|Very Nice Men Club|
|Summary:||Camillo has a tear in his green shirt.|
|Related:||The Seventh Order are rough on clothing.|
Morning; and the grocery shop on the corner where the Shambles debouches into Oldtown Square is recovering from its matutinal chaos. With the boys still out on their delivery rounds there are fewer baskets than usual in the shop, and a shop girl with a mop is paying particular attention to the empty place on the floor where they are customarily stacked. The shopkeeper herself is serving a young woman with a familiar face, who must live round here, and resisting with inexorable courtesy this customer's attempts at lingering to chat with the other, newer shop girl. She's in the way of the mopping. She must go.
On the threshold however the retreating customer passes an advancing Camillo. The initial flash of consternation across Esme's face turns when she does, into smiling recognition. Camillo's not so bad. She can take him upstairs. "Mornin', dearie," she calls, coming round the corner of her counter only to get caught up in a dance of dodging with the mop-wielding Katla. Esme finally solves it by stopping still, taking hold of the girl with a hand on each of her arms, and moving her gently one way whilst she, sprightly in her green and orange striped dress, steps the other way. There's a lot of 'sorry, Mistress Esme' but also plenty of 'never you mind, dearie', and chuckling to boot. She's in a good humour today, which might perchance be not unrelated to the complete absence of Prince Dhraegon's manservant from the Hightower yesterday.
Camillo has come in his fine blue shirt rather than his usual green shirt, but he does have his usual beaten bag with him. "Good morning, Mistress Esme," Camillo says, moving to be out of the way of mops and shopkeepers in motion. He dips his head.
"You look smart this mornin'," observes Esme with amiable insinuation, as though to shake loose any grand plans her young friend may have for the rest of his day. "… Come on, dearie, let's get out of the way, eh?" she suggests with a light touch upon his fine blue arm and a nod toward the door leading into the butchery. "Easier to do a floor without so many feet on it." And she pushes open the door and whisks him away upstairs before he can argue!
"Of course," Camillo says, but he's already in motion, following Esme up to her room. Once there, he uncharacteristically forges ahead with a request: "I'd like to ask you a favor."
When Esme has shut the door of her little flat behind them she gets on, as always, with the vital business of setting a place for Camillo at her well-scrubbed table and revealing the pie of the day. "What's that, then?" she asks easily.
Camillo starts to root around under the flap of his bag and draws forth his usual green shirt, somewhat the worse for wear. It looks like it's been laundered pretty thoroughly, the dye having perhaps faded a bit in the effort to get rather a lot of blood out of it, though it doesn't appear stained. There is a considerable slash, however, in the left sleeve.
Esme puts down two cups on the table and straight away reaches for the green shirt, taking in at once what the favour must be. "Ooh, however did you do that?" she asks lightly, whilst her all-too-clever dark eyes make a beeline from the slashed fabric to the corresponding place on Camillo's arm, looking for signs of bandaging beneath his blue shirt, or stiffness in moving that arm.
An eye as sharp as Esme's can perceive with certainty that Camillo is bandaged just where she expects. "A brawl, at the Tooth and Nail," he answers softly, but honestly, helping himself to his usual seat after giving over the garment. "I can sew, but…not like you probably can. I'll pay, of course."
"Aye," says Esme, nodding. She lifts her narrowed eyes from his arm to his face. "Looks like it. And this'll only take me five minutes, dearie," she promises him, "if I've thread about the right colour, so I wouldn't even know what to ask you for it." She shakes out the shirt and folds it as she lowers it to the table, turning in the sleeves and twitching them into place. "Let me see about your pie and then I'll have a look, eh?" she suggests. She turns away to the sideboard behind her to fetch the tin. "Peach pie's all I've got today," she mentions, "good Hightower peaches, I might add." She looks back to wink.
"That sounds very fine," Camillo says. "But…it isn't right, me asking you to work and then you feeding me on top of it." He lapses into silence briefly. "And maybe I have another favor to ask."
"What kind of nice old housewife would I be," Esme asks him rhetorically, in the midst of the delicate business of transferring peach pie to his plate whilst keeping some of the peach slices actually inside the pastry, "if I didn't sew up the odd rip or put back the occasional lost button for young bachelors I know? I ought to be thankin' you," and she winks again, "for givin' me a chance to do somethin' so ideally in character." She nudges his plate back towards him and licks a smear of something peachy and delicious from a fingertip, and covers the tin again and wipes her hands on her apron. She has a listening air about her, as though she's poised and ready to hear what's next.
Camillo takes up his fork, but he doesn't dig in yet, looking from the plate to Esme. Surely he enjoys the humor in her speech, but solemnity in the face of asking a serious favor schools his features. "Did you ever hear," he asks at last, "Of the Seventh Order, or the Dancing Men?"
"Oh," says Esme, "then it was the same brawl." One corner of her mouth lifts in wry amusement. "Afraid I didn't get a very good description of the other fellow who was with the Snow Giant," she explains. "Seems he didn't make much of an impression on anybody who saw. Somebody reckoned he got stabbed in the arm, all right, but somebody else thought it was the leg, and then I heard he weren't hurt at all. Must be a slippery sort, eh?" And, smiling, she steps into the other room and comes back with her sewing basket.
Camillo tilts his head a little, but the gesture implicitly acknowledges his purposeful cultivation of just such a slippery bearing and character. "They were shouting about Ser Desmond inside. I came in to help him," he says. "I didn't know what it was about. We still don't. But…what we need most of all now is to locate them. They could be a threat to any number of nobles. Unless we know their business is clear of the Hightowers and of Ser Daevon, we have to locate them and find out what their goal is."
Esme sits down with her basket on her knee and has a quick sip of her cider before opening its lid and beginning to line up spools of thread, in different colours, along the edge of the table. "Ser Daevon's a part of your remit, then, is he?" she asks dryly. "And you ain't interested in who they're here to kill if it ain't a Hightower or a Targaryen? That's nice, comin' from you people," she sniffs, "with the way you talk about this city. Oh, here it is," and she holds up a spool of green thread. "I thought I might still have it — it don't quite match this," and with her other hand she tugs at her own sleeve, "but it was the nearest I could find when I caught the skirt in a wagon-wheel couple o' years back. What d'you think? Would that do for you?"
She puts the spool on his shirt and nudges them both nearer for his inspection. The thread that's a little too soft for the green stripes in her dress, is likewise not much lighter than the colour of his shirt.
"No," Camillo says of Ser Daevon. "Not ordinarily. But Ser Desmond asked, and he is my friend. If it is revenge for Jason Tarly, I believe Ser Daevon is innocent of having killed him. But." He tilts his head, maybe a little hurt by what Esme says. "Us people? It is only me. I would rather they not kill anyone in Oldtown. But if I must protect everyone in Oldtown…" He shrugs. "I would be dead very soon, I think." He nods at the thread. "I think it looks near enough."
Esme sniffs and draws the shirt and thread back to her own side of the table. She takes a shabby old needle-book out of her basket next, and as she's threading it she says, "This is just you askin', then? Not anyone else?"
Camillo shrugs. "Ser Desmond asked me," he says. "But of course I didn't tell him anyone else I would ask about it." He finally starts in on the pie, looking mostly at it. "But it's a dangerous business, or could be. I can't rightly say you ought to get involved."
"Ooh, well, if it's dangerous I surely won't," chuckles Esme, unrolling a good length of green thread from the spool and then breaking it off. She glances up at Camillo again and sighs. "No need that you should either," she admits. "I don't reckon it's anythin' to do with anyone you know — and I'd be very much surprised if at this late date there were still seven of 'em." She sniffs again and busies herself slipping a hand into the sleeve of his green shirt and arranging it just so, the better to decide where to begin.
Camillo shrugs lightly. "Ser Desmond calls me brother," he mentions, but he seems as though he is focusing intently on eating his pie.
The first stitch is a moment of silent concentration. Then: "Does he? That's nice, dearie," says Esme companionably, drawing through the thread. "You'll have to bring him round here one day for a slice of my pie, you really will. I keep hearin' such nice things about him, one way or another."
Camillo probably takes that for an answer. He eats a bite or two of pie in silence. It's hard to tell from his face whether he is surprised or not, upset or not. "Is your shop business good?" he asks after a space. "And Edmyn?"
The woman whose marriage Camillo witnessed just five weeks and two days ago looks up and gives him a rather shy but genuine smile. "Oh, we've all been gettin' on pretty well round here," she concedes, then ducks her head again and concentrates on her sewing. After a moment she adds, "I was worried Edmyn'd be unsettled by havin' someone else around the place so much, but he's been all right — settled down nicely after the first few days. I don't reckon it does," she says thoughtfully, "to worry too much. Half the things you find yourself worryin' about, they'll never happen anyway."
"I'm glad," Camillo says, and that seems quite sincere. "Flox knows how to be gentle. I'm sure it helps." But then he smiles a little. "You're right," he says. "Most worries don't come to pass."
"He is that," agrees Esme, smiling at Camillo's shirt, but really at Flox's gentleness. She squints down at the green cloth, stitching steadily and with care on the reverse side of it, joining those torn edges bit by bit. "And don't you worry 'bout those Dancin' Men," she says, "really. I'd not like to swear to it," she says piously, "not on a holy book or anythin' like that, but I reckon they must be dead or gone or a bit of both, by now." She lets out a philosophical sigh. "No standards left, or you'd not've caught 'em drinkin' and sleepin' down the Tooth. Goin' downhill, the lot of 'em." The slipshod arrangements of these bloodthirsty murderers seem to offend her on some level.
Camillo grunts faintly, though he doesn't sound /thoroughly/ convinced. Still, he thoroughly enjoys the pie. "I'm sorry to ask you for more than I should," he acknowledges.
Esme chuckles softly. "Oh, what's 'should', really," she says, her hand shifting inside his sleeve as the seam she's sewing lengthens. "I'd rather a friend of mine asked help when he needed it than felt he couldn't and got into worse trouble because of it. Like," and she looks up again with a glimmer of humour in her eyes, "runnin' out of clean shirts. It's a dreadful thing, that is."
"It's a lucky thing Ser Daevon gifted me this one," Camillo says of the blue garment he's wearing. "So that I can still look right enough at the Hightower." He's near to finishing the last couple of bites of the crust.
"I wondered if you were goin' somewhere special today," says Esme vaguely, with one eye on her needle and the other upon Camillo's pie-crust. "I see, now — dressed up's better for the Hightower than dressed down," she chuckles. "Won't be much longer with this, though, dearie, and then you'll have both again."
"I thought so," Camillo says. "I am…making an effort these days to be more…" He rolls a shoulder, finishing off the last bite of pie. "Thank you," he says. "I will be glad to have both."
Again Esme looks up quickly. "I know, dearie," she says to him, and perhaps that's why she's so accommodating with her needle and her thread and these few minutes of her time. The cause of smartening up Camillo is too desperate for even Ser Daevon Targaryen to champion alone. "Like the peach pie, then, do you? … I'm pretty fond of it myself," she admits, "so that's what we had for my birthday yesterday. It's funny, if you'd asked me before I'd probably've said I liked rhubarb best, but I'm gettin' fonder'n fonder of peaches."
"It was very good," Camillo says. "The peaches grow very fine here, don't they." Then his eyebrows shoot up. "Was it your birthday?" he asks. "I'm sorry I didn't realize. My congratulations."
Having absent-mindedly said as much Esme goes into immediate self-deprecating retreat. "Oh, well, in a manner of speakin'," she qualifies; she explains, "When Edmyn was just a lad he asked me once, on his birthday, when mine was. He was old enough by then to've noticed we'd never celebrated it. So I made up a day, four months before his and four months after his father's, so's they'd be spaced neatly round the year. I don't know when I was really born, o' course. But thank you anyway, dearie, it's kind of you to say. One more year… my time of life, that does deserve congratulations," she chuckles.
And then the hole is closed, and she's tucking her precious silver needle back in her needle-book and cutting off the loose thread with rather a beautiful pair of silver scissors with handles of polished blue onyx.
"Do most people here celebrate it?" Camillo asks, looking a little curious. Then he watches her hands with needle and scissors. "…Birthdays, I mean."
The scissors have an oddly luxurious quality to them, in common with the cloisonne-tipped hairpins Esme has been sporting in recent months, and the fine golden knotwork of her wedding ring. "… Well, I don't know what most people do," admits Esme, who usually has a good idea; "but I think if you know it, it's somethin' nice to do with your family, I s'pose. We always made a bit of a fuss of Edmyn," she admits, "still do, I s'pose. He likes birthdays, and what he likes he often likes to share. He wanted me to have one too, that's all." She shrugs, turning the shirt the right way round again. "Here you are, dearie," she says, "and I hope you'll find it looks all right."
"When is his?" follows Camillo's next question, as he reaches for the shirt, taking the sleeve between his hands to inspect the work, more because he knows it will be high-quality than because he doubts it. "This looks very fine," he says.
Esme did indeed make an immaculate job of his sleeve. She's had a lot of practice lately sewing her unexpected trousseau, and the habit of making tiny, precise stitches has lingered in her well-trained hands.
"Oh, Edmyn's? Middle of February," she says, "so it goes right into the Dolphin Festival. Always been his favourite time of year. Did I not tell you when—?" Because she did see rather a lot of him around that time. She shrugs. "P'raps I didn't, then. Well, we didn't know each other well yet, did we?"
"Oh, that's right," Camillo says, shaking his head. "Perhaps you did. I'm sorry to forget." He smiles a little. "I'll try to remember to congratulate him on his next."
"I'll make sure I mention it, then, nearer the time," says Esme, "so's you can." She smiles; and she will, indeed, remember. Anything that might make Edmyn happy, lives at the forefront of the steep trap known as her mind.
She drinks a bit of her cider and cocks her head inquiringly. "Do you have a day you…?" she asks. "Or do you not know either?"
"Oh," Camillo says, and smiles. "No, I don't know the day or year. We were ten. My siblings and I, I mean. I don't know if my mother ever remembered herself. But if she told me, I forgot."
"Ah," says Esme as she packs away her sewing things, each tool in its proper place; "I reckon if I'd had ten even I might've forgot a few of the dates," she chuckles. "That'd've been a lot of birthdays to keep, too. It ain't so bad just two or three," she says, "and spaced round the year. But it don't matter when you're just yourself, does it? … Might be you and Master Tybalt end up choosin' a day or two you'll celebrate," she suggests, nonchalantly but with a glint in her eye. "Just what means somethin' to the two of you."
"Yes," Camillo says about the problem of finding enough special things to go around for ten children. He reaches for his cider to drink. "I don't know whether we will have the year together," he says. "But…whenever we eat and drink together, it is good."
Esme sighs her understanding. "It is, isn't it? … I've got three dinners a week, now," she says, "and tonight I reckon I'm goin' to do my fish stew again. We had that one night when you were here, didn't we?" she asks. "With all the mussels and scallops and clams and prawns and whatnot. Flox has always been very fond of that one and he's not had it in a while, I don't think. I can't always get exactly what I like for it," she confides, "but I was down the docks this mornin' early and everythin' was very fresh." She approves of freshness. "I hope you'll have plenty more good dinners yourself," she says firmly.
"Yes," Camillo says, looking up from his cup. "It was very fine. I like to be in a town where there is fresh food from the sea. As a lad we didn't eat such things." He nods his gratitude for her thanks. "I think…he may have to leave before winter comes this far."
"Things to do up where he came from," says Esme, and somehow it isn't a question. There is always a goal hovering in the air about Master Tybalt, and she doesn't reckon it's a small one, either. "Well, sometimes a man has a thing like that, a thing he can't not do — and it's not in spite of it, but because of it, that he's the one," she sighs. "It's all part and parcel, isn't it?"
Camillo gives a small nod as confirmation, drinking from the cup again. "He has cares beyond himself. And that is what makes him good," he says.
"Mm," and Esme lifts her own cup of cider. "To very nice men," she suggests, "who care about others more'n themselves, and who keep their promises."
"Yes," Camillo agrees without hesitation, lifting his cup. "It is mysterious, how they appear."
Esme touches her cup to his. "It's that indeed."