Page 176: Tempting Fate
Tempting Fate
Summary: Belle and Hardwicke take a moment on the ramparts.
Date: January 9, 2012
Related Logs: The Ironborn invasion.
Belle Hardwicke 
Roof Terrace — Four Eagles Tower
This is open to the air except for the rookery at the opposite end of the open walkway. Parapets and crenellations are about.
January 8, 289

Being on the terrace probably isn't the wisest thing during a siege, especially in full daylight, but here Belle Beckett stands, elbows at rest on one of the high crenelations, watching the Ironborn camp. Likely as it is that she makes a tempting target, she's far beyond the reach of bowmen, and with the catapults and artillery destroyed — she's probably come up as an act of defiance, much as anything. Fresh air. Sunshine. She means to have some, after days cooped up in the hall, and let the wind from the sea scour the smell of smoke and medicinals from her hair and clothing.

Hardwicke is a fairly unsurprising presence on the walls, being prone to making routine inspections of the Ironborn encampment from aboveground. He doesn't look /surprised/ to see Belle tempting fate, but he doesn't look particularly happy about it. "Belle," he sighs.

She turns to look over her shoulder at him, faint dimples appearing around her mouth, the wind picking up for a moment and unfurling her hair like a banner. "Darling," she returns, sweet as he is exasperated.

"You shouldn't be up here," Hardwicke says, exasperation tempered by a sort of commonplace exhaustion that has settled on his shoulders these past few weeks since the invasion. He moves closer, though, to draw up to her side. He is, naturally, in armor, as he has commonly been for the siege.

Belle leans into his side, armor notwithstanding, the lean sort of demanding an arm be draped over her. She's about as subtle in her ploys for affection as a cat. A very, very spoiled cat. "It's not as though I'm standing up here wagging my bare ass at them," she says. A beat. "It did occur to me." Of course it did. And see how good she's being!

Perhaps it is some sense of stubbornness that makes him resist the immediate temptation to curl an arm about her shoulders: he scowls instead, his body held tall and stiff. "I'd rather you didn't," he says with particular dryness.

"I know," says Belle indulgently, batting her eyelashes up at him. "When I felt the urge to do so come upon me, and was right around to lift my skirts and drop my smallclothes, I thought to myself, 'Self? Hardwicke would probably rather you didn't.'" She nods, all solemnity. "You will notice, as a result, my bottom remains facing away from the encampment, and quite decently covered." She sighs. "The things I do for love."

"I'd hope you would do it for your own, personal safety," Hardwicke says on a tired sigh, but he does lift a hand to graze his fingertips lightly through her unbound hair. "But I guess the end result's the same."

She reaches up for his hand, taking it in both of hers and kissing it. "It breaks my heart to see you thus," she says very softly, and without a hint of levity. "I think I hate them more for stealing your peace than all the throats they cut at our gate."

"Don't," Hardwicke tells her, his voice also going quiet. "I'd sooner have my men back. I've never been good at peace, Belle."

"I'm not sure you've ever known it," replies Belle, reaching up a hand to stroke his beard. "And I think, other than children, it's the thing I'd most like to give you as your wife."

Hardwicke looks down at her, his expression creased and touched into silence. His fingers thread through her hair and then shift to draw a thumb down the line of her cheekbone. Finally he cups her face in one large, callused palm and bends to press a kiss to her forehead. Against her skin, he whispers, "I would like that, Belle."

"Some day, my love," Belle says softly, holding his other hand against her heart. "Some day soon, you'll wake to a day that holds nothing but joy, and sleep on a morrow that promises only the same. This shall pass, my sweet, heavy-hearted Hardwicke. This shall pass, I promise."

"With steel and blood," Hardwicke says in a low voice. He cants his head and sighs into her hair as his fingers drift back down through the golden strands.

"Some things do," agrees Belle, resting her head against his chest as he combs through her hair. "We've lived through it before. Both of us."

"Yes," Hardwicke agrees in a quietly noncommittal syllable, tucking his chin on the top of her head. He says nothing further, though his gaze drifts back to the Ironborn camp in the distance.

For once, Belle doesn't chatter his ear off simply because there's silence. She simply rests against him, also watching the enemy, letting him derive whatever comfort he may from the weight and warmth of her, the silk of her hair between his fingers and beneath his chin.

"I hadn't thought—" Hardwicke falls quiet for another long moment as he strokes his fingers through her hair. "I'd very much like a son, Belle," he says after he finds the words.

She makes a soft, tender sound — a sigh of complete accord. "We'd make very handsome sons. Tall and strong," she opines. "And lovely, clever daughters."

"As if I didn't have enough to worry about," Hardwicke says, but his tired smile is somehow audible in his voice before he finally pulls away. He reaches for her hand to lift it to his lips, where he presses a kiss to her knuckles. "I have to continue on, my lady."

Belle dips him a slow, graceful curtsy for his courtly farewell — and there seems to be no mirth or mockery in it, though her gaze is tender and full of feeling. "You carry my heart with you, my lord," she replies, entirely solemn.

A faint smile crosses his lips, then Hardwicke pulls her in for a warm, thorough kiss that is a distinctly less courtly farewell. It is only after he has lingeringly tasted her lips that he finally turns to leave.