both of us." She combs her fingers through his hair again. "Oldstones wasn't the right place for me. But I… needed to be there. For a time. I don't regret it — so… you know. I forgive you." She smiles faintly, sadly. "Forgive me back?"

"Well, I regret it. I was angry, and I was…well. It never felt right, whyever I did it," Jarod says to that. "But it's done. Glad we can move from it. And of course I forgive you." He cranes his neck a little up and over, to kiss the top of her head, and her newly-shortened dark curls.

"Good," she says softly, bowing her head to accept the kiss, then resting her head against his chest, arms tightening around him in another hug. "Good." She's silent for a time, just breathing him in, listening to his heart and letting their breathing sync. "Want to go fishing, tomorrow?"

Jarod breathes deep the smell of her hair, while his nose and lips are in that area. Until he seems to realize what he's doing. Then he straightens up. Not quite pulling away from her yet. He's never one to refuse a hug. But he pulls back a little from the ease of the intimacy between them. The invitation, however, earns a grin. "Aye. I'd like that. Sounds like fun. But I should…umm…leave you to it. You were working on something before I interrupted. Mind if I ask who the letter's for, by the by? I mean, if it's none of my business just tell me to shove it. That'd be all right."

"And to think there was a time the thought of me writing letters terrified you," Rowan chuckles, sitting up and shaking her head. "It's not to. From. It's from Rowan. The real one."

"It never…" But Jarod just shrugs, choosing not to explain what it did do to him as he unwinds himself from hugging her. Not that he flees right away. "How is your brother? Any of them. When I last saw Rafferdy Nayland in Stonebridge he said he might write you, though I don't know if he did or not."

"Row's fantastic. King Bob's building him a fucking playhouse," she reports, grinning. "Charmed life. Then again, Row knows how to play to his audience." She tilts her head, pausing a moment. "I was sort of teasing, about my letters terrifying you? But… I… we used to do that a lot. I'd say something — or you would — and the other'd go, "No, it's —" but never say what? I'm not sure that was any better for us than not listening to what the other was saying."

"Maybe not." Jarod shrugs. And with a sheepish smile he amends. "It never terrified me, your letters. Except in that it was far more serious than anything I'd ever gotten from a girl before. They were lovely, and sweet. And dramatic as Seven hells but…I was always very flattered, though I never knew quite what to do with all that. That's all."

Rowan blushes faintly, smiling and looking down at her hands. "Right. Well. I was sort of — a little bit insane. But… I'm glad you thought they were lovely and sweet, though. You know. Between the crazy bits." She shrugs. "The one you wrote back was really, really good. I swooned. A lot." She pauses. "It was way better than the first twenty drafts."

"You were always sweet, between the crazy bits," Jarod says with a laugh. It's half a joke and half not. The comment about his own makes his flush again. "It's easier to talk to someone sometimes, like that. In your head. Get more time to make sure you're saying it…well, in a way that won't piss somebody off, at the very least. I suppose I'm also working on how to avoid doing that in person." He smirks.

"So far, so good!" Rowan declares — and reaches over to knock on the wood of her bedside table.

Jarod knocks the wall, in echo of the on-wood bit. "So far. Aye. I'd best leave before I ruin it. Have a good night, Rowenna." And with that, he does flee. Albeit at a casual stride rather than scurrying, closing the door to her little room behind him.

Rowan watches the shut door a moment, sighs, and flops back onto her bed, reclaiming her letter to read by a candle that's almost burned out.