Of Babies and Blueriders

Xanadu Weyr - Garden
An arch woven from the tendrils of a willow tree stretches overhead lightly creeping with ivy as one steps in from the meadow into this sanctuary of green. Cool gray flagstone carefully spaced enables a soft velvety moss to thrive within the cracks, and creates a single wide pathway that fluidly breaks off into two paths of stone once free of the natural arbor. It is a wonder this place, and meticulously tended from the way it seems not a single leaf is out of place.

On either side of the main path expansive grassy patches are trimmed short and edged behind with natural tan colored stone selectively chosen to stack just right. Beyond these are a line of fine puffed shrubberies in vibrant green intermingled with flowering bushes of brilliant pinks varying in hue from the very light to the very dark, which causes the occasional snowy white blossoms of other scattered here and there without worry to simply pop out of the scenery.

Directly in the center of the garden is another wall of intricately stacked stone, this of muted grays, creating what from the air would prove to be a perfect circle. It's been set high for safety, but not so much as one would not be able to lean over it to admire what lies beyond, either standing or sitting at the smattering of benches whose backs are set every four feet along it. Flush to the ground inside it's protective stone outcropping, is an enormous twenty foot wide fish pond. Within one can glean the metallic glint of playful goldfish, the unhurried cruise of fat koi, and even a frog or three among pale yellow and white flowering water lilies and their thick green pads.

The trees surrounding the entire garden were planted to give the impression that they had always been here, not only lending to a rustic look, but also alluding to the beauty that can be found among the wilds if only one might just look for it. Species vary from the ordinary Birch and Pine, but the flaming red capsules of the Indian Shot to the robust orange spokes of the Firewheel tree suggest the spice of the exotic.

While Fort Weyr might be under several feet of snow, it is a pleasant summer day at Xanadu. One that finds Sephany in the garden, tucked away on one of the benches that circles that center-most ring of stones around the fishpond. She's tucked her feet upon to the bench, a posture that might appear protective but is, in fact, simply to allow her legs to act as an easel for her sketchbook. Serene but studious expression; pencil in hand and slowly flowing over the page as ideas are put to paper.

Z'ki's dressed for between — and for Igen's winter — so once he's done with the chore that's brought him to Xanadu, he's already stripped himself of flight jacket, helmet and gloves, and even rolled up the sleeves of his long sleeved shirt. He's striding purposefully towards the gardens with long strides, slowing when his gaze settles on the serene looking Sephany. "Huh," he says, with surprise, even as he's approaching the woman. "I thought I heard your name mentioned, but figured it couldn't possibly be the same Sephany."

She is caught up in her work, but not so much that the sound of her name doesn't catch her attention. Sephany glances up, and after a moment of surprise that makes way for delight, offers Z'ki a grin and a playful, "Is there more than one?" She drops her feet from the bench, tucking the pencil behind her ear before flipping the sketchbook closed. "Hello Z'ki," is the next greeting, pleasantly polite but with that glimmer of mischief in her gaze. "What are you doing in Xanadu?"

"Possibly, though I haven't met your double yet, but I'll let you know if I do." Z'ki's amused, waiting until she's moved her feet before he settles onto the bench beside her, brows rising at the question. "I was dropping off a healer who wanted to consult with one of his fellows down here. The more important question is what are you doing here?"

"If you ever come across another woman named Sephany, I demand to meet her," she decides, clearly finding the idea of a double (in name, or character) rather amusing. "Is transporting crafters a regular part of Guard-duty?" It's playful, teasing. Clearly affectionate rather than cruel. "Of course, I do not blame you if you simply wanted to use it as an excuse to escape the winter. Even if I am, once again, missing out on ice skating." Woe. As for what brings her here? A grin. "I transferred temporarily to help out Risali. She's… well," big as a house, "Rather pregnant. And I thought she would appreciate… having someone around." Who recently went through such things, though she doesn't say as much. "I am also taking this opportunity to study under a different Journeyman. It's been educational."

"I'll see what I can do," Z'ki promises solemnly, like he's taking on as a specific challenge. As for her teasing question, he clears his throat briefly. "Uh. It depends whether you owe them out for helping you after a scrape or two," the bronzerider confesses. "And Jizunoth likes her, so he didn't mind. Me — I'm not such a fan of a the heat," he admits, grimacing. "It's different than Igen's heat, anyway. I feel like I might need to bathe later." His brows rise — not at the news Risali is pregnant, since by his lack of surprise he's clearly already aware — but her reasoning. "That's nice of you," he says, genuinely. "And a good opportunity. I thought perhaps sooner or later you'd get restless and want to move on," he adds, with a briefly wry tone accompanied by an equally brief smile.

"Did you get hurt?" and now the amusement is gone, Sephany latching onto that 'scrape or two' and 'healer' and jumping to (logical?) conclusions. But as he is clearly alive, and breathing, with all limbs still attached, there's not much lingering worry. "It is a very… humid sort of heat," she agrees with a brief expression. "Compared to Igen, at least. But I am enjoying the beach, which is something that Fort lacks. A lake is not the same as the sea," she notes dryly. Her reasons for being here draw a dry smile across her face, and she offers a little shrug. "I appreciated my sisters being there for me. So I thought… well. And it was a nice opportunity to try something new; live somewhere different," she admits with a touch of sheepish glee. "I love Fort, but I'm not sure if I am going to stay there forever…"

"Nothing to be concerned about," Z'ki assures her fairly quickly, and just as dismissively brushes it off with a wave of his hand as if it really is nothing. He chuckles at her words, smiling as his gaze drifts away from her and across the Weyr. "It was kind of inevitable. You seem to have a wanderlust about you — which is beneficial for an aspiring Journeyman, I suppose. I hope you'll still be visiting Igen, at least?" he says, gaze coming back to rest on her as he asks.

A quick huff and narrowed eyes for the brush-off of potential injuries, but as he is alive and well, it's more playful than frustrated. "You'd say that even if you lost an eye," she decides, but lets the topic drop, moving to the next easily enough. "This is the time to be adventurous," she decides, grinning. "While I am young, and free of obligations. Well, other than those of my apprenticeship," admitted. "The world is a very big place. The idea of staying in a single place forever, without experiencing the others…" the subtle grimace says it all. "Not yet. Maybe when I'm a bit older." A shift of position leans the sketchbook between herself and the arm of the bench, out of the way but not forgotten. "Of course I will. I have some very compelling reasons to do so," she assures him. "My family is there. And you and Jizunoth are there. Although I dare say, it's a lot easier for you to bounce around Pern than it is for me."

"Very probably," Z'ki agrees, chuckling briefly, "Though it'd be a little more obvious, what with the eye-patch and whatnot," the bronzerider muses. He makes a brief noise that sounds like a 'tsk' of his tongue. "You know more riders than me, more than likely. I'm sure it's just as easy for you to get places. But, at the very least, promise me we'll manage a trip to Telgar or High Reaches. I haven't had a chance to get there yet other than for visualizations, and Jizunoth's curious — so I need the excuse to need to go."

Sephany leans back just slightly, grey eyes squinted at him as if she were envisioning that eyepatch inplace of one green eye. A grin, and a giggle, before she decides, "Very true. Hard to wave-away an eyepatch, though I think you could pull it off. Would add to that intimidation factor." But there is a roll of her eyes for the assessment that her transportation needs are easily met. "In Fort. In Igen. In Half Moon Bay, yes. Xanadu… I only know a few, really. And they are rather occupied at the moment. A pair of bronzeriders that are Risali's weyrmates, and Risali herself. I haven't had an opportunity to sweet-talk anyone else into being my friend," she says with a grin. "But yes! Telgar, and High Reaches! Before the snow melts, if possible. I would love to be able to skate at least once or twice before the winter is gone from the North and I am stuck in a perpetual summer." As for the bronze? "How is Jizunoth?"

With a brief grunt, Z'ki warns, "At this rate, you never know — I might randomly show up with an eyepatch just to throw you off now and then." He grins at her discussion of sweet-talking the locals. "I'm sure it's only a matter of time. That comes naturally to you." Unlike him, presumably, not it seems to bother him. "I'm going to busy for the next couple of sevens, and you probably need to settle in — so after that?" he suggests. Her query about Jizunoth, as ever, warms his expression, chuckling as he glances over his shoulder — though he can't possibly see the bronze through the distance between them. "Oh, he's curious as ever. We've been visiting Monaco Bay a lot — he seems to like it there. I'll tell him you asked about him."

"Careful bronzerider; you show up with a fake eyepatch enough and all of my sympathy will be wasted on practical jokes, leaving none for legitimate injuries," warns Sephany playfully. "A good idea," to allow her to settle in. "Risa should be having the baby within the next month or so… after that would probably be best; I'd hate to miss the birth." It's why she is here, after all. And even though it is impossible for Z'ki to see his bronze through the foliage, making it even MORE so for Sephany, there's a echoing glance that direction; a look over his shoulder as if she could peer through trees and distance. "Oh?" for Monaco Bay. "Anything in particular that draws him there?" and a beat later, "What do you think of it? I have not been there, but I imagine it is much like Ista, or Half Moon."

"Maybe that's the way I want it," the bronzerider retorts, with a lift of his chin, though the gesture doesn't last; he laughs a moment later. "That soon?" Z'ki says, with surprise. "It's gone quickly." He looks thoughtful, distracted and distant for a moment. He shifts his shoulders, a brief tension visible as he says, "He seems fond of the weather. And there's a green that he's taken fancy to. I, ah — haven't spent much time at Ista or Half Moon to compare, but I like it." He runs a hand over short-shaven hair, perhaps a sign of discomfort, before he says, "I, uh… there was a greenflight there several months back that I lost. And after… anyway, it turns out I'm going to be a father, probably in the next few months." He throws it out there, not-so-casually, in a way that suggests he's still adjusting to the idea.

"Not sure Risali would agree with that assessment," of the time going quickly. But it's a light and airy tone; full of mirth and amusement. "Oh?" for the weather and then "Aahhh…" for the green that's caught the bronze dragon's eye, in a voice that says Sephany understands, even if she doesn't. In principle, perhaps. In actuality, she has no practical experience. But she can sympathize. "Tropical islands, both of them. Ista's beach is black, so there is that…" which is basically dismissive of the two paradise-like Weyrs. She won't debate their merits or faults, seeing as how her attention is rather profoundly nabbed by all of those signals he's throwing off that speak to discomfort and awkwardness. At least the mirth leaves, so there won't be any teasing when the revelation is made. "Oh… OH!" And then "Oh…" All in a wide range of tones with accompanying facial expressions; curiosity, surprise, and then understanding. "I… should I say congratulations or condolences?" she wonders hesitantly, looking like she's trying rather hard to keep the shock of it from her expression.

"I imagine it feels different for her. Yours seemed to go quickly too — for me," Z'ki says, with a low laugh as if anticipating how well that observation will be received. "Me, personally — I don't think I could stand that sort of humid heat Turn-round." Her reaction to his news is taken in with interest, and perhaps a brief twist of lips that suggests he might've been unsure with the reaction. "Congratulations, I think? I certainly hadn't anticipated it, but I'm looking forward to it. The mother's a bluerider, and a very lovely woman. It's her second, so she seems pretty at ease with it all. I think she finds my, uh, difficulty adjusting quite amusing, truth to tell."

A flat look, and a flat voice. "It was an eternity," decides Sephany, for her own pregnancy. But that expression and that tone is, truly, bestowed with amusement. Dry and humored now that the experience has been relegated to the past. "A very different experience, when you happen to be the one growing into the size of a house, and all you want is for things to be over so you can see your toes again." Her recollection, a bit different indeed. And while it is said without hesitation, there's a certain tightness to her expression that suggests it is not an easy subject of conversation for her. Her own pregnancy, a source of conflict. Risali's current one filled mostly with joy. Z'ki's impending fatherhood, surprising; expression and tone careful until she accepts his response to her question. "Congratulations then," breathed out with a timid smile. "You will be a wonderful father. I'm sure of it." It's still there in her gaze though; that flicker of surprise. As though trying to reconcile the words with reality.
"A lonely woman," repeated without enough inflection to really give her opinion on the thought. "Did you know her?" wondered with some curiosity. "I mean… were you friends, before?" As for his adjustment period, she offers a bit of an encouraging smile. "It's different for everyone. But at least she told you."

A flat look, and a flat voice. "It was an eternity," decides Sephany, for her own pregnancy. But that expression and that tone is, truly, bestowed with amusement. Dry and humored now that the experience has been relegated to the past. "A very different experience, when you happen to be the one growing into the size of a house, and all you want is for things to be over so you can see your toes again." Her recollection, a bit different indeed. And while it is said without hesitation, there's a certain tightness to her expression that suggests it is not an easy subject of conversation for her. Her own pregnancy, a source of conflict. Risali's current one filled mostly with joy. Z'ki's impending fatherhood, surprising; expression and tone careful until she accepts his response to her question. "Congratulations then," breathed out with a timid smile. "You will be a wonderful father. I'm sure of it." It's still there in her gaze though; that flicker of surprise. As though trying to reconcile the words with reality.
"A lovely woman," repeated without enough inflection to really give her opinion on the thought. "Did you know her?" wondered with some curiosity. "I mean… were you friends, before?" As for his adjustment period, she offers a bit of an encouraging smile. "It's different for everyone. But at least she told you."(repose)

"Funny, it only felt like nine months, give or take." Surely that deserves a poke or an elbow or something, and clearly Z'ki knows it, since he reflexively flinches away, even while he's chuckling. "Thanks," he says, genuinely pleased with her response — it's clear her reaction means a lot to the taciturn guard. "If there's any tips you can give me about making things easier for her, I'm sure she'll appreciate it." And him, by extension. "We, uh, weren't anything. Strangers, actually, which makes it all the more awkward. Her blue and Ji both lost a greenflight." The life of a rider; it's painted in the slightly strained expression of one hold-born adjusting to the vagaries of rider life. "I'm glad she told me," he says, fervently. "I know some… don't. But I'd like to be part of my child's life, even if he or she is growing up in another Weyr."

Oh yes. He definitely gets an elbow for that, straight for the ribs. Though it's gentle enough to be laughable, because Sephany is not a physically violent person (unlike a certain unnamed goldrider *cough-cough*). "Tips, hmm…" and she looks as though she is giving it considerable thought before she answers. "Well… it is difficult for everyone, and I have only had the one child, so I don't even know…" but she trails off there and reverts to the original thought, "Just let her know you're there? Be understanding. Things… happen with babies. Emotional changes. Cravings… your whole body feels like it's revolting against you…" Nose wrinkle, as if to demonstrate just how un-fun that particular experience really is. "But you're already a rather laid back guy… I think you'll be fine. And if this is her second child, then it won't be as scary for her. At least, I imagine it wouldn't be… after going through it the first time." Clearly, she is not that helpful. "And it will be alright," because she sees that awkwardness, and even if she cannot relate to the source, being weyrbred, she can sympathize. Of course, all of that sympathy goes flying out the window at his next statement; wiped right off her face and replaced with a swift and varied range of new expressions. Like being slapped in the face, there is shock. Then guilt, shame and finally, the glistening of tears that she hides with a turn of her head away. A change in posture comes with it; though she doesn't move from how she is sitting on that bench, there is a profound difference in her level of relaxation. Muscles tight where they had been loose. Jaw clenched. Her whole body seizing up as if fighting back unwanted responses. A moment. Two. That's all she really needs; breathing deeply and staring without seeing. Whatever it is, it is not directed /at/ him, though clearly it was his words that brought it on. "Yeah," comes out rougher than she meant, and she clears her throat and swallows the emotion before speaking again. "That's… good."

"Oh, she's already had me zooming off to this place or that in search of something she ate three Turns ago," Z'ki confesses, with a laugh. "With no respect for the time differences." She earns a grateful smile for that reassurance. And then her expression changes. There's a heartbeat or so of confusion, before he realizes what he said. "I'm sorry, Seph. I know… that was your choice. It's… it's not going to be the same for everyone." He reaches out a hand, tentatively, as if expecting to be rebuffed, to land on her arm. "But I'm glad I know."

It is not rebuffed; if anything that hand is seized upon, and if he doesn't move, Z'ki is going to find himself with a rather emotional weaver pressing her face to his shoulder as she turns into the contact rather than away from it, hand reaching out to twist into that rolled-up sleeve as if it's the thing that keeps her from losing it completely. "It was my own damn fault," she confesses, unsuccessfully fighting back all of that emotion when a few tears slip through. "I should have told him. I should have, but I didn't. And then…" but she stops there, and deep breaths are taken. "It doesn't matter. What's done is done." And then a push back upright, a release of her grasp and a quick rub of her hand over her eyes that removes the tears but not the evidence of them. "I'm sorry. This isn't about me. I don't want it to be about me. This is about you. You're going to be a dad," and there's a bit of joy coming back, an attempt at a smile that is weak but absolutely genuine. "Have you told your family?"

To say he's surprised is a bit of an understatement; even as an observant guard it's clear Z'ki wasn't expecting such a reaction. His other hand draws around Sephany's shoulder in comfort, just resting there comfortingly. "Hey," he murmurs. "If you've changed your mind, it's not too late. Jaspyr's still young." He squeezes her arm where his hand rests against it, and then gives a genuine smile at her latter question. "My mother's thrilled, it'll be her first grandchild. My father is less thrilled, because he or she will grow up in Monaco Bay, rather than Igen Hold. I'd like to let the child foster at Igen when he or she is older, but I think they… belong in a Weyr. He's going to be the child of two riders." Clearly, judging by the brief anguish in Z'ki's expression, that wasn't an easy decision, either.

"It is," counters Sephany, in resignation rather than argument. "He does know. He… it's a complicated story," comes apologetically. "But the short version is… he found out. He flipped out. And now… well… He wants nothing to do with Jaspyr or me. And I don't blame him. I should have told him. But I honestly thought I was doing the right thing…" Which perhaps sounds bad, and she knows it. But there is a very 'it is what it is' acceptance to the drooping of her shoulders and lean of head. "It will be alright," for where that child is growing up, "And I think… you are right about that. My parents are not riders, but plenty of my friends grew up in that situation; dragonrider parents and plenty as the result of a flight. But there is nothing that says he, or she, cannot be fostered for a while in the Hold. It would be a good experience…" says the weaver who has never lived in a Hold. "Considering it is where you grew up."

"That's… difficult," Z'ki acknowledges, frowning. "For both of you. At least now, he knows. Maybe once he has time to think about it, cool down — maybe he'll feel different." The bronzerider's words are slow, as if unsure; certainly it seems he can't fathom not wanting to know your own child. "I hope so," he adds, to the topic of fostering his own child. "I can certainly see the value, especially of a Weyr-bred child being fostered to a Hold and vice-versa. Whatever path he or she chooses in the future, hopefully it'll make it easier for them." Easier than for him, presumably.

"Maybe," though it is clear from her tone of voice that Sephany will not be holding out much hope of that. But no more arguments or explanations are forthcoming, and as she pulls back on the torrent of emotion that briefly threatened her, there's a return to relaxation. Even a bit of a smile. "Having a diverse experience would certainly help, in the event they are ever Searched and Impress," she agrees. "Or even if they decide to pursue a craft. It would help eliminate some misunderstandings, at least?" A bit of a wry expression, and a shake of her head. "We do the best we can, to try and give them the best life," she murmurs, waxing philosophical for a moment. "It's… one of the reasons why I left Jaspyr at Igen. I wanted him to grow up around family, and my sisters have kids that are near his age. I'm not… going to have another baby anytime soon, so I want him to grow up them. Like siblings." A slight tilt of her head, and she considers him with a steady gaze. "Was it hard for you, Z'ki? I don't think I ever asked you before… was it hard for you, adjusting to the Weyr? Adjusting to being a dragonrider, and what that could mean?"

"I hope — I have hope for all of that," Z'ki says, with a smile. "I understand why you did it. It must have been hard to leave him like that, regardless of the reasons. And yeah… it makes me sad that he or she might not have brothers or sisters. I'd always dreamed of having a big family, like with me and my brothers. But being fostered at the Weyr — I understand it's like having many parents and many siblings, in a way. So that's something." But still that edge of not-quite-used-to-it. He goes silent for a moment after she asks her latter question, while he considers an answer to it. "It was… difficult. Being at the Weyr was adjustment, but in some respects, because I still had the same job, it wasn't so bad. Impressing, though…" he shakes his head. "I… don't think I could've gotten through it without Jizunoth. Which is funny, given he was the reason I was struggling, too. It sounds strange, I know, but…" he struggles to verbalize it, giving a brief shrug of shoulders.

"It is," she agrees, for being fostered in the Weyr being like a large family. "Even my friends felt more like brothers and sisters. Which made things a little bit interesting when they started pairing off." A bit of amusement for that, Sephany's eyes showing a little of that mirth from before. "You can still have a large family, you know," which is very, very slightly teasing. "Being a dragonrider doesn't prevent that. It just makes things… a little more complicated than they would have been otherwise. Dragonriders don't marry, but you can still weyrmate. And you can still have lots of children, if that's what you want." Quiet consideration for his thoughts on the challenges of adjusting to the Weyr. "I can't say I understand… but I suppose it makes sense? I don't know what it is like to have a dragon, but I know enough. He's like… part of you now. Sharing a part of your heart and soul. I see it in S'van, too. As challenging as his dragon is, I can see that he wouldn't be the same without him. He'd be a shell of himself, without Aedeluth. Even though that bronze is the source of almost all his troubles," which makes her laugh, just a little, in dry amusement for her brother's predicament.

"I can, but it's all just so much more difficult than I thought it would be," Z'ki confesses, exhaling. "It's… yeah, it's like that. For all that it's been a struggle to adjust to, I wouldn't take back the decision," he confesses. He's silent for a moment, gaze distant, and then refocusing, giving a rueful smile to Sephany and another squeeze of her arm before he stands. "Well, I'd best head back. I'm due for a meeting. It was good to see you though — say hi to Risali for me, would you? — though be mindful to call her 'ma'am' when you do so?" he says, with a twitch of lips. Old habits are clung to, it seems.

"Mm. Life. So much more complicated than it ought to be," decides the weaver. And the grin that comes with it is much more 'Sephany' now, equilibrium once more established. A nod of her head as he stands, grey eyes following the movement. "It was good to see you, as well. Let me know when your schedule frees up, and we can go to High Reaches. I will just… need to ask for the day off from Gerazal — the Journeyman I work with here,"she explains. A laugh, but she boldly decides, "I will, but I can't be liable for her hunting you down for it. Remember, she's got all of those fun pregnancy hormones going…" teasing. Warning. One and the same. "Safe travels, Z'ki…"

"Sounds like she can't hunt down much of anything right now — I think I'm safe in Igen," Z'ki admits with a grin. "And definitely, I'll see you soon for that trip north. Clear skies, Seph," he replies, with a last, warm smile, before he's striding off across the meadow, making a beeline for wherever his dragon has ended up.

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