Niko, Meet Karma

Xanadu Weyr - Firelizard Theatre
A natural clearing in the forest has grown a different sort of tree. The Courtyard of the Firelizard holds grass trampled into dirt around the wooden play structures.
In the northern part of this field lies a jungle-gym like fort, with two towers that soar to fifteen feet of height. One of them adjoins a large open deck with spiral staircase up and a metal slide down. That aside, the structure's made almost entirely of wood, the boards locked together either by being interlocked or by huge wooden bolts hammered into the boards. The towers are studded with uneven boards and rough spots, various climbing challenges on each of their faces. A swaying rope bridge with wooden slats connects the towers, and beneath it there's a sealed tunnel to run through or play minecraft.
Just past the fort, there are wooden sit-toys carved and painted into the likeness of dragons. They're about two feet high and four feet long, though the green is smaller than the blue. There's a place for a child to sit on the dragon's back, with their feet resting on the dragon's paws and hands on the bars bars attached to the neck of the dragon. Pushing with hands or feet will make the dragon rock and writhe.
In the middle of the field are two sets of swings, suspended by rope from from a wooden beam that's held up by crossbraces on either side. There's a set of monkey bars, made entirely out of wood but carefully polished until the dark bars glow, and a set of seesaws. The sandbox is set back a little from the rest, filled with sand from Xanadu's beach and scattered with buckets and shovels.
Trees border the area, including a massive Lemosian ironwood that has beneath its branches wooden benches with a view of the playground.

There is something almost mystical about a playground in the evening, when the younger children have long since been called away, and the older children haven't yet begun to gather for their nighttime shennanigans. Nikolan is parked on the edge one of the wooden structures, feet dangling above the sand as he sits in stunned contemplation. Instead of his hands full of camera, as per usual, instead they seem preoccupied with cradling three tiny, drowsy green firelizards, their bellies distended with their Impression meals.

As the eggs could hatch literally any day now, it seems Ricki has taken advantage of the lax monitoring habits of a few of the younger members of the weyrling staff, for she has spent far more than her fair share of time wandering as of late - and on this particular evening, her wanderings take along, and down past the playground. Softly humming (poorly, mind you) to herself, she seems rather absorbed in her thoughts, meandering and scuffing her feet as she goes, missing Niko on his perch with his burdens, for the moment.

It's the humming that catches Niko's attention, his gaze diverting from rueful contemplation of the babies to the shadowy figure picking its way along the path past the playground. Almost, he simply allows them to pass - but then said figure is identified, and the Candidate can't help himself from calling softly, "Ricki?" Almost as soon as her name leaves his mouth, he grimmaces, ducking his head to hide the expression lest she misconstrue its cause.

The sound of her name breaks Ricki's contemplation, and her wandering stops, blinking as she glances this way and that in the fading light before she spots the form on the play set. "Hey, Niko.." She finally offers as she identifies him, glancing over her shoulder for a second, seemingly pondering something before she turns and meanders in his direction, smiling up at him almost shyly. "What are you doing up there?"

"Hiding," Niko replies, just the slightest tremor of panic in his voice. "You haven't seen Kera lately, have you? Because it's going to be hard to run right now and I want a good head start." Feel free to use your imagination as to why a Candidate might be actively and vigorously avoiding one of the weyrlingmasters. "Otherwise," he adds, with forced cheer, "how are you this evening? Looking forward to the festivities?" For all he's talking to her, his attention is trading swiftly between his burden and the path.

"Niko.. what did you do?" Ricki asks, the concern in her voice quite evident as she closes the distance the rest of the way, reaching a hand up to rest it lightly on his arm. "No.. Not lately. There were just some assistants playing cards, when I left." The question is answered absently, as her brow furrows and she continues to stare at him, watching his attention shift back and forth. "What happened?" Pleasantries and small talk are ignored as finally moves to climb up next to him, freezing half way as her eyes land on the trio.

Yep. That's the right response. "I didn't do anything," Nikolan cries, his voice filled with injured - and, for once, honest - innocence. As his newly-Impressed companions stir at the sound of his voice, he freezes, tone dropping to a whisper. "I was just minding my own business when the next thing I know, Kera's shoving a bunch of cracking eggs at me and I have… I have…" He bites the words off, swallowing them as his stormy eyes drop to the three identical greens curled so trustingly in his palms. "Wait," he whispers. "What. Stahp."

For a moment, Ricki is frozen in place, halfway up the play structure, staring at the three little greens in his hands, listening to his explanation of what happened. And then, as he finishes with their names, it seems that this candidate can't take it anymore, for there is the softest giggle escaping from her, shoulders shaking as she at least has the sense to try and stay quiet, though it isn't long before she is forced to climb back down. "Oh shards, that is hilarious, Niko." Pity? Not from Ricki, at least not right now.

"Hilarious?" Blue-grey eyes, made huge by betrayal, gaze down at Ricki, and Niko's lips tremble just slightly towards a frown. "You think this," and he nods towards the handful, taking great care not to jostle them, "is funny? The big eggs," you know, the ones with giant firelizards in them, "could pop at any time, and I have three babies to deal with. And they're green," he hisses, stiffening as What shifts in her sleep, rolling over on top of Stahp. "Do you know what greens do, Ricki? And if they all do it at the same time - then what?"

It is a long moment before Ricki manages to get her giggles under control, a hand lifted towards him as her breathing slows as she is able to talk. Only then does her hand drop with a little wave and she steps closer, taking another peek at them. "I'm sorry Niko, but.. It sort of is." What she hopes is a reassuring smile appears on her face, and she rests her hand gently on his knee as he tenses. "They aren't -that- needy.. And you'll be cutting meat up before you know it anyway." Voice of reason, what? "Then you have a really good time with one of your companions.. It isn't the end of the world." And her hand gives a gentle squeeze. "If it makes you feel better.. Nutso is already a little.. less needy, so if you need help.."

In an almost automatic action, Niko starts to reach to cover Ricki's hand - and freezes as Wait begins to uncurl, disturbed by the slight motion of the hand holding her. "You know, it wasn't so long ago," yesterday morning, in fact, "that I was rather pleased by the fact that I seemed to be the last Candidate with no firelizards to mess with. How smug I was," he mutters, "and how I teased Zash about his green. You know, I get that karma's a bitch, but really? This is a bit extreme." He lets out his breath on a huff, his gaze seeking the girl's. "It's not funny," he sulks at her.

"Now, I bet you'll never do that again.." She teases him softly, shaking her head. "Maybe it isn't funny to you right now, but its funny to me, and in a seven day or two, it'll be funny to you." Her giggling has stopped at least, and so Ricki is climbing up to settled next to him, her hand moving to tentatively give a soft scritch to whichever of the trio is closest. "They'll sleep and eat and eat and sleep, and before you know it, it won't matter." She reassures him in a soft voice. "As long as I keep Nutso stuffed in the morning and night, and catch him with oil, he pretty much sleeps on my cot the rest of the time."

Just wait until Nutso gets over the growth-exhaustion phase. Stahp curls into Ricki's scritching fingers, her tiny mouth opening to display tiny teeth in a gaping yawn before she rolls over to present her rounded belly. "Probably," Niko admits. "Of course, Faranth only knows what my life will be like in a sevenday," he adds, grunting softly. "I mean, I get that a firelizard would probably be useful in my journeys, but… three? Greens? Man," he sighs, the tension draining from him as he leans his shoulder against his friend's. "The others are going to have a ball with this."

But by then, hopefully Ricki will be chopping so much meat the extra for a tiny blue mouth won't matter! As Stahp yawns and flips over, Ricki lets out the tiniest 'awww' before she is obligingly scratching the tiny round belly. "It'll all work out, Niko. Besides, they're greens.. they'll probably be so scatter-brained you don't have to worry anyway." As he leans and sighs, she nudges him gently. "I really can't wait to see their reaction.."

"Easy for you to say," Niko grumps, his gaze falling to the hatchlings with an expression that can best be described as ruefully affectionate. "I get to eat my words. You just get to laugh and point and watch. Ah well," he sighs, turning his head to offer her a lopsided smile, "I supposed it's the privilage of best friends to enjoy a bit of karmic comeuppance. Your time will come," he adds, with a slightly manic grin, clearly cheering up at the thought.

"And point and laugh I will.. And then I will scritch their bellies and give you an extra hand when there are three open mouths screaming at you." Because that's what friends do, right? As he teases her, she makes a face at him, before sticking out her tongue. "That's what you think.. You're going to walk away from the Sands with a slightly bigger version of those three, and then I am really not ever going to be able to stop laughing." No shame at all, as it seems just the thought is enough to make her start to giggle.

"Wait, what?" Fortunately, these newly hatched firelizards have not yet learned their names, so Wait and What continue their silent snoozing, wrapped up with Stahp for a pile of identical firelizardly adorbs. Niko stares at Ricki for a long moment, clearly confused, then relaxes slightly. "Oh, you mean a dragon," he murmurs, lips curving in a self-mocking smile. "Well, that's hardly a given," he points out logically, "although maybe if I go around teasing enough dragonriders for having dragons…" He trails off, clearly considering this tempting of fate.

"If you impressed 3 dragons, I think people might do something other than laugh at you." Ricki shakes her head at him with a little tsk. "I mean, I think that might be a stretch, though, even for you." Her belly-scratches pause as she straightens up a bit, stretching her back in the process. "If you go around teasing enough dragonriders, they might decide you aren't worth the headache, and then who I am going to use as a shield on the sands. I haven't forgotten what might be in those eggs." Demons, demons for sure.

Snorting, Niko flexes his fingers slightly, frowning down at the babies as they shift. "I'll be happy with one. I'm not greedy, all evidence to the contrary. Also, who says I am worth the headache? I would have thought," he adds, glancing at her side-long with a too-serious expression, "you'd have figured out by now that the last thing I am is worth the trouble." His gaze falls back to the triplets, and he stares broodingly at them for a moment. "Can you hold them for a moment? I want to see if I can use my shirt for a sling or something before my fingers start cramping."

"Oh Niko.." Ricki mutters, sighing and shaking her head, not giving in to the urge to counter that statement. Instead, she is nodding, shifting and eyeing the trio with a tilt of her head. "Hmm.. How about.." Biting her lip, she reaches to gently pick up one of them, even as her other hand is pulling the hem of her shirt out to make a little hammock to deposit the tiny green in, with plenty of room for her sisters to join her. "You'll have to set the other two in.." She adds, as she settles her arms under the edge to create a more solid edge - but also save her forearms from tiny firelizard claws.

Without a word, Niko turns, carefully depositing Wait and Stahp into Ricki's makeshift hammock with their sister. He tenses slightly as they squirm and wriggle, but once they've made themselves comfortable, they sigh in triplicate and fall back asleep. As he strips off his outer button-down shirt - leaving his undershirt on, thank you very much - he stares broodingly out into the deepening night. Finally, as he extricates himself from his shirt and begins tying knots in it, he starts talking without looking at her, "I know this is cliche, Ricki, but it's really not you. It's me. There's too much in my life to commit to any person - even you," and something in his tone suggests that that makes him no happier than her. "If I Impress, I'll - we'll - have baby dragons to deal with. If I don't, I won't spend more than a day or two in one place, and you'll still have a baby dragon and be stuck here. And I've learned," he adds bitterly, "that that doesn't exactly help with a stable foundation. You'll resent me for not being around, or I'll resent you for keeping me from my work. I've tried. I failed. Miserably. And you can get all het up," he adds, "but it's not about 'sparing you' or 'saving you', it's about keeping the one damn friendship I've made in a long time that means everything to me." He stares at the completed shirt-sling for a long moment, then, very quietly, "I've been sleeping alone almost since I met you."

Eyes are glued on the tiny little green trio in her arms, and Ricki shifts a little, holding her breath as they wiggle, but then they are still and she is exhaling slowly, eyes still glued to them. As Niko starts talking, she absently nods at him, before the words, the explanation starts to actually wiggle into her brain and she tenses, a squeak from Wait, or.. was it What? has her forcibly trying to relax again. As he finishes the explanation, she sits there, seemingly stunned - a situation which isn't helped by his whispered confession. The silence stretches on, reaching that uncomfortable stage, before Ricki finally whispers. "Niko.. I.. I think I've known you can't.. or won't.. but I still care about you." A pause, and she shifts a little. "Being with you just.. makes this easier. It helps me forget that we don't know what will happen on the sands, or.. if we impress, that so much will be out of our control.. basically for forever." Eyes remain glued on the firelizards, unable or unwilling to meet his gaze.

Holding the makeshift sling loosely in his hands, Nikolan stares down at it, his expression a cross between relieved and miserable. "You're an awesome person, Ricki, and I wouldn't deserve you in any case - but the last thing I want to do is tie you down to someone who won't - can't - make you the center of his world, or will leave you alone for long stretches of time." He lifts the sling, settling it around his neck and carefully spreading it so that it makes a secure, comfortable nest just perfect for cradling three baby green firelizards. "You're my best friend, Ricki, and all that that entails. I'll always be there for you - even when you find the guy who can give you what you deserve. And I'll beat the shit out of him," he adds viciously, "if he hurts you."

"Hey, you don't get to start all that Niko." She mutters shaking her head a little bit, shifting to hold her arms out so that he can collect his new additions. "You know, Vale offered to make sure you found the edge of a ledge.. I think between the two of you, I may be doomed to be forever alone." She is teasing now, though, the smile that creeps onto her face as she peeks up at him. "You're still going to have to be my human shield, though.."

Carefully, Niko transfers the trio from her shirt to his, tucking them in together and holding his breath until he sees them settled and still sleeping. "Hey now," he protests, glancing up with a quick frown, "why would he push me off a ledge? I've been a perfect gentleman about this whole thing." Storm-grey eyes study her face as he twists and shifts, making certain the sling isn't going to suddenly unravel and dump the girls into his lap. Satisfied, he reaches out to press his fingertip lightly against her nose. "You can hide behind me any time."

"Aside from it being Vale?" Ricki asks, stretching as she is relieved of the tiny, sleeping burdens. Leaning backwards, she wrinkles her nose at the nose-boop, idly snapping her teeth at him - much like Stahp might be caught doing. Shifting around, she pulls a leg to her chest, looping her arms around it loosely and turning her head to watch him, resting her cheek against her knee. "Will you laugh at me, if I tell you I'm scared?" She asks after a moment, closing her eyes to avoid catching his reaction.

"About the hatching? Absolutely not, because I'm fu - pretty damn terrified, myself," Nikolan replies as he reaches into the sling, scritching first one firelizard, then another, finally able to give them some affection without worrying about dropping one or more. "I've seen Hatchings before - I've photographed them, and frankly, I always wondered how the Candidates can stand to be out there, naked but for robes, with all those teeth and claws. And that doesn't even address the fact that I have no idea what'll happen if one of them thinks I am the one it wants - or worse, what if I'm not?" He glances over at her, lips thin and expression anxious.

"Its even… even more than that. I mean, I don't know what to do if I Impress.. I don't know what to expect, I have never even b-" And Ricki is quickly cutting herself off, blush mostly hidden in the evening shadows, but she is shifting, resting her chin on her knee instead and staring off across the playground clearing. A moment to recover, and she shrugs. "And if I don't.. I.. I'm scared to know why. Maybe Grandma -is- right, and I'm not good enough.. Everyone else has their craft to go back to.. or will have their new lifemates, and I'll just be.. alone." Biting her lip, she turns her face away, hiding from him as she finishes her list of worries.

Silence, as Niko digests this - and sees a side of Ricki he never realized existed. "Your grandmother is wrong," he states flatly, with no room for rebuttal. "You're good enough for a dragon, you're good enough to do whatever the hell you want, and I'll be happy to explain this to her face." Niko vs. Niva - now that might be an interesting way to make some marks. Good money in watching ex-Weyrwomen wipe the floor with cocky crafters. "Tell you what, if you don't Impress, I'll get you a camera." How, he doesn't know. But he'll move heaven and Pern to do it, from the savage tone of his voice. "Then you can either be a photographer like me, or help your parents with their, ah, investigations."

Slowly, quietly, Ricki turns her head to peek back at Niko, before she is softly laughing softly. "You are my best friend Niko but… You should never, ever do that. The woman is terrifying. I mean, I guess I love her, I have to but.. Terrifying. And.. opinionated. And Kilaueth.. shards." That is a whole giant golden pile of -nope-. An arm unwinds itself after a moment to reach hesitantly for his hand, if he frees it from the fire lizards, "I really appreciate it, Niko, but you don't have to do that. I could never, ever repay you.."

"You'd repay me by doing something with yourself that'll teach your grandmother to take her stuck-up nose and…" Niko trails off, more out of respect for Ricki's relationship with her ancestor than because he has any idea how utterly terrifying Niva truly is. "Well," he says after a moment, clearing his throat, "we'll see what happens when the eggs finally hatch, right? The point's probably moot, anyway." His fingers twine with hers, and he stares down at their joined hands, clearing his throat again. "Hey, so, I'm going to get slapped for this, but, well, nothing ventured, right?" His eyes skim up from her hand towards her face, blue dominating grey as he stares at her. "So, I really like you, Ricki. I'm not ready to settle - but… I really, really like you." This is his version of, hey, baby, tomorrow we might be mauled by baby dragons, so let's make the most of our night?

"We'll see what happens.." Ricki agrees with a hesitant smile, gently squeezing his hand, relaxing, and letting her leg drop to dangle once more. And then, as he starts with such a dangerous statement as 'I might get slapped', she is arching an eyebrow at him, trying to keep a straight face - and failing. "I'm not sure that is slap-worthy, Niko.." Gently teasing him, she holds his gaze, scooting a little closer, though conscious of the sleeping baby 'lizards.

"That may not be, but this is," Niko replies, and without further words, leans closer to try and press a kiss against her mouth. He leaves plenty of opening for her to escape - to lean back, to dodge, and even to deliver the half-expected slap. He's ready for rejection - but damn it, he's taking this chance.

There is no slap, no dodge, no duck, though it does seem that Ricki is frozen in place for a moment, before she leans into him, her hand lifting awkwardly to his arm to balance herself as she turns a little. After a moment, she pulls away, blushing darkly even in the shadows, attempting to hold his eyes with her own, stunned it seems into silence.

Breath stuttering and cheeks going ruddy, Niko pulls back an inch or two, lips curving in a satisfied smile. "I can't make any pretty promises," he murmurs, almost apologetically, "but I can't help but want you, Ricki. I understand…" he trails off, clearing his throat, "I understand," he tries again, "that you probably want more, and I won't ruin our friendship by offering more than I can give, I just… I needed to do that, at the very least." Another self-conscious throat-clearing, and he gazes at her with overly bright storm-cloud eyes.

"To shards with pretty promises.." Ricki seems to decide after a moment, fingers tightening on his arm. "Who knows what it coming.. I'd rather…" Ducking her head for a moment, she peeks up at him again after an attempt to compose herself. "I'd rather get to pick, on my own, for myself." And with that slightly odd statement, she is leaning back into him for another kiss - Which will likely lead to things that disrupt the small green trio, which will at least save them from doing anything too stupid in public, hopefully. As for -after- those difficulties have been addressed, well..

Saved by the firelizard shrieks - at least for now - but… after, indeed. Well.

Add a New Comment
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License