|Refined Female Company|
|Summary:||Laurel and Nicodemus encounter one another in the Braeburn kitchen.|
|Related Logs:||None, directly|
|Kitchen — Braeburn House|
|A sizable room with counters, cupboard, cabinets and table and a fire. Oh, and food. And, probably, other things.|
|28 May 289|
It's a few hours after dinner, though not so late proper ladies maids ought to be tucked into bed. It is, however, an awkward time to be hungry. Nicodemus Groves, awkward in a number of ways since his sudden and unexpected return home after so longer being… not home, is in the Braeburn kitchen, peering through cupboards and cabinets to try and suss out something a bit more interesting to eat than just the predictable bread and cheese.
It seems to be a Groves family trait, if Laurel is here on proper handmaidenly duties. She enters the kitchens with a bustling step, her eyes mostly focused downwards. She catches sight of someone's legs, glancing up at the knight and then back down at the ground. It is an awkward, silent moment for her before she steps—aside there and waits, popping her thumb nail into her mouth to chew on.
Nicodemus doesn't seem in a hurry to retreat, and there is a small "Aha!" as he finds a jar of preserves and sets it on the counter. He glances over to toss an easy smile in Laurel's direction. "Evening, miss. Come for a snack?"
The smile comes just as Laurel has dared to look up at that exclamation, her face flushing splotchily red even as she glances back down at Nicodemus's legs and drops into an imperfect curtsey. "I can—wait," she says, stumbling over even those few words.
Nicodemus blinks and glances down at himself, his hands patting over his ribs as if to check none of them are poking out of his shirt or anything. "I know I'm a bit bruised, miss, but am I really such unappealing company as all that?"
"No, my lord. No, no," Laurel declares quickly, turning all the redder at the question and glancing up with some bit of fear for his interpretation, missing the humor of the words. "I would—never say that!"
"No?" Nicodemus asks with a laugh. "Then come eat. I daresay the kitchen's big enough to fit both of us." He collects the bread, the cheese and the preserves, carrying them over to the table and kicking out a chair for himself. "I'm Nicodemus," he offers. Not, really, that she doesn't know who he is already. "Hello."
Is it possible for one's own name to trip you up? Laurel stutters, "La-Laurel." She draws forward at the invitation, hesitating over it. Her gaze skips quickly over Nicodemus again before she focuses on the food and reaches out to pinch off some bread slowly. "Thank you, my lord."
"Miss Laurel," Nicodemus greets with a courteous nod before cutting off a slice of bread and beginning to cover it generously with the jam. "You're a handmaid to the Lady Rosanna, aren't you?"
"Yes, my lord. I am, my lord," Laurel agrees quickly, nodding and shoving the bread into her mouth. She watches him spread jam for a moment, his hands more than his face, of course.
Nicodemus nods, too, and then waits as Laurel chews and swallows before he asks, "How long have you been with her?" Setting aside the gooey knife, he lifts his own bread for an equally gooey bite.
Laurel's brows furrow together as she blurts out, "Too l—years. Two years." She glances around the kitchens, as if trying to see someone, but not seeing them she says instead, "My mother works here, too."
Nicodemus's brows lift and his chewing pauses for a moment, and then he's obliged to lift his hand so he might hide a smile (and any bits of bread and jam that smile might reveal). Swallowing, he asks, hand dropping back down to the table, "It's as trying as all that, is it?"
"No, no, my lord. It has been a wonderful two years. I've learned more in this two years than I could in two years anywhere else, and I've gotten to—It has been a wonderful opportunity," Laurel rushes to say, stuttering slightly and turning bright red again as she picks up the gooey knife to saw a large chunk of cheese off.
"Mmhmm," Nicodemus murmurs, still smiling faintly and not looking especially convinced. He has another bite of bread and jam and sucks a bit of the red goo from the tip of his thumb before he tries again. "What sort of useful things have you learned, then?"
"I've learned—all sorts of, uhm, things, about—Managing things?" Laurel's brows knit together again, but she is soon popping the cheese into her mouth to munch on instead without regards for the sticky jam transferred from the knife. "Did you, uh, see the tourney?"
Nicodemus's mouth quirks up into another one of those too-bemused smiles. "I was in it, actually." He leans in a bit closer to add in a mock whisper. "In disguise."
"You were?" This has apparently caught Laurel's interest enough to lift clear blue eyes to Nicodemus's, for a moment forgetting her shyness in interest of trying to place the knight against the competitors.
Nicodemus nods again. "I didn't make a very exciting showing, I'm afraid. Lord Charlton unseated me in one pass in the joust and I wasn't even among the final competitors in the melee. But, I was there."
"Ser Lawson?" Laurel says, almost immediate. She then remembers herself, blushing and offering a flickering, hesitating smile as her gaze falls down to the food. "You showed—fine. Not the best—But, no, you did good, my lord. Good."
"One in the same, I'm afraid," Nicodemus agrees with a small nod. "Maybe next time, I'll manage better than good. Anyhow, it was worth it just to see Kitt ride into the champions' circle. He made a fine showing for himself."
"He did good," Laurel agrees, mumbly and blushy as she tears at more bread and moves to spread it with jam. "Next time, you should—I mean, if you angled your lance upwards a bit more…"
Nicodemus blinks, his brows lifting. "You know jousting, miss?" he asks. "How did that come about?"
Flushing and apologetic, Laurel explains, "My father is a—was a tourney knight. I've seen, uhm, a lot of tilts." She adds quickly, "But I'm not trained. You probably are doing it fine; I am sorry. I didn't mean to, my lord."
"It's fine, it's fine," Nicodemus assures with an easy laugh, "I'm not insulted. I fell off the damn horse. If you can help tell me why so I don't do it again, I'd be obliged. Now, tilt the lance up higher, you say?"
"It can, uhm, catch them—in a different way. Easier to offbalance," Laurel agrees with a quick nod, pleasure flushing redder across her cheeks at the knight questioning her. Some of that tension inevitably eases, and she glances quickly up at Nicodemus. "How do you sit on your horse?"
"One leg on either side?" Nicodemus answers, head canting to the side. "Is there another way?"
Embarrassment filters across Laurel's expression, clear in her eyes that hides little of her emotions. She says, "Oh, I meant—Your weight, my lord. My father always said he leaned his weight forward."
The knight 'ahs' softly and nods. "I think I do that. Weight forward, lance steady. And Lady's a good girl, she never flinches."
"Lady?" Laurel questions of that name, glancing up quickly at Nicodemus.
"Ah," Nicodemus murmurs, and it's his turn to look a touch embarrassed. "My horse."
"Why Lady? It isn't very—," Laurel cuts herself off before she finishes that sentence, chewing at her lower lip quickly.
"Isn't very…" Nicodemus presses before finishing the last of his bread and jam, idly wiping his hand clean on his trousers. Hey, they're black. They'll hide it.
"Nothing, nothing, my lord," mumbles Laurel, shaking her head insistently.
"Hmm," Nicodemus murmurs. "Well, I named her Lady because she's always rather behaved like one. Gentle, steady, strong when she needed to be. Loyal." His smile quirks. "Also, there's not very much refined female companionship on the Stepstones, so I suppose really I was just waxing romantic."
"Oh. Oh!" Laurel blushes at his words, of course. What doesn't she blush at? "There are probably—I mean, unrefined…"
"Um. Well. Yes. I suppose there are," Nicodemus agrees wryly. "But, forgive me. That's unpleasant talk in the company of a young woman. I only meant to say that I gave my horse a silly name because I'm sort of a silly fellow."
"It isn't that—silly," Laurel rushes to assure him, for all that her words are countered by the lie that shows clearly in blue eyes. "You do not seem silly." She at least seems sincere about that last.
"Thank you, Miss Laurel. I appreciate the offer of confidence. But, I think leaving home for so long was an exceedingly silly thing to do."
Laurel's head bobs in repeated nods of agreement, even as she says, "You don't—Plenty of men—My father travelled from place to place and never returned home. It wasn't silly."
"It wasn't silly for him," Nicodemus agrees. "But a tourney knight has to travel, if he's to see to a family. Tournaments don't stay still."
"No, no," Laurel counter-agrees, catching at her lower lip between her teeth and flushing again. Finally, she asks, "Are you—glad? To be home?"
"Yes," the non-tourney knight answers. "I am. I've missed Kingsgrove very much."
"It is—You must—I mean, being home must be a relief," Laurel suggests, her teeth worrying loose a piece of skin on her chapped lips before tearing it free.
"A relief?" Nicodemus asks. "From the Stepstones, do you mean? Well. I suppose that mostly it is, yes."
Laurel shakes her head, just trying to explain, "No—just being… home."
The quasi-exiled Groves smiles faintly and tears himself off another piece of bread. He doesn't bother with jam this time, just peeling off bits and chewing on them as they are. "In time, I hope so."
"Me too, my lord," Laurel offers with a quick, flashed smile before she blushes fiercely. Then she is pushing away from the table, bobbing in an even quicker curtsey. "I should—I am sorry for the interruption, my lord."
It's not really necessary to stand when a lady's maid stands, but Nicdemus does it anyway, offering Laurel another courteous nod. "Good evening, miss. I enjoyed talking with you."
Turning all the redder, Laurel agrees, "Me too, my lord. To you, not to me." She curtsies again for good measure and then moves quickly from the room to attend to her own lady.