(1866-09-11) Rumor Has It
Rumor Has It
Summary: Jonathan and Lorelei discuss a recent rumor regarding the former. It goes poorly.
Date: 1866-09-11
Related: Pretty much everything involving Jon and Lore.
Jonathan  Lorelei  

A Tavern in Pacitta
In scene set
11 Septembre 1866

It's an evening in Pacitta, and by now, Jonathan t'Maren has settled in most admirably. The tourney hasn't quite started yet, but he's been hard at work preparing, up early each morning for rather strenuous exercise, of one sort or another, through most of the day. By now, though, he's relaxing with a mug of ale in a tavern he's chosen as one of his haunts-away-from-home, an old but well-kept place that welcomes ordinary folk and well-to-do merchants and craftsmen alike. Perhaps not the first place you'd expect to find a noble knight, but then, it /is/ Pacitta. How much does class mean here, really?

Presently alone, he leans back a bit in his chair, taking a deep, measured sip. Eyes flicker back and forth. Someone should be arriving soon, he's sure.

The heir to Bloodfield is physically relaxed, in a comfortable place, and awaiting the arrival of his lover. All good things. So, why does he look a little paler than usual?

It could very well be the memories of the Great Raid still lingering that's draining his color. It could be that he saw something especially gruesome or ghastly on the way down to the pub. Whatever the reason, Lorelei isn't sharing in it. They've been spending their days independently, going about their own tasks, and meeting in the evenings after all their work is done. The items on her list that have been keeping her occupied must have taken her longer today than usual, especially if Jon's already here, and it's surprise that strikes her first and foremost.

Brows rising and the corners of her mouth quirking upward in a muted grin, she acknowledges him over there with his mug of ale as she pokes her head into the tavern. In an effort to assimilate, she's been braiding her hair daily, keeping it back and away from her shoulders where it's been loitering more often lately. Maybe a result of more freqent bathing here on her 'vacation,' said braid is a little more crinkly and much more dull than usual, lacking the telltale luster that's always contributed to the stark contrast between pale skin and ebon hair. Her crisp, white linen shirt seems to make up for it, at any rate, and it's with purposeful steps that she thuds over to where Jon's seated. When she takes the chair opposite him, he'll notice she's matching his pale, though hers is much harder to see from afar given her complexion. Dark circles accent onyx eyes, even with the sparkle in them as bright as ever.

"Evening," she greets, her actions and reactions muted here in public.

Yep, she's here. As anticipated. Jon gives a smile in her direction, but it looks just a /touch/ forced. Maybe it's just exhaustion - there's dark circles under his eyes, too. Difficult day of training, perhaps? Maybe. Though if so, that's unusual - training rarely wears Jonathan t'Maren out.

"Evening, Lorelei." He'll call her by her first name, even here in public, but the pet name is saved for behind closed doors. One hand stretches out and motions toward the seat next to his. "Join me?" he asks, his tone a little more tentative than is typical for their evenings together. His eyes flicker up and down her body, taking in her form once or twice, and he settles back a little further in his seat, taking another sip from his ale. There's a motion toward the nearest barmaid, who by now knows him well enough to know to take Lorelei's order and put it on the knight's tab. Simple enough.

"Have you had a pleasant day?" There's another glance at the circles under her eyes. Shoulders roll for a moment as he stretches out and moves over to clear some space for her. Surely he's noticed that she, too, is a little paler than usual, but he doesn't comment on it, at least not yet.

Sure, they're more formal in public, but his rigidity hits her like a board upside the head the moment her bottom makes contact with the chair. Thinking maybe it's the force with which she's flopped down off of her feet, she clears her throat, pulls her hands off the table in favor of leaving them in her lap, and nods at the barmaid when she suggests an ale.

Right. Alcohol. ..right.

"Pleasant enough," she answers, hands to herself until the mug arrives in a few moments' time, the barmaid leaning over their table with strategic enough an angle so as best to show off the contents of her bodice to the knight across from her. Aware of this, Lorelei clears her throat again and reaches up for her ale. "You?" Uncomfortable, she clings to the mug, bricks from the walls she'd just worked hard to take down slowly mortaring themselves back into place.

She's reserved. Unsurprising, but still a problem, as far as Jon is concerned. "Likewise," he replies, and there's a bit more life in his tone as he addresses her. Granted, it's only a single word, but neither of them is known for using a ton of words anyway. He raises his mug to take another sip - the thing is almost empty - and his eyes meet hers, inscrutably, over the rim.

Of course the barmaid is showing off for him. To his credit, perhaps, Jonathan makes a point of /not/ looking in the woman's direction. His attention is solely on the mercenary seated with him, and he pushes his lips to turn upward in a somewhat bigger smile.

"The tourney is set to begin in just a few days," he says. Tournaments. Something he understands. Something he's good at. Except for… oh, never mind that. Talk about the tourney itself. "Should be quite a spectacle. And… I will see you in the archery contest, won't I?" It's a perfectly normal topic of conversation. Except for the little detail that they've been over all of this at least twice.

Those familiar onyx eyes narrow as Lorelei regards Jon, perhaps with a bit more judgment, across her own pewter rim. Her back's rigid, her shoulders tense, and as she lowers the mug down to the table, it's with a calculated slowness that makes her look more of the predator she likely is in reality. Everything is measured. Every fact considered. And as she pivots slightly in her chair to look at Jon, it's almost as if the past month hasn't happened.

The look on her face could be described as shock, but it's more probably discomfort. After all, he's so visibly uncomfortable that it's radiating off him like heat from the sun. "Sir," she asks, wary to get too personal in case they're overheard, "I've confirmed twice, now." He's remembered everything else thus far. Why wouldn't he remember that?

But certainly, there must be something she's misinterpreting. Taking a deep breath she resumes her coddling of the tankard, picking it up and pulling it close t her once more.

Right, right. Of course she has. And it's not like Jonathan t'Maren to forget. "Of course, of course," he replies, and again there's a grin - a forced one, and he's not doing a great job of hiding it. At least her own mood is quite obvious… and quite obviously disconcerting.

Jonathan lets out a sigh, a rather rare display of emotion from the man, especially in public. It's not a facade he can keep up for long, even as weak as it is, and he can almost feel the damage being done to their closeness as he tries to fumble his way through pleasantries with her. Better to lance that boil, painful though it may be.

"My apologies, Lore," he says, his voice barely above a whisper - and not only because he's used her shortened name within earshot of others. "There's a matter that is troubling me." As though that weren't obvious. His eyes soften a little as they meet hers. "Rumors are flying, you know." It's an answer, but it raises more questions than answers.

While she'd been looking into her mug, very seriously regarding her ale, when he uses her nickname, Lorelei instantly snaps to attention, her eyes darting over to meet his without a moment's delay. Even sooner, perhaps, her shoulders begin to sag a bit and the ice begins to melt - old habits die hard, it seems - and she leans in to listen as he whispers. Clearly something truly is bothering him, if he's troubling her here and now and not in the privacy of the inn. Well, relative privacy. If their next door neighbors are any indication, those walls are thin enough plaster for any secrets spilled behind them to end up on the lips of town criers the following morning.

Brows furrowed, she leans closer still, eyes full of concern. "Rumors?" She's not playing dumb, either. Lorelei isn't one for sarcasm. "About what?"

At least the secret Jon is about to spill is something that's already on the lips of town cries. The cruel irony is that he's the last to know.

Another sigh. His eyes meet hers, and they soften more still. There's almost a desperate quality to the way his face is shifting, and it's not something she's ever seen from the man before. "Concerning me," he replies, simply. It's singular, not plural - not concerning Jon /and/ Lore. That sort of rumor, perhaps, would be easier to swallow. Even expected.

"I am, as you know, the only son of the Baron of Bloodfield. The heir to my father's lands. There are certain responsibilities that come from that station." Gulp. He looks down at his mug, and it's empty. Unfortunate, that.

She may well know what's coming, but he still has to say it. "Rumor has it," he whispers, so low that she'll need to lean in closer to hear it, "that I am to be wed. Soon."

'Concerning him' doesn't concern her. It doesn't even register that it's singular at first, as the concern in her features persists and she even leans closer still, eager to hear and, if her body language is any indication, to help. She's so far from expecting what she's about to hear that the earnest nod she gives when he explains his obvious situation as the heir to a barony is nearly bordering on tragic. Unfazed, she leans in yet again when he continues in a whisper, a hand even abandoning her glass to hold her steady againast the table.

And then suddenly he speaks those last few words and the room grows cold. Really, it's likely that it's especially warm for the knight across from her, though Lorelei feels none of it. The tips of her fingers on the hand steadying her with the table go white, contrasting with the rest of her pink fingernails and even the skin surrounding. Her eyes grow unfocused for a moment, staring off into space before she blinks rapidly, looking like she's attempting to clear something out of her eyes. When she looks back up at him, after having her head turned to better hear him, her brows are furrowed and her mouth open, though no words escape. Her eyes are, as yet, unreadable.

It's at times like these that Jonathan, tragically, forgets that he's speaking with a commoner. Were his liasion with another noble, such a revelation would be… well, still upsetting, for sure, but at least well understood by his partner. But to Lorelei? It's one of the great ironies of life in the Edge that those who are lower in terms of social rank enjoy, in many ways, a bit more freedom. What he's about to explain is, he realizes too late, foreign to her - and his heart nearly breaks even before he gives the explanation.

His own eyes aren't hard to read. They're desperate, almost pleading with her.

"To Alexandra t'Artan. A viscount's daughter, and a knight of some skill. A… good match, one supposes." Jonathan himself supposes no such thing. "A rumor only, but I know how my father works. It is almost surely true." A pause, probably a short one, but it feels like forever. "The contract is to be signed at the tourney. Arrangements will likely be made shortly thereafter." And what does that mean for the two of them? That question he leaves open for now, if only because he can find no more words.

"I—" It's an instictive response to begin in such a defensive tone with similar language. Despite the ale she's already consumed, Lorelei's suffering from a dry mouth. What's left in the mug is dutifully ignored, the tankard replaced on the table with an echoing snap of metal on wood. He's looked at her again and she can't maintain eye contact, looking around the table, then the wall they're closest to, then even onto the floor - anywhere but here. Her extremities begin tingling as numbness sets in, and, while he can't see her curling her toes in her boots, he likely notices her feet shuffling slightly and her entire body shift forward in her seat.

When she has the gumption to make eye contact again, she notices the pleading. Perhaps, as he laments, if she were noble it'd be better received. What his desperation will meet with, though, is a series of emotions beginning with shock, morphing swiftly disappointment, and ending up even more quickly still on betrayal. Her shoulders roll back, jerking, really, as she 'brushes it off' to no avail. Her lips move, wordless: 'a knight of some skill. The hurt radiating outward from her heart is palpable to the archer, the poor common girl who needed to wheedle her way into a job as a mercenary, as she hears about effortless marriages between knights afforded such educations from the beginning. Her eyes have gone fuzzy again for a moment, her body eerily still until she makes to rise, repeating that first word again before continuing on this time.

"I…think I should go."

What is it about Pacitta? After tonight, Jonathan would be more than happy to never, ever set foot in this damned city again. What he suffered at the Great Raid was bad enough, but this…

He doesn't force the issue when her eyes leave his, instead letting her express her disbelief and frustration, lets her shuffle and twitch and look away. It could be that he would like to give her some space, as a small kindness. It's far more likely that he has no idea what to say. And so he sits, perhaps better-equipped to deal with this truth, but at the same time bewildered. In the abstract, he knew this was coming, but he's always seen it as so very far away. To be confronted with it, in the here and now…

He sees the betrayal in her eyes, and he opens his mouth as if to speak. Words come to him so quickly, the easy defense that his father, not him, chooses the time and the partner, the argument that it is an expectation, one that he cannot shirk… but, as wise as he's ever been, he thinks better of it. Instead, he just meets her eyes as best he can, and he's still pleading with her.

He doesn't speak, not yet, but the look in his eyes says it all. Please stay, they say, almost as though he were whispering to her. Please. Stay with me.

Why, though? Why would she do him this favor? The old Lorelei wouldn't have even bothered attempting to excuse herself. The old Lorelei would have whipped out one of those knives, even here in a crowded establishment where heady drink makes indulgants hypersensitive to everything, especially violence. The old Lorelei might have even spat on his boots as she made her way, haughtily, from the table and out of the pub. Hell, the old Lorelei even tossed ale at his sister, and mug in front of her is at least still half full. Think of the possibilities.

But the Fox sitting here isn't that same woman. For better or worse, she's changed. She did allow the man before her to help her disassemble the wall she kept herself hidden behind, brick by arduous brick, over the course of the past whirlwind of a month. It seems like so long, considering her growth and change, but so little time in the grand scheme of things. Pained, she looks back up at him and stays seated, for now. Her eyes scream it, now, too, and as she presses her lips into a colorless line, she shakes her head. Swallowing, she threads her fingers together, clasping her hands in her lap and looking down.

She /has/ changed. Jonathan has seen it, of course, but in this moment he absolutely knows it to be true. Everything up until now could have just been Lorelei Asheflour coming out of her proverbial shell, showing him a side of her that he'd never seen before. A change in their relationship, certainly, but that is not the same as a change in her personality.

But this? Yes, this is something the old Lorelei never would have done.

There's just a hint of relief in Jonathan's eyes when she returns to her seat, even though she isn't looking back at him. They're both wounded, deeply so, but at least it's comforting to know that he isn't suffering alone. "Lorelei…" he begins, letting out another sigh. He folds his hands together, and unconsciously, he wrings them so tight that his knuckles turn white. He's told her with his eyes a thousand times already, but now he says it with his lips as well. "I am sorry, Lorelei."

Her nod is empty, another reflex that she's acting upon. He's spoken, and so she'll acknowledge it. But she still doesn't speak. Not for a while. They'll likely be sitting there for ten full minutes in relative silence as the life of the tavern bubbles on around them, bawdy songs and raucous laughs filling the air with merriment. In the vacuum around them, it all sounds like a metallic echo that Lorelei can't really hear. She's processing - her lack of focus shows gears turning - and staring at the table. She's also still perched on the edge of her seat.

The words that come next are, in their very essence, a sign of respect. She wants to run. Far. Fast. But she speaks to him now, however briefly, not looking up from the table until she's finished. "I'll be gone tonight." It's not a request, but rather, an assertion. Once she's sure he's heard it, really heard it, she turns her head slowly, braid sliding off to hang over her shoulder, to look at him. "I'll see you at Opening Ceremonies." Of course, he can add. He'll know that's not just one night. But considering where she is, that's an exceptionally generous thing for this introvert to offer.

Opening ceremonies. Right. Two nights away. Two very, very long nights, but at least it's something. Jonathan dips his head in a short nod. It's a little thing, mechanical, but he /is/ acknowledging her, even if he can barely hear anything. Her voice is all that reaches his ears, and the bawdy songs and raucous laughs and other noises of the tavern may as well be utter silence. It's all he can do to focus on Lorelei.

And there's a part of Jon, too, who wants to let this lie, who wants to let their little dalliance be just that, and move on with his life and responsibilities. But whatever it was about Lorelei that drew him to her in the first place demands that he stay, and at least /try/ to retain that closeness with her.

So he nods again, just as slow and mechanical, his eyes meeting hers with pain and frustration and… sadness. More than anything else, sadness. His lips move to speak, but for a while there's no sound coming out. And then, finally, he finds his voice.

"Be well, Lorelei." A simple pleasantry, but there's an ocean of meaning behind it. He forces himself to smile, but there's no mirth in it. And his eyes continue to plead with her, right up to the moment she walks out that door.

Walk she does. She's counting on him to linger here a while, and so she'll dash back to that inn to retrieve her effects. There's a shortcut she discovered on her way over that'll come in handy now, and it'll take no time at all to be out of sight, though by the way he's regarding her now, not likely out of mind.

Right. Her mind is already spinning, and her autopilot already engaged. Swallowing again, she realizes now he's said something to her. When she looks up, her eyes are blank. Her back is stiff. Her shoulders are tense. The bricks are back, and, clearly, aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

Her rise and eventual walk to the door is with the same purpose she approached, her head held high and her eyes ever watchful for tiny details. It's only after she's nodded at him to show she heard him that she finally leaves, not turning to look back, and not truly hurrying until she's out of his sight.

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