Standards of Success (for Dinner)

Xanadu Weyr - Rustic Treetop Cafe
Perched on the cliff overlooking Xanadu's beach is a gnarled and massive skybroom tree. The bark and outer layers are sturdy enough to support the thriving, brushy top, but the interior, which is hollow, contains a spiral staircase that leads to a cafe built on a high platform amongst the branches. With a panoramic view of lake, sky, Weyr and the mountains beyond, the treetop eatery offers both sheltered seating just inside the trunk and tables on the wide deck that encircles the old tree.
The cafe's decor is comfortable and rustic, but closer inspection shows the smallest embellishments to be artfully combined into one detailed masterpiece. The wood of the doors, floor and walls of the trunk have been stained a dark mahogany that lends the space a sense of intimacy. Tables in various sizes have been carved to mimic driftwood, the chairs and benches padded with oiled sailcloth cushions to provide weather-proof comfort. Each table has an aged brass lantern filled with shells and agates gathered from Xanadu's shores, the sparkling natural mosaics holding tapered candles upright in their embrace. Lamps hang from the ceiling on silver poles, the thick frosted glass carved into intricate pastel shells or swirling white-capped waves. At night the colored glass softens the glowlight to enhance the ambience.
During the day, the retractable doors allow leaf-spattered sunlight to fill both the outer deck and the smaller interior with green and gold light, as well as allowing pleasant breezes to cool the interior. On clear nights, farviewers perch on the elaborately carved railing are free for use to enhance the gorgeous view of the stars over the Caspian Lake, the Sea of Azov beyond and the rock formations of the Weyr.

At no point during his lessons did Jethaniel fall off the runner; thus, the minimum standard of success was certainly achieved. The animals were returned to the stable for brushing and feeding, and the humans parted briefly to do the same - at least, the brushing part, in preparation for the feeding. That brushing was, for Jethaniel, to change into a buttoned blue shirt and black kilt (Darsce seemed to like it) with blue knee-high socks. He's also combed his hair, though a breeze tried to undo it on the way across the clearing. He did not, however, shave. Darsce said stubble was in. It is in this condition that he awaits her, her at the cafe. He's got a table, a small round one near one of the windows, but he's currently not sitting at it. Instead, he stands by that window, hands behind his back as he looks out at the sea.

Darsce made a quick dash to the bathing caverns and since in her mind makeup is more important than a fancy hairdo, after her shampoo, she's fluffed her silvery-blonde hair and left that to air dry. Time is short and so her application of makeup is lighter than normal, which means at least she doesn't keep Jethaniel waiting too long. And so she arrives, pink-cheeked and sweet-scented, dressed casually in hip-hugging white jeans and a filmy, off-the-shoulder blouse of fuchsia. Silver bangles tinkle around one slender wrist, a slim, plain silver chain hangs around her neck. And since Jethaniel's back is to her, she can pause in the doorway and admire the kilt before giving him a light wolf-whistle and then a cheeky grin when he turns around. "Hey, there. Sorry I'm late."

Atmospheric patterns and tidal forces and- at the whistle, they're all forgotten as Jethaniel turns quickly enough that the kilt flares slightly. He smiles at the sight of Darsce, an expression with traces of relief. Not that he was expecting her to skip out, and yet… her presence is now a real thing, instead of merely an expected one. "You're here now," he says, and his gaze lingers for a moment, tracing the line of silver and the gauzy shapes of blouse before he swallows and drags his gaze back. His arm flexes as the fingers of one hand squeeze the wrist of the other, and he hurriedly leaves the window to stride to the table. "Ah. Here. I've got us a table. Ah…" He's caught without his words again. They may prove unrecoverable; after a moment, he silently pulls out a chair for her.

"So I am," agrees Darsce with a shrug of slim shoulders that dismisses her worry that he'd mind the few extra minutes she took to get ready. She moves from the doorway, her high heels clicking on the polished wooden floor. This is part of what took her the few minutes - slipping out of her flat-soled shoes and jacket down that spiral staircase and donning these impractical shoes. "Thank you," she says, smiling at him just before sitting in that chair he's pulled out for her. And then she links her fingers under her chin, props elbows on the table to twinkle at him. Silent is she, the minx, just to see if more words are forth-coming from him.

So she is. Once Darsce is seated, Jethaniel takes his own chair, settling into place before lifting his gaze to her. This would indeed be a suitable juncture for words. Unfortunately, that old standby of 'How are you today?' seems somewhat foolish when he last saw her so recently. So do most of the other potential words, because looking at her seems to be creating a challenge for him; as the silence stretches on, he selects the seemingly least foolish. His selection process may, however, currently be impaired. "I'm glad you're here."

Darsce is certainly pleased to hear that, if her growing smile is any indication. Her reply is an easy, "Thank you, Jethaniel. And I you." And here comes a waitress with menus, so she sits back, dropping her hands to her lap while those are placed in front of them and pours water for them both. When she has stepped away, she opens hers but doesn't read the items listed in it right away. "You look nice," she says casually to Jethaniel. And to that she adds, "You should definitely come to Ierne and model for me sometime."

That, or Darsce enjoys teasing Jethaniel. Nevertheless, he nods to her reply, smiling back to her with a shy duck of his head before accepting the menu. He reaches for his, fingers resting on the front but not yet opening it - for Darsce is speaking again, and his attention is required in looking at her and listening. "Thank you," he says to her compliment, his expression pleased. He did choose this attire with that aim, after all. It is gratifying to know his efforts were effective, and he has a suitable mental model of the situation. As for being a physical model, his lips twitch upwards. "If you wish. I must admit to a lack of knowledge what that entails, however." And yet he's already agreed to it.

It's a mixture of both, actually, but Darsce is indeed glad he's here with her and so spoke the truth. As for modeling for her, it's not /for her/ for her and though she's sure he didn't take it that way, she clarifies anyway with a suggestive twitching of brows, "It's not a private modeling just for me. It's on an elevated runway with guests watching who might want to buy clothes I design for Mori's. My brother Muir says he'll do it too. Oh, and you get paid by Mori's, too." She does scan the menu, nods with satisfaction to see an item she's looking for is indeed listed and folds her menu, putting it aside. "This is perfect," she adds of the Treetop Cafe, back to watching him with a smile that is far too pleased.

It is sometimes important, with words, to be certain which of their meanings is being used. Jethaniel continues to not actually open his menu, listening to her explanation. "Ah," he says. In this case, that word means acknowledgment; there is a further pause as he processes the individual meanings of the words given and parses them into a conceptual structure. "It may give incorrect ideas about my usual relationship to clothing," he notes consideringly, then smiles. "However, I have no objections." The part about money is pretty well ignored. There exist sufficient marks in his life to be dull as a motivational force, though calculations regarding them may be interesting in a mathematical sense. As Darsce scans the menu, he proceeds as far as actually opening it and looking down before she speaks again. "I inquired about the balcony, but it's closed for winter."

Darsce snorts soft laughter. "Wait'll you see what they have Muir wearing," she says with an eyeroll at the thought of her usually casually-clad brother modeling. Whereas with Muir, the sufficient motivational force was meeting the gorgeous female models, Darsce fails to add that one in there for Jethaniel, imagine that. "Did you?" she asks lightly of that balcony and then adds, "We'll have to come back next spring then and try it out." She then flutters her lashes briefly and smiles shamelessly. To the waitress, who is back, she says confidently, "I'll have the sushi and saki."

One of Jethaniel's eyebrows rises at the mention of Muir's upcoming attire, followed by a smile. "I suppose I shall," he says, but her brother is not a conversational topic he wishes to dwell on all that much, and so he moves on to the next. He did indeed ask, and so he nods to that, then smiles. "I shall look forward to it," he says, returning her smile until he realizes that the waitress has arrived and he has, as of yet, not read the menu. This presents a minor problem, and he glances down to it ever so briefly. There. The first item on which his gaze settles appears to be edible; he will therefore eat it. "The teriyaki chicken, please." He offers his menu back to the waitress. Food has now been ordered. This will allow them to achieve success at dinner, and he can therefore return his gaze to Darsce. "Will you be modeling as well?"

It might achieve success at eating, anyway. But if there's awkwardness, Darsce doesn't act as though she notices. The smile that ghosts her lips now and then might be amusement or it might mean she is simply enjoying this date. It can be hard to tell with her. "I will be, yes. It's part of what I do." She will also be in the wings admiring Jethaniel-the-model when he's out there, but she doesn't say that. Instead, she remembers something he said to her in the infirmary. "So, you said you met my sister, Marel," she says brightly curious about that.

The prospect of seeing Darsce model most certainly makes Jethaniel smile. Motivation. He nods. "I shall let you know my upcoming rest days." Perhaps he should just hand her a copy of his calendar? It might be more convenient. Jethaniel reaches for his water glass, lifting it to take a sip before pausing at her question. "Ah. Yes. She said…" He hesitates, as if the words are proving difficult to recall… or perhaps for another reason entirely. "Ah, perhaps it will be easier to explain if…" He leans to the side, sliding his chair out a little to reach down beneath it and retrieve a small terracotta pot. It's simply made, the only decoration a thin white ribbon, and it contains a reasonably tall, understated plant with a converged trio of slim, sturdy stems, three of the buds open to display delicate, pale-pink flowers with curved petals and sooty-black centres. This, Jethaniel extends toward Darsce. "I, ah, had meant to give this to you later." Or a very long time ago. Didn't he mention a flower back on the Yokohama?

Darsce could probably pencil in some interesting activities for his rest days! Has he checked it lately? She may have slipped in there to do that already because she knows where the Weyrwoman keeps her master key. Not that she'll admit to using it, nope. She looks pleased enough to hear he'll let her know when they are though, so maybe she hasn't. Yet. Though it could be just the thought that he is motivated to tell her when they are that brings the smile back to her glossed lips. Jethaniel stops and bends over and so Darsce, curious, leaaaans out to see where he's going. The pot and flower appear along with the steward's re-emergence and she can only stare at the pot, puzzled. "Marel told you to give me a flower?" She reaches her hand out to touch one of the delicate petals with a fingertip. He did! And she thought it would be all brown and crispy by now.

The lack of crispy brown would be due to the fact that this is, in fact, a potted plant instead of simply a cut flower, combined with how Jethaniel has been watering it carefully. When he got it, only one of the buds had opened. "Ah… no," he replies to Darsce's question. The flowerpot is set down on the table between them, and his hands retreat to fold in front of him. "I… did not inform her who it was for, when she helped me select it." His gaze lowers to those hands, and he smiles slightly. "She informed me afterward that it had best be for you."

Darsce ohs softly, surprised by the both of them, certainly. And very pleased by the gift, which she shifts a little to one side so the cluster of flowers is not in her line of sight and smack dab where Jethaniel's nose is. That he'd watered and cared for it touches Darsce almost as much as the fact he'd thought to get it for her those sevendays ago. Her hand lowers, but not to her side of the table. She touches the back of his hand with the same light touch the petals had gotten. "It's elegant and beautiful. I like it very much. Even more because you got it for me." Marel, she doesn't comment on though she might send a little unspoken thought of thanks her sister's way.

Jethaniel's expression has something of uncertainty to it, but at the touch to his hand, he lifts his gaze again to Darsce. He smiles, and his fingers slowly extend, lying flat now. "I am glad," he replies, and after a moment, continues. "For all those things, but… most of all that it is from me." That it is from him; that she values it for that. Perhaps the meaning comes across in the words; perhaps some of it is in his smile, earnest and slightly abashed, his head tilted in what is almost shyness though his grey eyes look up to make the difference. Slowly, his hand moves again, turning over to rest palm-up against the table.

He could have gotten her a Venus Fly Trap and Darsce would have been pleased. She might have made him catch the insects and feed it for her though! This from the girl who just ordered raw fish for dinner, go figure. "I'll put it on my bedside stand," she tells Jethaniel, pleased that he's pleased that she's pleased. Her mind-track must be dizzying! "It'll be the last thing I see at night and the first thing I see every morning." Besides the clutter of nail polish, earrings, hair brush, perfume bottles and empty klah mug - never fear though! She will make room for it the potted flower. Into his palm-up hand she places hers and says simply, but heartfelt, "Thank you, Jethaniel." And she smiles sweetly. It's then that the waitress arrives with their food. And Darsce's plate? Has things on it with eyes in them.

Recursion can get complicated. Fortunately, in this case, it is not necessary to calculate the full function; merely take the limit of it. The mathematical constructs involved reduce to a smile whose magnitude increases with Darsce's explanation - possibly toward infinity, but as the graph is incomplete due to the limited amount of axis available, that will simply have to assumed. As her hand settles against his, Jethaniel's fingers curve slightly as to maximize the amount of surface area providing contact. Suboptimally, most likely, but his heuristic is a fairly good one and the problem's likely NP. "You are very welcome," he replies to her, beaming happily… oh, what's this? There's food here. It will have to be placed somewhat off center in front of him, because his hand doesn't move out of the way in time. His plate has skewers with chunks of brown-drizzled meat on them. It's much less interesting than hers, which he regards for a moment. "Ah, yes. The food." That's right. This is a dinner. She'll likely require her hand for this part. "You are fond of seafood?"

To some extent, Darsce is a mathematician. But only in the sense of designing clothing patterns to fit the measurements of people. To put her thoughts and his responses to a formula or a graph would take… someone else. All she knows is she is all warm inside. And she hasn't even had any of the sake yet. Which has come with 2 little cups, so she does indeed withdraw her hand to pour some for him and pass him his tiny cup. As for seafood, "I am, yes. Ierne is an island after all. So we had lots of it. Do you like sushi?" Sake isn't the only thing she is willing to share, so if he's never had it… watch out.

In this particular case, Jethaniel is not overly fond of being correct, for it means Darsce's fingers are no longer touching his. However, that is not enough to remove his smile. He accepts the cup from her, inclining his head in thanks. "Somewhat," he says of sushi. "I am fonder of nigiri than rolls, but freshness is rather more important in that case. I have not tried it here." Most likely because he eats out of whatever's available in the caverns when he comes by on the way to and from work. "I am from Cove Hold; fish is, I suspect, similarly abundant at Ierne."

Darsce only needs both of her hand to pour the sake. The other can manage her chop sticks just fine on its own. So her hand returns to his if he doesn't mind awfully much and she will set her chopsticks down when she needs to lift her cup to sip. Her handling of the chopsticks is deft and fluid, not minding at all the eating one-handed dinner. "Ah. Master Robinton's hold," she notes with interest of his home. "I've never been there." She asks him things about his home, his family, what he's hoping to do with his techcrafting, the sort of get-to-know you questions of one genuinely interested in hearing the answers. Conversating (it's a word - just ask Darsce!) and laughing, she does indeed seem to be enjoying herself, lingering when the meal is finished so long that when the manager of the Treetop Cafe hints that they need to close, she is surprised and a touch sad.

Jethaniel is quite pleased to have that hand back in his, not minding the added challenge of eating one-handed in the slightest. It is more than compensated for by that physical contact, the warmth of it - as with the sake - an insufficient explanation for the warm feelings inside. "Indeed," he says of his home hold's history. "That is part of why it is so popular with tourists." Though the beaches and sunsets certainly don't hurt either. He answers questions readily, asking some of his own in with the rest. Conversating (it must be a word) is like that, and what he makes in suave he makes up in earnest. There are so very many things to talk about, and when at last the evening has gone, one minute and conversational topic at a time, he blinks at the manager, but doesn't argue. Jethaniel pays for the meal with a generous tip for having stolen their table for so long, then offers Darsce his arm so that they may have just a little more of that conversating as he walks her home.

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