(1310-10-22) Out Of The Frying Pan
Summary: Jaime Daur, Alcibiades Rousse's mentor, friend, and father figure, corners Isabelle de Valais for a much needed chat during their voyage to Kriti.
RL Date: October 22, 2018
Related: Everything in this page.

The Open Seas

"Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink."

― Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner


It is a blessing in itself that the endless expanse of dark blue surrounding them remains almost as calm as glass, though the winds that carry The Dancer towards their destination are edged with frost to hint at the coming of an early winter. On the top deck, there is nothing for miles save for the souls that make this small, wooden world their home, the sound of its sails unfurling into the wind and the call of orders sound off from body to body. From without and within, the vessel appears organic and alive, its denizens sunk in the tasks that keep its heart beating.

True to her word, she helps, when she can, though so far her duties have been relegated to meals, the watch, and rigging; perhaps there are a few who are skeptical about her ability to brave heights with nothing but ropes for a brace, but she takes to high places and the air like someone born into it - as if it were natural for her to fly. She scales these heights without hesitation or fear, no matter how terrifying the wind, sometimes strong enough to lift her and the fibrous cage that separates her from life and death. But that was never all too surprising to those who know her best. Danger has always, and ever been, the fuel that sustains her.

She isn't doing any of that presently, for now, quietly treating her hands with balms and creams that she had brought with her. Vanity, too, is part and parcel of her condition, but this is of a practical sort - welts and bruising cover her hands; it has been years since she's done hard, manual labor, delicate skin ripped in places and leaving it difficult to grip much of anything. She takes care of these now before leaving them to languish, carefully wrapping them up once she is done and tucking it into the bands on her wrists, before drawing her gloves back on. She always wears them, when working, but sometimes even those do not help.

Isabelle de Valais is at the back of the ship, her items put away and dressed in the manner others aboard this specific ship had seen her in the past - serviceable, fitted breeches and thigh-high boots with sensible heels, her shoulders swathed in a coat made of soft, weatherproofed leather and trimmed with warm wolf fur - pelts which had also been gifts from Augustin, transformed into something fashionable that she could use, mindful even then about the things she truly likes.

Jaime Daur is an old man in a young man's game - past forty now, his features lined both with age and exposure to the elements — and seamed with scars. A grapevine scar traces its way across the left side of his cheek, and another can be visible peeking up from beneath the serviceable sea-coat he wears, its fabric faded and mildewed by years of exposure to the elements. He walks with the rolling gait of a seaman, unconsciously adapting his body to the subtle demands of his aquaceous home.

Other men are working, polishing the light cannons, scrubbing the deck, splicing line. Some are in the rigging attending to the fine points of sailing, taking in the topgallantmast-staysails or some such thing. But Jaime is… well, it is not that the man doesn't work. Nor that he doesn't know how to sail. But his employment on The Dancer is purely conditional on the violence he summons up from the depths of whatever soul he has left. Currently, he has no actual duties — his men are drilling with cutlasses and boarding-axes, and he can trust them to act without supervision.

He leans against the taff-rail alongside Isabelle, squinting absently at the seamen tending to the great steering-wheel. It takes two men to tend to it, and another stands at the hourglass, preparing to turn it as soon as it empties. "Funny old thing, innit?" Jaime's conversational gambit is a first this voyage. Either he has been avoiding Isabelle, or his work has really kept them apart. Regardless, he hasn't spoken to her. "You can be tougher'n dried beef, but y'get put to a new task…" He nods down at Isabelle's gloved hands, "…It's as though you never worked at all." Reaching into his jacket, he produces a clay pipe and a packet of tobacco, beginning to pack it.

"You are, ain't you? Tough as dried beef."

"All consequences of my pampered languishing in Marsilikos, I assure you," Isabelle tells him simply and with an open smile that is more humored than anything, her head tilting towards the older man. There is no surprise, radiating an aura of expectation - she knew she was going to see him eventually. Dark eyes flecked with gold sweep over features beaten and fashioned by a violent life, taking in the new lines gouged by time on the man's hard visage, marking the new ones silently and recalibrating the new bits she manages to find in the ever-evolving portrait she keeps of the man in the shrouded galleries of her history.

"It's just as strange for me to stay in one place for so long as with you, I'm certain. You know that I'd rather be out in the world than in Marsilikos." She turns away from her vigil of the sea, having filled it with her own contemplations in the last hour. Not that she was reflecting on her life, she is no philosopher and whenever she has room, she prefers to live in the moment, but largely about the task that placed her here, turning over the conundrum of the two letters in her mind and hunting down other possibilities. There is another one that she hadn't considered and one that had only come to her while standing here, drinking deep of the salt and brine, and the cold slash of the wind on her cheeks. Fresh air does wonders for thinking.

But she tables them, for now. Her smile grows more impish as she leans against the rails, elbows propped against the wooden beam and taking on an easy slant. She tilts her head towards the sun and basks in its warmth, much like a large, sleek jungle cat that managed to find her way to a boat. "How are you, Jaime?"

"Same as I ever was, 'cept my dick don't get hard as easy anymore."

Jaime's crass remark drops heavily into the conversation. This is no gentleman. Despite it, the way he glances at Isabelle, the faint hint of amusement in his eyes, makes it seem as though he were testing her a bit. He lights his pipe off a long lucifer match, puffing it to life industriously as he gazes along the length of the blade-thin ship. "You know I served the Duchy when I was younger." It isn't a question.

Jaime glances sidelong at Isabelle for a moment before continuing, his tone neutral. "I lost a lotta friends. Men, women. Saw a lot of action. Shipboard, on land. Didn't matter. They wanted it done, we did it." His eyes narrow for a moment, growing distant, the mark of an old man reflecting on his youth. "They retired me for bein' a hero. Really, I think, I was costin' them too much in medical supplies." A brief, crooked, nasty, grin.

"Anyhow. I saw a lot of interestin' things. Met a lot of people who claimed to be diplomats, or travelin' merchants. Or even god-pounders, sometimes. But none of 'em was." He glances at Isabelle yet again, then back along the length of the ship. "Only thing stayed the same with them folk was.. when they showed up, we went and killed somethin'."

He lets the silence build for a few seconds before continuing. "I only got one son, Isabelle."

And instead of a gasp of outrage and a slap, either or both wholly expected from a young lady of good breeding, he gets: "Ah, so you've become more selective in your old age."

He'd find the devil in her there, with the way Isabelle casts her eyes upon him sidelong. Not even turning her face to look at him really, her nose still lifted and turned towards the sun. But there is no question as to where her attention truly lies at the present moment. Her expressive mouth as hooked upwards at the corner, rendering it lopsided but genuine in its bent.

As he continues on, she turns her face back fully towards the warmth of the sun and when he is finished, she takes silent stock of not just his words and the history he imparts upon her, the cynicism present there, of a man who has been through much and has seen a lot more. But when she replies, after a heartbeat or two of silence, her voice is absent and devoid of expression.

"You must think me as callous as the rest of them," she concludes. "Your faux-diplomats and traveling merchants and god-pounders. And you'd be right. I can be." She, however, does not definitively confirm nor deny the suspicions that lie between the words he utters.

"But in the end, that ought to be something you should discuss with him, don't you think? Believe me, after that raid on the slaver two years ago, I'd rather he not be involved in anything I do, or anything that has anything to do with me. And it isn't as if I hadn't tried either, Jaime. I did. If I had a choice, I would be doing this without him and his people."

"Aye, that's how it goes, innit? He doesn't give us a choice. We just love him." Jaime exhales slowly, gazing at the deck of his ship. The ship's cat saunters along, coming up to prowl between Jaime's legs, certain of her welcome. The old marine leans over, stroking the back of her head lightly until she moves over to terrorize Isabelle. "I don't think you're callous," remarks Jaime idly. "And I see the way you two look at one another."

He quirks a grin, glancing sidelong at Isabelle. "And I hear the way you two treat one another, too. The whole ship hears it sometimes." His humorous expression fades and he looks out to sea. "I dunno if any of them were callous, really. Not hard-hearted. No, I'm callous and hard-hearted. They were — you are — believers." The crusty warrior's tone is suddenly shrewder than he's revealed before, his eyes sparkling with a ruthless intelligence.

"Alcibiades always wanted to serve in the Navy," he says, apropos of nothing. "Ever since he was a boy. Ought to have seen him learning to pilot a little skiff. Determined damn lad. He had blonder hair when he was young." Considering Isabelle, he continues "He thinks it'll help his brother, this. Means the world to him. He'd be here anyway, cock-led fool that he is, but he does think it. You think he's right?"

I see the way you two look at one another.

Something twists in her stomach at that, and while Isabelle's eyes lid, most of her reaction to that statement is internal and one that manages to remain behind the blast doors of her inscrutable expression. Perhaps she could take comfort in the fact that Jaime knows Alcibiades better than most - better than she does, and perhaps better than she ever could, but the observation makes her uneasy in ways that she can't eloquently articulate, prickling at the back of her neck and something frozen and cold washing down the length of her spine. Guillermo's words hiss from the back of her skull.

"Not all of them are," she says in the end, electing for something else other than that particularly thorny path. With the ship's mascot attempting to bat at the tassels on her coat, she leans down to scratch the cat's ears. "Believers. Some do it out of personal necessity, others because they were asked, others, more commonly, because they're compelled. I've come across many of them in the past - foreigners, d'Angelines. They run a wide spectrum of types, but you'll be surprised to find that the believers are few. Duty, responsibility…even loyalty, these are formidable foundations but not enough, in the end, to constitute actual faith. And I know this, Jaime. I started early. Very early. Early enough to be able to determine who the truly dangerous ones are."

His last question is one that hangs in the air heavily, and Isabelle finally turns at that, to fold her arms on the railing and regard the sea again.

"I promised him I would try, and quite frankly, it would be easier for me if that was all that he was after. If this was all just a way to benefit him in the end. It's certainly a good way to. He's done enough for me in my past undertakings to warrant a look in his direction, but like I already explained to him in the past, it has to be done correctly and in a way that is sufficiently separate from the shadows of the actual work."

<FS3> Alcibiades rolls Body + Gymnastics (skylarking): Good Success. (6 8 6 8 5 2 1 7 4)

Jaime smiles faintly. "An honest answer," he notes approvingly. "Y'say you started young. Very young, eh?" The grizzled Marine puffs a smoke-ring out of his pipe, smiling as it floats up into the rigging. He puffs another. And then a third. Each ring is smaller and tigher than the last, and the three float up together, spreading slowly.

"I just hope y'know what you're gettin' into with him," he says after a few beats. His eyes narrow faintly. Looking suddenly directly at Isabelle, he says "Last two years have been hard on 'im. He's been chafin'. Knows he ain't meant to be a merchant. He's a sea-wolf, not a cow." He drops his voice when he says these last words, careful not to let the crew here. "Look." He points up into the rigging.

Alcibiades Rousse is running along the narrow, inches-wide, spar that supports the mainmast's topsail. And then he leaps out into naked air, with no protection, no safety line whatsoever. It seems as though he must fall, but a sure hand grasps a stay. He slides down, down, landing on one of the fighting platforms. His laughter, and the laughter of the man keeping watch on that platform, can be heard down on deck.

"He's a natural," Jaime says admiringly. "Has a touch with the men that only true fightin' sailors have. They follow him as though they were Navy." He glances sidelong at Isabelle. "He rules us all, in the end, an' he don't even know it."

"'Gettin' into with him'?" Isabelle repeats, casting the man next to her an arch look. "I've tried to stay out of it other than what is necessary to achieve my own objectives. He's the one who threw himself into my everything and refuses to let go." She picks at her gloves, the beginnings of a frown tugging on the corners of her mouth. "I can understand the mostly accurate supposition that plenty of the women bred into my position and higher aim for both love and landed title, but that was never me, Jaime. Never. I could scarcely give a damn if I ever married, or had children, or made Vicomtesse or anything else that came with lands and holdings. I promised to assist him with his family not because I hoped he'd take to his lordship but because…"

She remembers his face, a hardened man left low and sick with what he discovered in the belowdecks of a slaver, led into hell because he wouldn't say no to her when approached with the endeavor in the first place. She closes her eyes.

"I wish I could say that if I could turn back time and undo all of it, I would," she continues quietly. "But I don't mourn over doing what is necessary to get something done, Jaime. I never have, and I never will."

He tells her to look, so she does. She shifts from her lean, and tilts her head back to watch Alcibiades' familiar shadow fly across the rigging, the echoes of his laughter and that of his men finding her and her companion where they stand. That twisting ache returns, nevermind that she can't help but smile, however faintly, watching his shadow spread over the deck - like a bird in flight. A fucking seagull, he described himself, once. Maybe a different kind of bird, entirely.

"Might be for the best that he doesn't," she says in the end. "Not that I think he would change towards his men if he does, but it's part of his charm."

"Oh, I never took you for a husband-seeker, sweetheart. Nor yet a fortune-finder." Alcibiades' mentor turns and looks out at the water to the stern of the ship, its speedy passage leaving a white cream along the dark, dark, waters. Jaime chews on the stem of his pipe for a few moments, then exhales again, forming another series of smoke-rings. "You wouldn't take any of it back?" The older man's eyes are mischievous, almost cruel.

"Not even lovin' him?"

He grins wickedly, lifting his gaze to where Alcibiades is spreading good cheer amongst the upper rigging. "You're a good sort, Isabelle de Valais. We've all seen that." For the first time, Jaime's tone softens. "But you're here thinkin' this is all business for you. Or that it can be, ever again. It ain't. It can't be."

The grizzled former marine reaches aside, lays a heavy hand on Isabelle's hand, just for a moment, and gives it a surprisingly gentle squeeze. "He's under your spell, y'see. He'll be with you until y'cast him off."

"And y'won't cast him off."

Not even lovin' him?

Would she ever take that back? The world will never know, or even have any confirmation to the statement, because Isabelle says absolutely nothing to that, though she clearly heard it. The stubborn tilt to her jaw is there, as well as a faint tic where it clenches by the hinge, close to the elegant line of her throat however hidden by a collar lined with wolf fur.

She's still watching Alcibiades' distant form and how his men so easily accept him as one of their own - and perhaps wasn't even conscious of it herself until the heavy hand of the former marine falls over her own. She turns her head to look down at his knuckles, where rough fingers squeeze her gloved fingers. She's still looking at them when she says, so quietly that the winds render it almost inaudible: "I don't….want to hurt him any more than I already have."

She pauses, but only briefly.

"And I know myself. I will." She looks up at that, her expression downright reproachful. "You're his father, aren't you supposed to assume some paternal responsibility and convince him to stay away from me?"

"Oh, no. No, no. I ain't gonna fall into that trap. The boy's just becomin' himself, and you'd have me take that away? The fuck do you think I am?" Jaime rumbles a laugh, flexing his fists absently as he stares up into the rigging again. The wind is picking up, sending spray flying along the length of the ship, splattering against his cheek like salt tears. He grins again.

"No, the responsibility for him, that rests wi' you now. I'll keep 'im alive in battle, lass, but I hand over all the rest t'you."

Jaime drops that trap — and it was a trap, carefully laid throughout this discussion — as neatly as any hunter. He grins, completely unabashed. "And I know you'll hurt'm. And he'll hurt you. And life'll hurt each of you." The man speaks with a lazy, laconic, authority. It's easy to see him as some hoary old dispenser-of-wisdom — hard to remember that, in the near future, he'll return to his role as a screaming banshee death-dealer.

"That's called life. Welcome to it." A brief beat. "And you do deserve it. All'a it."

"I am not his keeper," Isabelle protests, pulling her hand away and folding her arms across her chest. "Nor am I his wife." The word itself causes every part of her to recoil, and with such a force that she was convinced, for a moment, that it would blow her all the way to Kriti without the help of The Dancer. She has been fighting any and all attempts to be betrothed for so long that her reactions to anything in relation to it can't help but be visceral and instinctive.

"I was his friend well before…before…whatever this is, hence, I will always assist him if he should ask me and in whatever endeavors he undertakes, but if you're right and he's just starting to have an idea as to where he belongs, then the responsibility falls upon him and him alone. I'm not in the business of guiding men or women to their fullest potential."

There's a sniff, and she turns around to look back towards the ocean. "Besides, you underestimate him. Like any father, I suppose." There's dryness there, and a hint of her own history laden thick within her contralto. "He does not require any hand holding on my part. If anything, he would resent it. He was never afraid of his own mistakes, Jaime. He would gladly put his hands into fires of his own making and be burned for it, if he thinks he'll learn something valuable from the experience."

It's called life, he says. Well, what does she know? She's never been…


She props her hand on her chin, elbow braced against the rail, and grumbles.

Jaime listens with a tolerant, condescending, stupid, expression. One that — were he slightly less deadly — would invite a slap, punch, stab, or kick. But this is Jaime, and his amusement hides a wide swathe of deeper thoughts. "I don't underestimate anything," he says after awhile. And his baritone is gentler, even kindly, as he eyes Isabelle. "But I do enjoy hearin' you defend him."

He taps out his pipe, sending the fragrant ash floating off into the ship's wake. If he takes offense at what is, frankly, a bit of a dig, it doesn't show. He mulls over the woman's words, humming a sea shanty without seeming to realize he's doing it. After awhile, he says "You know, as we grow older, we get… entangled. Find ourselves carryin' other people's trust. Other people's pains. We all do it." He nods to a Marine, perhaps even as grizzled as Jaime himself, who is sharpening a stack of cutlasses down on the main deck. "Him and me, we been friends twenty years. I can't tell you the weight of memories we carry." He shrugs easily.

"The two of you, if y'live, are going to have many years of friendship, or love, or whatever-the-fuck. You'll carry each other's honor an' each other's faith. Sorry, kid." He does sound sorry, genuinely regretful. "But that's how this is goin' to be. That's what comradeship is."

It wouldn't be any less than what he deserves. Isabelle was never so forgiving towards anyone who pried into her personal business. The fact that she had given Jaime what she had at all speaks volumes of the respect she accords the man and his place in Alcibiades' life.

Not that he would know that, really. She can't name too many in the entire world who truly knew her.

To her credit, there's no actual anger, or heat. What she takes away from this conversation, in the end, is no small measure of discomfiture followed by breathtakingly relieving reassurance that the man has always done what he has for Alcibiades from when he was a boy. He keeps him alive, he had said, but she knows better than most that the word means more than the physical, a world beyond how one breathes air into his lungs, maintains the beating of his heart and keeps his body moving.

And he would have to. She is not confident at all in her ability to deliver what Jaime provides for him.

"If it makes you feel any better," she begins, her eyes still locked towards the endless blue around them. "He's too damn stubborn to let go of life so easily. Whereas I…" And there she tilts that cutting smile towards Jaime, sharp enough to bleed him, lighting up her expression and driving away the shadows cast by her grousing. "…am simply too fabulous to die."

"You're both bloody annoyingly beautiful, truth t'tell. First thing I ever noticed about him. Too damn pretty." Alluding, without meaning to, to the alley-way where Jaime's life changed so dramatically. "I remember when he showed up at my door, night his father beat him so bad that he finally left. Broken nose. Split lips, his eye half-shut." Jaime's voice is relentlessly calm. "Wantin' to go to sea, to run away. Or else go back and kill the old bugger."

Jaime glances at Isabelle, tilting his head faintly. "First thought I had. Before anythin' else, first thought I had, I swear to you…" And he grins that nasty grin again. "…Thank Yeshua someone finally took a chip off that little statue." He chuckles throatily. "Did he ever tell you about it? The night he left?"

Shaking his head, Jaime goes on like a proud father, rejoicing in the opportunity to shame his offspring. "Wanted to go to sea, the little snot. Didn't have no sea-cloak, didn't have no proper kit, no references to get aboard a decent merchantman and not some fishin' barge."

Another soft snort. "If I hadn't gone on along wi' im, I think hed've been dead in a month. Dunno why I did, really. Boy'd been botherin' me for three years. I should'a been glad to be rid of him." He looks up into the rigging musingly, head tilted to see around a flapping sail. "No… you two ain't gonna die."

<FS3> Isabelle rolls Psychology: Good Success. (2 6 8 7 5 4)

"He told me about how the two of you met, and I knew that he did leave, with you, but not the circumstances. He did tell me, rather recently, that his father beat him." Her contralto reflects no anger there, too, but the look in her eyes is dangerous enough to warrant utmost care in broaching the subject. Perhaps had the man lived there would have been a chance at reconciliation, but even if presented, she knows herself well enough to know that in her end, the older Rousse was beyond forgiveness.

But she hears his paternal pride, and genuine affection, and within the labyrinthine halls of her elusive heart, she can feel its minotaur stir, longing that she could never admit to surfacing - bittersweet and absolutely unwanted until she shuts and seals the doors, buttressing them with new wards. Her own relationship with her father is a complicated one and this wouldn't be the first time that she had wondered how different things could have been if he had just…

I should'a been glad to be rid of him.

"You didn't," Isabelle remarks. "Because you were lonely." She inclines her head towards him, her smile brimming with rue, and with the confidence of one who doesn't just rely on her ability to see through other people's skins, but one who has tasted what it truly means to live the word. But there are differences, oh yes. Glaring, inescapable differences.

"You're a tough old sod, Jaime," she continues, returning her gaze to the sea. "And were the service enough for you, you would have stayed with it. But you didn't. You found something you loved, truly loved, for the first time in your entire life, and you're simply too canny a man who has been through too much, and seen too much, to let go of it. I told you before that I started early enough to know the difference between a believer and the rest. You were a loyal servant to the Crown and your duchesse, your record was exemplary and beyond reproach, but I knew from the moment we met that you weren't one. And there is nothing wrong with that, mind. If anything, it makes you smarter than I ever will be."

"No, I'm no believer."

Jaime smiles aside at Isabelle, gruff features twisted in a wry expression. He looks her up and down slowly. From most men, it might be assumed that Jaime is taking in her physique, her breasts, her lips. But there is a different sort of measure that he is taking, and it shows. This is the expression of one professional weighing the attributes of another.

"I'm a killer." He raises both his meaty hands, turning them over to examine their palms. "Had these here soaked red to the elbow. I once bit a man's throat out." His eyes narrow for a moment as he studies Isabelle. "I'm what you wish you were, girl. Conscienceless. I never once lost a night's sleep over the shit I done." And he smiles again, gentler than before. "I'm everythin' you and the boy never will be."

"Maybe that's why I like you two so much."

I once bit a man's throat out.

Unconsciously, Isabelle's fingers tighten in her sleeve as she maintains her vigil out into the water, eyes lifting momentarily to watch the clouds and follow the way they drift so effortlessly over the horizon. She can still taste it. The crimson, coppery tang of it.

"I don't wish that," she corrects. "There are days that are bad enough that I hope for the ability, but I would never want for it to be permanent. I would give and sacrifice everything for Her Grace and I wouldn't dare bore you with my reasons, but what I do for her should not be easy. Conscience is for the soul like pain is to the body, Jaime. Both are essential in letting you know whether something needs fixing. And the costs….I may not look it, but I always account for them. Without a conscience, I wouldn't be able to appreciate them and it is because I appreciate them that I have tried to push Cib away from all of this. I don't want to kill the thing that made you love him in the first place."

She turns, finally, to face Jaime fully, hip propped against the rail as she looks him in the eye. "Cib told me you were d'Angeline to the very marrow," she tells him. "But I suspect that you doubted that your entire life, until you met him." Love, after all, defines their culture. "And once you realized you were capable, you had the reassurance you needed that all that you did fight for, and bled for, was not for nothing and in realizing that, it set you free. No wonder you would follow him, or let him follow you."

Her hand extends at that, lifting her gloved fingers to touch the old marine's cheek. Her smile returns, but faintly.

"You are a killer," she tells him. "But not just."

"You're a clever girl," Jaime says idly. He doesn't sound as though he really approves of cleverness, at least not when it's directed at him. He certainly has no qualms about using it against someone, when they leave themselves open. His tough gaze drops down to the fingertips at his cheek, then into the eyes of the young woman before him. "Clever enough to know," he adds, "That I loved men before Alcibiades." A nod toward the hardened old marine down on the deck.

"I fought and killed and never questioned rights and wrongs, never questioned the Duchesse. I'm certain y'read my record. Y'know what I did." He smiles faintly, proudly, lifts his chin in an echo of Isabelle's own defiance. "I loved the men I fought with. An' I loved some of the men I killed. I even lay with a man once or twice that I thought I loved."

D'Angeline to his core, Jaime has no bones about displaying his preference. And no person would dare think him effete because of it. He squints out to sea and continues, after a few moments. "But you're right, in a way, girl. Before I die, I'm gonna see him take his rightful place in our Duchy. Because he's more'n I am. Mebbe I'm biased, but he is nobility. He's exactly what they ought to be." Jaime clears his throat roughly. "He wants to help his brother. But I think in the end, given half a chance, Alcibiades Rousse is goin' to do much, much, more'n that. And I'm gonna go along to make certain."

"Yes," Isabelle tells him. "But not in this way. I'm talking about the kind of love that elevates a kingdom while ruining another, Jaime. Not a heated, transient thing between people."

Her cleverness is just another reason why she has survived in a dangerous profession without being the homicidal maelstrom that Jaime could be in the middle of a battle, or lightning personified like Augustin when there was a sword in his hand and insurmountable obstacles to punch through…or Alcibiades, himself, when confronted with something impossible that he wants.

He wants to help his brother. But I think in the end, given half a chance, Alcibiades Rousse is goin' to do much, much, more'n that.

Her smile remains, her razored edges softening, but the look of it is strange. She knows, Jaime would be able to see it in her face…and something else, entirely. The expression on her sunkissed mien is as close to heartbreaking sadness as anyone has ever seen on her.

"I know that too," she says quietly, leaning in to buss the old marine's cheek lightly, before lowering her hand and moving away.

"Take care of yourself, Jaime."

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