(121-05-10) The Best Laid Plans
The Best Laid Plans
Summary: Harry comes to say goodbye to Laurent. Much, much more is said.
Date: Date of play (10/05/2014)
Related: The Bloom is off the Rose, Accord, and others

It is a cool, gray day in Oldtown, and rain makes the Little Bellhorn Holdfast an unpleasant place to be. Every room is accessed from the courtyard alone, so guest or resident must walk through the drizzle to get anywhere at all. The master of the Holdfast, Ser Laurent, has returned to his rooms only recently. Muddy boots sit next to the door, and he drips into a puddle on the cold stone floor of his suite. His fingers work the baldric loose from his waist, and he hangs sword and belt from a chair before he sets to work on his arming coat. He has been training in the yard with his men, in spite of the weather - or perhaps because of it, and now needs to ready himself for a late meal.

To the guards and servants of Little Bellhorn, Lady Angharad is still their lord and master's wife. So it doesn't take a great deal of persuasion on her part to enter unannounced. Cloaked against the drizzle and damp, despite, she stands outside the door of his chamber, hesitating. There's a moment where her courage nearly fails her and she turns to go, but she stops herself, steels her shoulders, and turns again to face that uncompromising door. She takes a deep breath. And knocks.

"Come in." The voice that answers is rough and abrasive. It can only be Laurent's. His back to the door, he shrugs himself free of the practice coat, the wet wool catching on his similarly wet shirt so that he has to peel himself out of it. Carelessly, he tosses it aside to lay before the fire, there to dry. It leaves his shirt plastered to his body, but that seems to be next on his list. His fingers unlace it at his neck, and then move toward his waistline to pull it free of his trousers.

So… she does. Angharad slips inside and shuts the door behind her, bringing with her a breath of rain, fresh and cool. She takes down her hood, her hair damp and curling at the edges, watching him without breathing. When she does remember to breathe, a beat later, she speaks his name, softly. "Laurent."

He's halfway through saying something impatient and unduly surly when she speaks, and the sound of his name on her lips quiets him. For a moment he is still, hands clenched at the hem of his shirt, staring at the floor. His shoulders rise with a heavy breath, fall as he lets it go, and he speaks without turning. "Harry," he says, his voice accidentally softer than he intends. Then, a touch louder, "Angharad."

Her lashes lower and she nods, though he doesn't see it. It's all she can do, for the moment, unable to summon another syllable of sound. Her hands ball in the edges of her cloak. She swallows. "How are you?" she finally asks, barely more than a whisper.

Torn between different answers, Laurent hides his indecision by staring still at the floor. Still, the time it takes him to answer might give some faint hint. "Don't pretend that matters," he finally growls, and forces white knuckled hands to release the hem of his shirt. He holds his ground, then in a sudden fit of irritation with himself pulls the shirt off anyway to toss it atop the arming coat, next to the fire.

"It does," Harry says, without hurt or heat. "It does matter. It — you — will always matter to me." She doesn't sit. Doesn't move, even to remove her cloak.

Laurent snorts at that — if it's a laugh, it's a rough one. He doesn't answer for a long moment. Instead he makes for the other half of the suite, where his bed and wardrobe are. Without closing the door between them, he disappears from view around the corner, speaking to her from there. "The Crone's gnawing crabs, Harry," he calls out, surly. "Take off your damned cloak. Sit, if you've something to say. There's drink."

She finally exhales when he's out of sight, and her hands tremble as she unclasps her cloak, laying it over the back of a chair. When she pours a drink, she opts for whiskey instead of wine, downing several fingers bolus before decanting the measure she'll sip from during the ordeal. That accomplished, she chooses a place to sit, sweeping her skirts smooth beneath her.

When Laurent appears in the doorway again, it's with dry trousers on and a shirt in hand. This displays, of course, a body that is fast becoming a palimpsest of old wounds. Three ragged scars jump out from his chest, each still healing. Two suffered at the hand of Ser Maelys Targaryen, and a more recent one that is easily their match, still scabbed and raw. It must have threatened his life, even, when he took it. He leans against the doorway, shirt clutched in one hand, and watches her with dark, narrow eyes. He opens his mouth to speak, once, but opts instead to let her begin.

Harry studies his wounds, scars old and new, then lowers her lashes to the knot of her hands in her lap. "I thought I'd know what to say, when I came," she says, lamely. "Now all I can do is feel how heavy my heart is in my chest and… sit here, dumb."

"I'm known for a patient man," Laurent says with a shake of his head, his tone dripping irony. "Sit, drink. I'll wait." A frown tugs at his features, and he starts toward the same sideboard where the whiskey still sits, but turns for his desk halfway. Unsubtle in his decision against a drink.

She sits. And drinks. And watches him, of course. "I've never known you not to drink," Harry notes, canting her head. "Turning over a new leaf?" Her lips curve in faint, wry humor. "Are you becoming a pious man?"

"I've had enough, just now," Laurent growls, settling heavily into his chair. And that rings true — he's rarely one to pass up a drink, but never one to drink to excess, either. Or very rarely. "Mayhaps having the hands of the Seven laid so directly upon me has left me their humble servant," he growls, though the suggestion is a mockery in itself. There's nothing humble or pious in his dark eyes.

Harry watches him wordlessly for another long series of moments, studying his dark eyes and mess of hair and unlovely face, her expression flitting between tenderness and pain and regret and — so many things, none of them simple. "The last time we spoke," she begins, then clears her throat and drinks, looking away. "The last time we spoke, you said I never loved you. And I do wish that were true. It would make everything so much simpler." She takes a breath. "The irony of it all is — if I didn't love you, I could remain your wife."

Laurent scoffs at that, head thrown briefly back, dropping the shirt as his arms fold across his broad chest. "You loved an idea, Harry, not me. You loved someone who only existed in your mind." He is angry now, but not at her. It's frustration with himself that colors his words — fact or no, he has accepted it as such, and he feels a fool for not seeing it sooner. And foolishness is one thing he will not accept from himself. "And the moment I was not him, you had had your fill of me."

"No," says Harry, soft and desolate. "Just because I wanted — want you — to be a better man, doesn't mean I don't love the man you are. I can hate the things you do, sometimes, and still love you. I know that because I'm sitting here, right now, loving you. And I'll go home, tonight, loving you. And I'll die in that same, miserable state." She downs the rest of her drink. "And that's why I can't stay. I can't — I won't — be used as a brood mare by a man who despises me. It wouldn't hurt me, if I were indifferent to you, but — I'm not." She turns her empty glass in her hand, looking somewhat longingly at it, wishing it full again. "So you should marry again, a woman better able to do her duty."

"Pretty words," Laurent growls, shaking his head. "But I'm not unaccustomed to the disdain of those meant to love me." Even now, contempt for her on his lips, when she stares at her glass he rises with a soft grunt to fetch the decanter of whiskey. A handful of steps sees him to her side again, holding it ready to pour. "You might mask it from a man less well versed in it, but all my life my parents, siblings, cousins wished I might be someone else. I know the look of it, the sound."

"Yes, I know you do," says Harry, and she holds her glass for him to pour. "What you don't know is what love looks, or sounds, like. So you'll remain deaf to it, no matter what I say." Her voice is bleak, but without melodrama. Flat and unembroidered. "I never wanted your title, your name, or your money. Those were my mother's ambitions. I wanted you. If I can't have that, I don't want the rest."

Laurent watches liquid amber rise in the glass, stopping once he knows it's at the right level. This isn't new to them, even if the tone of the conversation is. "And you could show me," he sneers, but leaves it a question. "I believed in love, Harry. For you." He turns at that to stalk back toward the desk, and the bottle comes down atop it too hard. Not so hard as to crack the glass, but hard enough to be called slamming, rather than putting. He leans against the desk for a moment, both hands on its top, looking away from her. "I'm as foolish as my godsdamned cousin."

Harry drinks deeply, swallowing and shaking her head. "You didn't believe it could last. That it could endure — anger. Disappointment. Hard times, harsh words — anything. As long as we were sunshine and flowers and fucking, you believed in love. And then you stopped believing."

"As long as I seemed to be what you imagined," Laurent counters savagely, without looking up, "You loved me. And so long as you loved me, I believed. More the fool, me." He shakes his head, lifting one hand to run through his brush of dark hair, leaving it wet and awry in the wake of his fingers. "Did you come here, then, to twist a knife? You'll find my skin thicker now than when last we spoke."

"For fuck's sake, Laurent," Harry groans, laughing wretchedly and without mirth. "Let's assume, for a second, that you're right — then why am I here? Why would I even bother to say these things, insist I love you still — what have I to gain?"

Laurent comes around at that, wide-eyed, arms flung out at his sides. "I stopped understanding you entirely some time ago, Harry," he snarls. "So I've no idea, and won't pretend to. Mayhaps to embarrass me? You've taken a liking to that, I think." His voice is raised at this last, not a shout, but lifting closer toward it than anything he has said so far.

Harry shuts her eyes. She's silent for some time, and her voice croaks with unshed tears when she finally speaks. "I just came to say goodbye." She finishes her drink in two swallows and stands. "I couldn't have borne… not trying, at least once, to tell you. I couldn't walk away without having said — that I still love you." Tears spill over, then, and she dashes them impatiently away. "And that I always will love you. So… now you know. Whatever you choose to believe." She goes to retrieve her cloak. "I hope you find someone who makes you happy, Laurent."

It's a heavy desk. Narrow, perhaps, and low. But thick wood, solidly built. So when Laurent takes it by the corner with one hand and flips it, scattering papers and ink, shattering glass to splash whiskey on the floor, and causing a racket that must be heard in the next rooms, it is no small feat. "Love me?!" If the crash were loud, his words now are louder as he stalks past Angharad to point in toward his bed, redfaced now, veins bulging in his neck. "I bled in that bed from a wound given me by the man who CARRIED. YOUR. FAVOR."

She startles and cries out, frozen in place, her hand gripping her cloak where it remains on the chair. She keeps her eyes shut. "I didn't know how badly he'd hurt you," she whispers, her voice very small. "Not even until tonight, seeing the wound, did I know."

"So you meant only to embarrass me publicly," Laurent accuses her hotly. "Your motives were no more base than that?" He shakes his head, barking a cold laugh. "If I thought you loved the man, thought you had lain with him, it might make it kinder," he says with a shake of his head, turning away from her toward the door, pacing a few short steps. "But your only thought was to make me look a fool. If that is your love, then the Stranger take it."

"You hurt me, Laurent," she says, simply and without pride. "And embarrassed me. Humiliated me. And I wanted to do all those things back to you." She takes a breath. "It wasn't my best moment. We do terrible things when people hurt us — the people we love, especially, because it's they who deal the deepest wounds."

"I embarrassed you," Laurent sneers, pacing still. "Would that you had stabbed me yourself, Harry," he wishes fervently. "Would that it had killed me. Killed all of me," he says, stopping as he meets her eyes, "Instead of only part. I can't hurt you the way you hurt me, Angharad," he claims, and believes it whether or not it's true. "And damn my black heart to seven hells, I wouldn't if I could."

"You did," Harry won't be moved on this point. "It doesn't fit into your narrative, where women don't possess the depth to hurt as you do, but you did. A woman has little enough to give a man, you know. I'm sure you agree with that. I gave you more than my body and my love — I was your wife and your whore. I would have been — anything you wanted me to be. Sex… means so little to you, it's like any other function of your body. Eating. Breathing. For me it was a gift that carried my whole heart and soul with it. And I think I could have endured it, if you'd simply gone back to whores. A real whore is, after all, something I could never be. But you weren't content with that." She shakes her head. "I wished you'd stabbed me, as well. It certainly felt as though you had. It still does."

"You were everything I wanted you to be," Laurent rages, stalking back and forth. "Everything save true, Harry. You might have kept it all, but simply accepted me as you claimed, and I would have been the happier for it." Not entirely true, perhaps, but words shouted in anger. Softer, more sourly, turning away to pound a fist against the door he adds, "We might have never been here."

"I never looked at another man," says Harry, flatly, a touch of bitterness creeping in to her voice, as well. "I didn't want anyone else. We made each other angry, we fought. It was you who decided you weren't what I wanted. You decided it for both of us. And you never bothered to tell me. You just went to the arms of another lady."

Laurent still doesn't look at her, shaking his head. "Before gods and men, on the heels of the trial, you demanded I bear insult from Arros Sand," he recalls, the fire gone out of him. "From a Dornishman, beaten, and a bastard besides. I thought then that you couldn't shame me further, but as in so many things, I was far wrong."

"I demanded you show respect to an old and learned man, a Maester, who was telling you not to pick a fight right then and there — I could give a shit about Arros Sand, you could have come back and killed him the next day!" Harry replies, heatedly.

"If that Maester has no respect for me, Harry, then I've none for him," Laurent says with a single, hard shake of his head. "It was none of his affair. None." His fist thumps against the door again for emphasis. "If you loved me… If you even knew me, you might have known my mind. Might have taken my side, even. Or at the least excused yourself, rather than take that bastard's side in it."

Harry throws out a hand in a helpless, frustrated gesture. "I wasn't taking the bastard's side and if you knew me at all, you would have known that. See how that works both ways? And if your pride weren't so enormous and so bloody fragile…" She runs out of steam, mid rant, and turns back to her original intention of gathering her cloak. "For what it's worth, I wish I'd handled it differently. I should have waited. I was still learning to be a wife."

Laurent shakes his head, stepping away from the door, but not far. Not enough to be out of the way, certainly. "You knew well enough how to be a friend, but chose not to," he says, but the fight has gone out of him. "Were it you, set against that Maester… There can be no part of you that doubts which side I would have taken. That Maester, or my own cousin, or anyone."

"I know," she agrees, softly. "It's one of the reasons I — " Angharad swallows. "It's one of your better qualities." She nods. "I was a bad friend that day. I was trying to be a good one — I swear my intentions were good — but I…" She frowns. "I fucked up." She lifts a hand to brush a lock of hair from her eyes. "I wish we'd had this conversation, that night, instead of the other one." She looks up at the ceiling and blinks rapidly. "I wish you hadn't gone out and fucked half the world in such a fucking hurry," she adds. "Then we might have. Still."

"We both fucked up," Laurent swears, shaking his head. He barks a bleak laugh at her accusation, and answers in a jest that holds no real mirth for him. "I only fucked half a brothel, and not even poor Sera Florent. Gods, but you scared her."

"You did enough with Sera Florent that she admitted it was unchaste," says Harry flatly. "And good. Perhaps it scared some sense into her, the little twit." She gives him an equally flat look. "And if you left Sera Florent intact, you didn't limit yourself to whores. You as much as admitted that, the day I threatened to out you to their families. I thought we were talking about Sera, perhaps I was wrong, but we were talking about someone." She shakes out her cloak and puts it on. "Don't lie to me, Laurent. If we're past nothing else, at least let's be past that."

Laurent snorts, shaking his head. "Aren't we past everything else," he asks, turning full to face her now. "I rather liked our lies." His nose wrinkles. A heartbeat, and then his brow furrows. Another beat, and his eyes close, and he turns away.

Harry blows out a long, slow breath. And breathes in again. She closes her eyes, opens them… and finally steps forward to wrap her arms around him from behind, resting her head against his back. "You don't hate me," she says, her voice low and muddled. "You stupid, stupid man, you had me so well convinced you hated me."

Laurent flinches, then goes rigid as he feels Harry's arms slip around him. He doesn't pull away, and she can feel the words rumble through him, and feel the way his breath catches a couple of times in his throat before he's ready to speak. "I don't even know the difference between love and hate, Harry. I don't know if there is one." His jaw clenches hard enough to grind his teeth, and his hands ball into fists at his sides.

"Bullshit," Harry says, softly. "You know what both are. And very well. I've seen you." She sighs, swallowing against the lump in her throat. "I've seen you."

"I worry that you haven't," Laurent slumps forward to put one hand against the wall, resting his weight there. "Or that you have, and…" A deep, shuddering breath in and out, and he shakes his head. "Why are you doing this?" He doesn't protest, doesn't move away. In fact, he may be beginning to relax into her arms. But the question eats at him.

"I'm not doing it to hurt you," says Harry, voice pitched low and soothing, the way one might speak to a wounded and wary beast. "I'm not doing it to trick you. And I don't want anything from you."

Still pitched forward to lean his weight against the wall, Laurent's free hand searches tentatively behind him, low and blind. "Why," he asks again, shaking his head. Once he finds her skirts his fingers tangle there and search no further. He is wounded, and even more wary, but laid bare as he is the kernel of hope can not be missed.

"Because I love you," Harry says again. "We've hurt and disappointed one another, so deeply. I've seen you. And I know you'll probably never change. And that's all right. I love you. I'll die loving you. I can walk out of this room, tonight, and it will all be over. You can marry whoever you like. Someone… easier. Who won't fight you, or be angry, or… be wrong. And I'll still love you."

"And you, whomever you like," Laurent ventures, nodding his head. "Someone easier. Chivalrous. Courteous. Pious. Humble." He laughs, a low chuckle, brief and genuine as he realizes that he could go on for some time, listing virtues that are not his. "But you walking out, or moving on, doesn't mean that this is over."

"Doesn't it?" asks Harry, softly. It's not a challenge, or a rebuke. Just a prompt to hear more of his thoughts.

"Does it," Laurent counters in kind, and it's a question rather than a flippant response. "No, this will carry on through my life entire, won't it?" Unseen by her, his eyes drift closed again. He swears softly, without venom.

"Well, there have been more flattering responses to declarations of eternal love," Harry sighs. She still holds him with one arm; the other strokes his back and side, soothing and tender, as though he were a child woke from a nightmare. "Sit? And hold me?"

Laurent takes a deep breath and lets it shudder slowly out before he answers, two slow nods of his head. Still, he doesn't move for a moment. When he does it is to turn and, letting go of her skirts, gather Harry against him with one arm. "Of course," he allows with a frown, looking from seat to seat before he pulls her after him to fall onto a chaise.

Harry rests her head against his chest, tucking herself beneath his chin, and closes her eyes. She breathes him in, slow and deep, her breath hitching one or twice as tears rush in unbidden. She doesn't shed them, this time, just balls a fist over his heart.

Laurent reclines on the chaise, eyes on the far wall, lost in the shock of it all. When he feels Harry's breath catch, his hand rises to cradle her head against his broad, bare chest, and his head sinks back to look up at the ceiling. His eyes squeeze shut against tears of his own, sudden and hot, but none fall free.

She swallows hard, throat working audibly. "Gods, Laurent," she whispers, at a loss. "What the fuck do we do, now?"

"How in seven hells should I know, Harry," Laurent breathes the reply up into the room. "What springs to mind, just now, is that I ought to kill Arrick Gargalen." His lip pushes forward as he says it, but the sentiment seems genuine.

"And who should I be killing?" Harry asks, dryly.

"A half-dozen whores," Laurent allows with a shrug. "Mayhaps Lady Sera, if you're of a mind, though I'd prefer you didn't out of kindness to her cousin." The words come slow and somber, but not reluctant. "And Johanna Oakheart, Quillian's sister. He'll likely kill me, if you kill her, and I've not the heart to contest it just now, I think."

Harry flinches. "Oh." She sags a little. "Gods. I feel sick." She takes a deep, steadying breath. "She'd probably be a good wife for you." It's said with all the relish of a mouthful of ashes. And as long as they're getting it all out there, "I was never pregnant. I lied because I didn't want you to run off and get killed by that son-of-a-whore Targaryen."

Laurent shakes his head without vigor, still staring up at the ceiling. "No," he says simply, and lets that lie. Then, "I gave her my word that I'd never tell. Not anyone, and especially not you." His too-broad mouth curls into a grin, which fades at her last announcement. "Never…" He's silent for a long moment, at that, his mouth working occasionally as though he were chewing at nothing.

Harry nods, pulling back. And away. She sits at the edge of the chaise. "I thought — it wasn't such a terrible lie. Because I could have been. Gods know it wasn't from lack of trying, on either of our parts. And I was sure it would happen eventually. Then… then we fell out, and we weren't anymore. And I… I couldn't bring myself to. With you. Because… I thought you hated me so." She closes her eyes. "I'm sorry. For what it's worth, it's the only time I lied to you. And I hated the words the moment they were out of my mouth. But I was desperate, and so afraid of losing you." She breathes a bitter, mirthless laugh. "I was such a child."

His hand falls heavily to the chaise when she pulls away from him, and Laurent's eyes come down to stare at his open palm. The fingers curl into a fist, slowly, then flex open again before he speaks. "Never pregnant," he says again, trying to make sense of the words, and failing. His eyes drift from his hand to her face, in profile, and he reaches out. Not quite a touch, but an invitation. Perhaps a silent plea. "It doesn't matter," he says with a shrug. "Not truly. The truth is what we make it, Harry, and if you would have me say you were pregnant then you were."

She looks sidelong at his hand, then reaches out with her own, threading her fingers with his. "It does," Harry disagrees, with no heat or conviction. "I mean, it does insofar as… I think the truth holds us accountable. At least to our own conscience. And most of the world can bugger itself raw, but there are some people who've been incredibly kind to me because I — supposedly lost that child. And that's been rather horrible. It should be horrible. I only meant it to end an old lie, not become a new one. Lies are awful. And they're not the truth. No matter how much we want them to be." But, as for what he'll say, "Say nothing. It's what I've learned to do. And it's no one's business, anyhow." And — "Thank you." That last is whispered and aching, so heartfelt and heavy they're barely words. Just sounds of base gratitude.

"Don't thank me," Laurent snorts, squeezing her hand softly. "Not for anything, not ever," he adds with a shake of his head. "I don't think I can bear it, and you ought not to have to." Now they've found Angharad, and his dark eyes don't seem capable of looking away. "So now what am I to do?" He shakes his head slightly, but that gaze doesn't waver for a second, as the words come soft and low.

Harry shakes her head, her smile a very faint, complex curve charting different degrees of wry, tender, and tragic. "I don't know."

Laurent's look is pleading, almost comically so, and he waits in silence as though that might prompt her to give him the answer after all. Even when it's clear that answer isn't coming, still he doesn't look away. The pleading fades to melancholy, and his hand sags, taking hers with it to rest on his leg. "Seven black hells."

"Yes," Harry agrees. She looks over at the sideboard for more whiskey — and there is the backup supply, glittering in its crystal decanter. "Still think you've had enough?"

Laurent's eyes follow hers, and he laughs. "I don't think there is enough," he says with a shake of his head. He stirs slightly forward though as he asks, "Do you want another?"

Harry nods emphatically, laughing as well. "Fuck, yes. Yes, I do."

Laurent stands then, laughing darkly as he steps in a puddle of spilled liquid, then over the wreckage of his workspace en route to the sideboard. He comes back with the bottle in hand, and two glasses, handing Harry both as he settles next to her again, to pour. "If we run dry, I'll fetch more," he offers.

Harry waits until he's poured for them both, companionably shoulder-to-shoulder, and clinks her glass to his. "To the blessed state of matrimony."

Laurent lets the glasses clink together, eyeing the decanter at the toast. "I know there's not enough for that," he growls, shaking his head. But he drinks anyway, a healthy dose, and more still, grimacing at the burn of it. "We've well and truly buggered this."

Harry drinks, as well, breathing out through pursed lips for the burn. "Well. I mean." She smirks a dimple onto her cheek. "We're both still alive. What do they say… any tilt you walk away from is a good one?"

"They're wrong about that, in point of fact," Laurent says with a shake of his head, "Though they do say it. I suspect they haven't heard the story of Ser Jasper Templeton, lamed in the lists and robbed of his virility, all in his first pass." The story draws a laugh from the Thorn, as such stories often do, and it is unabashedly mirthful.

She rolls her eyes at him, smirking again, and drinks. Again. "That's a terrible thing," she says, in an obligatory fashion, being the resident moral compass, however twisted and skewed. "And I doubt he actually walked away from it, besides."

"You've a point," Laurent admits, "Don't you. I don't believe he ever walked again." That allowance made, he lifts his glass again. "To walking, and virility," he offers toward her, before taking another much-needed drink.

Harry clinks glasses for that, as well. Walking and virility are good things, there's no contesting it. "Do you think you have it in you," she wonders, after swallowing and breathing out, "to be monogamous? I know you wanted to be. But I also wonder if you hadn't been waiting for an excuse."

Laurent settles back into the chaise, his glass held in one hand now, dangling at the end of his arm. "I don't think there's anything I would want more, Harry," he admits frankly. "I have been…" He shakes his head, looking away. He doesn't say miserable, but it's written there on his face. Instead, he says, "No one else is you."

"I know," says Harry, softly sincere. "And no one else is you. Still, I've…" She shrugs, drinking. "I've had other lovers, now. I can see how… difference can be attractive. Just because it's different."

Laurent sags to the side to put his glass down on the floor, staring at the whiskey with a sick look. He nods at that, but without any real thought for the gesture. "I…" He starts, but finds he has nothing to say, and falls silent again.

Harry glances at him, then away. "I didn't say that to hurt you. I'm sorry. I just — " Again, she drinks. "It wasn't Ser Arrick? I don't know if that helps. I'd still prefer you not kill him."

"I know," Laurent says quickly. A pause, and then, "It doesn't?" One shoulder lifts in a shrug, and he shakes his head. "I can see where you thought it might, but no," he growls. "I'll wonder, every time I look a man in the face. But that may be kinder than knowing, I think."

"I'm not going to make corpses out of men whose only fault was adoring me," Harry says, rubbing her eyebrows. "You named yours to me, I'm fairly sure, with the foreknowledge that while I might hate them, I'm not a killer." She pauses, then adds, "Not under normal circumstances, anyhow."

Laurent grins as he looks away, shaking his head. "Would that I were that good a man," he offers with a snort. "I named them to you because you wanted it, Harry, and in that moment I would have done anything for you." His chest swells with a deep breath, and his eyes find her again before he adds, "Or in this moment, or likely any other, I think. Isn't that the way of it?"

"Is it?" Harry lifts her eyes to his, searching, fragile with hope. "I want it to be. I want to trust you. Very, very much."

"I don't know how to trust you," Laurent admits bleakly, "Or anyone. But I don't give a damn, either, I suppose. I want what I want, and that's…" You, his look says. His next words are incongruous, out of nowhere. "I had a letter from your father, and another from your cousin. You were aware?"

"Oh. Uhm. No." Harry frowns. She doesn't look displeased or outraged, as someone totally out of the loop might be, but a little nonplussed. "Maera likes to move things forward apace, I suppose. Oh, wait — " she shakes her head. "There was the one where she challenged you. I do know about that one, but after the fact. I expect you got a good laugh — or sneer — laughsneer, out of that. Was this one different?" She reaches for the decanter. No sense in getting less drunk, now.

Laurent shakes his head, neither laughing or sneering, now. "That was the one," he admits, passing the decanter along. "She must know I would never…" He trails off, gesturing with an open hand, as though that completed the thought. "Your father's letter was very civil," he adds, by way of comparison. "He's concerned for you. Word has reached him, of course."

That coaxes a soft, sweet, and very heartfelt smile from her. It has its own edge of melancholy, but nothing resembling pain. "Gods, I miss Papa so much," she sighs, clearing her throat and wiping one eye on the back of her arm before refilling her glass with determination. "He'd never call me Harry when Mama was around, but I knew that he knew that I knew… you know?" She sighs. "I'm glad it was civil, though I wouldn't expect it to be otherwise. He's very patient and even tempered and fair."

"I suppose he misses you too," Laurent allows, a touch uncomfortable at this subject. "I've the letter here," he goes on, swinging his legs off the chaise, then kneeling on the floor to begin sorting through the wreckage of his desk. A handful of papers are ruined by spilled whiskey, or wine was it? He checks those first, but it isn't among them.

"It's all right," Harry protests, watching as he goes hunting. "I mean, when you come across it — yes, please. But you don't have to, tonight." She sighs. "Gods. Why Jo?" Frown frown frown. "Not that she's not pretty, but she was my friend."

Laurent looks up from his search, honestly taken aback. "Was she?" He frowns at that, his heavy brow drawn down over his eyes. "I had no idea," he says with a shake of his head, then stands with a stack of papers in hand to sit next to Angharad again. "I just… She saw to my…" He trails off, waving a hand at his chest, "And I thought you had finished with me, Harry."

Harry's mouth tugs to the side in a bitter smile that's more like a spastic tic. "Yes. Well. Apparently, neither did she." She looks down into her drink. "You're very stupid," she says, melancholy. "I'm not finished until I say I'm finished."

"I've never said I wasn't," Laurent says gravely, hanging his head. The papers stay in his hand forgotten for the moment, and he snorts a laugh. "Stupid, and ignorant, all my life. But before this, I never thought myself a fool. Now I wonder."

She frowns, regret and apology etched on her features. "I didn't mean that," Harry says, gently. "I mean, I meant it. But I didn't." She sighs. "I'm having a very difficult time. Because I want to kiss you and then I catch myself wanting to kiss you and it makes me very angry, which makes me want to hit you or hurt you in some other way, despite the fact that me wanting to kiss you isn't even a little your fault." Harry drinks a sip of whiskey. "I think I should have put frightened, in there. Somewhere before angry."

The papers flutter to the floor, and it leaves Laurent staring at the palms of his open hands. "Gods damnit," he mutters, then looks up to meet her eyes. "Every single god," he says again, "Damn it." He swings one leg over the chaise at that, and slides toward Angharad, intent on pulling her toward him — though not so intent that he's likely to force it, if she recoils. "If angry even occurs to you," he admits, "Then you're not half so frightened as I am."

Harry stares up at him, not recoiling, but not falling eagerly into his arms as once she might have. She shakes her head a little. "I'm not even sure what that means," she confesses, all earnestness.

Laurent pulls her to him then, sliding close, shaking his head. "I feel, just now, like there's no room for anything but fear in me." That's a hard thing for Laurent to say, and it comes out slowly, stuttering. "I'll be damned, though, if it's going to get the better of me."

"Not angry is very unusual for you," Harry observes, kind of concerned. Like he'd just reported an alarming physical symptom, like bleeding out the ears.

"I've been so angry with you," Laurent says, eyes narrowing at her tone. "And at…" He shakes his head, frowning. "But what use is it, Angharad? The gods know, mayhaps. But I don't."

"Don't be mad," she chides as he narrows his eyes, narrowing her eyes right back. Harry might be a little drunk. Then, curiously, "Who?"

"Everyone," Laurent asks, his shoulders drawing up into a shrug. But that's not true, and he can't let the lie stand. He also can't look at her though as he admits, "Myself." Another difficult thing to say, moreso than anything else so far perhaps. His eyes drift momentarily to the floor, but when they find hers again he reaches out toward her glass.

"Am I cut off?" Harry wonders, resignedly, as he takes the glass from her.

Laurent stares at the glass in his hand, but in the end, shrugs and passes it back. "No," he answers, embarrassed at having taken it in the first place, now. Suddenly awkward, he reaches for the bottle, meaning to top her drink off, then leans and twists to take his back up as well.

"I probably should be," Harry says, not that it prevents her from welcoming the refill. "Liquid courage goes to liquid stupid pretty quickly. Euros says that. My brother. Did I tell you about Euros, ever? He lost his leg to a boar."

"You did," Laurent says with a nod and an incongruous grin. He lifts his own glass to his broad mouth, though, and the rough, charcoal taste of whiskey chases all expression away for a moment, though his dark eyes remain on her over top of the glass. It's a long drink, and leaves little in his glass, and a sigh that follows. "You needn't be brave here, Harry," he growls, shaking his head. "Or stupid. We've both been enough of that."

"If I'm not brave," Harry says, looking down at her glass again. She doesn't drink any more, for the moment, but that's likely because she's following her train of thought down the rabbit hole. This time, she catches it. "If I'm not brave, we're not going to… I'm not going to…" She sighs. "I'm going to cut and run. If I'm not brave." She drinks, but just a sip. "I killed the boar."

Laurent finishes his glass, tossing its contents back at a single gulp, then looks between his empty and the bottle. "You never told me," he says without looking up from the dilemma. "Euros' boar, you mean?" He frowns at his own question, and answers it himself. "Of course you do. And well done. You are brave, Harry. No one can fault your courage."

She nods. Euros' boar. "I should have been faster. It came — " she waves a hand around, " — out of fucking nowhere. He was on foot. We were bow hunting. He didn't have a spear, couldn't get his blade out in time, not that it would have helped. If I'd been faster, he might have kept the leg." Harry breathes a deep sigh. "This anecdote is irrelevant." She hands him her glass, still 3/4 full.

"If you'd been slower, he'd be dead," Laurent counters, nodding as he takes Harry's glass from her, laying his empty one aside. "You're certain you don't need it," he asks, raising it back in her direction first. "A boar can kill a man, sure as a bear. Sure as a horse."

"Not unless I want to be unconscious," Harry says, nodding her certainty. "I know," she says, of boars. "We have them, at home. Boars and bears. Horses, too. Obviously." She eyes him. "Fucking… fuck I have missed this. So. Much."

Laurent pushes back to recline into the chaise, inviting her to him with an open hand. With his other hand he raises the glass to his lips — now that he has determined to drink, he's going to do so in earnest, apparently. "So have I," he says, licking the taste of whiskey away from his lips. "Truly, I think you are my only friend. Despite that we might be bad ones."

"I don't want to be bad ones," say Harry, very earnestly, as though she were confessing her love for the first time. She tucks herself against him again, closing her eyes and listening to his heart. "We're not always bad ones. Like right now. This is good."

"I'd settle," Laurent laughs, slurping another drink from the glass, then stretching to put it on the floor so that both arms are free to wrap about his wife. "This is good," he agrees after a moment. "Is this who we are?"

"I haven't the foggiest idea," admits Harry. "I think so. At least, it's a facet. We're a lot of other things. Some of them will probably always be difficult." Jumping on the segue, her thoughts arrive elsewhere, and she says, "It's not fair how men can collect scars and be more attractive for it."

Laurent frowns down at his chest, considering. "You think?" His eyes narrow, and he shrugs his broad shoulders. "What's not fair about it? You're free to thin me uglier for them, if it suits you better."

"It doesn't," sniffs Harry. Hrmph. "What's not fair is that women with scars aren't attractive. We're just as valliant when we get them, you know." She pauses. "Sometimes. I don't suppose accidentally scalding oneself with tea is particularly valiant, but that's not the kind of scar I'm talking about."

Laurent snorts at the jibe — it's not lost on him. But his brow furrows, and he at least makes an effort to push past it with, "What are you on about?" His eyes narrow, beady now beneath that caveman brow, and he asks, "Have you taken some scar, Harry?"

Harry sighs. "Yes," she says, small-voiced. "I wasn't at all unhappy about it until I remembered how you said… something out scullery maids and how their hands weren't soft like a lady's. And then I was thinking that ladies don't have scars, either."

"Their hands aren't soft," Laurent protests, though it's clear from his look that the correlation doesn't quite fit for him. He sets his jaw, and then says, "Let's see it, then. The scar. I'll be the judge of it."

It's a drunken correlation, and Harry knows it. So even if he should be getting it, he gets a pass, this time. Harry screws her courage to the sticking place and pulls up the hem of her dress up. And up. High up on her left, outer thigh there's an angry red pucker about the size of a coin. It's from an arrow, most likely, or some remarkably similar puncture. "I'm not going to stop being proud of it if you hate it," Harry reports, sullenly, "I just might die inside a little."

Laurent reaches out at the sight of it to lay a hand on Harry's thigh, running a thumb lightly over the scar. There's a familiar look in his eye at the sight of it, and it is not disappointment. "It makes you look fierce," he says after a moment's consideration, but 'fierce' might as well be 'comely,' or even 'sexy.' He looks briefly up from the scar to meet her eyes, and nods as though this made his point for him. "Not at all the same thing."

Harry shuts her eyes, releasing the breath she'd been holding. "I've had a very strange holiday," she says, smiling.

"I heard some," Laurent admits, his hand not shifting from its place now. "But not enough. I worried to hear that you had gone," he admits — there's no harm in that now. "But I thought you would, when I heard. Gods, but I wished you wouldn't."

Harry keeps her lashes low, letting his words wash over her, feeling his hand on her — simply at rest. She thinks of half a hundred things to say, more than a few of them pertaining to how she can feel her heart strain against her ribs, and how it hasn't hurt — not like this — for ages. What she says, though, when she lifts her lashes and looks at the man across from her, is: "You should have seen the other guy."

Laurent's grin at that is broad and genuine, and leaves no question what is to follow. He has one free hand still, and reaches up to hook it behind Harry's neck, sliding through her hair to pull her into him as he presses forward to kiss her.

She doesn't balk, doesn't fight him; her eyes shut and she tilts her head a fraction, lips parted sweetly. Despite, however, her readiness, it's a new lover's kiss, hesitant and incongruously shy. Exploratory. Her tongue ghosts over his bottom lip and she breathes his breath, releasing her own in a sweet, slightly unsteady sigh.

Laurent kisses her back, slow and almost tentative, tasting the whiskey on her breath, feeling her against him, breathing in the sweet, familiar scent of her. It's all familiar, but all so strange at the same time. It's not done quickly — not if Laurent has his way — and when their lips part he nods in silence. If there is something to be said just now, he's incapable of saying it just yet.

Harry is more than content to linger in that kiss, to learn — or begin to learn — him, and herself, anew. They're different but the same, and so they will be different — but the same — together. That's a little frightening. Possibly a little wonderful. It's a thing to savor, and also to handle with care. Slow is good. She likes slow. She rests her forehead and the tip of her nose against his when they part. She nods in agreement, fingertips tracing from his ear to his chin, via the line of his jaw.

"Stay here," Laurent ventures, his eyes downcast now, in their turn. "Not with me," he offers on the tail end of that request. "I'll find another room, and see that you're not bothered. No one need even know that you stayed," he adds, "Save only for us. You can tell them in your time, or not."

Harry hesitates a moment, then nods. "All right." She wrinkles her nose a little, then, and says, "If someone sends you a letter saying I'm barren? Ignore it." She shrugs, gently pulling back. "Or… maybe don't. I suppose we still have to decide what we're going to do."

"I'm going to ignore it," Laurent says, turning as he begins to untangle himself from Angharad, leaning off the chaise to search for the shirt he dropped somewhere. "Unless you tell me otherwise," he growls without looking up at her, "I'm going to ignore it." He frowns when he sees the shirt, and grunts, pushing himself to his feet. "You aren't, are you," he asks almost as an aside, moving toward the shirt.

She shakes her head. "Not as far as I know."

Laurent bends to pick up the shirt with a guttural sound of acknowedgment, shaking the garment out and then throwing it over his shoulder. "Do you need anything, before I go," he asks, stepping back toward her as he raises one hand to lightly cup her cheek in his palm.

For just a moment, she closes her eyes and leans her cheek into his palm, turning her head to brush her lips against the heel of his hand. Then she shakes her head. "No. Nothing." A beat. "Thank you, Laurent."

Laurent looks down into her face as those eyes drift closed, his mien pensive. Not a frown, but not truly a smile either, his mouth works to find words but fails, and he shakes his head. After a long moment, he simply says, "Don't thank me."


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