(123-01-02) Balancing on the Edge
Balancing on the Edge
Summary: Malcolm tries to make sense of Hellan after finding her on the rooftop. One of them is more patient than the other.
Date: 02/01/2016
Related: Walk of Shame

Rooftop - Weirwood Manse

Old Street

The manse's broad flat roof is topped in flagstones and surrounded by a wall that's nearly chest-high on a man. There are gaps at its foot to allow the rain to run off.
The stairs lead to a small enclosed turret belvedere that keeps the weather out of the house. Its door opens onto a pleasant open rotunda, complete with a round table and chairs, and roofed with slats that shade the space but don't interfere with the entrance of the weather. Behind it one can see the top of the big glass prism that lights the hall below, sticking out of the roof.
The center of the roof is a large open space, suitable for training at arms, though the flagstones are hard on the man who falls. Surrounding it are large planters, square things made of bricks with narrow paths between them. They're not deep enough for trees, but vegetables and strawberries flourish in them. At the corner furthest from the rotunda there's another open area. It contains a small dovecote of the sort that looks like a six-sided pillar lined in pigeon-holes. It seems well-occupied, with birds coming and going, and probably provides the household with a few meals of squab each month. Beside it there's a little wooden henhouse, home to six laying hens who wander the rooftop freely.

The fair wind rustles through Hellan Stark's hair as she faces Oldtown from the roof. The woman strikes a bold figure at the very edge of the belvedere overlooking Old Street, her thick dress — cut plainly and severely about the shoulders, cinched with choking lacing down the back — such a dark grey that, in the dark of evening, it's black. The night seems to absorb her into itself as she holds her arms aloft at either side as if she means to take flight; except her eyes are closed, and she does not move a single inch, swayed only by the occasional light gust, her strong stance but an illusion.

Malcolm is already unbuttoning his doublet as he emerges from the stairs. He is dressed in his ordinary bastard blacks with the blue pointings with his Braavosi blade on one hip and his Stark Dagger on the other. He freezes, his finger on the forth tie when he spots the Lady already ensconced in her cinematic pose. He clears his throat lest he startles her, his bare feet being soundless on the stones. "My Lady, is there ought I might get you?"

Hellan does not move; she gives no indication at all, in fact, that she realizes anyone is there despite Malcolm's precaution. Not at first. She remains exactly as she is, gradually swaying upon a whim of the breeze or a lilted sense of balance. After a long moment, she opens her eyes to regain the view of the clouds, rooftops, and the cobbled street below. Her eyes are glossy. Their red rims appear dark as charcoal under the dim sky. "No, Malcolm, there is not," she replies in her low tone with its deep Northron roots, utterly certain — but not as dismissive as she often is.

Malcolm's dark eyes catch the drugged look of hers and makes a quiet calculation about ledge proximity. He crosses to her slowly, long legs moving with casualness as his long quick fingers start doing up the doublet again. His stormcoast lilt has a friendly, homey feel to it, even if it is not of the North. "Lovely view up here, isn't it? I come up here to practice most days it doesn't rain." Properly dressed again, he stands close enough to grab if things go wrong, but far enough not to crowd her. He stands relaxed, with his characteristic stillness, no fidgeting for all his youth.

"Is it?" A twist of bitterness marks the woman's counter, but it's so distant; she doesn't care. She's yet to even look at Malcolm. She lowers her arms slowly and stiffly until they press against her sides. Now that she does not stand as a scarecrow, her balance is the worse for it. She sways but does not stumble. When she steps, it's purposefully closer to the edge, although it's the sky Hellan looks up at, not the ground below, although her eyes cannot be said to be focused at all.

Malcolm moves a casual step closer as she moves and more behind, the better to pull her back if it comes to it, though nothing of anticipation of such an event shows in the relaxed shoulders and arms or in his calm tones, "How do you, My Lady? Are you sure you wouldn't like a strawberry or two?"

Wide-open glossy eyes gradually narrow on nothing; nothing gradually becomes Malcolm. Hellan's previous lack-of-expression gains intensity, vague annoyance at him and whatever it might be he's offering; she doesn't quite seem to comprehend him. She turns abruptly toward him, only to stride past quickly with hard steps, rushing toward the tables and chairs of the rotunda.

Malcolm flashes her a grin made extra rakish my the small scar distorting his upper lip, and strides over to the strawberry thicket to select a handful of the largest and ripest, which he presents to her with another smile and a flourish.

Hellan stops before the last step to the nearest table, the halted momentum swaying her back for a moment and complicating her already questionable and half-hearted attempt to focus on Malcolm. He earns another narrowed look. "I don't want your little berries," she says, defaulting to chastising. She grabs the edge of the table, an anchor, and lowers herself into the chair. The Stark lady skips her normal stiff-backed posture; she pushes her pallid forehead head into her hand, propped up by an elbow.

Malcolm laughs softly as if she has made a joke, and sets them before her nevertheless. He does save one for himself, "I will not take offence, for they are Lord Cregan's berries, not mine and also delicious." He pops half into his mouth and bites with clear enjoyment, "May I sit with you a spell?"

"Has anyone ever told you you're painfully pleasant?" Hellan replies, dissolving into an irate, muffled mumble by the end. She presses her head more firmly into her hand, shutting her eyes.

Malcolm laughs again, "Has anyone told you you have a wonderfully dry wit?" He eats the rest of the strawberry, studying her, "Have you a headache, My Lady? Perhaps some lemon water? I could send for some."

"Lemon water— do I look like a swooning maiden to you?" Hellan replies harshly with her 'dry wit'. She drops her hand flat on the table, her head remaining cast down low. "No," she says slowly, her voice deepening as it becomes more tired … or perhaps reveals an exhaustion already present. "It is not an ache that can be mended."

Malcolm snorts, "No, you look like a Stark and a Mormont both, which means you are likely tough and stubborn and prone to not taking care of yourself. You look like you could use some water and some good healthy sleep, though I am no healer." He raises his eyebrows, "Am I wrong?" He studies her, "I've seen you move like you're hiding an injury, likely an old one that makes you ache. The head of our Guard moved like that. He came back from a border fight when my Grandfather still road under the banner with a leg they thought would never mend. It did, but he was never right after. The way you sit a horse, I'm guessing something more complicated with yours, but I'm not of the north and don't have the knowing of your story." His gaze is steady, not judgmental, the tone more one warrior to another than anything one might expect between a southron Man and a Great Lady. There is respect threaded through it. "You hide it well most times. My Lord is much the same when he hurts."

Hellan listens without reaction; she scarcely looks like she hears the man talk again, staring at the edge of the table. Her head gives a subtle loll forward, as though tugged down by a weight; the heaviness of exhaustion, or the pull of whatever it is that causes her eyes to gleam unnaturally. "There was a time I led battles," she says after a long moment, her voice dull and distant, back in another time, another place. "But you are wrong. I don't thirst, and not that my rest is your business, I sleep well enough." It just doesn't matter.

Malcolm says with certainty, "I believe it. You've the look of one who has led a host." He pops another strawberry in his mouth, letting the silence stretch as he eats. "My business is the wellbeing of my Starks. All of them." He is even firmer about this, if that is even possible.

"You…" Hellan loses her way; her voice gives out, or her thoughts — her eyelids grow heavy and fall. "You ought to keep to the others," she picks back up again strong after a hazy pause. "I don't need you sticking your nose in my business."

Malcolm eyes her and says gently, "The fastest way to get rid of me is to simply tell be what the trouble is, you know."

"Here I thought it was to shove you off the roof," Hellan replies sarcastically; it isn't as sharp as it could be, weary. She lifts her hand to scrape her fingertips again over her forehead and through her thick hair.

Malcolm thinks that over as a serious option, "That could be an amusing contest, but perhaps another day might be better."

Hellan slowly shakes her head, a deeper, somber dismissal. She focuses weight upon the palm of her hand against the table and pushes to her feet, making her way around it with her sights set, however unclearly, on the roof door.

Malcolm calls softly, "I'm not the enemy, My Lady, and you look like you could use a friend."

She halts at the door before leaving. "You're not my enemy, child, but I'm not looking for a friend."

Malcolm walks towards her, "And yet here I am, offering, looked for or not." He is still smiling his sunny smile, such a good target for fists. His posture is just as casual as it was when she was swaying on the roofs edge, and so likely means nothing.

Hellan's pause at least indicates that she heard him this time, but she dismisses him again: she carries on her way, stepping through the door to the stairs. In turning to shut it behind her, she eyes Malcolm's smiling face, her own forming a blatant and borderline suspicious grimace, ever-disappearing in the crack of the door.

And of course he waits for her to start to decend before following her on silent feet to make sure she navigates the stairs without accident.

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