Like No Whore I've Ever Met

Title: Like No Whore I've Ever Met
Time Period: March 28, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Aislinn debuts Sorcha's latest creation.

Edmund has a difficult time understanding the Bible.

Not the words, although those too, sure, they're dense and strange and moralistic by someone's creed, but he can do it when he has a mind to. He understands, too, that it's very old, older still than the other titles that come from before the exodus, maybe the oldest of all of them, and certainly the most famously known. But in general, it's a difficult to concept to grasp. Whoever wrote it? Mark and Matthew and John and Luke, and the prophets of the even Older Testament, but it doesn't explain anything, it isn't signed with their names like the other books. It's published in different years, in 1957 and 1996 and 2001. Where is Corinth? Who penned the Revelations, and if it was John as some versions say, how did he know?

People said, too, that they are God's words, and of course, there's none of him.

He slips it back upon the shelf.

The small library as owned by the Rowntrees, books thrifted from burning settlements and hapless wanderers alike, is indeed that: small. It's more of a show room for no one's eyes, but it's grown in increments since Edmund was a boy, and taught to read over by the window, until the Rowntree patriarch decided his sons needed to be harder men with harder hands. He has his back to the door as he browses the taller shelf, turning his head away from the tickle of disturbed dust in the air.

The library is not a place that Aislinn visits much. She has her own collection of dog-eared medical journals and texts that she keeps at the apothecary for her own reference, but every time she starts a new volume, her disability demands that it become a great and painful undertaking. When they had Ariel, she memorized the few children's books in the family's keeping so she could read to him as soon as he was old enough to comprehend the words and apply them to the pictures.

Now that he's older, bedtime storytelling has primarily become Edmund's responsibility, though his wife always checks the local market for the next Wind in the Willows or Fantastic Mr. Fox on her excursions into town. It is strange, then, that she joins him there, her bare feet brushing over the throw rug on the floor as she appears to take interest in the spine of a book on a shelf opposite of Edmund, one arm folded across her middle and the other grazing fingertips along the shelf's edge.

Her gold hair falls in loose curls down her back — like her skin, it's strikingly pale against the midnight blue material of her robe, which is one that he hasn't seen before. He'd remember if he had; candlelight makes the elaborate floral embroidery on the sleeves and hem visible, and a sash pulled tight at her waist has the fabric fanning out behind her in a long train, its texture like the dark water of the loch outside.

He usually gets changed into comfortable and cleaner clothes once he gets home, and currently smells of soap and laundered clothing overpowering the dampened scents of smoke and sweat. It's the quality of the fabrics and the state of one's hygiene that connotes Dornie royalty, really, but all the same, Edmund supposes he is a drab comparison when he glances enough to see striking blue against pale and soft skin.

Edmund almost prompts her with 'evening', but winds up not doing so, raising an eyebrow where she can see before turning an insincere amount of scrutiny back to the books several inches from his face. A huffing sigh lifts dust into the air.

"Don't let me disturb you," Aislinn says, sliding a slim book from the shelf. She lowers her eyes, inspecting the cover, and opens it to the back. "I'm only looking for something that Peadar can read to Celia." What she's pulled must not fit the bill, because she's easing it back into place a moment later and seeking out its neighbor.

"I thought I might just look at the last few pages. Little girls deserve to be able to believe in happy endings." When she does read, she usually requires glasses, but the bridge of her nose is naked, and she makes a quiet sound of frustration at the back of her throat as she touches her free hand to the front breast pocket of her robe and finds it empty.

So she holds up her selection and asks, "What do you think?"

"Sad story," Edmund asserts after skimming a glance over its well worn — and very familiar — cover. "But if she can weather it, it tidies up nice enough for a girl. She don't seem the delicate kind."

He takes it from her, fingering open the spotted pages and the faded manuscript, letting it flutter between his rough fingers. It kicks up the scent of old paper. "It's about the war they call world war one." It both must have and must not been so long ago - a long ago time because it's impossible to consider that it was only the first time the world warred each other, but not so old due to the kinds of stories and the people in them that feature. So unlike the robes and sandals and deserts of the New Testament. "I thought it was good," is his stunning review, holding it back for her to take.

She does.

"You would," Aislinn says, though there's no malice in her tone or the petulant shape her mouth makes. The better she knows someone, the broader she allows her smile to be, and there is no one in Dornie she knows better than Edmund — except, maybe, her children. "I like stories with animals in them, too. My da used to read me this one book with the most beautiful little drawings in it. It was about a squirrel named Nutkin — he builds a raft, you see, one made out of twigs— and he paddles out to this island where all the hazelnuts are, but there's an owl that lives there, too— Old Brown— and all the other squirrels, they bring Old Brown gifts and ask him for permission to gather the hazelnuts. Not Nutkin, though. Nutkin sings him a riddle every day until Old Brown gets so fed up with it that he tries to skin poor Nutkin alive."

It's a fond memory, at least; although Aislinn's eyes are downcast and shadowed by the spread of her lashes, the apples of her cheeks are still pinched up around a smile. "He gets out all right." You know, in case Edmund was worried for him. "Only he loses his tail.

"Do I seem the delicate kind?"

The story sounds nonsensical and he imagines maybe the pictures are worth more than the words, and he wouldn't really mind if the squirrel wound up skinned, but he listens, and the corner of his mouth turns up. "Aye," Edmund says, with the reserve of not meaning to insult. He takes the book from her, then, and sets it instead on the tops of the other books, his hands possessing hers to steer her closer. "But sort've like the summer grass, when it grows tall. Resilient. Bows but don't break."

He's being a little ironic. Edmund is no poet and he's repeating, badly, words he heard before, but it's also sincere. "'specially if you think a story like that's for wee children."

"I do," Aislinn says. "It teaches them why not to be impertinent." Which is not the sort of word she ever uses, but maybe it's one that Duncan's drilled into memory since she came to Dornie. In any case, Peter must not be waiting for her to return with the book because she doesn't protest when Edmund discards it.

Her hands fit easily inside his; she curls three or four of her fingers around one of Edmund's and rubs the edge of her thumb over his palm, trying to relax whatever tension exists there. "If I show you something, will you promise not to hurt my feelings and laugh? Even if you think it's very silly?"

He feels that maybe they're wandered off the path of children's stories by the time she asks this of him; an eyebrow raises and the corner of his mouth suggests the beginnings of a smile at her own inexplicable caution. Edmund doesn't verbalise a response, just sort of tips his head in the fidget that signifies 'of course' or 'as you say'. He won't laugh. He doesn't usually laugh even when there's cause to, which is probably good for those involved; some creatures shouldn't grin, and these include jackals, sharks, and Edmund Rowntree.

It's close enough, anyway. Aislinn slips her hands from Edmund's and dips down between them to untie the sash at her waist, opening the robe to better shrug it from her shoulders and allow the material to pool around her elbows and gather where they fold.

The dress she wears beneath it is a much paler shade than the robe's night sky, and although Sorcha couldn't find fabric to match the exact colour of Aislinn's eyes, she came close enough for the dress to make them stand out of her face even though her face isn't what its cut emphasizes. A swooping neckline plunges below and between her breasts and shows more skin than anything Edmund has ever seen her in; he can feel the tension in her arms as she resists the impulse to cover her chest with her hands.

The way it conforms to her body's shape and rounds out her bottom and thighs are offensive to her usual sensibilities, too, but this is what she hired the seamstress for.

"You promised," she reminds him.

He's confused, at first; Edmund has never found his wife's body to be a subject of silliness, and as she starts to unwrap her gown, he looks towards where she had come from to see the door eased shut and otherwise undisturbed. By the time he looks back, she's slipped the garment off her shoulders. He is quiet for a few moments, and he doesn't need to take a cue to look her up and down, only very briefly meeting her eyes as he says, "I did promise." And he is keeping his promise, there is no laughter in account of having nothing to laugh at.

But he does smile; vaguely relieved, also, that this is what she meant. "When'd you— here, show me properly," he urges, gently, taking a step back so that he isn't simply staring down the sink of her neckline, for all that he has no complaints there either.

The dress falls all the way to the floor but still flatters Aislinn's proportions, which are a little more generous than some of Dornie's women, and this has as much to do with her build as it does the fact that she's given birth to and nursed three children.

She turns to give him a view from the back, showing off the tie at her neck's nape, bare shoulders and the gentle slope of her back, and he make out the shape of her legs through the fabric, which he discovers is opaque halfway through her spin.

"The seamstress said it was for my boudoir," she says, playing the word by elongating its vowels. It was, until very recently, an entirely new one to her. "Slainte told me that you used to visit the Dovetail, but now that you're married— I thought I could bring the Dovetail to you?"

She doesn't mean it to be a question but her voice hikes up at the end regardless.

Edmund roughly knows what a boudoir is, and he may have even learned it in the Dovetail, and he breaks his promise a little — it's a mere huff that Aislinn and close family know means laughter, from Edmund, and he is swift to hold up a hand of surrender. He isn't laughing at you, Aislinn.

"You're like no whore I've ever met," he says, and this is officially the most words they've exchanged about his prior affairs. In fact, it is potentially a little unhealthy what they don't talk about with regard to their pasts, but if anything, the silence is out of respect for their present. Especially in his case. His attention chases the tie at the nape of her neck before she's turned all the way back around. "But none of them are half as pretty as you so that's t'be expected."

"I think Luna Owens is half as pretty as me," says Aislinn, and it's only after the words have left her mouth does she realize that this is a slight against the younger woman. It doesn't matter that she isn't there to hear it. "In fact— I would say that Luna Owens is more than half. Twice as."

This is not the point that she means to contend most, however; her back straightens at Edmund's first assertion, giving her a valuable half inch of extra height, and she lifts her chin. Her hands find her hips. "You don't think I could act like those girls if I tried to?"

If Edmund were better at nuance, he might feel this is a particularly dicey turn of conversation, but then again, he's never compared whores to other women and see all that much a difference, which is either progressive or terrible depending on where you're standing. He just knows how Aislinn is and how they are, and so his forehead crinkles a little at what sounds like a challenge over honest query regarding his experience with those girls.

"Half as pretty," he asserts, after a moment. He meant that. And he must mean their greasy applications of makeup and not their style of dress, because he sees no problems here with the latter.

It's a mighty exaggeration to say that Aislinn has never set foot in a brothel. She visits the Dovetail at least once a month to check in on Edme's girls and address any health any concerns they might have, but it's true that she's never gone behind the Dovetail's closed doors, and apart from a few tips she's been given on how to keep her husband happy, she can only imagine what happens there.

Not that she doesn't already have a few ideas.

Edmund's refusal to answer her question has her pursing her mouth around the beginning of a word, then flattening it back out again when it stalls on the tip of her tongue. She puffs out her cheeks in obvious irritation, more at herself than at Edmund.

"Ff- " she tries. "Fff—"

Why is this so difficult?

Aislinn sucks in a deep breath, and while she's holding it reminds herself that if Half as Pretty Luna Owens can do it then so can she. So she says with the straightest face in Dornie—

"Fuck me then."

The girls at the Dovetail would probably laugh, and it's taking Edmund a moment to not break his own promise; he has a feeling that she would not appreciate it, no matter that it the compulsion to grin at her is not remotely out of mockery. It's so difficult, Aislinn, because it is not remotely you, for all that the dress fits her like a glove. One that is being slowly taken—

Alright.

There are some men in town that would probably only laugh at Aislinn, but they are probably queer, feeble, or both, and so Edmund doesn't. She does get the glimpse of half a smile growing, but only for the time it takes for him to step forward and heft her over his shoulder as one might with something they killed out in the dense forest, her legs tangled in the fine fabric set to rumple in this grip. He is careful, and so her head misses the bookcase by inches as he heads for the door.

"Eamonn!"

Whatever Aislinn was expecting, it wasn't this; her legs bend at the knee, toes pointed, and she slaps the palms of her hands against Edmund's back, not in protest, but because she isn't used to being carried around and fears tumbling to the floor in a graceless heap. When that doesn't happen, she ducks her head just to be safe, and grabs fistfuls of Edmund's shirt in her fingers for a better grip.

"Put me dooown," sounds like it should be howled the way she draws it out. It's demanded in a plaintive whisper instead, lest someone hear them out in the corridor.

If she's being honest with herself, she could probably be more adamant about it if down was what she really wanted.

"'m not fuckin' you where my mother can walk in," is scrupulously pragmatic, although the hand clapping to settle on her rear is probably unnecessary. The stairs will probably make for some vertigo, but for all that Edmund is on the lean side of his height, and she is not particularly petite, he is also unbudgingly steady, his grip fast and expert, which is probably less to do with how many whores he's been with, and more to do with how many animals he's handled.

Fortunately, they're not running into anyone as they go.

Thank God for that.

"I'll bite your ear," Aislinn threatens, and as far as threats go it is weak enough to be an incentive as far as their subject of conversation is concerned. Each step draws a barely stifled huff from her on the way up; the amount of pressure it puts on her chest and lungs is uncomfortable, though not entirely unpleasant the same way she only pretends to mind his hand on her backside.

"I'll bite it right off."

The interior of their bedroom comes along quite suddenly for Aislinn and her vantage point, and it might be a strange sensation to detect the rumble of a chuckle from her his chest at her thighs. There is a lack of ceremony for the way she is set down upon the bed, but Edmund is careful all the same, a hand catching her before lowering her completely and giving her little else to complain about— in theory— except for the smirk he can't quite banish off his face, slightly too young for him.

"Then I'll be even uglier," he says, leaning against the bed with a knee between her's, other foot braced on the floor. He takes off his shirt, ropey muscles and scars on display. "And y'wouldn't be wanting that."

The bed under Aislinn's back has a lot of history, and not in the sense that it's very old. Their son was born here (though she can't be sure if it's where he was conceived), and at one point she lost count of the number of hours she spent sitting beside it, changing Edmund's bandages and praying for him to regain consciousness after he was attacked by the Stormbringer out on the moor. On the coldest mornings, still dressed in his footed pajamas, Ariel sometimes joins them in it, and Aislinn does not arrive at the apothecary until an hour after Cordelia opens it because it's not often she has her son and her husband together.

She isn't thinking about any of this, however. She's thinking about the sex, and the sketches of Edmund she keeps in her portfolio for times when she's alone and missing him the most. The scars on his chest are old friends, and she reaches up to trace their outline with the edge of a nail. "I can think of one good reason why a woman might want an ugly husband," she says.

Edmund descends down towards her hands once he has at least loosened his trousers, laying down a kiss while he's there, with a hand devoted to dragging the shimmery, quasi-sheer fabric of her dress up her pale legs, and the other propping him up, arm rigid. His hand rests against her waist, smooths up to following where the fabric disappears behind her neck. "I could give you a reason or two why you mightn't," he offers.

"That isn't hard." Aislinn's arms bracket Edmund's neck, hands fastening into a knot at its nape, and coax him closer. She kisses the point of his chin, then his mouth. "I'm easily convinced."