(1310-08-14) The Regard She is Due
Summary: A parcel from Olivia d'Albert no Rose Sauvage inadvertently sparks an argument between Matthieu de Rocaille and Gabriel de Montreve.
RL Date: 14/08/2018
Related: Gifts Are Hard to Choose
matthieu 

August 8, 1310 - Rocaille Townhouse


Spools of red ribbon came undone with a flick of his wrist, and in spite of his multiple injuries, he managed to hold onto the dexterity of his fingers. Index and middle finger dipped inside the scroll case, to carefully slip out its contents. Black print and musical chords unfurled before ice-blue eyes scored with silver fissures. He recognized the piece immediately.

The confines of his cavernous study in Marsilikos' Rocaille residence were largely silent save for the hypnotic ticking of the wall clock mounted behind him, and the insistent last breaths of the summer filtering in from filmy drapes and carrying with them the scent of the blossoms that decorated the trellis outside of his balcony. It was well past midnight, he knew it without looking at the timepiece behind him, once again rendered sleepless from the terrors that lingered at the foot of his bed. The package had come late in the afternoon, but before he could open it, correspondences had come, bearing his father's seal. He had spent most of the evening answering those, before retiring to bed in his attempts to find some momentary respite from the demands of the day.

It didn't come, despite his best efforts and now, rendered restless, it was only then that he recognized the seal from the letter that had come with it, bearing the familiar rose sigil of Salon Rose Sauvage. Even if he decided not to open it and read its contents, he immediately knew who it was from. A press of his thumb broke the red seal, his attention falling on elegant and flowing script - cerulean on pristine white. Even the choice of writing implements spoke of her character:

My Dearest Matthieu:

I hope that your recovery continues to go well, and that tiresome as it must be, that you are obeying whatever restrictions your healers have placed upon you. You were never the best of patients, even for me with my dabbing at scraped knees with 'kerchiefs dipped in water. I can only imagine how you are now.
I was in Raziel's earlier today, the most wonderful book emporium in the whole of Eisande. I have been waiting on a book to arrive from Caerdicci Unitas, and whilst I was there I also found something which I hope will alleviate some of the boredom which I am sure is starting to settle in. It is in the package which accompanies this letter. I remember you used to enjoy picking out tunes on the piano, and hope you still do. Even if you are not healed enough yet to be able to play, you can probably appreciate the piece just from reading the notes as they're written.
In fondness,
Olivia

"She's right, you know," said the tall shadow that was suddenly behind his seat. "You're a terrible patient."

"Elua," Matthieu swore, heart lurching painfully in his ribcage at the suddenness of the sound, nearly dropping the parchment and fixing his Cassiline with a glower. His head dropped into a waiting hand, scrubbing his face. "Don't you ever sleep?"

"Certainly," said Gabriel de Montreve with his easy, cheerful tenor. "Until my ward decides to stir from bed and tries to sneak down the hall without me noticing." Dark eyes squinted at the sheet music, reaching out to pick it up and look at it. "I can't make heads or tails of this, though, but I was never musically inclined."

"It's a well-known one around Eisande," the ducal heir replied, taking the parchment from him and giving the chords a look. His tone grows absent as he continued: "About a shepherdess and a blacksmith's son."

"Never heard of it."

"It's about love," Matthieu explained. "It was later adapted into a play, with elements added in to make the story less idyllic. In the play, the shepherdess had dreams of becoming an opera singer, and the blacksmith didn't approve of his son's choice of a lover, and threatened to disown him from the business if he pursued it. He refused to listen and married her anyway, but they struggled and she had to give up her dreams on music to support the man she married. She later contracted an illness and in her deathbed, she assured her husband that she gave up her own aspirations by choice, and that its sacrifice was worth the love they shared." He paused. "…there was a famous scene in the end where his father arrived at the infirmary where she breathed her last to offer his aid, but it came too late. He apologized to his son, and his son replied that loving someone meant never having to apologize for it."

Silence fell, punctuated by the ticking of the clock. Gabriel pressed a hand against his hip, his other pushing fingers through his hair. "Well," he began. "…no wonder you've heard of it." Glancing at the gift, he smirked. "I suppose there'll always be aspects of women that I will never understand. It isn't as if she can't visit anytime to present the gift, herself. She's welcome here, as you said."

Matthieu folded the letter carefully, thumb and forefinger clutching the delicate stems of ivy, azalea and sweet pea in his grip. They came with the correspondence, the silent message causing his eyes to lid faintly.

"There are plenty of reasons. Olivia was never the sort to impose her presence on someone, especially one whom she knows is troubled." He set the stems on top of the white parchment. "That and her duties as Second must keep her busy and she would rather I receive this immediately to occupy my mind than be driven mad by my convalescence." After a moment, he added, somewhat absently: "In the end, that may be for the best."

"Don't," Gabriel said, his tone taking on a subtle, but audible edge.

"Gabe— "

"I already know what you're going to say," his friend replied, his good cheer vanishing in lieu of a harder mask. "That it's too dangerous at the moment to breathe the air around you, or some kind of similar nonsense. That she might shatter if you talked to her, or touched her, or even looked at her wrong. That you don't want her caught up in the ridiculous amount of shite you're preparing yourself for and that you, me, Guste and maybe even Little E will inevitably have to handle. But she's no longer a child, and she's clearly worried about you. How do you think she's going to feel if you suddenly closed the door just a few weeks after you've returned? After three years of thinking the worst had happened to you and me?"

The longer he talked, the harder Matthieu's jaw set, once again reminded that there were a few clear disadvantages of having someone know him so well. At the growing stubborn look, Gabriel's own glare intensified. In a span of a few heartbeats, the companionable silence in the room was suddenly beset with a heavy weight, caused, ultimately, by the intangible locking of horns.

Finally, it was the Cassiline who broke the silence, something quiet and profane leaving him under his breath as he stalked for the door of the study. Yanking it open, he jabbed a finger in his friend's direction. "We looked out for one another as children," he reminded. "You, me, her, Raoul. Maybe at the time you felt that you always had to shoulder everything, because of who you are. Because you were older than the rest of us and duty and responsibility have always ever been your bulwark. Maybe…" He hesitated. "Maybe the fault was also ours, because we let you."

His lips pressed in a line. "But I'm not letting you now, and I have a feeling neither is she. Otherwise, she wouldn't be…" He gestured vaguely to his desk. "Just…don't do that to her, Matt. She doesn't deserve it."

A heavy fist banged on the top of his desk, cutting Gabriel's words short. From across the distance, he saw Matthieu's face darken visibly, teeth gritted, frustration stitched over his expression and braiding over the line of his shoulders. Tendons and sinew pushed up from under the skin of what he could see of his forearm, hackles raised while his earlier words battered at the unyielding wall the last three years have hammered him into becoming. The life giving vein at the side of his neck stood out, wrestling with his inner turbulence, filled as it was with all the things he wanted to say, but could never let himself - rooted forever and always in the developed tendency to unblinkingly withstand the pain, no matter where it came from, in order to appear insurmountable.

"Do you really think I want to be this way?" he said, finally, his low voice filling the room with promised heat. Nightmares he could never articulate passed over the storm-laden depths of his irises. "I have to make these considerations, Gabe."

The Cassiline closed his eyes, rubbing the bridge of his nose. Looking away, he muttered: "I know you'd rather hurt our feelings than sacrifice any other part of us. I just think you ought to give us our due regard also, Matt. Like I said, we're no longer children." His demeanor softened once his attention fell back on his friend. "And others don't know you as well as I do. You might think that you don't care about misunderstandings, but you really don't need to lose any more than you already have."

Once his friend had left the room, though undoubtedly he would be back, Matthieu carefully folded his broken arm on the desk, platinum-blond head burying into the cradle his spare set of fingers made. He took a breath, inwardly girding himself and seizing the reins of his simmering temper. There's a single look upwards towards the empty doorway, at the wake his best friend had left behind, equal parts irritated, fond and envious. Gabriel was always the first to tell him how ridiculous his foresight could be, but perhaps, at the end of the day, he would trade it for his friend's inordinate talent in deconstructing the hearts of those around him, and understand what drove them.

He took another glance at the letter, its sprig of flowers and the quiet message they symbolized, and the sheet music they pinned against his desk. After another moment of quiet consideration, he sighed and reached for a piece of cream colored vellum, his hand once more finding his stylus.

How was he even going to start this one? His letters thus far have all been authoritative correspondences and all reflecting his determination to keep conducting the business expected from him despite his condition. Even his letters to his father and the ducal household in Siovale have been brusque. What tone should it even carry for a childhood friend who had long since secured for herself some of the very rare bits of affection he was even capable of demonstrating? My dearest Olivia? My friend for whom I hold my seldom and oftentimes ill-advised affection? And how the hell was he going to end it? Fondly yours? Best regards?

Yeshua's sake, Matthieu. It isn't as if you're courting her.

It took him a couple of hours to compose a return letter, and then roused a servant to deliver it, with instructions to pester Master Parcivale of a humble metalsmithing shop at the Market Promenade to pay a house call.

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