(1866-09-14) Life Isn't Fair
Life Isn't Fair
Summary: After the Free-For-All, Alina and Gabriel retire to their room… for a different kind of battle.
Date: 1866-09-14
Related: Alina and Gabriel things
Alina  Gabriel  

l’Saigner Manse - Pacitta City - Pacitta
See scene…

Warnings: Language. Coarse sexual references. Lots of anger. Trauma.

One of the larger tubs has been brought into the room and filled with hot water. Alina had crumbled some sweet smelling herbs into the bath to help relieve some of the inevitable soreness her husband would feel. She had beat him back to the manse (as she didn't have crowds of well-wishers like he did) so the bath is just finishing being drawn as he enters their room.

A large tray rests on the vanity with a variety of cheeses and meats, as well as fresh bread and chunks of apples, pears, and a bowl with tiny tart red pomegranate seeds: one of the benefits of being in a major trade port. Two chilled ewers, one of wine, the other of water, and two glasses rest on the vanity beside the tray.

Alina is in the process of changing out of her dress into something more comfortable for bed. A pair of healoil vials rest on the side table, ready for use after a bath.

Gabriel was both tired and excited, sore and fresh, and many other things. Winning always felt nice. Finally making it to their room, he is grimey with sweat and some blood. He looks at the room, at Alina, and then grunts. "I see you've been busy." He says, his voice a little dry from all of the efforts he has put in today. He strips out of his clothes and without saying anything else, slips into the tub, ready to just soak for several minutes. "So. What did you think?"

Alina frowns at the sweaty, bloody clothing and calls for a maid to come get it out of their room. After the dirty laundry is no longer offending her delicate sensibilities, she nods to Gabriel. "Busy, yes. And I think you did wonderfully," she leans over and places a soft kiss on his forehead. "I was excited to watch." She takes a few pips and offers them to Gabriel with her fingers for him to eat. "Pomegranate? There was a shipment of them from the south of Rivana today, and we got a crate."

"No." Gabriel says, holding a hand up at the pomegranate seeds. "That's alright, I will eat once I am done getting the sweat off of me." He pauses then to slide down further into the tub, letting the water cover his face and hair, and using his hands to wash all of the sweat out of his face and hair. He comes back up after a moment and then asks, "Do you know why I went after Elrick and not Samuel, despite Samuel being in a more lucrative target?"

Alina frowns. "Was he?" she asks curiously. That sort of fighting wasn't her forte. "No, I do not." She pops the sweetly tart fruit into her mouth and allows the juice to burst on her tongue, then swallows. "Why?" she asks, taking a seat in the chair at the vanity.

"Yes, I suppose it might be hard to see such things from the seats, but men start making small changes in their posture depending upon what is going on. Still, the reason is simple. He touched you. Sure, it was before our marriage, but he touched you. That should be a suitable demonstration for you to remember in the future, should anyone else do so again." He goes silent as he scrubs himself with some soap.

Alina's face goes white. Did other couples, those who were not required to speak of everything, have these problems? Perhaps was it better to allow a bit of unknown, untruth in a relationship? Part of Alina wonders this, while the most of her is just in shock. "It was years ago," she stammers. "It meant nothing. He didn't have me… it was just…" tears threaten. "Do you intend to punish me over and over for things that happened before we wed?" she finally says, sharply. "If so, give me the courtesy of knowing, so I can expect it."

Gabriel snorts, shaking his head at her reaction. "Do you think that I am punishing -you-? Really? Because I try to take him down in a tournament, how am I punishing you? No, I am telling you clearly that I will defend you, violently if necessary." He lets out a breath, again shaking his head.

Alina sulks. "How is that defending me? It happened years ago, and we both consented. Abyss," she swears, "He could have forced himself on me easily and claimed heat of the moment, but he adhered to my demand that nothing that would claim my virginity was allowed. So what did you defend me from?" She glowers at him. "No, if you did go after him because once he and I fooled around while we were at court, then it's to massage your own ego and anger that I was with other men besides you." She stands up and moves towards the bed. "Should I find each courtesan you fucked and deny her custom because she took advantage of a young man in pain after Valetta? No, because that's not reasonable. If another man touches me, now that we are wed, against my will, I have utmost faith you will destroy him. But don't 'save me' from those I chose to be with before I was with you. I was young, and I wanted to feel wanted. Now I would rather feel loved." She doesn't mention that she feels less loved since the unmasking. It goes without saying.

Gabriel reaches up and begins rubbing at his face with both of his hands. He has no idea how to respond to her hysterical antics. It was really all very simple in his mind. She was just being overly dramatic and doing the things that women did sometimes when they made things far more complicated than they really were. He stands up, and begins towelling off, though he feels a swell of anger run through him. He tries his best to swallow it down, as he goes to the closet and begins finding some a shirt and some trousers.

Alina flops on the bed, her body tense and angry from Gabriel's showing of jealousy. She couldn't believe him. She hadn't even thought of being with anyone else since before they wed. She was trying to be the best wife she could be, to make him happy, to have their marriage to be a happy one. She wishes she never had unmasked at all with him.

After a few minutes, Gabriel comes back out of the closet wearing a tunic and trousers, something more lowkey, things that he might wear when out riding to exercise a horse than do anything fancy. He puts on his boots and then looks over at Alina sulking on the bed. "I am going out. Your man may have to drag me back as I try to drown myself in drink, or maybe not." He shrugs and then begins to head towards the door.

Alina sits up. "You… you're leaving?" She fights back tears. This wasn't what she wanted tonight. She just wanted to celebrate his win, make love to him, fall asleep in his arms. Instead, there is this. "Why are you going to drown yourself with drink?" she cries. "Is being wed to me that horrible for you?"

He turns, and in one of the few times in his life that he can remember, all he can see is the color red. "Is it horrible?" He doesn't raise his voice, doesn't shout, it's like a whisper, a cold, dark whisper. "No, it isn't horrible. It's kind of nice, nicer than I might have expected." He pauses, just staring at her for a moment. "What is horrible is that entire fucking unmasking that we had to go through, and not even for the reasons that you might even think." He shakes his head, still, his voice hasn't changed.

"Do you know that my brother and I are in a position few others have to deal with? Think, if you will, about how several minutes changes two people's lives. Think of Leonard and Eduard, because they are in the same position, well, no, they're not. Your house does things differently. So again, put yourself in my shoes. Several minutes. That is the difference between Michael and I. Either one of us could have come out first and been the heir, but it was him, and I have never begrudged him that."

A pause. "Low and behold, how our lives have been different, yes? He got to go off to court, I got sent off to first Ostvor, and then travelled a bit. It was a fine time, I wouldn't change that for anything. Yet there came a time when that several minutes accounted for so much, so very much. So many of Couviere's finest were gallavanting around, fucking around at court, since that seems to be all the rage at court. What was I doing? I was a goddamned squire standing along side hardened men, some of the finest men that have ever stood to face their death that I have ever seen."

He steps over to the tray and fills a glass of water, and takes a deep gulp from it before he continues. "We didn't have ladies up there to dance with and to take into little siderooms to have our cocks sucked, or to kiss them in those little places they liked to be kissed. We danced with death each and every day, and it was a dance you either walked away from or you didn't. You got kissed by death himself and for fuck's sake, how most of us began to wish for it. Have you ever gotten to a point where dying was preferable to living? I doubt it."

He shakes his head, the anger still hot within him. "So there we are, a man who was almost like a father to me, perhaps an uncle, had been cut to pieces right in front of my eyes and there wasn't anything anyone could have done to stop it. Rats, dogs, horses… you name it, we ate it. It almost made me sick to eat a dog or a horse, but you get desperate enough, hungry enough, you do it. Everyone else was off dancing merry little jigs and feasting while we were doing it.

"When it was over what did I get? My spurs, yes. That's it and I was completely satisfied by it. My brother received a lightsilver dagger after seeing no real combat. Yet I have seen the looks he has given me. I have sensed how he is jealous of me. Of me. As if winning the circuit championship last year was somehow handed to me, and not something I earned after years of working towards that. Yet all anyone seemed to want to do is bed me or try to curry favor with me. It is disgusting. I am sick of all of it, and everything you told me those nights after my wedding has only made me feel sicker for all of it."

He pauses and lets out a long breath, shaking his head. "So you go ahead and think whatever it is you want to think. Yes, go find those courtesans I fucked so I could forget watching my friends get butchered. Maybe someday I can forget the names and faces of knights who should have been on the field of battle defending the fucking kingdom instead of getting women on their knees to tickle their balls. You may claim this is jealousy, maybe. What I really feel is disgust."

Alina stares at him. Then she lays back down on the bed and turns over, her back to him.

"Go drink," her voice rasps. Her shoulders quake a little, but she holds back her sobs. "Come back, or don't. Do whatever you need to do." Her voice quavers, defeated. He was disgusted, but she had been part of that court life. She still was, and her children would grow to become part of it too. She felt his anger and disgust as if it were a physical thing, choking her, muffling her.

What could she do? She has obligations. And she could not change, would not. She steels herself as best she can. But tears slip down her cheeks anyway.

Gabriel stares right back at Alina. "Whatever I need to do…" He murmurs, shaking his head. "I do not even know what it is that I need to do. I could go get drunk every night for the rest of my life and it wouldn't change a damn thing, nor would it be of any benefit to my sons. No, what I should have done is gone north and found death a few years ago, but it's too late for all of that now."

She sits up, her face puffy, her cheeks tear-streaked. A dozen things fight for dominance to be said— "I didn't want to be with you because of the tournament," she blurts out. "And don't say you should have died. Don't say it! You saved my life… so many times. If you had died I would be dead too!" and a sob escapes her. And another. In moments she is a wreck on their bed, hiccuping sobs, her nightgown soaked with tears. "You… you can't understand… I love you. Even when you look at me like that."

"I didn't say that you did." Gabriel responds, "But you remember what happened as well as I do, and you can remember that I wanted nothing to do with all of that business." Which is more than true because it got them into some trouble. Watching her break down into sobs, he steps over to her and puts a hand on her. "What? You think I loathe you? No, I do love you, that's what makes everything so much worse for me. I have never loved anyone other than you. I… I just cannot come to terms with some of the things that you told me. Can you understand that?"

Alina's hand moves to grip Gabriel's, and she nods. Then she shakes her head. She sniffles, trying to fight back her sobs. "You have to," she whimpers. "You have to understand, to cope. Please." she pleads, begs him. "I can't do it. I can't." She tugs on him. "Gabriel, please hold me, pleaseplease…" She sounds both emotionally wrecked and somewhat terrified.

Gabriel looks down on her, trying to decide on what to say exactly. He had to understand? He had to cope? Well, he did understand. But how could he cope? Finally, he shakes his head, sighing. "You can't do what, Alina? And what do I need to cope with? How can I not feel contempt? And… do you know what the worst part of all of this is? I almost hate uttering these words. We had to be saved by Rivana." The last words leave a bitter taste in his mouth. Still, instead of spitting, he does sit on the bed and put an arm around Alina.

She snuggles against him, not answering his questions for now, only trying to stop her crying. She slides her arms around him, drawing him closer. Finally, she says, "It could have been worse. Ramius had been supplying the Tirians for awhile. They could have triumphed even over the Rivanans too."

He lets her embrace him, and he moves one arm around her, a somewhat comforting gesture. "Yes." He says, his voice even. "They could have defeated them. Still we are weaker for it, both in the troubles we have had with the Tirians and the loss of other things from the earlier wars. This is a realm that has it's share of trouble. That first siege… we never recovered the quality of fighting men that were lost there. Then everything else that has happened since." He shakes his head.

"What would you have us do?" Her voice is wavering, but serious. "How do you propose we fix it?"

Gabriel thinks long and hard for a time. Finally, he shakes his head faintly. "I just do not know. I am worried for what will become of this kingdom though. We have endured so much hardship over the last several decades, and there is little we can trust. Pacitta? They simply wish to acquire as many trade deals as possible and fleece the nobility of both kingdoms. Sanctum? Feh. Fuck them. They are partly responsible for what has happened here."

Alina shifts and moves to slide her arms around Gabriel's neck, her tears drying on her cheeks. "Of course," she replies, her tone more of a serious, analytical one. "There is a peace treaty in the making. Pacitta will try and bend it to their geatest profit. Sanctum will demand more concessions to the Church. But the real question is what each kingdom will want from it." She shrugs slightly, then rests her head on Gabriel's shoulder. "Should we push back into the north again, regain the ground we've lost to the Tirians? Should we hope that after the last loss they suffered in the Battle of Three Crowns that Elsanna is content?" She hmms. "Should Valetta pass back into Couveri hands and cease being a stronghold of the Church? What will happen if it is? Who will man it? The t'Cadri?" Questions, questions… and from her tone, questions she'd already discussed or at least thought about before. Likely with her father.

"All these things, and what they might lead to, Gabriel… that's why we do what we do, the l'Saigner. There isn't a clear answer. I wish there was, I wish I had something to offer you: a clear enemy to fight, an easy answer to give you that would lead to the Couviere you could not be disgusted with."

Gabriel lets her cling to him, his mind considering what she says. "Yes. The peace treaty." He murmurs quietly, his mind still working. "What right does Sanctum have asking for concessions. Fuck the Church. The poor bastards who serve them dutifully as Templars and Paladins are being wasted. These are good fighting men and women who could be used to better purposes. And these Vigilants. The Church controls the most efficient means of travel. So what does that mean if we do not conceed as much as they wish? Will they grip our balls tight in their fist and shut down the gates?" He puts his face in his hands and begins to massage his forehead.

"They dare not," Alina replies. "It would only take a short march south for use or north for the Rivanans, and Sanctum does not have the power to withstand a war— and cutting off gate travel would cause one. No…" and she sighs. "What right do any of us have, asking for concessions? What right do we have to anything that we desire?" She sighs deeply. "You were not trained to politics, my love, my husband. But let me assure you, these games of wordplay and fucking and whispers and rumors have as much of a value as fighting and dying and red blood in the snow. More than, sometimes, for it is those men and women who stay behind at court who often determine when, who, and how many will have to give their lives for their country. Even if they do not always appreciate the sacrifice."

"Games of wordplay, whispers and rumors speak of cowardice." Gabriel says quite plainly. It is one thing to try and word something harsh to be less harsh, courtesy often demands it, but at the same time all I can see is deception and hypocrisy from one edge of the realm to the other. Men and women who dance around court, fucking one another, laughing and tittering while others die? Does that seem right to you, Alina? Would you like it if men and women fucked, danced and gossiped while Eduard or Leonard or one of our other children went off to fight? I think many of these people got a taste of what we ask men and women to do with the invasion, but I wonder how many will heed the lesson."

"Life is seldom right or fair," Alina replies softly. "But now I see why perhaps you wished to quit the tourney circuit. How trite the tourney knights must seem to you, preferring their games and their celebrations andd yes, the fucking and the chasing of skirts that go on at a tournament. It must be frustrating to you when you think of all the tourney knights who found excuses to stay and play instead of riding north, at least until they had no choice." She places a gentle kiss on his cheek. "As for our sons… one day I may have to send one or both into a situation that will likely kill him, while I stay home or at court and dance and gossip. It is the cost of doing business, Gabriel. I ache that it is so, but I know that I will do what must be done. For the good of Couviere."

"Yes, well… the idea of a 'tourney knight' is a little hard to swallow. If you want to learn how to use a sword, you better be willing to fucking use it in actual combat." Gabriel says, his tone annoyed at those who see themselves more as gloating showmen than actual knights. "And most of these people want a show. As if the Free-For-All could be anything like a real battle. Did you see how everyone split off into duels? Battle isn't like that, and some might say that when I came at Thaddeus from behind, or joined Evelyn to take down Jonathan, that I should have waited. No. If you can kill your enemy, you do it. Let the crowds swallow that for some time."

"I liked what you did," Alina admits, her hand sliding down his chest. "To the Abyss with what the crowd thought. And to think you and I once argued about rules of combatant engagement. You win or you die. Rules are for games, but in a life or death situation there is no game."

She lightly taps his chest with her fingers. "There will always be tourney knights, men and women who chase glory and accolades. I know that you are a better man than that."

Gabriel grunts, "Yes, you are right about that, but if any of our children becomes a knight, they will not be a damned tourney knight. There is plenty of fame and glory to be won in an actual fight, I would say more." He sighs and then stands up. "You should wash your face." He says, stepping over to the door to call for a bowl of water to be brought, along with a cloth. A few minutes pass and the servant returns with a bowl of warm water and a cloth. He takes it and then puts it on a table, dipping the cloth into the water and then squeezing the excess water out of it. "Here you are, Alina." He offers the towel to her.

Alina takes the cloth gratefully and wipes down her face. "Are you still leaving to go drinking?" she asks in a small voice.

"No." He says, simply. He pats her shoulder, and then moves to the closet to disrobe. "You should get some sleep. I will come to bed in a minute."

Alina folds up the cloth and lays it beside the two vials of healoil, still sitting capped beside the bed. She slides under the blankets and peers out over them, as if she isnt completely sure he is coming to bed. She has slid over to leave him ample room though.

Gabriel comes out several moments later, naked, and then slips into the bed beside Alina. He stares upward, not saying anything. Just thinking. Thinking about what he should even do with his life.

She leaves him like that for several minutes, then slides over to curl up beside him, fingers sliding across his bare chest, tracing his scars. "I love you," she murmurs softly. She does not push further or say anything more, content to run her fingertips over his chest, his scars, and simply lay beside him.

Gabriel finally moves to put an arm around her. "I know. I love you too, even if these past few weeks have convinced you otherwise."

Alina is quiet for a few more moments. "I've missed my blood," she says softly. "Just this once, so it might be nothing." Her tone speaks of a quiet hope otherwise. She snuggles against him, content to have his arms around her.

Gabriel sucks in a breath, holding it for what seems like an eternity before releasing it. "Have you now? Do you think that…" He trails off, waiting for her to answer.

"Maybe," Alina replies quietly. "I can hope." She smiles at him, the expression tight. "We can hope. A daughter is what I want, but… if its another son, I will survive."

"Yes. We can hope." He squeezes Alina close to him, and then he closes his eyes. "Sleep, Alina. I will need my rest for coming events."

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