|The Good Brother|
|Summary:||Kittridge wrestles with being the good Groves brother. Jarod chews on becoming (one of) the bad Terrick brothers. They drink and discuss long-ago politics and other matters.|
|The Lapping Otter — Stonebridge|
|A casual dining and drinking establishment.|
|Tue May 08, 289|
Jarod has ventured out of Crane's Crossing this evening to one of the drinking houses closer to the river. It's not particularly upscale, but not entirely bottomshelf either, which means it's more sparsely populated than other bars. At this hour, men tend to either be seeking a high or low atmosphere. Ser Rivers, though, was apparently seeking a place where he could have a mug of beer, a meal, and…write. He's taken over a corner table and is scritching on parchment by candlelight. Letters. Multiple ones, as a pair already sit finished and folded to one side. A minstrel boy with a decent - if not remarkable - voice is singing on a table in the center of the room, though he's not putting much effort into it yet. The night is young.
It's a good sort of place for a lord who doesn't want to see anyone he knows but still wants a half-decent drink and a table that's not so sticky. Kittridge Groves seems to have identified this place as belonging to that happy medium also, and he sits in the corner opposite Jarod's, the remains of his meal and a bottle of wine on the table before him, pushed out of the way for the notebook in front of him. It's not entirely clear whether he's writing or sketching or something, but whatever it is he takes a break from it, leaning back in his chair and idly scanning the rest of the room's occupants as he drinks.
The Lapping Otter is just that sort of place. The cleaned plate of what must have been fish and greens and bread when he started sits at Jarod's elbow, and he's nursing his beer at a pace that suggests his mind is on correspondence rather than drinking. He does periodically look up to people-watch, though. He can't help but be a little social. He's looking up just when Kittridge happens to be. Catching the Groves man's eye, he offers him an easy grin and a lazy palm version of a knight's salute.
Kittridge seems more than capable of mixing drinking with whatever else it is he's doing, judging by the emptiness of the bottle before him. He spots Jarod and his salute and returns it with a lift of his wine glass in a silent toast. After a moment, he gestures at the empty chair across from him in invitation.
Jarod hesitates over his parchment, but only long enough to wave over it so it'll dry quicker. And gulp down the rest of his beer. Once it's portable - more or less - he takes his correspondence and himself over to Kittridge's table. "Didn't figure I'd see anyone familiar in here. Mostly just smallfolk, traders and the like." Not that he's really complaining. "You got any wine left?"
"Me neither," says Kittridge, "That's why I picked it." He shuts his notebook and tucks it aside beneath his coat, picking up the wine bottle to give it a look and shaking his head. "No, but there's always more where it came from." He lifts a hand to try to get the attention of one of the barmaids and then looks back to Jarod and notes, "That's a lot of letters."
"I'm catching up on my correspondence," Jarod replies wry. "A few folk I haven't seen in awhile might need a good laugh. An update on my life seems in order." He grins ruefully, not sounding particularly down about his lot. "I'll pay for half. Drink'd go down well right now. That's a lot of…" He eyes Kittridge's own book. "What are you working on, anyhow?"
"That must be quite a letter," Kittridge says a bit dryly of Jarod's update. He orders the wine when the barmaid comes by and scratches at his jaw, shaking his head a bit at the question, "Nothing, really. Just scribbling. Do you write to your brother?" he asks, "At the wall?"
It's a beat before Jarod replies. He stares at Kittridge, green eyes surprised, and thoughtful. "Was just now, come to it." He chuckles. "Among others. So, aye, could use a drink. I wrote him twice. Once before he left, once before I left for Seagard. He says little back. Though at least we know he's still alive, and he's not deserted yet. Figure the Night's Watch'd tell us if he ran off to frolic with the Wildlings or something. What made you ask that?"
Kittridge smiles crookedly, "Don't look at me like I've read your mind, you've got a whole stack of letters and I can't figure you know that many people not in shouting distance. It wasn't a tough guess." He glances around Jarod for the wine, and then back to listen, nodding, "Aye, I imagine you'd hear if he'd run off." At the question, he shrugs. "Just curious," he replies casually, glancing away to look for the wine again. It is on its way, this time. "Do you think he's sorry?" he asks, still curious it seems, "For what he did?"
"By now? Don't know." Jarod does some shrugging of his own, waiting until the wine arrives before he says anything more. He pours himself a cup and takes a quick gulp. "When he left he was more angry than anything else. At the Naylands. At his Lady Isolde who'd wed one over him. Maybe even at us, for not calling him a damn hero for that idiocy he'd done here in this town. If I know Jaremy? He's sorry he's gone, and sorry it went wrong. But the ass probably still deep down thinks he was in the right."
Kittridge pours himself more wine and drinks as he listens, nodding along towards the end. "Do you forgive him for it?" he wonders, "Even though he still doesn't think he did the wrong thing?"
Jarod takes another drink before answering, fingering one of his letters. It's folded now, but not yet sealed. "Can't rightly hold onto it as much anymore. Since I'm an embarrassment to House Terrick myself and all that." He half-smiles as he says it, though. While certainly not proud, he's more wistful than ashamed. "I don't know. I was angry at him for a long time. Not just for his peasant rebellion nonsense, but everything before it. Dicking around for years and letting Lady Isolde get away. Chasing wild conspiracy stories, like he was still twelve years old, and we were fighting dragons in the courtyard. Being a pretentious ass. Guess I do forgive him in the end, though. We're neither of us prizes, are we? And he's still my brother. I love him. Wish I'd spent more time punching his stupid face when he was still here, but I love him just the same."
"A long time?" Kittridge chuckles, just a bit incredulous, "It's only been a few months, hasn't it?" He drinks, and nods along with the rest, thoughtful. "Were you two close, before?" he asks next.
"As boys we were all thick as brothers get. Jaremy and Jacsen and me. Got a little different after the Rebellion. Felt like we were less close when I came home. Less than I acted like we still were. Jace stayed in Seagard - I think as much to avoid having our family look at him different before he'd rebuilt himself some than for any other reason. And Jaremy hadn't gone to war. He always seemed jealous of us, in a funny way. And having seen it, that seemed like the most idiotic thing I could imagine. I think that's part of what wound him up so much inside. Feeling like he had to prove himself." Jarod shakes his head. "Still miss him, though, mad as he drove me at times."
Kittridge listens quietly this time, not interrupting or talking over Jarod to comment. He nods, and drinks, and drinks some more, and then toasts with a rueful, crooked smile, "To unrepentant idiot brothers."
Jarod laughs, raising his wine cup and tapping it with Kittridge's. "Guess I do forgive him, when all's said and done. Do think it would've done him more good if I'd punched his face more while he was around, though." He drinks. "How many idiot brothers have you got, anyhow? I've four myself. Though I suppose they count me among the idiot ones these days. Let's see…there's Young Lord Stafford, but he's never struck me much as an idiot. Not that I'm to know him. And…" He sifts around in his brain for whatever he's kept there of the Groves family tree. And blinks, as he seems to mentally stub his toe on something. "Oh, aye. Oh." He drinks again. *re*
Kittridge lets Jarod get there himself, pouring wine down his throat as he does. He smiles, crookedly again, as Jarod oafs his way into it. "Aye," he echoes, dryly but affirmatively.
"Well, least yours didn't get a flock of peasants killed trying to fight their own liege lord," Jarod says, offering Kit a wry grin. "You mind if I ask what the proper story on all that was? I wasn't more than sixteen when I came back to the Roost after the Rebellion. Nothing seemed quite real for awhile. I remember hearing my lord father and Jaremy talking on it. One of your kin was…exiled?" He scrunches up his brow, like that's not quite right. "Never made sense. King Robert pardoned all the Royalists after the fighting was done."
"Pardoned all the ones who knelt and swore to him," Kittridge corrects, "Not all of them did. Some decided they just couldn't bear the thought." He doesn't seem much impressed with this point of view, judging by his tone. And the eye-rolling.
"You did, though. The rest of your kin did." Jarod tops off his wine and takes another drink before asking, "So why didn't he?"
Kittridge pours himself another full glass, and shrugs. "Because he couldn't compromise his principles," he says, in a vague pompous, quote-y tone, "Had to stand up for his convictions. Because he's a selfish, pretentious asshole."
"I wonder if him and Jaremy were friends?" Jarod asks with a laugh. He falls quiet for a moment, sipping thoughtful at his wine. "What do you figure would've happened? If things'd gone different at the Trident. I think about it sometimes. More than I did when I was sixteen. Not sure I really had much idea of why it was all going on. I was just a squire, for a knight in Lord Jason Mallister's service, and my knight and my lord and my father and brother were going to war. So I went to bleed with them. All seemed too big to get my head around then, still does."
"It wasn't big," Kittridge disagrees with a shake of his head, "Not really. That was part of the problem with it, I think. Wasn't really about tyranny or justice or overthrowing the Targaryens or anything like that. It was just about Robert being angry someone messed with his girl, and then later Ned Stark being angry they killed his father, and Tully wanting good matches for his daughters and shit like that. Normal, stupid people things that got turned into this massive war instead of the duel or two they should've been if it'd been anybody else involved."
Jarod shakes his head. "Fucked up part is, I think it might just have started out just that simple and stupid. Prince Rhaegar and Robert Baratheon loving the same Northern girl. Love is madness. You really think that's how it would've been at the end, though? Maybe for King Robert and Prince Rhaegar it was just aboout their hearts and their cocks but after King Aerys burnt the Stark lord, and strangled his son…that was a Lord Paramount, and his heir. Supposed to be one of the seven pillars that holds up Westeros. Start knocking those out from under, what holds up King's Landing?"
Kittridge shrugs, and shakes his head. "Who knows what it would've been like," he says, "Probably not so different, really. You think Aerys was the first king to do something like that? Maegor the Cruel killed three Grand Maesters," he points out, "And the realm survived the Dance of the Dragons, and the Blackfyre rebellions, and that didn't weaken King's Landing any that I can see. Besides," he goes on, shaking his head, "What about Rhaegar? If they were going to do anything it was just to remove Aerys, get him to abdicate for the prince but Robert couldn't let his revenge go. That's all it was ever really about for them leading it."
"King Rhaegar might've gotten the land united again," Jarod can't help but agree. "Still, if someone was going to remove King Aerys, you'd think they'd have done it before things got so out of hand. Might've kept Lord Arryn and the Vale from joining the rebels. Perhaps even gotten the Starks to back down, if it'd been done right after the Northern lord and his heir were killed. Who in seven hells knows, though? Do agree, I wish Robert Baratheon and Rhagear Targaryen had just gone out to a field and dueled each other without getting the rest of us involved. That's how it ended in the end, would've saved time."
"Would've saved a lot of time and a lot of death and a lot of bullshit," says Kittridge, shrugging, "In the end, who gives a fuck? I'm not down at King's Landing, neither's my father, or even Mallister or even Tully, for that matter. We're so far removed I honestly couldn't care less who sits on the Iron Throne. It makes no difference to my life. They've all got their stupid wars and their stupid taxes and all that. If it's not one thing it's something else."
"That is something we can agree on, my Groves friend," Jarod says, drinking from his wine cup in a sort of 'toast' to that sentiment. "We both fought for our fathers and brothers, don't figure it was so different for us on that end. Though perhaps it was for your brother. Where'd he go, anyhow? If you don't mind my asking. The Reach and Dorne kept loyal to the Targaryens, though I guess their lords ended up bending the knee to King Robert just the same."
Kittridge snorts, and toasts and drinks, raking a hand through his hair, shaking his head. "Stepstones," he says, "Turned mercenary. He was exiled after he left, since he wouldn't kneel. Can't ever come back. Unless he finally swears, I guess, maybe they'd let him then. Nobody seems sure. Doesn't really matter, anyway. He's happy enough with that life, seems like."
"It was so long ago. The king likely wouldn't even care anymore. Only time I think Robert Baratheon paid the Terricks much mind is when we went to bleed for him. And when Jaremy sent that…fuck. You lot in Kingsgrove hear about that raven he sent the king?" Jarod eyes his own letter, shaking his head and sighing heavily. He drinks some more before picking the conversation back up at some non-Jaremy related point. "And Lord Jason Mallister's dead. Your lot fought well for Seagard on the Iron Islands. Maybe Lord Patrek would pardon him, or help him get one, if what he wanted was to come home."
"Everybody heard about that," Kittridge informs Jarod, "Stupid move," he shrugs, "But not so bad, in the scheme of things." He fills up his wine glass again, leaning his elbows on the table as he drinks, and shakes his head at Jarod. "He doesn't. Want to come home. Likes it better out there, I guess. Prefers the pirates and sellswords to us."
"I wonder if that bloke knows the song the minstrels made up about it…?" Jarod asks idly, craning his neck around to the young bard. Who's moved onto more rousing drinking songs as the evening's grown later. "How'd it go again? 'Send a raven, send a raven…'" He has little sense of the tune, so he doesn't burst into song. "Aye. Well. I guess some men are like that. You figure you ever could? Just pick up, fuck off everything, run away? I thought I could once but…don't figure so now. I'd still like to see Dorne one of these days, and visit my stupid half-brother on the Wall. But I'd still want to come home."
Kittridge whistles a couple bars of the tune briefly, but doesn't seem much into helping Jarod recall it or instruct the minstrel to sing it. He drinks, and then shakes his head. "Abandon my family without saying goodbye and run off chasing some stupid ideal? No. I couldn't do that," he says, kind of sternly.
"I thought I might, when I got wrapped up with Rowenna Nayland knowing full who she was," Jarod says. "Fuck off to the Reach for a year or two after it all came out, make my living by my sword and my lance and my wits and…well. By my sword and my lance. Until my father'd stopped being pissed off. I knew he'd be wroth over it. That was before the war, though. Still feel like there's work I need to do here, even if I can't serve the Terricks direct right now. Not sure I could've done it even if the Ironborn hadn't come, truth be told. I may be a fuck-up, but at least I can stick around where they can punch me in the face now and again, and maybe things'll mend faster that way."
"Seems selfish," Kittridge says bluntly, "Even not going, just doing what you did. Would've been selfish if you'd gone, but they're still a joke, and nobody's going to send a squire or ward their way for years, I'd bet you. Guess maybe more selfish on her part," he muses, and then re-focuses back on Jarod to check, "She IS a she, right? I don't really care if you're buggers and just pretending he's a she, I won't tell." He cares so little, in fact, that he goes on, "If he is a she, more selfish her making her family such a joke, too. At least you're not noble, you've got a bit more freedom."
"For fuck's sake, yes, she's got tits!" Jarod sounds exasperated on that point. "Why do people keep asking that of all things? Can you imagine how much easier my life'd be if we were just a pair of buggers? I mean, really! Imagine it!" Not that he seems angry about the bluntness. This is probably not the first conversation he's had along these lines. As for the first, he can't argue. "Aye. Was selfish. So maybe I'm not much better than Ser Jaremy nee Terrick after all. Maybe we've all got something we get stupid and selfish over. For him it was Stonebridge, for me it was…my heart and my cock. Least nobody died over how I went about being a fuck-up."
Kittridge shrugs, and holds up his hands to ward off Jarod's ire, shrugging, "What do I know, I haven't seen them. Maybe it's one of those men who want to be women things, there was a whore like that in Gulltown. Fooled my cousin for a whole evening, just about." He smirks at the memory and drinks, and then drinks again, and says, "Just 'cause nobody's died doesn't mean it's not wrong. Doesn't mean it didn't hurt anybody. Let me tell you, Ser Jarod, as the good brother, who stays and cleans up and dries tears and does what he's told: you lot who do what you like and follow your hearts and your convictions and put all that rot over your family? You're assholes. And you don't deserve how much we all loved you." He makes a 'so there' sort of gesture to punctuate his increasingly-confusing rebuke, and finishes another glass of wine.
"Really!?" Jarod gets hung up on the she-male prostitute part of that rant. "He couldn't tell? I mean…a girl can bind her breasts but how in seven hells do you spend an eve with your hand on somebody's skirt and not notice they've got a…" He drinks some more wine at that thought himself. "Well she doesn't have a cock, so there." His really important point made, he takes takes the part about being an asshole with a grimace. "Guess you don't forgive your brother, then?"
"No," Kittridge replies to Jarod, "I guess I don't. And I don't see how you forgive yours, either. There shouldn't be anything you'd put above your family to make you do something like that. Not if you really love them. You don't abandon the people you love, not for anything. Specially not for some stupid ambiguous bullshit like a 'cause' or Aerys fucking Targaryen's right to burn people if he feels like it."
"Don't know, when you put it like that," Jarod mutters, looking down at his parchment. Idly fingering the crease where he folded it. "Guess I just miss the asshole too much to hold onto it. And, like you said…I'm also rather an asshole now. He ever write you or your folk? Your brother, I mean."
"No," says Kittridge, shaking his head, "Not once in six years. Said goodbye to me at the Trident and fucked off without another word." He shoves his hair back off his brow and, after a moment of hesitation, goes on, "Til now. Just wants to say hello, and he's sorry, and he's alive. No explanation. No talk about trying to get out of the exile thing and come home. Just ripping shit open and wandering off again, because he's a fucking asshole."
"Huh…" Jarod blinks, his brain slowly working itself to the realization that they aren't just talking about hypothetical, missing brothers anymore. "Well seven hells…how about I buy you another round, my lord?"
Kittridge snorts and nods, drunk enough to agree easily, "Why not?" He finishes the last of his wine, and shakes his head, shoving at his hair again, "Can't decide whether to let him— to let them see his letter," he shares with Jarod, "Why bring it all back up again if he's not coming home again anyway? But if they find out I kept it from them…" He shrugs, unsure.
"Another bottle, if you please," Jarod orders from a passing barmaid, fishing into his coin purse. "Of, uh, the wine that's not quite as good as the stuff we've been having, if you please." Perhaps Kit is drunk enough now not to notice a sudden decline in quality. "Don't know, my lord. You so sure he doesn't want to come home to stay? It's been six years. Don't know why a person'd wait that long and then just appear again for a visit, only to fuck back off."
Kittridge doesn't seem inclined to complain about Jarod's wine order, and then lifts a finger to point at the bastard, "I didn't say visit," he says, "I said letter." Got it? Okay. He shrugs, "And he said he didn't. Didn't even mention trying to get the exile lifted. If he wanted to come home, he could've said so."
"Oh. Oh, aye." Jarod nods at Kit's finger. "You just seemed…I mean, it's just a letter, my lord. No harm I can see in that. Might give your family some peace, knowing he's alive out there." He offers to top off Kit's glance once the new wine bottle arrives, though he doesn't bother to have any of this stuff for himself just yet.
Kittridge drains what's left in his glass before letting Jarod pour in the new; he doesn't seem opposed to the drop in quality, but no sense mixing the good with the bad. He shrugs at Jarod and says, "But why stir it up at all?" he says, "Six years, we've all moved on. Let it scab. Why go picking at it? Didn't give me any comfort to hear from him, not that I've noticed yet, anyway." He snorts a little, over the rim of his cup, "Maybe it'll come on later."
"Maybe. Though if you ignore matters they have a way of getting…bigger and bigger and bigger until they've sort of become a disaster that won't seem to just go the fuck away." On second thought, Jarod pours himself some more wine. "Would hurt less for them to hear it from you and be able to get their arms around how to deal with it, maybe, then have it all come out later."
"I don't want to be his fucking messenger again," says Kittridge, more vehemently than is really necessary, the suggestion clearly touching a sore spot, "I don't want to be the one handing out the bad news again. Good news, he's alive, bad news, he doesn't care enough to come home. It was bad enough the first time. And I don't know how they find out if I didn't tell them. But if they did they probably wouldn't thank me. No matter what I do, nobody's going to be happy with me for doing it."
"Well, it's on him. It's not like you did anything, except find out more about what he's up to than you'd like. Maybe if you just keep your mouth shut for awhile it'll all just…go away?" Jarod does not sound hopeful. He drinks some more.
"I should have talked him out of it," Kittridge intones, "I should have convinced him. I should have made him come home. I should've knocked him over the head and carried him back here myself. It never just on him." He drinks and sighs, and shrugs, "Maybe. Maybe it'll go away. But maybe they deserve to know? Even if it hurts. I don't know. Fuck him. Can't ever make anything simple."
"Aye, fuck him," Jarod concurs, raising his cup in another semi-toast. "Don't know what to tell you, my lord. Nothing's simple, that's the truth of it. Will say, if it were my brother I'd want to know."
"Fuck him," Kittridge says again, toasting it. He drinks deeply and scrubs at his cheek, and shrugs, "Aye, maybe so. Guess I'll just have to make up my mind."
"Aye, figure you will, eventually," Jarod agrees somewhat unhappily. "For now you can just drink. Clears the head. Or…well, no it doesn't do that precisely, but it's helpful."
"Something like that," Kittridge handwaves. And then he drinks.