|The Deep End|
|Summary:||Kittridge returns from Hag's Mire and reports to Day what he's accomplished. She is not impressed at all.|
|Date:||03 May 2012|
|Tordane Tower - a guest room|
|Apparently there's a window seat and a chair.|
|03 May 289|
It's early morning the day after Lord Kittridge Groves concluded his negotiations in Hag's Mire, and Day is quietly ensconced in the window seat of the room adjoining Rosanna's, watching the gathering light of dawn. It's still some hours before her charge will deign to stir and greet with day; the septa, on the other hand, is in the habit of being up an hour or two before the sun itself. However long she's been awake, she hasn't yet dressed, wearing a wrapper over her shift, her hair hanging over her shoulder in a long, thick plait.
It has been a long night of riding, two nights in a row, and Kittridge looks somewhat the worse for it. He knocks twice, quietly, and lets his tired-looking self in to Day's room, sticking his head in, the rest following when he spots her on the window seat. "I knew you'd be up, at least," he says, keeping his voice down as he flops into a chair.
Day blinks a few times, dimpling and shaking her head. "Have I become such an old maid that no one's concerned for my reputation, any longer?" she sighs, the amused curve of her mouth telling that now, as ever, she doesn't really give a toss. "Rosanna was quite put out she wasn't invited to go with you, you know. Thanks for that."
"No one's awake," Kittridge waves off her fake-concern, "And I'm very stealthy," he adds, with a crooked smile, "You know that." He covers a huge yawn, and snorts a bit, replying, "You're welcome. Was she awful?" He rolls his eyes and shakes his, "Well, she will be pleased with my news, at least."
"She needed to be validated," says Day, her smile both amused and indulgent. "We agreed that you're an inconsiderate ass." Her eyes sparkle with mirth and her grin broadens. "What news, then? Unless you've brought her a castle, I'm not sure it will save you from the wrath of Lady Tiny Terror."
Kittridge tugs the chair closer to the window seat, so he can prop his feet up, stretching out and sinking deeper, posture horrible. He rubs at his cheek, and says, "Well, I've come with an offer of a great deal of gold, and Lord Rutger's intention to court her. It's not a castle, but it had better do for now."
Day blinks. Peers at him. Then blinks again. She breathes a sucker-punched, incredulous sound. "What?" She shoves his feet off her window seat, swinging her legs down to stand. "Rutger Nayland? Have you lost your sodding mind?"
"Court," Kittridge repeats, as if she must have just misheard him, "COURT. Not betroth, not marry. I made very clear that even a future arrangement is not something I can offer. But… yes." He throws up his hands, "Rutger Nayland."
"And what precisely were you thinking when you gave a man twice her age who has two heirs already and probably murdered his first wife permission to court Rosanna?" asks Day, keeping her voice low — she almost never shouts — but visibly simmering.
"I was thinking," Kittridge frowns at her, "That there is nothing wrong with a courtship and that it would be foolish and rude to deny something so unofficial to a man who'd just pledged to buy our surplus for an exorbitant amount of gold. It will give us a chance to get to know him, and excuse to find out more, and who knows," he says, getting up and looking around for a drink or something to eat, hunting in cupboards and corners and things, "Maybe it will draw other suitors out of the woodwork."
Day hits him, a solid thwack on the shoulder, then another on the side. It's a very… girly method of pummeling, but her heart's clearly in it. Thwack, thwack, thwack. "You impossible ass! She is not a piece on a cyvasse board, she is your sister — and she's going to ply every wile she has to wrap the man around her little finger. What will you say when he asks for her hand? Or will your answer be predicated on how much he's willing to buy from us?"
"Hey!" Kittridge was not expecting to get hit, let alone multiple times. "Hey!" He turns and captures Day's wrists, frowning at her more. "That's not fair," he says, "You know I wouldn't ever treat her like that." He glares at her hard for a moment or two, and lets her hands go, stepping back. "No, when he asks for a betrothal, I'll tell Father what I think of him then. If I still don't trust him, we'll say no. That she's young yet and can do better, point out that he's got sons already… all those things you said. We've got plenty of reasons not to go through with it if we want to. I haven't committed us to anything except giving him a chance to prove he's not a villain. What's so bad about that?"
"To what end?" Day demands. "If he were pure as a storybook knight, he'd still be an old man with two sons! And what precisely will satisfy you that he didn't smother his wife in their bed? Being on his best behavior for a few months? Proving a pleasant drinking and hunting companion?" She drops into the chair her abandoned. "Goddess, give me patience."
"To the end of… of making alliances! Friends! Ties," Kit finally finds the word he was looking for, "Where's the harm in it? The Naylands will like us more, which if they hold Stonebridge is a good thing. And in return they get what they were getting already, which is Rosanna going out of her way to wind Ser Rutger 'round her finger. I told him," he says, drilling a fingertip towards the floor, angry now, "I told him she was young, that she had plenty of prospects, and that we weren't making any promises, not anytime soon. I'm not an idiot, Day, she's going to marry someone. And before she does she's going to get approached by all sorts and some of them we'll like and someone them we won't, we've got to meet them and choose which are which somehow. This is how this works, you know that. Stop acting like I just gave her away to be murdered."
Day puts her face in her hands and breathes. "Everything I've done since coming to Kingsgrove, everything I've ever taught her, has been to make her safe. Not some dulcet, docile flower who gets beaten and made a brood mare, but a formidable woman who is her husband's equal in every way — if not his master." She looks at Kit, her expression drawn with anxiety. "What if she throws it all away?"
Kittridge snorts, "Not bloody likely. Have you met her?"
Her lips quirk up at the dry jest, but the smile doesn't reach her eyes. She nods, though. "I just… I wish there were more time. Time for her to practice and learn with someone… safe. Like Patrek Mallister. I know I can't keep her safe forever, just… Rutger Nayland. It seems like throwing her in where it's deep."
"It's not," says Kittridge, shaking his head, "I think it's the opposite. With Lord Patrek… I mean, that's a match we actually look for. Let her practice on Ser Rutger, who we can take or leave as we like. He's not going to hurt her, Day, and I don't think he would even if he was alone with her, which he won't ever be. I'm not sure what he is, but I don't believe he's stupid."
Day nods silently, looking down at her hands, her expression still pensive and drawn. It takes her a while, but she looks up at him finally. "I'm sorry I hit you," she says, simply. "That wasn't very rational of me."
Kittridge stands and waits. When she says she's sorry, he shrugs. "I'd rather you apologized for accusing me of selling her."
She grimaces. "Goddess, I did do that, didn't I?" Day stands, coming over and reaching for his hands. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean it."
"You did," Kit nods. He is clearly not happy about it, but he doesn't stop her taking his hands, "It was very unfair of you."
Day's eyebrows knit up and together, her forehead wrinkling in an expression that's not unlike a contrite puppy. "It was," she agrees. "I truly didn't mean it, Kit. I just… I feel like I have less and less influence on her, she makes these decisions and I — I know that's as it should be. She's not a child. But I've been losing sleep over it and I've just… bottled it all up and let it stew." She sighs. "None of which is an excuse. I was venting my anxiety on you and you didn't deserve it. Forgive me."
"Stop using my face," Kittridge chides, smoothing Day's wrinkled forehead like he'd wipe the expression away to keep for himself. "I forgive you," he says, "But please don't do it again. If I had my way she'd be a septa like you. But she would never have it, just like she'd never listen if I told her no about Ser Rutger. So we have to give her a little of what she wants until we can help her convince herself she doesn't really want it after all."
Day chuckles, shaking her head. "When did you get to be so wise?" she asks, warm and mirthful despite her rue.
Kittridge smiles crookedly. "Guess I must've paid more attention all these years than you thought. Also I read books sometimes." He nods sagely.
Her eyebrows shoot up to confer with her hairline. "Do you?" she asks, feigning astonishment a bit too well. "Who knew?"
"No one," says Kit, shaking his head as he teases tiredly, "I've hidden it carefully for years. All that time you thought I was hunting I was out reading stories to boars."
Day smirks. "Boring the boars? How very clever of you." She smooths his hair back and leans up to kiss his forehead. "You look tired. Go rest."
"I rode all night just about, and last night too to get there," Kittridge replies, "I'm going to sleep for a week. Except not, because I need to see about sending word to father and then heading to the Roost. He'll want to hear their counter-offer for the stores." He sighs and yawns at once, and rubs his face. "Wake me up for lunch," he decides instead, and leans down to kiss Day's cheek before turning to wander out, though he pinches her side in parting. "That's for hitting me." He grins, and exits.