Areo works his jaw, deciding to sip at his very hot cup of coffee as Arys enters the room. It’s all well and good he’s okay and everything, Areo hadn’t expected him to be at the stadium tonight for any reason. “Yeah, I’m alright,” Areo replies in turn. He sips at his cup as the television continues to blare, as the newscasters talk of possible conspirators, possible motives, the significance of tonight instead of tomorrow.
He doesn’t look up at Arianne’s declaration. It is almost expected, after all. It’s useless pointing out that Doran would’ve stayed, but he would’ve sent his children out of the city, out of the powder keg of London. “They’ll lock everything down,” Areo muses, “or they will as soon as they get enough troops and everyone ready.”
“They might as well’ve already,” he grimaces, wishing Arianne’s smile did something to soothe him more. For now, he’s hardly thinking linearly - the idea that he’ll need to show up in Mayfair at some point with a Lannister car and be ready to shepherd Myrcella through the chaos should be at the forefront of his mind but it’s currently hanging out somewhere near whatever part of his brain stores his insurance numbers. He knows it, but he can’t care, not really - yet. Areo seems cool and calm, enough to make him feel utterly frustrated in comparison. He’s a little annoyed he hasn’t been offered coffee yet, but oh well.
“I guess it’s a good thing I never joined the army.” A useless addition to the conversation, but it tumbles forth anyway. He puts a hand out to touch Arianne’s arm, fingers curling around her elbow.
“Here’s probably the safest place,” he adds, hastily. “No riot ever started on the King’s Road.”
The new budget reports—produced by her replacement, in fact, an odd thought indeed—where really not very interesting, as one minute Arianne was assessing the budgetary incentives of Martell Steel’s involvement in the Olympic construction across the city and whether it would be cost effective and the next she was sound asleep on a mountain of paper, her jacket swung over the chair and shoes kicked off under the table.
She comes back into consciousness at the sound of Arys’ voice, gently bringing her back from the comfort of sleep (something that has been deprived of her recently, what with nightmares of her father, work and now thoughts of Renly Baratheon) and back into reality. At least with Arys, wonderful, darling Arys’, Arianne can be free from the constraints of such worries for a short while and do nothing but enjoy his company. “You love it.” she murmurs, voice gravely from sleep and her eyes grittier.
Stretching back, she twisted her stiff neck back and forth, clicking it into position and trying to shake off the position that she’d toed herself into for that short nap. “Mind you.” she says, Arianne’s eyes deliberately raking over his frame, “it’s a wake up call I could most definitely get used to.” and she has got used to it, with her quasi-lover/boyfriend becoming a permanent fixture in her London flat since after that fateful memorial. They’ve domesticated themselves, in their own way.
“Yeah, I do,” he mumbled, sinking into the seat beside her, failing to meet her gaze - knowing it was implying something he wasn’t prepared to sign up for just yet. It was all quite a far cry from I would commit treason for you, though he was breaking expected form just by being here. They weren’t really so good a match in terms of temperament Arianne choked most of her successes up to her spontaneous ingenuity, her ability to think on her feet; Arys prefered quiet observance, second guessing, checking every single footfall applicable. Unless there was a threat, then he generally had a good track record for quick thinking.
He slipped a hand around her leg, the one crooked closest to him and pressed a kiss to the roots of her hair.
“You want me to let you keep sleeping?” he asked. “I’ll stay here tonight though - don’t worry. There’s something I want to talk to you about.”
She gratefully accepts the cup. Arianne doesn’t care that it’s past two in the morning now, she knows that the caffeine doesn’t matter because she wouldn’t be sleeping a wink, either way. She isn’t sure how anyone could sleep as it honestly felt like the world was ending.
The murmurs on the streets where getting louder, and she’s sure that the peace wont linger—however much they both deny it, the bombing will do nothing but add flames on the cinder pot that was London already. The riots would continue, more attacks like this and the one on Paddington Green Police Station—Arianne’s read enough history to know that everything’s going to ignite, one way or another.
She sips the coffee and leads Areo back into the living room, settling down on the sofa. Her hand throbs less now, but she knows that sleep wont come now. They watch the news, that repeated clip of the stadium blowing been shown over and over again. They are both silence except for the newsreader, solemnly reporting the trickle of information that is being released by official sources.
“The government might be here for now, but it’s not gonna last.” Arianne comments, thinking of all her long conversations with Oberyn. “Everyone hates Robert Baratheon and people wont sit with the fact that he’s suspended the elections and now this?” she sips the coffee thoughtfully, her mind working through the facts. “Contented people don’t riot.”
The streets had been closing in since he came through Angel. Arys lived in Finsbury Park and it was like every road was an artery squeezed tight with adrenaline as he drove through Islington, across Euston and through into Knightsbridge. Too many sirens, not enough traffic signals. The radio, he kept on - the BBC News broadcast did not stop to recover more information but blared on each caller, those that screamed confusion and those that demanded answers, and gave them nothing but an outlet for their fears. It was catching in him by the time he arrives at Arianne’s building. He parks on a double-yellow. No traffic police would be out tonight - he can bypass the system this once.
The door is open, so he doesn’t have to knock. That means Areo is probably already there. He feels himself relax as he crosses the threshold, aiming for the kitchen the moment he hears a rumble of sound. He’s spent the last twenty-five minutes cursing himself for not agreeing to spend the night at her place that evening - I’ve got to be at Lannister Street in the morning, he’d said, to take Myrcella to the parade.
“I’m here,” he announces, half-heartedly. “Got here as soon as I could, but the city’s going to shut down - it’s just a matter of time.” He steps forward, tempted to pull Arianne into his arms but he can see her hands are already shaking, so much she might drop that coffee cup soon enough.
“You alright?” he asks, passing his eyes from her to Areo, grim-faced.
It’s when she sleeps that he knows it. Almost wrong, that, considering so much of what Arys loves about Arianne is best on show when she’s awake. There’s a fire in her eyes and a light behind her smile that are quick to cut him down, but he’s found out in a relatively short amount of time that he’s not adverse to such a thing. For the moment, however, she’d fallen asleep against the crook of the corner sofa, with sheafs of calculations strewn over her lap and a curtain of black hair hiding half her face. She’d mentioned something about squaring a debt with the IOC building staff - Martell Steel for athletic scaffolding. Arys had been attempting something approaching dinner. He had been slow to pick up on the fact that Renly Baratheon’s unfortunate ‘accident’ had affected her more than it should have, but he knew now and when to give her space. He’d been trying to make some dinner, and only succeeding in the barest definition of the term.
Another influential man struck down in suspicious circumstances? Of course she would be stressed.
It was strange, acting out this weird dance of domesticity behind closed doors with only Areo Hotah to keep the secret. Arys didn’t like to give it a label if he could manage without, but he’d spent more nights in Knightsbridge through June than he had at his own place in Finsbury Park. If any of the Lannisters had caught on to the fact that his commute in the mornings was that much shorter, none of them seemed to take aversion to it. That didn’t relax him, however.
He’d been planning on telling her the food was ready, but seeing her asleep he hardly had the heart to disturb her.
“Arianne?” he said, quietly, already knowing she’d be slow to respond. He moved the papers off her lap and into a pile beside her. “Ari?” She barely moved. “You’re not going to make me carry you to bed, are you?” If she wasn’t listening then there was no harm. There was a decade’s worth of age between them. He was loath to pick her up and tow her to bed - he used to have to do that for Myrcella when she was much younger. And besides, last time she’d dragged him down with her to the sheets and he’d run horrifically late for work the next morning. “I’m not falling for that one again.”
I was asleep before - I’m sorry. I’m on my way there now, even if this cabbie’s going to bankrupt me.
I’m coming. Everything… will be fine. Its probably just… I’ll be an hour. Less if I can.
Areo awkwardly shuffles to the door and Arianne is mortified. This is, without doubt, the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to her ever—including the stripping incident and that time when Tyene walked in on her and Daemon Sand going at in Oberyn’s bed. She knows her face is burning, her ears were feeling particularly hot and her hand had a faint tremor, shaking from mortification at the whole situation.
The door quietly shuts behind him and Arianne exhales. The rug scratches against her back and is starting to irritate the sensitive skin at the top of her legs—she’s in half a mind to drop the blanket, but she doesn’t want either Areo to return or for Arys to have a minor heart attack, both of which seem quite likely outcomes of this whole affair.
Of course Areo saw us before we even had time to talk about what ‘us’ is, what last night meant, what this all has meant. She hoped—wanted—it to be more than some one night stand but she’d barely got her head around the fact that it had even happened. Bloody typical, she thought, I seem to have had to the worst luck recently.
The acrid smell of burning eggs suddenly floods her nose and and Arianne starts to laugh—she can’t help it, this whole situation is so ridiculous that laughing is the only possible reaction. She laughs and laughs, until her stomach aches and she has to sit down on the sofa.
(It’s easier to laugh than cry, anyway. She’s not sure why she wants to cry, though.)
The sound of the door shutting should be a relief, only the silence passes all too quickly before Arianne slides away from him and sits down, laughing like a bell chime. Arys waits for her to stop, but she doesn’t, so he crosses the threshold and turns off the heat under the burning pan.
“I’m glad you can find this funny,” he says, “he’s my superior.” He drops the spatula into the sink and runs his hands across his face and through his hair. Right, so, that’sanotherthing to worry about now. Besides whatever sleeping with Arianne Martell means for the future, he now has Areo’s ego and newly privileged position to worry about along with having Myrcella around the office and the Lannisters breathing down his neck.
He turns back to her, to the open floor plan of the luxury flat. The sunlight comes in through the slanted sunroof, pricking out the gleam of her dark hair thrown across her shoulders and the white pillows.You’re fucked. You’re fucked. He doesn’t want to feel the panic that’s rising in the back of his chest.
“I’m sorry,” he adds, trying not to be sullen. “I should have…” He trails off. Should have what? Shrieked when he saw Areo so Arianne might get the hint to put on some clothes before she came into the hall? It’s really no one’s fault… still all a big mistake though.We’ve made a mistake.
“The eggs are burned,” he sighs. “What do you want to do about that?
He tries not to concentrate on the half-dressed people in front of him, Arys still shuffling in boxers, Arianne in the cream-coloured blanket. Obviously he had interrupted something before it had even started.
Why is that you think I would tell anyone? Areo thought indignantly. He wasn’t in the business of blabbing Martell secrets, much less one involving a relationship of this nature. As Doran’ bodyguard, he had helped to keep the separation between Doran and Mellario out of the public eye.
“What makes you think I would tell anyone?” he blurts out. Even though it felt like an ice bucket had been thrown over him, and the fact that Arys was still hesitant and awkward after sleeping with Arianne and how could Arianne stay with someone so insecure about himself - Areo wouldn’t do anything to hurt either of them. Well, at least, major physical harm to Arys.
“You know I won’t say anything,” he says softly. Knight in shining Armani, well that’s a part he can play as well.
Knight in shining Armani? What was that supposed to mean? He looks from Arianne to Areo, aware that each one of them is an odd one out in this situation (superior, unwelcome, newbie), but he feels like it’s him getting the focus now. Maybe that has to do with him now being the nakedest person in the room.
He’d known that Martell Industries had an entirely different set up in place than the way the Lannisters and the Baratheons had run things, but he hadn’t really expecting this level of candidacy. The two months of banter and flirting hadn’t done much to tip him off to that, though he supposed Areo had worked for Martell for as long as Arys had worked for the Baratheons and maybe that was what counted for this exception?
Almost instinctively, he puts a hand out around Arianne’s hip and pulls her to him. He’s not sure why in the split second it takes; it’s not like he doesn’t know she can’t handle herself, or that Areo hasn’t known her since she was nine and if there’s anyone they can trust it’s him. Afterwards, if he isn’t just using her to shield himself slightly.
“Uh, so, Areo,” he croaks out, unsure of where to go after this. Areo’s still holding her shoes and Arianne’s clutching the blanket around her with both hands. “Do you want any eggs?”
He set the shoes on the counter, one of the heels tipping over on the granite. They look weird placed next to the cutting board but Areo wasn’t about to fling them over the loveseat where Arianne was still hiding. Well, nothing breaks up the thick air of awkwardness likes jokes, right? “Nice boxers, Oakheart.” More like Oakhard right? he felt like adding but even Areo had limits. Some what.
Arys stood there feeling drained of blood in the overwhelming mortification. What exactly was he supposed to do now? Leave and find Arianne clothes? Hand her a tea towel? Shuffle through the gap between the sofa and the wall to block her body from her head of security? At least his priorities are stacked correctly. He was far more worried for her dignity than his own (which isn’t new) even though he looked almost as incriminating as she did. He almost bristled at Areo’s attempt at humour, put down the fork and walked towards him, taking his arm.
“Look,” he said, twisting around Areo so his back was to the door and pulling the other man around afterwards so that he was facing in the opposite direction. His throat felt tight and restricted again. “I don’t know what you’re doing here.” His eye drops to the pair of shoes in Areo’s hand. No, I know what you’re doing here. It just felt like something he should say in order to be properly defensive.
He tried to look at Arianne over Areo’s shoulder, to jerk his head right even though she probably had quite a good instinct to get up and leave and find some clothes as soon as she could.
“Areo,” he started again. “If you could… not tell anyone that you saw me here, that’d be great.”
Say something, anything, break the tension somehow, make a joke! Anything, just say anything. “Oh,” he manages.
If it’s a one night stand (is it better if it is?) Arys is probably the worst one in history. He was up at three thinking, this is a mistake, trying to find his clothes in the dark until Arianne dragged him back down to the mattress again. At eight-thirty he was up again, jerked awake by the paranoia of needing to be elsewhere, feeling the phantom vibration of his phone like Cersei Lannister’s voice might rouse him any moment only to tell him he’d been found out and that he’d never work again. This was a mistake. He’d told Arianne it then but she’d only laughed and rolled her eyes and then he’d made mistakes a few more times in the time it took for her to finally get him to stop worrying out loud.
He felt stupid and happy by the time he’d summoned the energy to pull his boxers on. Arianne had kicked him in the shoulder and demanded her eggs scrambled whilst she showered. Arys felt sort of clueless going about it, but at least he could follow orders more or less to the letter and give himself an excuse for obeying them and put off worrying about the consequences for just a moment.
Then Areo comes through the door, totally unannounced, and then it’s just the two of them standing there, staring at each other.
This was a mistake.
Arys doesn’t even know what to say, if saying anything would excuse where he is and how he’s dressed and what he’s doing. Also, why does Areo have keys to Arianne’s flat? Well, of course he does, he’s the head of her security and her father was murdered, he reprimands himself, sharply, but the question keeps on lingering. What is he doing here?
“Uh, Areo,” he stutters out, switching off the gas but not touching the pan again, suddenly flinching back from the kitchen space like he knows full well he doesn’t belong. “I- uh- What are you doing here?”