(1312-05-22) Counterproposals
Summary: Symon comes home in poor spirits and with dire matters to discuss, only to find that Étienne has anticipated him— and planned a feast into the bargain…
RL Date: 22/05/2020
Related: Follows fairly directly from You’re Like A Mule.
symon etienne 

Symon and Étienne's Chambers — Les Tanières

This small sitting room is wood paneled and cozy. It has a small fireplace with a shared flue, with two comfortable chairs in front of it, with a small table on a green and black rug between them. There is a small writing desk and an X shaped oak foldable chair in front of it.

The floor of the bedroom is made of blackened wood that has aged to be hard as stone. It bears a shallow dip at the door, worn shiny by the passage of feet. There is an oval rag rug made of old clothes in all the shades of the sea in all its moods at the center of the open space. The room is lit by an irregular window, with a deep, padded sill. It has heavy asymmetrical shutters than can be closed completely, or secured on one side, with thick green curtains that can be drawn to hide the window seats. There is simple stained wood paneling. The ceiling is timber frame and plaster. Someone has re-plastered it, embedding a wide assortment of shells from the north coast of Azzalle and the southern coasts of Eisande. In between are smaller bits of mica and iridescent shell fragments that make the ceiling sparkle when a candle is moved.

The furnishings are in the same heavy, sturdy, but simple style as the sitting room. A canopy bed with faded green and black hangings is pushed against one wall, with a heavy chest at the foot. A table and two chairs is set by the windows. The table holds a large brass bowl for washing and an ewer of mildly lavender scented water, assorted cloths, a shaving kit, strops, and some other rather nice male grooming items of clearly local manufacture. A bookshelf mostly holds particularly nice shells and books on astronomy, navigation, and travel, along with a few other items. The bedside table holds a lamp, spare candles, assorted small jars and tools for care of weapons. A few swords and practice blades are propped in a corner.

Something must be up. All of Symon's favorite pastries are laid out on the table, with a collection of his favorite pasty flavors in the centor in case he wants savories. The good wine is open and airing. There are tiny marzipan animals arranged in a circle. There is a vase of lily of the valley arranged with ivy and myrtle. Their servant has been given the evening off and Étienne is wearing his best tunic, the one from the Longest Night in Elua, despite it being far too warm for it. He is fidgeting nervously with the tiny edible animals as he awaits Symon.

Symon has been off doing some important errand, but he walks in only to be stunned by this unexpected scene. Normally he might not question it, but on this day, he tilts his head while kicking off his boots near the door. "Étienne?"

Étienne gives him a sheepish little smile. As he turns the pouch he keeps Symon's stone in is visible on the outside of the tunic. "I, uh, hope you're hungry?"

Symon swallows, but nods. "I…suppose so," he says, approaching. "B-but w…what's going on? Is there something…?" He doesn't quite know what to ask.

Étienne crosses to him quickly and caresses his cheek, tilting Symon's face up for a gentle kiss, "I may have… come up with a solution to our problems, but you may… not like it and we should still maybe run it past someone good at politics." He looks at him earnestly, "I'm not leaving you. At least, not unless you want me to." He blinks.

Symon's eyes dart here and there. "You're not…? W-what do you…? B-but I w…was going to…" He shakes his head. "Tell me," he requests.

Étienne caresses his cheek, "You were going to what, love. Come sit. Let me pour you some wine." He pours them both a generous portion and drinks some of his, for courage, "If you… haven't got an heiress in mind, Jehan-Pascal… sort of gave me an idea that I think could work for you. Marriage wise.”

"Tell m…me your idea first," Symon requests, sitting down on a seat. He picks up his wine and has some pre-emptively as well, reaching for Étienne's hand then.

Étienne takes his hand in his calloused swordsman's paw, "You need money, or someone who's very good at accounts and managing resources to make them larger. And you need a clever wife who understands and appreciates you the way I do. If… if no heiress that suits is to hand, well, have you thought of looking at an adept of Bryony? We could try to find one of your age with the right… One who likes you. She wouldn't come with lands, but she could make the best of what you have and your name would be an inducement, and… she might be flexible about… about the other part of the idea in a way an heiress might not.”

"B-Bryony," Symon replies, looking aside and shrugging. "I suppose. B-but they m…might b-be too clever. Is it…a specific one you have in m-mind, or…?" He pauses to drink the wine again. "I've just b-been to see Chimène," he spills.

Étienne says, "We could go and see if any take our fancy, Sweet, and if whoever she is likes you in return." He ducks his head, "What…what did she advise? About our situation?"

Symon takes a breath and lets it out. "She says she can find a good m…match. Rousse, p-probably. I think…I think w…whatever I do, it needs to b-be set in m…motion soon, so I don't delay anymore. I told her I'd write her b-by tomorrow w…with an answer. She's good at p-politics. She had suggestions for how to approach my p…parents, w-with a lawyer, once a m…match is m-made so I can get w…whatever rights and funds I w-want as heir."

Étienne lifts Symon's hand to his lips and kisses his palm, "Love, if the swan wants to find you a wife, you musn't turn her down, just… it's important she be good to you and the… the other half of my idea… we can forget it if you like."

Symon looks wary again. "W…what's the other half?" he asks. "A B-Bryony was one half?"

Étienne lowers his hand, but doesn't let go, "I… you'd want to run it by someone better at politics than me and maybe it won't work with your heiress. I just… I thought if you really wanted… not to ever part, I could abdicate in favour of Agnès and be your consort." He is too frightened of Symon's reaction to look up from the empty plate, "Then you'd always have someone to love you and look after your interests."

Symon looks startled by this idea. "B-but…w…w…what a loss for you!" he says. "You m…might actually b-be good at b-being heir. If you…gave it up…"

Étienne looks him in the eye, "If you… if you don't want me, I'll go home and try my best, but it's not a loss, it's a gain. Your name is good enough to maybe make it right at home and I… I don't want any of it if I could be with you, helping you be a good heir instead. I mean I do have the training, I've been managing things here for you pretty well. I… I can't be your wife, but I could be with you, making your life… comfortable. If you wanted me to."

Symon stares at Étienne a long moment, then covers his face with both hands, breaking into sobs. Either it's been a long day for him, or that offer is particularly emotional for him, or both.

Étienne's expression is one of deep distress, "I'm sorry Symon! I take it back! Nothing has to change if you don't want!" He's up in an instant with a handkerchief, "I shouldn't have brought it up! It's all right!”

Symon takes the handkerchief and holds it in his hand, but he moves to put his face against Étienne's chest instead so he can cry there.

Étienne wraps his arms around him, rubbing his back gently, "ll I want is your happiness, sweet sweet Symon. I swear. Whatever you decide, I'll do my best to help you make it so."

"I've b-been so selfish," Symon says, muffled against Étienne. "I'm so sorry. You've had to f…fix everything around m-me."

Étienne kisses the top of his head, "You are sweet and generous and kind, and you make me terribly happy. I… I like making you happy. I enjoy… working out what you like and making it happen. When I talked to my cousin…. It may be a Baphinol thing after all. I like…. taking care of you."

Symon shakes his head. "I've b-been acting like a child for a long time," he says. And it's true that even his gesture of wiping his eyes as he sits up is not replete with the most grown-up associations. But he does seem to be sobering. "Do you really…? I mean really is that w…what you w-would… It just seems awful to have you do that. W…won't your family be upset?"

Étienne kneels like a proper suitor, "Your name and connections go a long way. We could set up trading links. I could write home. Ask. If you would have me, I'd tie my life and fate to yours."

Symon looks like he might start crying again, but he doesn't. He looks up for a while, then back to Étienne. "How could I p-possibly say no?" he asks. "If I could really…" He shakes his head a little. "Only, w…we have to talk about it carefully. I can't ask such a huge thing if you don't know exactly w…what to expect. I think…p-probably the p-proper thing to do is m…marry first, and then have a consortship. W…what do you think of that?" It's clear he's trying very hard to be a responsible, serious person and to handle this properly.

Étienne places his head in Symon's lap, all relief, "And you'll need to make sure your wife approves. You should ask Chimène, if she thinks the consortship is a good idea. I just… I want to make sure you always have someone in your life who puts your interests first.”

"That w…would b-be… It w-would b-be such a relief!" Symon says with a rush of air. "I'll write her tomorrow and say I w…want her to help b-but ask if she could find a w…way to m-make it turn out all right w…with a consortship, after the m…marriage. Anything else you think I should write?"

Étienne kisses him rather fiercely and wraps his arms around him, "Best if the heiress has a sense of humor and is good at accounts…. I love you so much, Symon! And it will be such a relief when it's all settled!'

Symon nods softly. "I'll p-put that in the letter, too," he says. Then he puts arms round Étienne to hold on to him. "I'm ashamed at how good you are to me."

Étienne kisses him, "There is no one on earth who could ever make me as happy as you do, My Sweet. There is nothing to be ashamed of in that."

Symon leans against Étienne and heaves out another big sigh, possibly of relief. "You've no idea how low I w…was feeling w-when I w-walked in the door."

Étienne is holding him as if he plans never to let go, "What were you worried about, love?"

"I just felt so bad about all of it," Symon says. "How I've b-been so childish and p…put everything off and never solve m…my own p-problems and…p-probably w…would b-be a b…bad m…match for someone." He shrugs, looking at Étienne. "B-but you make m…me feel like m-maybe there's a w-way."

Étienne says, "If I were a woman, we'd have been married long since." He strokes his face, "You are an excellent match. It's always been a matter of finding someone who really suits you."

Symon shakes his head a little. "I don't care, now," he says. "As long as she has a decent name and w…won't do anything underhanded, then it's all right. If I get to have you, then there's nothing really to fear."

Étienne strokes his hair, "I'll have your back, love. Whatever comes. I'll write home tonight and feel them out about the consortship. Let's never be parted, love."

Symon reaches up to hold the sides of Étienne's face so he can kiss him, hard. "You're a dream," he says in between kisses. "Exactly…" Kiss. "A dream."

Étienne kisses him slowly and with all the passion in his soul, "Do you think Chimène will be all right with the consortship? She's not fond of me."

"I don't know," Symon answers honestly. "B-but I m…must ask. If I tell her I w…will not b-be p…picky b-beyond that, or p-perhaps I could offer a p…perfect opportunity to someone who w…wants a consort of her own…" he shrugs. "M-maybe she'll see it as a p…positive."

Étienne kisses him again, all delight, "You are so clever about these things. I trust you to arrange things with her. Do we… get to meet the prospective bride before you say a definitive yes?"

Symon nods once. "I think p-probably it w…would b-be b…better for everyone," he says. "She ought to hear m…me talk so she knows." He pauses to think. "W-well. I don't know if she w…would m-meet you directly or not. I don't know if that's a good idea. I w…would ask Chimène her advice. It m…might depend on the girl. Unless… If you m-make a rule, I'll follow it, just…I absolutely m…must m-marry this year."

Étienne nods, "I know you do still stutter when you're nervous or with new people and a woman who won't have you over it wouldn't be right for us anyway." He shakes his head, "I think you should let the lady advise you as to what's best as far as meetings and the like. You're so charming, how could anyone not love you?"

Symon goes quiet, thinking about all this and undoubtedly pleased and flattered by Étienne. He grasps Étienne's arm. "I do w…want to eat, now," he decides.

Étienne kisses his cheek and pulls his chair around so they might sit together, "My stomach’s been in knots all day. I was so worried."

"I don't understand w-why you thought I w…would ever send you away," Symon says, happy to nudge close to Étienne.

Étienne presses thigh and arm against his, "Remember how when we first met, you said you couldn't love? We've come such a terribly long way together."

"That's true," Symon admits, looking aside while he reflects. "So m…much has changed."

Étienne smiles at him, "For the better. You are the best thing that ever happened to me, Sweet. Whatever comes of Chimène's plans for you, we'll find a way. We always do.”

"I b-believe you," Symon says, nodding once. And he smiles. "We'll b-be all right. B-but…truly, think on it hard. On w…what you're giving up. If you change your m…mind, I p-promise to understand."

Étienne says without a hair of doubt, "I have been thinking about it since the turning of the year. This is what I want and I'm gaining far more than I'm losing. I'm gaining you for the whole rest of my life."

Symon nods faintly, watching Étienne's face. "All right," he says. "I can only trust that you have thought it through w…well." He glances at the table. "W…what did you p-prepare here?"

Étienne kisses him gently, "I've never been surer." He starts pointing out what flavours everything is. He blushes a little, “I was planning to soften you up with pastry first."

"W-well, can w…we have it anyway?" Symon requests, reaching out for a savory one. "I do like p-pastry."

Étienne nudges him, "Of course you can have them anyway. Anything you like. We're celebrating, Sweet." He kisses his shoulder, "It's going to be all right. I really believe that."

Symon nods faintly. "I feel b-better about it," he says. "I think it m…might all w-work. I do."

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