Breakfast of Champions

Xanadu Weyr – Caverns

A massive cavern in it's own right, this one has been skillfully adapted for human habitation. The high ceilings have been painted a light, soft ivory, as are the walls where numerous tapestries hang to provide brilliant color and insulation from the stone. The floor has been left in its natural state, pale pink granite speckled through with glittering mica and dark flecks of basalt, leveled carefully but kept sufficiently rough to avoid slips.

The cavern itself is loosely divided into areas, each one set up to be suitable for some segment of the Weyr's population. The most frequently occupied area, however, is the one near the Kitchens where tables of varying sizes provide a place to sit down and eat or chat and a buffet of consumables is almost always kept stocked. Its plain that on most days, this area wouldn't accommodate anywhere near the full population of the Weyr and equally plain that on such occasions when a formal meal is laid out, tables are appropriated from all the other areas.

A big fireplace is set into the wall near the Kitchens as well, several comfortable chairs nearby providing haunts for elderly residents or riders who like a good view of all that happens. Rugs cover the floor in strategic spots, all of them abstract or geometric in design and most in the softly neutral colors of undyed wool.

Exits lead off in all directions, a big archway the largest and that leading outside. Shallow stairs to the west lead to the offices and administration area while tunnels to the east lead to the infirmary, kitchen and resident's quarters. Southwards, a sloping tunnel leads down to the hot springs and southwest is a wide tunnel, carefully roped off to avoid accidents.

It's a chilly, rainy midmorning in Xanadu and breakfast is winding down. Sweepriders having done the early runs might wander in for a bite, late-rising families feeding young children as well, but for the most part the cavern sees sporadic traffic. The buffet tables are attended and laden with freshly-baked breads, muffins and rolls, hot klah, spicy egg-cheese-sweet pepper rolls and fruit. It's one of those rare times when Thea has taken a break from the sands, run to the caverns to visit the nursery and feed her babies. That having been done, she's sitting curled in one of the chair over by the fireplace (go figure - she's there even though the sands have had her roasting all morning). She has Marella in her arms and a plate of food and a mug of klah on the stand beside the couch, but hasn't started on it yet. Instead, she's just enjoying a moment with the child, her head resting gently atop the tiny girl's silky dark hair.

Avani enters the Caverns, we from the rain and glaring in mild amusement at Thor as the bronze appears before her, popping out of *between* without a single droplet of rain upon his shimmering hide. "You know, if you're going to pull me from my chores to feed you, you can have the decency to brave the rains with me." The bronze swoops over to circle the serving tables once, keeping a respectful distance from the heads of those who are in the process of selecting their meals. When he returns to his mistress, it's with a disappointed creel. "What? You expect that they'll _always_ have bubblies for you? I'll make sure you have sweets with the evening meal, how about that?" she offers, moving to the serving table and the rapidly moving line, her eyes alredy on the egg-cheese-pepper rolls.

The Weyrsecond is one of those who was out on sweeps early this morning, but it's from a direction other than the main entrance to the caverns that he enters the space. Somehow the nannies have gotten him to trust himself enough to carry Muir out and it’s by sheer luck that he happens to spot Thea almost right away. And so it's to the hearth where the junior weyrwoman sits that he heads first, "Mornin'," he greets, "You wanna-," he starts. But then wait. Was that? Yes. "Hey you, Candidate," he points towards Avani, Faranth forbid he remember their names. "Klah." A request that might have a please tacked onto the end if he were thinking about it rather than the wriggling baby as he drops into the chair beside Thea.

Avani's eyes narrow and her gaze shifts towards the source fof the request, but her almond eyes widden and any quick reply she might have made is forgotten as she nods, "Yes, Sir." She's made it to the table by then, and quickly fills a plate with the mixed rolls, two fresh rolls and picks up two mugs of Klah, taking a few moments to balance everything properly before starting to make her way towards the hearth, very slowly and eyes more on her load then anything else at the moment.

Thea idly watches the activity in the caverns while cuddling Marella, so Avani's entrance is noted, a glance spared to the firelizard, but no real interest there other than faint amusement that someone would talk to one. Attention back to Marella, she lifts the girl, hands under the babe's armpits to make eye contact and she's making noises only a mother wouldn't be embarrassed to be caught doing. Trying to get the child to smile, apparently. Over the top of Marella's head, she spots D'had's entrance, blinks to see him willingly carrying Muir. Isn't this interesting! She wisely refrains from commenting on that, however, merely smiles a welcome, "Morning, Donn." She nods silently to the approaching Avani.

D'had mutters something half under his breath as he tries to get his half of the baby pair to settle enough that he might be able to hold and drink at teh same time. Ticky that. And no, there's no cussing involved - this time. "You sleep alright?" he asks, idly, attention still on the boy on his lap. That klah is coming. Right?

Avani finally makes her way over, Thor swooping down to perch above the hearth a breath or two before the Candidate sets her plate down at a nearby table and turns to hand the WeyrSecond his Klah. "Here you go, Sir," she offers politely before turning to give Thea a careful curtsey, as she's still holding her own mug of Klah in one hand. Then she motions to Thor. "Take your pick, Lordling. Leave me at least one roll though…" she trails off as the bronze has already warbles a happy reply and swooped down to land on the table, neatly folding his wings as he approaches the latest offering.

Thea's eyes flicker from those steaming mugs to Muir and back again. There's no nervousness in her expression surely? The babe is lowered back to her lap, she reaches for her mug leaning away from Marella to sip from it and replace it carefully before answering with a sigh, "Not really, though Seryth is settling somewhat now that the eggs are getting harder." Her smile for the candidate is warm as she arrives, "Morning Avani, how're you today?" She reaches for her as-yet untouched plate, passing it around Marella, careful to keep it clear of the wriggling Muir and offers the Weyrsecond a choice from the things on it.

D'had reaches out to take the mug that's handed him, taking a long sip and thankfully not spilling in the process before he finally glances up. "Thanks," he offers to the candidate. "Me and baby and.." Well just about anything else. "Well, easier." The mug is then set to the side as that plate is passed over and he picks a roll from it, eyes narrowing at the junior for a second. "Well, good she's gettin better at least."

Avani offers a thin-lipped smile, "I'm doing well, thank you. Though I'm working with the runnerbeasts again today." The tip of her nose crinkles slightly as she reveals that fact. "It had been Turns before I'd gone near one before I was asked to Stand here."

Flailing baby arms. Hot klah. Thea winces as D'had sips, but bites her tongue. Instead she holds her breath until the Weyrsecond sets it down and takes a roll, lifting her eyes from the plate to his just in time to catch that narrowed stare. She blinks. What? She nods, a faint smile accompanying it, "Yes, not as anxious, so I'm not spending so much mental energy calming her. She still wants me near yet." Eyes shift to Avani and she shudders faintly, "Runners? You poor thing. Be careful in there." She doesn't go into the whys of that, instead she studies her plate with distaste, decides not to eat anything from it. She leans and sets it beside D'had's klah mug where he can reach it.

No one has ever accused D'had of being an intelligent father. Maybe after he's had his klah he'll think better of it? Though then it might be a little late. He is eyeing that plate when Thea decides not to take anything from it. She gets a glance for it, but says nothing in that regard. Rather, "Well maybe can get some sleep soon then." The mention of runners receives a shudder from him however and he turns his gaze on the candidate. "Good luck." End of story.

Avani holds up a finger politely and turns her gaze between the two riders. "If I might offer a correction… I am working with runnerbeasts. I am—" she stops, frowning slightly as there's a dark slimmer in her mud-green eyes, then she flicks her gaze down towards the Klah in her mug and corrects herself, "I was a Runner. Runner's do not use runnerbeasts." Thor chitters his agreement to that, having already carefully make his was through three of the rolls, he is pulling a fourth off of the plate.

Thea swallows several times after setting the plate down, hastily averting her eyes from the food on it to nod at D'had, her answer a heartfelt, "Hopefully." She can’t watch him eat, so drops her eyes to Muir's head asking, "How were sweeps?" Avani's correction draws a blink and a headtilt until the candidate starts speaking. Then Thea laughs sea green eyes crinkling in amusement, "Yeah, we know you meant the four-legged kind." Another shudder. "Crazy beasts. And yes, we know runners doing use runners, although… come to think of it, it would be faster. R'owan used to be a messenger and he rode…" She pauses to think, one hand uncurls from around Marella to tap her own lips for a moment as her eyes squint. Memory serves and she says brightly, "Rider! Yeah, that's his name. He's the old grey runner in there. That one, he's sane. Probably the only one in there who is."

Avani begins to shrug, but turns the motion into a nod instead. "I suppose one can be a messenger without truly being a Runner, Ma'am," she agrees. Then she idly pulls at her still damp clothing and motions towards Thor and her rapidly disappearing plate of food. "If neither of you mind, I should eat and get back to the Stables."

D'had is going to eat, so if she doesn't want to watch that's best she look away. He was on sweeps. He is hungry. Then again maybe he shouldn't be holding Muir while attempting as that is is proving to be more difficult that he expected. That or he just didn't think first, which might very well be possible. "Would you," he almost whines himself as he tries to keep the roll in his hand from little fingers. Well at least the girls can laugh at him? "Crazy," he agrees about the runners though. "Can't stand 'em."

Not everything makes sense to Thea all of the time and this, apparently, is one of those times. "That's true enough, though he ran around the Weyr delivering quite a bit, if I recall correctly." She twinkles a smile at the candidate, "Though there were places back of high reaches too steep to ride runners, so foot runners were important there." Here in Xanadu? All she can do is shrug for that one. She slides D'had a look at Avani's comment since he's the one who called the candidate, he can be the one to dismiss her. She's leaning to scoop Muir with one arm even as the Weyrsecond is asking. The struggle he's having being obvious.

"Yeah," D'had replies, still distracted, "Free ta go," he adds as he realizes the girl might just be waiting for that directive from one of them and Thea hasn't given it yet. "Hey," he starts a protest as the baby is suddenly gone, but that ends as soon as he realizes that without him on his lap he can actually eat without a fight.

Avani nods and makes her way over to the other table, gently plucking one of the rolls from the plate before taking a seat.

Thea smiles, bemused if not a little surprised that he's protesting not having to hold a babe. She smirks at him, "You can have him back after you eat, I promise." He's no longer battling Muir, but now her lap is the war zone as the twins make grabby hands for each other's clothes, hair, hands… whatever they can reach and pull into their mouths. Oh, look - a baby tangle. The junior watches Avani's departure with a baffled look and a headshake. "She's… different. Nice girl, but different."

D'had wasn't protesting once he realize it was Thea grabbing and that he was then free to eat. It's a nod that comes in reply first as his mouth is full. "Yeah," he returns, swallowing before he continues, "Different. But she can keep the runners." That is perfectly fine by him. "And you can keep 'im," he adds with a nod towards the twins. "Doin' such a good job." Certainly better than he would with them both at once. Though the antics of the pair do earn a smile and a chuckle from their daddy.

And he was doing so well, too! Tsk. Thea looks crestfallen when he says she can keep them both. "Oh." She says it in a small voice as she drops her eyes to watch the twins wreak havoc with each other. After awhile she says listlessly, "I think he liked you holding him. He was all happy-wriggling." She falls silent then, just watching the pair on her lap, keeping her weyrmate company while he eats and resists the temptation to walk away with them.

D'had didn't mean it that way, but there's that foot in mouth syndrome of his again. He stops just before he's about to take a bite of a fresh roll and turns towards her, leaving the roll back to the plate as he stands and moves to squat down in front of her chair. "Babe? You sure you're alright?"

"Just…" Thea's eyes meet his briefly, she shakes her head and drops them again. Finally, cautiously, "Why do you ask?" Her attention is on the pair she's holding, for Marella has managed to capture her brother's hand and get it to her mouth. Muir isn't minding at first, busy poking his wriggling fingers inside inquisitively. That is until Marella decided to bite, whereupon Muir sets up a howl. Thea's helpless to really do anything about it with her hands busy holding them both.

D'had sighs, shaking his head, "It’s alright babe," he starts rising to stand again. "Just seem.. I dunno. Sad." So he has picked up on that.. The squabble between the twins has him glancing towards them however. A chuckle and he reaches to pull Muir back from her, turning the boy to rest him against his shoulder, one arm under the other hand on his back. "Hey now, that mean ol' sister of bite you.." So maybe that while of him being the one to take care of them through the night and get them ready in the morning did do something she hasn't managed to see yet.

Thea's eyes flick carefully around the caverns before she answers with a nod to confirm his guess is correct. While he's untangling the two and she's distracting Marella with a finger-tickle to her chin, she says, "Lot on my mind." She watches him manage the babe, admiration mingled with melancholy. Muir's poor fingers bear slight indentations where Marella's gums pressed on them. Thankfully she has no teeth yet! The boy's cries fade away quickly when he's propped against his daddy's shoulder. Ooh look - what's this hole? His little finger pokes into D'had's ear.

D'had acks. No. No finger in ear! He ducks his head to one side trying to avoid the boy's reach and still pay attention to Thea without dropping the baby. Thankfully it mostly works. No dropping, half listening, and fingers in ear anyway. He reaches for those fingers to try and pull them away however, leaving a little kiss on them as he takes a look. Nope, no teeth - definitely a good thing here. "Babe.." he starts, ducking back down so he can talk in more hushed tones. "Ya know if ya need anythin' from me. You just say it? Kay."

No dropping is a good thing! Thea smiles briefly in spite of her mood at the interplay between father and son. "At least he's not trying to talk it off?" Might rip his ear off, though. His hushed assurance has her smile fading. After a beat, she nods slowly. "I know, Donn." Shadowed eyes flick from his to Muir, "Maybe when he's older things'll be…" She shrugs then, at a loss for words. Oooh, rare occurrence for her! Quietly, "You want me to take him for you now so you can eat?"

D'had chuckles. "Not yet anyway." Soon enough it’s bound to happen though. "Maybe what?" he asks, confusion touching his face before he shakes his head, "Nah, can eat later." Right now they're all there. He can eat when the babies go back to the nursery and Thea decides she has to run back off to Seryth. For now he'll balance where he is and offer her a quirk of a smile. "You'd tell me. Right?"

Thea whooshes out a soft breath of a laugh, "If he takes after you, it'll be never." As D'had talks, she shifts Marella so the little girl is facing away from her, leaning back against her mother and can see the world - or at least this small part of it. Her pale green eyes blink at the face so close and a toothless smile beams for him as her hands waver in his direction. Muir thankfully is busy chewing on his shirt collar. Thea hesitates before finishing, "Better with you and them." She shrugs, it's no big thing, really. Right? This is really convincing because, oh, she's not meeting his eyes when she says it. To his other there is a reluctant nod.

D'had's own gaze is diverted to their daughter even as he gives son a light pat on the back. "Hey, I'm not that bad." Is he? He can't help but smile at the little girl as she reaches for him, a smile that's even a bit more than usual. "She's got her momma's eyes…" he remarks, lifting his gaze to meet Thea's only to frown when its not there for him to find. "Babe…?"

Thea's eyes flash to meet his at that singularly-worded question, and yes, their eyes are alike. There's a pleased expression that he's noticed. She shakes her head, leaning to brush a kiss on his cheek murmuring, "You aren't bad at all. When you said I could keep him, I thought you…" indicating Muir with a jerk of her chin as shoulders rise and fall in a small shrug leaving the rest of the sentence unfinished. She gives him a half-smile, eyes warming. "Don't mind me? It's all this… separation getting to me I think."

D'had notices things like that. Other things, things that aren't so easily seen. Those things he's not so good with. "Though what?" he prompts. That being one of those things he's not so good at reading. There is a quirk of a smile for that kiss though. "I told ya we'll visit if ya like." He's been trying to get her to agree to a night home, or at least at the guest weyr with them since Seryth went to the sands.

Will you look at that? Muir has fallen asleep in his daddy's arms with D'had's shirt collar in his mouth. It's a soggy mess, but… how sweet! Sheepishly ducking her head, a move covered badly by kissing the top of Marella's head, Thea mumbles into the silky sable hair beginning to grow there, "Thought you didn't want to be bothered with him yet." She nods to the visiting. "I know. We can have the guest weyr tonight maybe?" She winces. "If Seryth cooperates. It's going to be a busy afternoon." She lifts her head to add, "The Candidates will be on the sands with the eggs today. " And who knows how Seryth will be after all that?

D'had frowns at that admission from her. "Thea," he says the name and pauses. "It’s not a bother. Really." he says in all sincerity. Just because he doesn't trust himself with them and defers their care to her and her mother and the nannies doesn't mean it bothers him to spend time with them. It’s a guy thing? "Tonight sounds good though. Have her let Sie know if she's okay with it, otherwise we'll hold off til tomorrow."

It never ceases to surprise Thea, hearing her name on his lips. She blinks at that, a slow smile grows on her mouth, but all she says is, "I… ahhh… I see." Apparently she read him wrong, interpreting his own lack of confidence as indifference. She nods, clearly baffled by the man, answering dryly, "Guess I'll just have to take your word on that then." Her smile grows warmer, eyes taking in Muir there, drooling on his shoulder. Marella is gurgling away contentedly because her fingers have managed to just touch her daddy's face. Her tiny fingers are patting his chin, lips and cheeks, totally absorbed by the stubble she finds there. "Tonight then," she exhales a relieved breath, visibly cheered by the thought. "I should get back though." Reluctantly she rises, "Want me to take him back to the nannies for you?" Since she's headed that way.

D'had smiles, catching one tiny finger in the corner of his lips in the process. A chuckle following for it. "Tonight then," he agrees, pushing back up to stand. "I got him," he adds. The boy isn't squirming anymore at least. "No sense wakin' 'im up if we don't have to." Or her carrying them both if she doesn't have to. So his free hand is held out to her, an offer to help her up.

That offer of a hand is gladly accepted and once on her feet, Thea takes a moment to slip an arm around him to give him a quick squeeze. "Thanks, Donn." Which covers more than just him not dumping Muir on her and running. So they arrive at the nannies together whereupon the poor Weyrsecond must endure the clucking and awwwing of the workers there when they see the boy with his daddy's shirt collar still in his mouth and clutched by both hands.

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