|Ties That Bind|
|Summary:||Evangeline expresses certain objections to her Captain.|
|Date:||December 29, 2011|
|Related Logs:||Among the Pines and Nettles and the aftermath, and all the Hardwicke/Belle logs.|
|Hardwicke's Chambers — Four Eagles Tower|
|Bare and worn.|
|December 29, 288|
After a bit of rest, when he's recovered enough to move with help up the stairs, Hardwicke is assisted into his own modest quarters in the castle. They are habitually rather bare, but they look lived-in after so many years. Belle has no doubt been helping to tend him, but she's found herself with other duties on her plate, and whatever they are at the current moment, Hardwicke has been resting alone. He has just lifted from any doze flavored with milk of the poppy, and he lays in bed collecting his focus as he studies the ceiling.
A moment stolen away from her own duties finds Evangeline at Hardwicke's door, a polite knock only formality before she sweeps into the room with a swish of dark velvet skirts. Despite the frantic awakening and the rush of activity, the Lady of the Roost is a picture of being put together, her curls artfully held back with a antiqued clasp and the fall of jewelry from her thin neck. "Hardwicke," holds the edge of tension, the word sharp enough to draw blood.
The voice is immediately familiar, and Hardwicke attempts to sit and straighten up perhaps a bit quicker than he should, still in the haze of receding drugs. "My Lady," he says a bit hoarsely.
"What did the Maester say?" Evangeline questions first, polite inquiry as she settles herself with a graceful twist of skirts into what is likely Belle's abandoned chair at his bedside. "Will you regain your arm's use?"
Hardwicke is quiet for a long, hard moment, his jaw twitching tight. His gaze slides away from her. "It is — hard to tell at this point," he says, gruff but quiet. After another silence, he adds, "You shouldn't be here, Evie."
Her dark gaze narrows, hardening with a glitter that reveals that first hint of anger as Evangeline questions simply, "Because your—companion may return? Should I not check on my Captain of the Guard for the sake of that woman?"
"I mean you shouldn't be here /alone/," Hardwicke says, his patience a little groggily raw given the circumstances. He exhales slowly and scrubs at his face with his good hand.
In a rare bout of restlessness, Evangeline rises to her feet, fingers curling tightly within her skirts as she paces a bit away from the bed, cramped by the size of the room. "Everyone's attention is elsewhere at the moment. I was not seen," she answers flatly, her lips pressing in a soft line. "You brought a Nayland under my roof, and a—whore, you are bedding. Under /my/ roof, Hardwicke."
The snap of Hardwicke's anger is immediate, cutting through the haze of his earlier doze. "She is not a whore," he says in a low growl. "The only reason I brought under your roof was to save her from a fate of rape and murder at the hands of savages. I suppose I should have left her there to die to please you."
"Left her to die, not slept with a Nayland to begin with. Yes, Hardwicke! Either of these," Evangeline replies, quick as a dagger slid from a sheath, whipping back towards the bed. Her jaw has writ into a tight line, fists still held tensely within her skirts. "You cannot do this to me, not now. Divide your loyalties with a new—."
"A new what." Hardwicke's voice is flat, hard, and eminently dangerous. He pulls himself slowly out of the bed, unable to resist the temptation to meet her on the floor. "As long as this house holds my oath, my loyalties are not divided. I have shed more blood for your Lord husband and his father before him than I care to count, Evie. You will not lecture me about loyalty."
"And what of your loyalty to /me/?" is almost a murmur, though discordant in the anger still held sharply in the words. Evangeline watches Hardwicke rise, gaze unwavering steel as she draws straighter as if to lessen the impact of the man's height to her own.
"To you." Hardwicke just stares at her a moment, his weight wavering just the slightest bit before he catches himself. "And what does your loyalty require, Evie?" he asks, his voice gone quiet. "My eternal celibacy? A lifetime of sitting and watching you and wanting nothing else in the world?" He draws in a slow breath, unsteady with banked ire. "You don't get to ask that of me. Not now."
Eyes widen, the slip of surprise slow to mingle with a firm resolve, Evangeline stepping forward until velvet crushes against Hardwicke. Fingers lift to settle softly on his chest, though she is all business where she says, "I want you to love me as much as I do you, Hardwicke. Barring that, you will not bring that woman back to the Roost ever again. She is not welcome in my home."
His good hand reaches to snatch up one of the hands on his chest, twisting her wrist away from him with an unkind grip. "I loved you more than you ever loved me, Evie," Hardwicke says, barely audible. For a moment it hangs in the air, a memory of yearning, and then it hardens and chills. "I never brought her here, never planned to bring her here, but for the Ironborn. I will not send her out to her death, and you will not ask for it again." Then, his voice going deathly quiet and just as serious, his dark eyes still glassy with drugs and exhaustion, he tells her, "Don't speak to me of loyalty, Evie. I know exactly what's been between your thighs."
"I did not ask for that, ser," Evangeline answers, the chill of cold in her words where her gaze drops pointedly to the clasp of his hand around her wrist, though she does nothing so undignified as to try to twist away. "Once they are no longer a threat, you will send her away and you will /not/ bring her back." A measured breath meets the last, nails biting into the palm of her hand. "Then I will not, Captain. You are free of any expectations of such from me."
"You asked for a lot of things," Hardwicke snaps back. "You have done nothing our entire lives but ask everything of me." He drops her wrist with an ungentle shove of his hand, his gaze locked on her face for a long silence. Finally, he tells her, "I mean to have her to wife."
Dark eyes soften, the emotion that flits through Evangeline's expression so rarely scene that it can hardly be identified. She takes a measured step away, drawing past Hardwicke as she gathers her skirts so as not to even brush him. "Do as you will, ser," she says evenly. "I keep my promises. You are free of my incessant demands."
"I have fought for your honor, Evie," Hardwicke says, his voice gone low. "For your reputation. But if you fight me on this, I will make and keep my own promise." He turns back, slow and slumping with overexertion in his exhaustion, and steps back towards the bed.
"You have my /blessing/, Captain. My approval," Evangeline offers politely, shaking her head carefully. "You are free. I will make no further demands of you, seek you for no further counsel." Her hand lifts to lay on the door, pausing as she draws in a breath. "Does that satisfy?"
Her words shrink him: it is there is the tight slump of his shoulders as he leans his weight heavily onto one banister of the bed. Hardwicke swallows. "No," he says after a long silence. "But it's all you are going to give."
The weight of her gaze lingers overlong on Hardwicke at his words before Evangeline shakes her head with a sharp frustration. "Recover well, ser," is said, mild, as the woman slips from the room.
Hardwicke sucks in a breath and finally sinks back down onto the bed. He sits there for a long, long time after she's gone.
Probably because he's, you know, injured. Where else is he going to go?