"She's cute, my lord," Jirelle teased, a few feet from the young lord, each with a cleaning rag in their hands. Oliver paused, slowly looking up from the spot of grease he was wiping from the surface, a look of embarrassment burning into his cheeks. Dark rings circled his eyes, the exhaustion of the trial and the sleeplessness of the former few trials finally catching up to him. He smiled, though, after a trill.
"Thank you, Jirelle." He mumbled it, sheepishly hiding his face back in the cleaning. He could sense Jirelle's smile, though, and he just scrubbed the table harder, not expecting the body on the other side of him to chime in.
"Oh, he's quite taken with her, don't let him be coy," quipped Gustauv, mirth evident in his voice. Oliver's glare did nothing to diminish his amusement, instead causing a burst of laughter to echo out from the manservant. Oliver straightened indignantly, mouth agape to retort, but Jirelle's laughter joined with Gustauv's, and he just closed his mouth in defeat. Of course, that made them laugh only harder, and Oliver just shook his head.
"Lucky I don't have both of you thrown into the dungeons," he muttered, but they didn't hear him. Instead, he just grasped the end of the table, dark eyes landing on Gustauv. There was no indigo in them this time, but instead a stormy gray. He indicated the table, and Gustauv sighed in, trying to steady his breath as he and Oliver hefted the table back out the large doors. Jirelle and the kitchen staff moved the leftover food, taking it for packing and storing. Outside the door, Gustauv removed a silver case from his jacket, pulling out a cigarette. He offered one to Oliver, who took it without a murmur of thanks.
"We only tease because we care, my lord. Thirty arcs of bachelorhood is a stretch, even for the Rose," he stated, drawing Oliver's gaze. Gustauv shrugged, offering no apology other than the silence. He struck a match and lit the cigarettes, Oliver inhaling his in silence.
"It isn't necessarily my fault, Gustauv. But I won't complain. Charlotte is... something else." He smiled, thinking of the woman in the bedroom just upstairs. He took another drag of the cigarette, the flavor of apple obvious to his palate. Gustauv knew what he liked, and always had.
"Yes, my lord, she is. And definitely too beautiful for you. So don't be stupid," came the sage advice of Oliver's closest friend, and the lord just laughed. Only Gustauv would be so blunt with him and not carry the teachings of the child nobility. Another drag, and Oliver caught Gustauv from the corner of his eye, the older man looking at him.
"What is it?" He asked, turning to face the manservant. Gustauv smoothed his beard, leaning against the estate.
"Tonight went well, Oliver. Very well. I would not be surprised if your efforts here reach the King's ear," Gustauv said, admiration in his voice. "You have a promising career ahead of you. I'm just reminiscing on when you were a child, and were a sarding nightmare."
Oliver laughed again, this time the look of respect reflecting back to the butler. He reached out and squeezed his shoulder, but his voice was level.
"Let's keep our feet on the ground, Gustauv. For now, I'm just happy to offer the donations to the charities. In fact, I believe Ser Jericho is to deliver them in the morning," he said, obviously trusting the fiery knight. Gustauv nodded.
"For now, though, I have a woman too beautiful for me waiting for me upstairs. I'm sure Jirelle and you can handle it from here, yes?" Oliver asked, and Gustauv just nodded and waved him in, a smirk plastering across his face. He stood outside, still smoking, as Oliver went in. The nobleman climbed the stairs quietly, his mind racing as he approached the room. Charlotte awaited him in there, and though he was gone less than a break, he knew that she might be asleep. He did not want to disturb her.
But the scene that greeted him was not what he'd expected. Sitting there, nude and covered only by his bedding, Charlie offered herself to him. Smiling, though, Oliver crossed to her side of the bed and sat, putting a hand on her bare shoulder. He leaned in, kissing the pale flesh.
"Perhaps it's more than I deserve. I don't need pretty words or prose, Charlotte. I don't need physical contact. I need one thing, and that is you. I want Charlotte Warrick, Sergeant Charlie Warrick, Charlie, all of them. I want you at your best, and your worst. Never feel like you owe me anything. What you are is enough." He kissed her, standing after that to begin his undressing.