Will You Be My Breath Through the Deep, Deep Water

Xanadu Weyr - Weyrleaders' Office
Office and retreat, this is the domain of Xanadu's Weyrleaders. The door is in the southern wall, quite close to the western end while the northern wall is dominated by big, expansive windows, framed by sumptuous deep blue drapes edged with a brilliant gold braid and tied back with a thick rope of braided gold and blue cord. In between, the western wall is covered floor to ceiling with shelves that house all sorts of records, manuals and supplies that are used on a day-to-day basis.

The southern wall has the Weyrleader's desk — plain fellis wood, well polished and masculine. From behind his desk, the Weyrleader can look straight through the windows and out onto the main airspace of Xanadu. The eastern wall is where the Weyrwoman's desk resides: a lovely piece of furniture made of warm cherry wood. From her seat, a glance sideways gives her an equally good prospect out the window. There are a few other seats, some comfortably arranged around a low round table for small, informal meetings while there also some that can be drawn up to one of the desks.

On the west side of the door, the space is occupied by a low oblong table where refreshments can be set without someone needing to intrude. There is also an 'incoming' tray where incoming correspondence or similar items can be left.

It was only by the sheer improbability of chance that Risali was not in the Council Chambers, that she was not one more causality lying in wait among the ruin of sheered wall faces, shattered glass, and the litter of detritus obscuring battered bodies underneath it. She'd heard the first shuddering roar, but she felt the second one. Then she had known. Risali had known with hair-raising, lung-seizing, gut-wrenching clarity that something wasn't right. "Leiri —" But she wasn't quick enough. BOOM. And while people gave in to their baser instincts, while most people ran from the danger, answering fight-or-flight adrenaline with the desire to survive, Risali ran toward it. She ran toward it, disoriented and untrained and afraid, but she ran toward it anyway. There, she discovered by dint of too-small hands pulling at unyielding wreckage, by virtue of her own mounting hysteria, that her strength was ineffective in the face of this, that she would need help because she alone was not enough. It was not the sheer improbability of chance that she didn't have to be. Before Risali could capture hold of her thoughts, she was spared from the futile reality of her participation in this by the presence of hands much more capable than her own, summoned by Xermiltoth or the blast or both, and left instead to face down what choices remained: crumble, or keep going. So Risali kept going. She persisted. She'd found a way to make herself useful in the mayhem of terrified confusion and endured the agony of not knowing, the pressure of dread like a living, breathing thing clawing in her throat, the mounting panic of her own worries by pushing them to the back of her mind. Just then, she couldn't allow herself to feel anything. Then it had been okay. Then F'yr and K'vir and Rhodelia's army of healers had done what Galaxy couldn't organize quick enough to do as a team and braved the desolation to bring them — Th'ero, R'hyn, Ila'den — back alive. And they came back themselves. But there wasn't time then either. There wasn't time to fall apart, to cave to relief, to let go. She still had work to do, people to find, questions to answer. She didn't stop being the weyrwoman just because people she cared about were endangered. But now the tide is quieting, people taking to their given tasks and Risali? … Well. Risali is taking just a moment to quietly push the doors to her office closed, to keep her back pressed against it while grey eyes take in R'hyn's desk, to sink down slowly and let herself fall apart. Just a little. Just enough. She brings her knees up to her chest and, alone, she weeps.

He had never felt torn before. Always, he was balancing in a world that tipped with the magnetic ease of a compass, and now, F'yr's overwhelming need is to be in too many places at once and not a one of them is the infirmary or at least, not alone in the infirmary. They had to let him out, had to let him see Glorioth and he came back in just in time to see two of the faces he most needed, and that was good, great, necessary, but it wasn't everything. He managed not to sprint all the way back to the administrative complex, because he kept having to stop and nearly spew his lungs onto the ground with each new fit of coughs so by the time he's in the place he should not be to look for her, he's walking, but only just. He's got a covering back over his face, just like he was told by that one healer who knew this man would go back, against instructions. By habit, his knock comes on that office door, the one that is F'yr's and no one else's and then a hand to the handle, but also, as much by habit, he waits at least a three count before trying to turn it. Maybe it's really only two, because (though he can't be sure) he's pretty sure what he needs most in this moment is BEHIND THIS DOOR. And listen, he already broke down one door today (well, with K'vir), so if they have to replace this one, too, it can be a 2-for-1 deal, very economical. "Risa?" He's worked here long enough to have just the right volume to penetrate that door but not so much that it would, say, disturb a meeting in progress. He knows there is no meeting in progress today. "Can I—" come in is the rest of that sentence, if there's enough time to get to it.

Somewhere in the rush of letting go, Risali lost herself in the tide of too much — too much pain, too much uncertainty, too much pushing, fighting, clawing it back and back and back so that she could keep moving forward. She lost herself, lost the concept of time; she forgot the shape, the sense, the importance of it, forgot the linear, unwavering continuity with which it surged forward, undaunted, unperturbed, unmoved, leaving her far behind in the seconds, minutes, hours since the ruin of the council chambers, since the very foundation upon which she built herself shook and crumbled from within. So Risali doesn't know how long it's been since she pressed her back against the unyielding comfort of too-heavy, closed doors and sobbed, sobbed until her lungs hurt, until her throat was raw, until the pain in the center of her chest seemed to subside just enough that she could breathe. She doesn't know how long it's been since her strength failed in the quiet of that empty office and that first knock comes to threaten the desolation of solitude. But it does come, and Risali draws in a sharp breath, a half-sob guttered halfway through, bit off in a press of teeth to her bottom lip in a bid to keep emotions in check. And for a long moment, she doesn't answer. F'yr's voice carries through, and Risali focuses on the effort it takes her to draw in one breath and then another, one after another after another after another. She draws on that inner strength, pushes crumbling brick back into some semblance of order, some semblance of definition, some semblance of reason and shape. She does it in a matter of seconds, in the time it takes to hear her name and the very beginnings of a question interrupted by Risali's pressing perseverance: that rise to her feet, the indignant swipe of hands at tell-tale wetness, incapable of taking away the evidence left by smeared kohl and swollen eyes, the energy it takes to sweep hair falling loose from her face and pull the door open to let the right one in. "F'yr," comes too-soft, hoarse with emotion — relief, unspent fear, something entirely broken — that she keeps in check. "Hi," comes intelligently, forced around a painful, guttering smile despite one step taken forward, then another, then another, decimating the distance between them. Then, it's her too-small body slamming into his too-big one, the press of her face in against his sternum, her arms slipping beneath the contrasting weight of his to curve around his back and fist fabric in her hands as if she might bring him closer. "You're okay," comes broken, a spattering of syllables interspersed with breathy failing, a sound that's wretched and ruined upon the trembling quiver of another sob. "Thank Faranth." Because it is one thing to hear it, and another thing altogether to see it, touch it, know it. "K'vir? R'hyn? Th'ero? Dad?" Muffled, weak, but perhaps that's why she's drawing back to look at him as she asks it.

The shudder that shakes broad shoulders is relief. Relief that the door opened, that she's there, and even more that she let him in. He steps within and the door is kicked closed behind him — kicked, because his hands cannot be spared because even as she's stepping into him, he's coming to her. Despite his instincts to reach for, to cling to those people who are important to him that have been on overdrive since the first moment the destruction registered, he hasn't had the luxury. It's not even a luxury anymore; it's a necessity. First, he just gathers her in even as he's pressing forward in his own need to get to her, to cling to her. But then, even as she's fisting her hand in his shirt, his arm is sliding down her back, to hook under her thigh in a probably familiar gesture that's meant to get her up— up into his arm, and then he'll sink down, down to the floor so they can be immersed in this embrace. The strength of his arms provide an avenue to the illusion of safety even as he's seeking her forehead with his. "Alive, all alive." Still. "Going to be okay." As far as he knows. Even if he'll probably leave the particulars of their recoveries up to the individuals to convey. "I'm sure K'vir will find you soon. I didn't speak with Th'ero but your dad was sending healers running to request a new posting and R'hyn was wrangling him," mentally, "into fresh clothes when I left. You should go see them." BUT IN A MINUTE, OKAY? Because, selfishly, F'yr is holding her. Then he's shifting enough to press his lips to her forehead, in one quick, hard kiss that lingers just long enough to assure all those panicking bits of himself that, yes, Risali is here, is alive, but not long enough to demand more (now, or ever, really). The familiar press of his forehead to hers is back after that. "What can I do?" How can he help?

Risali catches at F'yr's shoulders to keep herself from crashing into his chest, bracing half of her weight by locking her elbows as he hauls her up into his arms and she lets him do it; she lets him settle her to the floor, to abuse an unfair amount of strength she will never have, to settle her in the cradle of his body where… she stays. The moment his forehead is pressed to hers, Risali's hands are cupping his jaw between them, thumbs sweeping back and forth, back and forth over the soft give of cheeks as grey eyes close and she listens to him speak. This. She needs this. She needs to know that he's okay. She doesn't even open her eyes when F'yr breaks away to press a kiss to her forehead, doesn't surrender the tentative hold she has on his person to make his ability to execute it any less awkward because she needs this. It's affirmation that he's alive, that he's well. So she presses into it, parts with a sound that's half broken, half trying to keep it together in the breath before he's pressing back into her space and she holds him there too. One, two, five. Fingers curve along the sweep of his jaw, pressing in against the base of his skull as she gives herself a moment to breathe, to hear his question over her own heartbeat and contemplate the merits of honesty, of allowing herself a selfish request in lieu of pretending she has any strength left. She doesn't, and so it's a shattered, hoarse, "Stay," that pulls from her lips. Stay just for now, just for as long as it takes her to remember how to breathe, for just as long as it takes her to grapple with demons and reconcile the fact that everybody is okay despite how close of a call it was. It's over. The important part — their safety — is over. The rest… the rest is important, is significant to puzzle through in order to prevent further mishap, but the weight of that knowledge should not be enough to overshadow the fact that everybody made it out alive. In one piece. Whole — coughing and aching and bruised, but whole. And if it's possible to close the meager distance separating two bodies even further, Risali manages; she presses her arms forward, sliding forearms and biceps against the rise of F'yr's shoulders, dropping her chin until she's pressing in on the curve of where her arm rests while she steals his strength. Or maybe she just borrows it. It's hard to say what she does in such close proximity, but it's clear she needs this. Then she's huffing breathy laughter, half-felt and half-meant, an attempt to inject normalcy into a situation that's anything but. "Any other day I'd take pity on the healers, but mostly I'm glad he's alive to make them regret their profession." Her Dad, she means. And R'hyn, Th'ero. She doesn't say it. She draws in a deep breath instead and pulls back, forcing a smile she doesn't quite feel as those grey eyes take up the study of F'yr's face, chasing where her fingers — back now, thumbs sweeping over cheekbones — move. "And you?" It's a quiet question, the implication in tone that she's not merely asking after his physical well-being. "Are you okay?" Because maybe nobody has asked him yet, and maybe he wasn't one of the unlucky few nursing heads dizzy with concussion, but he's important too.

Risa can have what she needs from him. She can have his chin in her hands. She can have this tactile contact that is real even if it might not wholly feel it, yet, because everything else has such a coating of the surreal. She can have the strength of his arms, the small protection they might afford if the world keeps dropping out from under their collective feet. All of that that he can give her he does, even before the moment she tells him to Stay. After that, it's permission to give her what he was already trying to keep in check and his arms tighten a little and his breath draws a little ragged there, kept in the confines of her hands, with the weight of her against him, here where something would have to go through him to get to her. Nevermind that it's already gotten to her and it's not something he can cure. He can still hold her, and not just because she needs it, but because he does too. Whatever dam is holding back every straining seam of his self that is not coming apart now, is done by dint of his greater need: to be her rock. A day will surely come when he cannot do that, cannot be that, but today is not that day. Today is the day where he is with her in the magnitude of the impact, inasmuch as he is able (which is to say, not completely, not totally, but the very best he has to give). "The healers deserve everything coming to them." It keeps them on their toes. Besides, a man who was also just poked and prodded 'for his own good' can hardly be expected to have sympathy. But really, quieter, more real. "It was good to see them, so much themselves. You should see them." It's a reiteration, but it's in a different tone, one of resignation, but F'yr does not pull back, not yet. He knows he has to let her go. But he's not ready. She's not ready? She might not be ready. He'll wait. He'll greedily take what he can get of her in this moment because there is something profoundly balancing to him in just being here, with her. He can be the rock because she believes he can be, and with her belief, he too can believe, can be. He draws another breath, deeper, steadier. He manages, only just, not to start coughing, the struggle to breathe briefly on his face. To anyone else, anyone else, in this moment the 'I'm fine' lie would come so easily. But he doesn't give her this. "I'm not. Physically, I'll be fine. A day or three." Something. Oh, and maybe he's not supposed to be here so close to all that dust and debris in the air - but listen, they won't get into that right now. "The rest…" He swallows hard and shakes his head. "But I am — " He pauses; here, right here is the moment he almost loses it. The rock almost crumbles. But his arms tighten on her, and really… even when she's not quite holding herself together, even when she's having a selfish moment, just her being her is enough to ground him. He breathes. "I am not okay, Risa. I'll be okay, I think. I need to figure some things out." But that's not for this moment. "Right now I just need to know that you're — " he doesn't say 'okay,' "-going to be okay." Quieter, possibly inappropriately, because surely there are people in this world with much more right to these three words than F'yr has, even in this moment, but he claims them anyway. Fervently, believably, "I've got you."

Maybe Risali knows. Maybe she can feel the cracks, see the fissures, hear water seeping perniciously through hairline fractures, threatening to ruin what strength F'yr has found to ground them — him, her, both of them — in this moment. She knows that he's breaking, that tenuous threads of fraying strength are probably all that's holding him together, keeping him upright in the moments following the bittersweet devastation of such a brutal aftermath. She should have let him go, should have turned him away, should have let him worry only about the ones in need of his concern. Instead Risali asks for more than she ever has. She takes every ounce of gentle reassurance she can find in F'yr's unassuming stability, in the quiet cadence of his voice, in the breath — painful and burdened though it may be — filling up his lungs in routine repetition. And then she gives it back. His arms tighten around her and F'yr doesn't have to hold himself together because Risali's arms tighten in a bid to keep him whole, to hold him in place, to offer her own fragile strength while they both struggle to keep swimming, adrift in a storm at sea. "They're okay," is just as much a reminder for herself as it is for him. "You're okay. I'm okay. Kyzen is —" Okay. She doesn't say it; her voice breaks and Risali suddenly doesn't trust herself to finish speaking. Instead she crashes beneath the waves and fights to resurface, hugging F'yr all the tighter for the reminder that even if she lets go, he's got her. When next she speaks, it's through the heavy lilt of emotion, as if her tongue is suddenly too thick, her throat too tight. "If you need to talk, I'll be here." Maybe not in this office, maybe not pressed to this door, maybe not even in Xanadu Weyr, but she will be here, offering an anchor or sanctuary, whenever he needs her to be. "And I've got you." Which might be why she draws back enough to press her forehead back to his, why she sweeps thumbs along his jaw once more, and then presses her own kiss to his forehead — wet though it is with tears. One, two, five and then Risali is drawing in a deep breath as the one mask she always seems to wear falls back into place. "You should go," because she knows he shouldn't be here, not with aching, abused, detritus limned lungs. And already she is disengaging herself, building her strength in incremental amounts as she moves to stand and holds out both of her hands to help him rise as well. "R'hyn is planning to work and — Leirith. Intercept them, tell them to come —" A moment, a glance around and then another deep breath. "Tell them to wait in the living caverns and while we find accomodations. I'm going to check on Kyzen and check on the kids." ALL of them. And there is is, a press of lips in a painful spread, a forced smile that never quite hits the too-bright sheen around her eyes. "You," comes for the bronzerider still in her purview, "had better go home and I mean it. If I catch wind that you," or K'vir, though that goes unspoken as of yet, "set even one toe out of your weyr to try and be useful, I will abuse all that shiny power being a queenrider gives me and I don't think you or Glorioth will like it very much." There's little weight in the threat, but a real threat it is. Then, quieter: "Will you be okay?" Tonight, she means. She doesn't get to stop being the weyrwoman simply because the world has fallen out from beneath her feet, but that doesn't mean she can't make sure F'yr has something — or someone — to keep him sane so that he doesn't have to spend this night alone.

She could have let him go, could have turned him away, could have assumed that would help him… except the way his breath hitches, the way his arms renew in the strength of their steady presence when she tightens her arms give every evidence that if she had done that, she might have deprived him of the very thing he needs most. Right now, it's right here, being in this moment with her, because where one cannot hold a circle where resilience can well, can pool from a trickle into something with substance, two can complete that circle; more can do it better in some cases, but two will do here and now to keep them finding air to breathe while the sea of struggle that is a compounded thing of too many concerns to name. His head shifts just enough to intimate a nod and draw another breath, claiming her words on it and dragging them into himself. They're okay. All of them. Another ghost of a nod finishes her sentence when her voice fails her. He is okay too. When she hugs tighter, so does he. "Later," he promises. He will want to talk but later. She has to stay together; he has to stay together. Everyone has to work through this. He might hold on for one extra moment, indulging himself in the knowledge made more powerful by her voice, that she has him; he needs that, for just one second longer (and always), but he lets go after that. He is not her only responsibility in this moment; so many other things balance on her smoll shoulders that bear vastly more than the uninitiated would guess in looking at her. He puts his hands in hers and levers himself up with slightly more effort than usual, coughing into his shoulder, but managing by dint of willpower and luck to keep it a short one. His hands slide up her arms from the joined hands and rub gently across forearms before returning to the hands so much smaller but so much more capable than his. He doesn't need to ask if she's going to work much too long, much too late. He also doesn't need to ask if she'll let him work alongside her because she's already telling him he can't it's like they've met once or twice. "You know I'm going to work for a little while." Beat. "I'll do it out there where the healers said I could." LOOSE INTERPRETATION, IT'S FINE. It's a COMPROMISE, Risa, because F'yr is not the kind of guy who can just leave under the circumstances. He studies her a moment and then takes a breath, "I can ask K'vir to come to my place while you're working." Thereby making sure that K'vir is not working when she's told him to stop, thereby offering to help them all, at least… that's the theory? But he's checking with her, because is that the best way to take the two of them off the list of things she's prioritizing to worry about? "I don't think anyone is going to get a lot of sleep tonight," NOT LIKE THAT, which surely she knows, "but company would be better than not." He tilts his head a little to look at her, "You could come over when you finish working," he suggests. Even if that's the optimist's suggestion. AS IF RISA WILL EVER BE DONE WORKING TONIGHT. And there's a silent caveat there that need not be spoken between them, because maybe she will need her children more in that moment, or will send for K'vir, and that would be perfectly fine too. She can still have whatever she needs from him, if it's in his power to give.

'Later,' earns F'yr a smile, the kind that comes with an escape should he need it, the not-so-secret knowledge that there is no expectation that later ever needs to come. It's quiet. Gentle. It's suffused with a warmth that fades only because gentle warmth is not the element Risali draws from for stability when she needs to be strong. She draws the warmth from his touch, the spread of fingers up her forearms, the hands so big and more than capable that harbor hers for just a moment — a long moment. "And you know," Risali whispers, concern ruining the attempt at humor even as she says it, "that I'm going to kick your whole entire ass if I see you doing it, right?" The set of her brows, the pull of her lips, the bone-weary expression she clings to after his cough has subsided offers contrary evidence for her threat of violence, but it does not diminish the seriousness of her implication: she is worried. She needs him to rest. She needs all of them to rest so that she can trust in the healer-confirmed confidences that they are all, in fact, okay. Then she concedes, because Risali herself chafes at constraints and knows — knows — that she would never breach trust in order to satisfy her own anxieties. Hopefully F'yr knows it too. "Fine," comes softer. "But listen to your body, F'yr. I mean it. We have a lot of people that are capable and can help." It doesn't all fall on his shoulders, even if the need, the drive, the desire to be of service is unhindered by the reality of that knowledge. And there it is, those subtle strengths that he might find with quiet study: the slight uptick of her chin in a defiance that dares him to challenge her, to fight her, to press his will against hers and see just who comes out on top. It's not unkind, but it is important to understanding the kind of person that Risali is, to know she isn't weak when her own strengths are not so blatantly obvious as the sturdy structure of F'yr's own body — not that hard-won assets are his only strength, either. It's the question about K'vir that has Risali blinking, her lips pressing together in that slight moment of hesitation before she breathes out, "I think that would be a good idea. Though… it's up to both of you." Translation: company would be good, but who they choose to keep company with is out of her hands. And then she smiles, a hushed pull of her lips that exacts some small semblance of humor and injects it with a touch of her usual wickedness. NOT GETTING ANY SLEEP, HUH? Perhaps, given different circumstances, Risali would comment on the inherent opening within such words. Today, she sucks in a breath and exhales instead. "Don't stay up." It's all the answer he will get from around an expression meant to reassure but lacking its true potential, is if she knows that he knows she will not come on this night to interrupt whatever bonding, quiet, peace they find. And she doesn't. She might tuck herself under one of F'yr's arms to walk him out of her office then, she might deviate to find K'vir and reassure herself that he's okay, she might even take a break to gather up the Citilaryn household and sabotage R'hyn's plans of work with an offering of children (and snacks), but she doesn't come home. She doesn't seek out K'vir or F'yr. Not that night, and not the morning after, either.

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