Her Eyes, They Shone Like Diamonds

Wingleaders' Ready Room
Attempts have been made to brighten this windowless room by painting the walls white and installing overhead lighting, but the fact remains that it is rather a utilitarian, sparsely furnished and cramped room. The center is taken up by a large wooden table finished in a pale, natural hue around which a dozen chairs are pulled. Pen holders and stacks of paper are placed at intervals down the center of the table, while small locking wall cabinets provide a safe place for wing journals to be kept.

On one wall is a large whiteboard with a calendar on one side and a corkboard on the other to which various notices have been pinned. Around the room's perimeter are another dozen chairs of the same make as those around the table - metal-framed and armless, the wooden seats and backrests finished to match the tabletop. They allow for the wings, the leaders of whom share this room, to take turns holding meetings inside, but leave little room for maneuvering.

The only saving grace to this 'no frills' workroom is it's proximity to Xanadu's Council Room - right across the hall - and the access to the library of scrolls, hides and books kept in there. It's quite possible this was once a closet for the overflow of records, for the lingering scent of ink and hides assails one the moment upon stepping through the door.

'''Timing of this log is just about the beginning of Senior Weyrlinghood for F'yr.'''

If one were to ask F'yr for one word to describe Risali's friendship over the past eight months of trial, he might describe it as fierce; fierce like a warrior, fierce like a passion, fierce in loyalty, just fierce, in all the right ways. She didn't push him when he needed to not be pushed; with her, he danced, he distracted (and was distracted in turn), he built pillow forts or ran or climbed or — whatever small joys the stolen moments throughout busy weyrlinghood could afford them. Though fleeting, those moments served to maintain F'yr's truth, that Risali is one of the people that make Xanadu home, offering all the safety, shelter and comfort that that word implied. It was only logical then, that he would come to her with his most grievous hurts, with wounds that couldn't be staunched or fixed or healed. And she helped him with that, too. Now, two months later, it's not that there are never moments when he needs her shoulder to cry on or the desperate distraction of dance or piano keys or just running with his friend, but the incidences are many fewer and no longer the expected go-to for anytime a blonde head with hair grown too long gets sighted in the administration hallway. Now, he pops in once a seven or so to see what he can help with on time that would be 'off' but is now being used to help the Weyrsecond (or Risa, or whoever really), just help. Today was one such afternoon, but the time he has to spend in the office must be growing short because he has other obligations that now include moving into his very own homestead. And yet, when a sleekly folded set of paper gliding wings zooms through the open doorway to land on Risali's desk, launcher unseen, the list of who might pass a note this way, is very short. Within the folds is tucked the words, "Wingleader's Ready Room," and that's all. Within the Wingleader's Ready Room perches F'yr on a table, sitting cross-legged, barefoot, a plate of pastries that have been known to tempt Risali in the past beside him and a pair of steaming mugs prepared in the styles to which they're each accustomed.

And here Risali comes, the soft tread of booted feet carrying her into the doorway of the Wingleader's Ready Room where the Weyrwoman stills just long enough to press her shoulder into the lip of the doorframe, to take in F'yr, barefooted, pastry-bearing glory and all. All of that damnable hair is down for once, loose curls pulled to rest over one shoulder, grey eyes lined charcoal black, lips pulling sideways in the slow beginnings of a smile that twists and shapes into words when her attention drops to the note she harbors in too-small hands. "I think this one was the most successful rendition yet," comes soft but amused, the prelude of her pushing away from the door and moving without looking up, not until she's close, close, too close to the bronzerider with a scrunch of her nose, of her eyes, when they follow the motion of her hand up, up, up, up so that she might tap the bronzerider gently on the nose with wayward parchment. "The bend on the tip of the wings gave it some flare and some aerodynamicy, I think. It was pretty impressive." STOP MAKING UP WORDS, RISALI. A beat, and that smile expands until it's tipped over into deviance. "It also conveniently interrupted me finding out what D'merial thinks constitutes as proper clothing for the weyr — which, for the record, is probably, 'No clothes,' for the eightyth time." Then Risali's attention shifts, lingers on pastries and steaming mugs of Klah, momentary concern marring the set of her brow before she leans down and pulls her own feet free of her own boots. Those offerings are taken in once more and… set aside, abandoned in lieu of pulling herself up onto the desk beside F'yr and joining him in this space; shoulders tuckings in toward her chest while hands burrow beneath her knees. She tips sideways into a shoulder-bump before she speaks again, that too-small body leaning forward, chin tilting up as if she means to gain a better vantage to see his face. "You bring me food, drinks, and give me a reason to be barefoot — what do you want, bronzerider?" Those brows come up, laughter lining every press of lips and giving live to those tiny, shaking quivers of suppress laughter until she's leaning away to grab a drink and settling it in her lap. One, two, five and — softer — "Do I get to ask if you're okay?" And then, softer still, "You don't have to answer that." And he doesn't. There is no expectation. There never was, there never will be. Not in this.

When destruction comes, sometimes the obvious thing to do is to search one's soul for if there was anything that could have been done to prevent such devastation? In this case, as with so many cases, the answer is no. This could never have gone any differently. Fate will win out. The glider was never meant for any destiny other than the one it finds in F'yr's teeth as he snatches it from Risa's fingers when it taps his nose, flung with a jerk of his chin into its final, pitiful flight: a not quite spiral to a pathetic plop onto the floor beside the table. RIP GLIDER, WE HARDLY KNEW YE. And F'yr? Well, he acts as though that were the most perfectly natural thing to have happened under the circumstances (AND WASN'T IT, REALLY?), meeting her deviant smile with a placidly diplomatic one of his own. "You know, D'merial might be onto something," he replies, expression so bland it can't even be called innocent, just bureaucratic as he goes on, "The savings for the Weyr for curtailing the import of fabric for clothing would be substantial." Beat. "Although, perhaps with the increased import of lotion to deal with all the chaffing, maybe it would even out in the end." He manages to keep his impressive deadpan through all of that. Then the smile he flashes is an echo of her deviant one. Even if no one else thinks they're funny, they can (AND DO, SHUT IT HATERS). He leans into the shoulder-bump, not quite a return of the gesture, but an acknowledgement of it. Really, this question might be as much some kind of ritual now as the later one. His answer whenever she accuses him of ulterior motives (HOW DARE) is always the same. "Just you." It's pretty much all F'yr ever wants when he comes like this. "But you like this stuff when you stop long enough to remember it exists." This stuff- - the food? F'yr making nice gestures? Maybe both; liking being barefoot is a given, after all. He watches her out of the corner of his eye as she gets those things he's offered and- - "You can," today. Today, Risa can ask that. She can always ask, but some days he doesn't answer or he just presses his forehead to hers. Today there's none of that, there's words. "I feel… too small for everything in the last two months. I can barely believe some of the places that I've seen are real." This, from the farmer who had only seen Xanadu Weyr and some of the territory before the experience of betweening - - from the farmer who had never betweened before doing so with Glorioth that first time. "Living alone is just as surreal. I mean, I had that little room for a little while." Two months, maybe. "But that's not the same thing. If it were a farm there would be at least twelve people in my homestead. And it's a luxury to have it to myself, and I like it more than a little, but the being alone there part is strange. Inviting people to visit is weird. It feels private and I don't know how I feel about sharing it with people, even people I share other private things with. It's.. weird. I'm weird. I feel weird." Beat. "But okay." That's what she asked, right? "What about you? Do I get to ask?" Sometimes he doesn't, and that's okay, too. There is no expectation here, either, will never be. Their friendship, by definition is without expectation.

RIP GLIDER. YOU WERE ALWAYS LIKE A GLIDER TO RISA. Risa watches the catch of teeth, allows parchment to slip from her fingers unfettered by the clench of her fist and — she laughs, a hiccup of sound that lingers on her lips long after her diaphragm has settled, grey eyes alight with a mischief that errs toward louche. "Oh, well done. Now we have to give it a tiny funeral, and it's all your fault. I bet you don't even know the name of its mother — or that it even had a mother." DO THEY HAVE TIME OR MONEY FOR A FUNERAL, F'YR? WHO IS GOING TO HUM THE DIRGE, EVEN? It doesn't matter, because now they're onto the topic of D'merial, and Risali's brows rise, those lips pulling sideways, threatening even more laughter and — and then she does laugh. Again. Her head tilts back, eyes press closed, and Risa swallows down air between amusement for longer than what is probably warranted until she's pushing at F'yr's face with one tiny, ineffectual hand. "You," Risali accuses, "were supposed to be the best of us, bronzerider. And now you're just as terrible and debauch as the rest of us. Ruined. You should have listened," comes on tones both suddenly sage and somber. "You should have run." Closer and closer she leans, up to the moment that teeth snap playfully — as if she might catch F'yr's nose, or his fingers, or him between them. They find her bottom lip when she rocks back, that mischief never leaving, never taking flight, merely dimming, shifting, adjusting into the kindling of a fire that remains somewhere in the depths of her soul. Feet set to swinging, a lean carries her back in until shoulders touch (or rather, her shoulder finds his arm, but don't remind her that she's TOO SMOLL), and Risali drops her voice to affect a conspirator's whisper. "I bet you tell all the women that." THAT RAISED BROW CHALLENGES HIM TO ARGUE, though that slow smile says she doesn't mean it. "And the gentlemen too." And while Risali could comment on her propensity to get so caught up in everything else that she forgets about herself most times, she doesn't. Risa stills, attentive, the entire sum of her being focused on this one moment, on F'yr, on his words and the depth of their meaning, on every implication backing their existence as if she's never heard anything more interesting than this, as if she is hanging onto every syllable. Today she can ask, today she gets an answer, and today she holds her breath to hear it. The worry comes again, a flicker shuttered behind half-lidded eyes, buried in the restraints of a quiet, muted smile even if she doesn't look away. Instead she tips sideways, catches at the side of F'yr's head just above his ear and opposite to her if he allows, so that she might pull him to her level and press her forehead against his. "You're not weird. You're allowed to have things that are just yours. I'm sorry that it feels weird, though." One, two, five and Risali lets go, leans back just so. "I know you said you don't really want to share it, but I'd be happy to keep you company if you do decide that you want to share it." And there's that quiet smile again, something bigger going unsaid behind it as she dips her head and — does he get to ask? Risali's eyes drop to her hands, that smile extending into something wry. "I'm more interested in how you're doing," is her honest answer, delivered when her eyes jump back to his and hold.

A funeral. A funeral like the one F'yr did not get to attend for his brother. Has it been long enough that these words don't shoot straight to the core? No, not really, but it has been long enough that he doesn't fall apart because of them. A silent beat of gathering later, he's saying, in a flawless deadpan, "It's for the best, Risa." There's such gravity because he has such deep feelings to draw on. "I'm sure I saw its nearest and dearest go into the next stack Nessa's going to burn." He holds his straight face impressively long before he flashes a muted smile. Yes, they can joke about this, but carefully. He reaches to squeeze her knee briefly in silent reassurance that he's okay, that they didn't just trip into something much bigger and deeper, as they surely have done in times past. He doesn't need to get up and dance this moment, or run, or even cry. He can manage going on with the rest. Especially since the next thing has him baring his teeth and bringing his face down, low, lower, in answer to the snap of teeth. "If you had wanted me to run," his voice takes on a challenging gravel edge, "you should have tried harder to make me." Then he's swooping for the kill: snatching her mug and bringing it to his lips for a quick swig before offering it back. There's laughter in his voice even if it's not a separate sound as he straightens, smile softening his declaration, "Now you'll just have to live with the monster you've created." Nyeah-nyeah~ He will argue, even, this monster of Xanadu, "Just the cooks, and only when I'm trying to get the best, for you," which is a bold faced lie, but he does it with such exaggerated wounded pride that maybe it can be forgiven in the name of humor. (He definitely also uses that kind of line for his own procurements, too.) "How many women do you assume I could mean it for?" That's a genuine question, his smile settling to something soft and amused as brows rise to really ask. "I mean, if we start adding men…" He allows with additional humor after a moment, tipping his head a little as though it were the scale those words weight. "I'd like it if you'd visit," are weighty words though they don't hold hesitation. They're not eager, exactly, but they are earnest. "Sometime, when you've a free moment. You can come climb the tower. I'm thinking of putting netting on the side so I can climb it without Glori's help, although ladders might be more practical." He's distracted a moment by that before he looks down and without renewing the topic of what he doesn't get to ask tonight by dint of her interest in other things, he simply tips his head in easy acceptance.

There. A grimace. It shoots through the core of Risali, alters her posture and her expression in tandem until there's an apology writ on every line of her body. It's in her eyes, in the way she holds herself, every part of her seeming to draw in on itself despite the reassurance of a hand on her knee, despite the joke, despite the fact the fact that he continues their line of devolution as opposed to fleeing from it. The contact might be brief, but Risali's hand finds F'yr's, fingers slipping between his for just as long as it takes to squeeze — an apology she reiterates vocally seconds later with a soft, "I'm sorry." It was thoughtless of her, and she has no ready defense to excuse the lapse in judgement. She can, however, take his leave and move past it. It's why she lets it go, why she rolls her shoulders and then leans back as he leans forward. There it is again: sunrise, the hint of humor returning steadfast, nose scrunching up in anticipation as a pitchy noise starts somewhere in her throat, amusement and the threat of laughter to signify she's expecting the lunge and — and then she's laughing again. F'yr gets her mug, and Risali's fingers cuff at the bottom of his stolen plunder in the hopes that she might make him spill some of it all over himself. If she's successful? Well, she'll just double over into harder laughter, but either way, she's wholly unapologetic. Except, maybe, to lean down and offer him that previously discarded paper. AS IF THAT MIGHT DO ANY GOOD. But listen, give them a moment to settle and: "Oh no," comes with feigned horror. "Whatever will I do? Surprise desserts and songs at midnight — please, no, sir. I can think of no worse fate." And there comes that smile again, leather-clad thighs shifting as Risali tucks one shoulder in towards her core and bumps against F'yr again. "A likely story, bronzerider." About the cooks and only her, she means. But… but then they're on the topic of how many women Risali thinks there might be and… Risali's expression falters, dims, shifts into something muted and thoughtful as she draws in a breath and… looks away. Those grey eyes find the wall as if she hasn't seen it a hundred thousand times before and — "I haven't thought about it." It's not a harsh truth, a dismissive truth, but it is a truth. It's the kind of truth that comes with its own weight, as if Risali is toeing the tenuous line of misunderstanding. "It's not really my business." And now her eyes come back to his, that expression gentle. It's the men equation earns a short-lived huff of what could be laughter, had she expanded on the emotion, but instead her lips hold the shape and her chin drops, attention diverted to her hands and the twist of her fingers in her lap. Maybe, in her own way, Risali senses that lack of eagerness, hears it despite his earnest words. "You don't have to force yourself on my account, F'yr. If you don't want to share it with me, there is nothing saying you have to." Maybe she means to be reassuring because she's shifting onto her knees and — HERE IT COMES AGAIN, DUCK F'YR, DUCK — Risali presses her forehead to his, hands gentle in the way they settle on either side of his jaw to cradle his face. Her eyes search for his in this diminished proximity, for as long as he allows — or if he allows. "But ladders are a good start." And there's a slow smile, one that he will have to find in the corners of her eyes if he doesn't draw back enough to see the whole of it on her face.

F'yr doesn't deny her her apology. He doesn't tell her it's unnecessary, because it was necessary to her, if not to him. There's precious little that the big bronzerider actually denies Risali when she has a need for it. He does dip his chin slightly to acknowledge her words, and he does return the squeeze of interlaced fingers. But he also quietly refuses to linger on the subject. If she had wished to, he might have bestired himself to deny her that. As it is, he's mopping up spilt drink from his shirt with the corpse of the glider decidedly now more corpsified and gross with the addition of moisture, though truly, it has done very little but to make the wet spot on his tunic a different shape. But then, this is the F'yrsome weyrling who used to go through tunics like they were paper gliders, readily renewable and wholly disposable because his lifemate simply couldn't manage not to wreck the newest addition to his revolving wardrobe within minutes if not hours or even sometimes (gasp) days. None of it prevents the smile prompted by her laughter, because he will probably always be happy to hear that sound, to have helped her to the gift of it, a gift of spirit shared and often redoubled as a result. He doesn't join in this time, but he does look at her very sternly over the pinch of the sagging glider in his fingers as he finishes extending that spot to say, "Can you not? I can," ominously. Look out y'all, the monster of Xanadu is on the loose! He drops the mess onto the tray that brought the offerings beside the emergency landing site of Risali's mug where it was deposited in haste to deal with the sloshed contents on him. If the cooks knew what sometimes happened to their offerings entrusted to the blonde's hands, F'yr might have to grovel in addition to flatter to be granted more. The rest brings true gravity to his features, his head turning slightly as his blue eyes thoughtfully examine what he finds on her face, in her grey eyes. He doesn't respond immediately to anything from the time she begins replying of women to when her forehead is against his and his jaw is cupped by SMOLL hands. He doesn't deny Risali many things, but he will deny her this. In a low voice, gentle and not without the smallest trace of humor, he murmurs, "Risa," his eyes on hers at that very close vantage. "Listen to what I'm saying," not to what she's hearing. "I," and, yes, he will lightly punctuate each of these words, though not with enough force to be a rebuke, just enough to make sure they're taken as he means them, "want you to visit me in my homestead. To see my homestead." He's just not going to put together a pinata and make margaritas the first time, okay? That's the difference between not eager and still honestly wanting an event to occur: the pinata. "It's important to me that you come see it." He reaches up to tuck her hair behind her ear. The gesture is punctuation because there's more. He won't make her stay close if she needs space, but he wants her to hear this too. "Even with everything that's happened in the last turn and a half, I'm still me, and you're still you," the now versions of the people they were when. "I still have no expectations, Risa." That's quiet but still as true as it always was. Quieter still is, "You're here," if he can, it's her hand he'll catch up and press to his heart. "But I think you knew that. You'll always be here." What started as a desire to disprove the imaginings of a harem took a slight turn into something deeper. "I don't expect you to need to know or care who I'm involved with, but I also don't expect you to not." If he has that hand, he's seeking to interlace fingers. "You never have to explain to me when you need something." So far, that's been true, but it is a rather lofty claim to make. But the implicit offer is there. If they haven't made space between them yet, he'll seek to sit up now. "I'm sure it's not nearly any number your imagination can assign me. Unless we decide I need a variety of imaginary partners to make up for an imagined insufficiency of real ones." It sounds a little like he's following a train of thought he's hoping will be light and funny, but yes, universe, he really did just put that idea out there.

And Risali doesn't wish to linger, because she knows what it means to dwell on difficult things when the last thing you want is to be in that dark place. This… this was clearly an invitation to move past it. And so Risali does — not because she would not, for F'yr's benefit, allow him to take whatever actions were necessary for catharsis, but because she refuses to drag him into the dark herself. So here they are, dirtied gliders and drink spotted shirts, conversation picking back up and Risali catching fast at it. He can, can he? Risali leans forward, grey eyes drawn only momentarily to the ruined glider, to his ruined shirt, before grey eyes catch blue and brows rise. "And what, Weyrling F'yr, could be worse than that?" The goldrider is intrigued, attention riveted, deviance displayed in the scrunch of nose, the hint of canines, the threat of laughter in every line of her body until — until her attention is stolen, the gravity of the situation weighing it down, pulling her lips back into something quiet, muted. It's something gentle, something that brings a new light to Risali's eyes, as if her inability to find the proper words for any given moment might somehow be rendered moot by mere expression. And she listens, she listens to what F'yr says, grey eyes jumping between blue from so close, holding her breath as if afraid the mere act of breathing might somehow deafen her to whatever wisdom or insight F'yr intends to impart upon her now. There, again — it's almost an apology, but not quite, a press of her lips that looks as if it might form the beginnings of an explanation, but settles instead for a hushed, "Okay." Because that, after all, is the important part: she understands, she is taking him at his word, she will not dispute his intention, nor attempt to correct perceived misunderstandings. She lets it be, lets F'yr's words be the end of it. The first part, anyway. It's the continuation, the delving back into who and how many that F'yr keeps in his personal sphere of influence that has Risali finally, finally, looking away. She curls her finger against the fabric at his heart, as if she might catch the beat in her palm, as if she might feel the weight of his words in her hand. "And you," Risali whispers, her eyes finally coming back, her lips pressing back into a quiet version of a smile before she hiccups laughter. "But I think you misunderstood me." This comes slow, as if Risali, wholly aware of her spectacular ability to make a mess with words, is attempting to navigate through her own thoughts to find the right ones. "I meant that it doesn't matter, because it doesn't change anything. Because you're still F'yr, and I'm still Risali — even when you consider the ways we've both changed, and the reasons for it." But then her brows rise, those eyes narrow as if she doesn't quite believe it and… Risali draws her hand back just enough to very gently punch F'yr in his shoulder. "Somehow," Risali whispers, "I feel like a large part of that is a certain fearless dragon, and the other half is a certain man." And there go Risali's shoulders, tucking inward again on an exhale as she shifts and then looks away — one, two, three moments, and her eyes are back on him. "Have you given any thought to what you want to do?"

Intrigue receives an appalled silence. It's entirely and purposefully poorly feigned, exaggerated to the point of farce, but it plays across his face before he makes a reply in a tone so darkly accusatory and full of the gasp that he doesn't actually make, there can be no mistake: J'ACCUSE, RISALI. "Why, Weyrwoman Risali, you don't honestly expect me to be the kind of monster given toward villainous monologuing, do you?" Then he aims to boop her nose with a finger, lowering his voice to a husky whisper, "You've taught me far better than to forewarn my victims of the details of their doom." A beat. "I'd say I recall something about a bloody house in the woods, but of course I don't remember anything about that." That, being what he always claimed whenever the topic of the haunted house prank ever came up, for so many months. Maybe now is the moment he admits he's had knowledge of it all along (even if they probably had to know his then well-feigned ignorance was false given his report to when WLM team about Evangeline's experience within). If retribution is coming from this monster (oh, it is), then it's going to be an ambush. All joking aside, Risa's one-word acceptance of his words seems to relax a measure of tension from those broad shoulders, and yet even with that settled, he gives her his undivided attention to her next words. His brows dip down at the suggestion of his taking a turn with misunderstanding, but he listens, undeterred, really seeking to hear what she's actually saying, not just what he's hearing in turn. The words she finally settles on draws a very particular smile slowly onto his lips. This is a smile that is for Risali, it's hers. There might be variations of the smile that belong to other Important People to the bronzerider, but this one never appears except in Risa's company. "Oh," is his one-word acceptance, simple, tinged slightly with the apology he's sure he needn't make to her as his head dips very slightly in acknowledging nod. A miscommunication indeed! One of the best things about their friendship without expectation is that (at least in this instance), that's all it takes. The whole thing is straightened, there's no examining how they got there or who said what or how it was taken, it's just clarified and now settled smoothly between them. "Good," is his next one-word, with that still soft, particular smile. SorryNotSorry, Risa, but F'yr is shifting to draw her into an embrace, even as she punches him with her smoll fist, then, because she's Risa and he's F'yr, and that's how it is in a moment like this. She doesn't have to keep is long (or at all, really, he wouldn't force her), but he'd like it to be long enough. Long enough for its own need and also to say, "Glorioth is real smooth with the ladies. Talking about blood and murder and himself. He's not interested in them yet, though." There's a small measure of gratitude there in his voice. He seems content enough to move away from that, onto this, even if they're just different cans of worms. "I want to come home. I've told R'hyn. I've also told him I'm not sure if that's what I need. If he thinks I need something else first. But this is where I'll always want to be." F'yr shrugs his shoulders, unconcerned paperwork nerd that he's become.

"Well you know what they say," Risali offers with a roll of her shoulders, as if she is untouched by the accusation that she might be the inspiration behind VILLAINY AND DOOM. (LISTEN, WE ALL KNOW IT'S GLORIOTH, OKAY, RISA IS A PARAGON OF JUSTICE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS.) "The real monsters never look like monsters." Which means YOU CAN'T LET THEM SEE IT COMING, F'YR. Who DOESN'T love a surprise? RIGHT? IT MAKES SENSE. Which is why there's a nip at his finger the moment it makes contact with her nose and then soft laughter chasing the retreat. But words are exchanged, important words that bring them to this point, to the moment when a too-big bronzerider is pulling a too-small goldrider in against him for a hug that she presses into as readily as she doles out (playful) physical abuse. She presses into him, takes from him as much as she gives, steals comfort and warmth and strength and cycles it back, tries to give more: understanding, support, unconditional encouragement. And okay, she's Risali. So maybe, muffled though her words might be from where her face is buried in F'yr's shoulder, there's a little bit of humor too. "You mean," Risali drawls slow, lips curving around the words in hints of a smile meant to reiterate that, whatever comes next, she's teasing, "no daring rescues in real, real sexy, slooooow peeling wetsuits? No dressers in distress to transport from point A to point B on paid commission? Just the noble desire to spare Weywoman and Weyrleader fingers alike from becoming papercut casualties in the long, arduous war of paperwork. Ah, my F'yr," comes with feigned solemnity, "I always knew that you were destined for greatness." But the humor dims, the light fades, Rukbat diving behind the horizon in her eyes and leaving — momentarily — little more than the bleak, stark darkness of night come too soon. "It doesn't feel the same." A beat. "Without you and Rhody, I mean. It doesn't feel the same." And now Risali's reaching out to catch F'yr's hand, to sink her fingers between his once more and squeeze. "We miss you. I — we both do." One, two, three. "I even have to speak to R'hyn — the horror — when he forgoes reading my scathing letters about his stupid hair or his stupid clothes or his stupid face. Can you imagine?" Risali's lips press together in censure of an invasive smile as it blooms, attempting to hold onto feigned distaste for as long as she can until she's drawing in a breath and expelling soft laughter. Or, well, something that had the potential to be laughter, ending too quickly to decipher its true intent. Now she's leaning back, now she's catching his face in her hands once more so that she can press her forehead to his, eyes closed, pressing her face into the gesture like one might lift their face toward the sun. And then she's letting him go, moving away, placing besocked feet on the ground and turning in half-steps until she's facing him again, hands on her hips. "Something is missing." And now her brows are rising, expectant, as if he might know what that something is.

(JUST LIKE GLORIOTH IS A PARAGON OF HONOR AND VALOR.) F'yr gasps. The shock, the horror. "Why, Risa," all innocence in every word, "Are you saying it's starting to show in my face?" There's a beat. "Maybe I should get my hair cut." It is about double or more the length that it once was kept, in that careless period of holding one's breath and then mourning on the exhale. People with longer, wilder hair are definitely suspect for being monsters, right? It's confirmed when Risali's mouth goes for his noseboop finger. What kind of MONSTER would go after a NOSEBOOPING FINGER? PSST— IT'S THE ONE THAT HELPS SHAPE NICE, INNOCENT FARM LOUTS INTO UPSTART MONSTERS WHO DARE TO FLIP THEIR HAND ABOUT AND AIM FOR AN UNDER THE CHIN TICKLE THAT'S NOT QUITE A CHUCK BEFORE REALLY RETREATING, which is of course to say Risa and F'yr in this moment. Fortunately, the comfort one gives in an embrace can equal what one gets out of it (more or less), so it's a satisfactory exchange. The humor may not be quite as equal in footing, but that does not (and will never) stop F'yr from affecting a brief look of deprivation before pretending to let light dawn within that herdbeast brain of his, "Well, I suppose a man has to have hobbies outside of work." Sexy slow peeling wetsuits and all the rest. Definitely the hobby material of a monster in training. Imagine the broken hearts in his wake, all that awkward wetsuit squelch, not to mention the funny fin walk. F'yr, SEXY AQUATIC BEAST. But no, no, he's looking at something more mundane. "I still dream about the day I'll figure out the filing system," he murmurs, tone wistful. Is it a little serious? Actually, yeah, but he also understands that he's dreaming the impossible dream here. Her brief bleakness is met with an as swiftly passing look of understanding. Then he's nodding solemnly. "I can see how that would be a hardship for you." Listen, just because F'yr is dying to get back into the office with all the standard shenanigans doesn't mean he can't pretend to appreciate the levels of effort Risali must now go to to ensure that her various opinions are heard by her counterpart. "I bet you haven't even found a playing card of questionable content tucked into an inopportune folder in months." YOU POOR DEARS. NEVER F'YR. HE'LL BE BACK SOON. Maybe? Still, when her smile comes, his can't be far behind. It's contagious like that, at least to F'yr. It doesn't vanish, but rather shifts into something else, something deeper and content like all this is settling something in his chest that might have been fluttering and in need of grounding. He's not as surprised as he probably ought to be with the way she pulls away and steps away. He resettles himself a little against the table, not sitting any longer but just leaning. "Mm," he makes the noise as though he knows exactly what she's talking about. (He doesn't. It's fine.) Not knowing what he's doing has never actually stopped F'yr from doing it anyway, even when it's caused him more than a little lost sleep and anxiety leading up to taking action. Here, there's no time for those things, and little of it with anything pertaining to his friendship without expectations, in truth. The thing missing could be many things; what he makes it is the gathering of her into his dancer's stance (much improved since that first time long ago now) and his voice coming in song.

"F'yr," Risali says, solemn. "You've always had a face that only a mama-wher could love." ONE PAT TO HIS CHEEK. TWO. SHE DOESN'T MEAN IT, evident by the way she keeps a straight face for all of two seconds before she's laughing and PUSHING HIS PRECIOUS FACE AWAY. Look, Risali's version of affection entails violence and insults. JUST ACCEPT IT. Or don't. THAT IS ALSO FINE. Look. That's not important. Important is the DEAD-EYE EXPRESSION Risali fixes on F'yr about HOBBIES OUTSIDE OF WORK, the one she maintains as she leans in and whispers, "Sexy. Peeling. Wetsuits. F'yr." GET WITH THE PROGRAM, MAN. Which she is miming now, by the way, somehow indicating the slow reveal of abs with her hands and a WHOLLY inappropriate application of her teeth against her bottom lip, a clear indication that she is BITING BACK NON-PG THOUGHTS. She isn't even apologetic about it. There's even a soft, "Hnf," of sound meant to indicate how much she likes the Galaxy rider's uniforms, a shiver that takes her whole body in compliment to impish humor awry in her expression. And then she's laughing, laughing and bumping a shoulder into F'yr and breathing out, "What filing system, F'yr? The secret of the filing system is that there was no filing system. And I found plenty." A beat, a raise of her brows, another lean in as she drops her voice to stage whisper, "Which one of you left the stick figure drawing? It was atrocious." A DELICATE, (UN)LADY-LIKE SNIFF TO PUT ON FALSELY OFFENDED AIRS. Except that press of her lips to hold off humor says she RATHER LIKED IT, whatever the contents of that WILD doodling was. And then she dims again, quiets with a breathed, "I hope you come home. You'll always have a place here." And there's another smile, something lacking humor, holding warmth and the manifestation of honest sentiment. Again. It doesn't matter — or, at least, Risali doesn't let it matter, because she's on her feet, because there is an invitation (a need, a drive, a desperation) to find a different course than the one they're on. And F'yr choses dancing. It is with a slow smile and a dip of her body into a curtsy that Risali steps into his arms, into his space, into the easy familiarity of a one-two-step that has had plenty of time to develop a sense of placement to spare feet. But where Risali is so used to her role being the one singing, F'yr takes up the mantle. For once, at first, Risali listens. She listens as she moves, she listens as the first betrayal comes in the form of tears, and she cries when she joins him in the chorus — though her is more a shouting than the usual honed timbre of a trained harper, as if she means to cast away feelings rather than live within the confining restraints of them. But she does dance, and she does sing, and when that song has faded, Risali keeps them going with another dance, another song. Over and over and over she draws him back in, over and over until her lungs give out or her feet do. But listen, it's not all lost hope. She keeps a stash of fort-making material around here somewhere, and once she's caught her breath, once she's made all emotion subside, she sings more song, bids for one more dance, and then they can get back to the hushed whispers and catching up. THIS TIME in the safety of a pillow-and-blanket fort.

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