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Sister to Sister, PG-13

Summary: Clarisse's visit to her sister is perhaps not as welcome as she would have liked.


"What," Ansis murmured, his fingers brushing the back of Rilla's neck, "is the biggest kind of ant?"

Rilla had been squirming under his touch - it was one thing to know their little lodge was empty of all but servants, but quite another to let go of the conviction that Ansis's stern-eyed grandfather might step through the door any moment. They had returned that morning from visiting her brother at court, and Cavall was full of strangeness again. She wondered if it would ever quite feel like home, or whether she would constantly be expecting Dunlath when she opened her eyes.

His question made her relax, being the sort of silly, somehow intimate thing he would ask in their chambers. She reached for his wrist, pulling him down to her level. "A giant ant," she suggested, settling herself more comfortably in her chair.

He shook his head. "That's not the answer."

"Then you should change the question," Rilla told him, capturing his other wrist when he brought his hand up to cup her face.

Ansis freed himself, to place his hands on the chair's arms, effectively trapping her in her seat. "That," he said, his tone very low, "sounds like an excellent idea. Lady Rilla - my Rilla, would you-?"

Neither of them noticed the door opening, nor the servant who tactfully retreated. Unfortunately, not everybody was possessed of the same (or any) tact.

"There are plenty of other chairs, Ansis," the intruder announced. "There's no need for you to share Rilla's."

Ansis and Rilla froze, staring at each other for a long moment. Whilst Ansis's face dissolved into amusement as he got to his feet, Rilla's registered nothing but horror. "Very true, Lady Clarisse. I think the chair in my study is calling to me presently, in fact. I will leave you two ladies to catch up."

Rilla fumbled for his hand a second too late. He pressed a kiss to her forehead and ruffled Clarisse's hair on his way out of the room, leaving the sisters alone.

Traitor. Her husband had always fared much better with her sister than Rilla had, but he also had a keen nose for an argument, and would avoid the Dunlath family spats where he could.

"Clarisse - what are you doing here?"

"Lord Wyldon and his wife are staying with Papa and Mama for another week," Clarisse said, flopping into the chair next to Rilla. "I knew you'd be free."

Rilla thought of her husband and the whispered talks of a new family, and all the care and attention that had gone into their precisely timed return home, to have a little time for the two of them. She stifled a whimper. It was just so unfair.

"If you ask me, you could use a bit of a break from Ansis anyway. Especially if you're trying to share the same seating space."

"I didn't ask you," Rilla retorted, more sharply than she'd intended, but Clarisse had always been adept at bringing out that side of her. "Either tell me why you've travelled all this way, or I'll send you right back."

Clarisse raised an eyebrow at her older sister, and opened her mouth - presumably to threaten to tell Papa - but thought better of it. Rilla probably looked fully capable of carrying out her threat at that moment. Of course, if Clarisse hadn't brought any Dunlath men with her, she would likely have to wait on Lord Wyldon's return before leaving. "I wanted your advice."

"You couldn't have written to me?"

"I wanted your advice now," Clarisse replied, rolling her eyes. "I know what you're like; you wouldn't get around to answering my letter for ages, and you've been worse since you've gone and got married. Although that's partly why I want your advice."

Rilla made a choking sound. "You want to get married?"

"This is a nice room," Clarisse said approvingly, looking around, and perhaps the invasion of their dear home smarted a little less for a moment. "I thought Cavall would be entirely grey - I mean, you know what Lord Wyldon's like. This is nice, though. I liked riding through the fief too - it's not Dunlath, but I can see you'd want to live here. You need a few wolves, and then it will be good enough for you. Well, good enough for me to visit you."

"You're visiting me now," Rilla pointed out, resolving to ensure that wolves never settled in Cavall.

Clarisse tutted, rising to examine a portrait. "This looks like my cat!"

"It's a dog. Or Lord Wyldon's sister," Rilla said tiredly, feeling a headache building. Perhaps Clarisse could go back earlier; Ansis would know if Cavall were able to spare the men. "Either way, I've never thought it looked like a cat."

"Not any cat. My cat," Clarisse said with exaggerated patience. "See, they've got the same way of tilting their heads."

Rilla glanced over at the painting, but was still no closer to ascertaining whether Clarisse was referring to the dog or Lady Elasabenne. She determined that, as ever, it was better not to enquire. The comment might have made her giggle if it had come from anybody else - or perhaps if it hadn't referenced Clarisse's sour puss. "Clarisse, if you don't tell me why you have ridden all this way-"

"Can't a sister come to visit her sister?" Clarisse asked, her back still to Rilla. "Perhaps I missed you."

And perhaps the ground was about to start sprouting fish. Rilla and Clarisse, respectively the eldest and youngest of the Dunlath clan, had never been close, and Rilla had scarcely given her only sister a thought since flying the family nest.

Clarisse was having similar thoughts, apparently; she turned, and gave Rilla a mischievous smile. "And I need advice, and Papa will tell me I'm too young, Theodore has the baby, Julian's even worse than you and further away, and Mama will expect me to listen to her. Douglass will consult Lord Theodore, and I already tried asking Lord Theodore myself, and I don't think the silent treatment will work."

"Is this about a boy?"

Clarisse's cheeks flushed. "There is a person. I don't - he says he likes me. What do you do with somebody like that?"

Rilla half-smiled, touched that Clarisse would seek her out for something like this. "What do you want to do?"

"If I knew that, would I have come all this way?" Clarisse snapped. "This was a stupid idea."

"Do you like him back?" Rilla asked, sentimentality evaporating. "You should tell him how you feel as soon as possible, even if you don't like him. Don't be frightened of hurting his feelings - sometimes it's for the best."

"Oh, and you told Ansis how you felt, as soon as possible?" Clarisse taunted. "Must have been some other sister I had moping around the fief all that time."

"Go away, Clarisse," Rilla instructed, not one to enjoy being mocked. "You're not welcome here."

Clarisse's face softened instantly, and she sat herself at Rilla's feet. It wasn't an apology, but it was about as close as Clarisse would come to making one to somebody who wasn't Papa or Theodore. "I don't like him. Or I don't think I like him. But I don't want to tell him I don't like him either."

"Oh, love." Rilla sighed, and tentatively reached out a hand to brush through Clarisse's hair. "It's hard sometimes, isn't it? Where did you meet him?"

"Tait's old house." Her brown eyes sparkled, and she shifted to settle on her knees. "Nobody describes battle scenes so well."

"Sounds like a fine romance," Rilla said dryly.

Ansis chose that moment to peek around the door. Finding a total absence of bloodshed, he deemed it safe enough to enter the room entirely. His wife scowled at him, displaying her displeasure at his tactical retreat. "Lady Clarisse," he greeted, and she grinned in response. "How long do we have the pleasure of your company?"

"That depends on your dinner menu."

"Something tells me we'll be having your favourite meal this evening," Ansis replied, his eyes twinkling. "I've arranged a bedroom for you. Why don't you go and clean yourself up a bit?"

Clarisse rolled her eyes. "All right, all right, I get the message. You want to try and sit on one another again. I'll make myself scarce."

Luckily, she was as true as her word. Rilla breathed a sigh of relief. "She'll go back to Dunlath and tell everybody we've been sitting around all the time."

Ansis shrugged, nonplussed. "We could lie around instead," he suggested, holding out his hands to help Rilla to her feet. "Less chance of getting interrupted."

Rilla snorted, but allowed Ansis to lead her out of the room and towards the stairs. "Clearly, you don't know my sister very well."


Jul. 2nd, 2014 08:58 am (UTC)
Haha, yes - impossible to actually get there, though.


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