Challenge Accepted

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.

SNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It's winter, it's snowing, there is white everywhere, and Risali is out among it — not in the bright of day, where she could be chasing around her own children and building forts to hide from rogue snowballs (or making dragons in the snow), but at night, when the moons cast an eerie shade over the world, leeching the vibrant colors painted on children's playthings. Risali is as monochromatic in that moment as her surroundings, bundled up in a long peacoat that's as black as her hair; buried beneath scarf, and beanie, and gloves, and boots that come up to her knees over dark leathers. Even her eyes are grey (though they are always that), leaving the only real spec of true color to be found in this moment not a golden hide, but a golden colored liquor that's currently occupying the bottle she's holding by the neck in one fist. Okay, so it's more amber, but shhhhhhhhhhhh. And Risa? Risa's on a wooden swing, more swaying with the tips of her feet keeping contact with the ground, a gentle back and forth that's more or less the physical embodiment of One Lost Deep In Thought. And drinking. Which she does. Because Risali.

Snow! What a wonderful thing. Normally around this time C'iel would be recovering from his duties and just VANISHING somewhere. Though it's a bit easier to track within the family dragons. Even without much time to explore, the pair is still prone to wandering wide with what the evening allows. Tonight, though, he is here, back home, blue scarfed, blue caped, hands stuffed into his pockets. He is leaving little trails through the snow without Ceru anywhere in sight. Murmbling little words to himself and he takes a beat or two to catch the fact that someone else is in the area. He stops, lifts a hand. He looks like a deer caught ambling, except for a bit of a smile.

It probably occurs to Risali that she's not alone at exactly the same time that it occurs to C'iel — though the Weyrwoman looks less a deer caught and more a languid predator of prey, tilting her head slow to take in the bluerider and his dress, bringing her bottle to her lips around a smile when her eyes find his, and then closing them as she takes a swig. "C'iel," comes on a sigh as her hand drops back down, as Risali presses her cheek into the rope holding her seat aloft and blinking her eyes back open. "You look good." IS SHE SOBER? IS SHE FAR FROM IT? It's hard to tell; there's certainly no slurring of words, no clumsiness of manner that might say she's lost to her drinks, but she isn't exactly behaving like Risali. She isn't exactly misbehaving either, though. To be fair. "You should sit," she tells him, breath rising as mist before her. "There's two seats, and a whole bottle of rum." And here comes that smile, guttering in a way that makes that usual deviousness somehow less.

C'iel brightens a bit, after he's caught. Going from 'lonely walk!' to 'Ah, company!' Though there's still a bit of shyness in his tone that peaks when he notices the bottle. "Hi Risali. You look… fluffy." He laughs and starts making his way back over. Sober, not sober, it's good to have company in snow on a swingset. "I don't think I've ever had more than a nip around the winter holidays." He replies ambiguously, but finds the other 'seat' and plants himself there, head tilted, looking for a long quiet ponder.

Fluffy. Risali's lips form the words without sound around the beginning of another smile, her brows rising towards her hair before she leans forward in her seat, as if this might somehow put her in C'iel's proximity despite the distance that separates them. "Why, bluerider. Are you hitting on me?" A beat, two, three, and her nose scrunches up, she parts with a hiccup of breathy laughter, and she kicks off of the ground a little more powerfully — not enough to actually swing, but just enough to start her seat twisting back and forth with her perched upon it, watching C'iel's progress until he's beside her and she's staring for only seconds before looking back out towards the moon, towards the treeline, out past the stars. Softer, comes: "How are you, C'iel? How is Ceru?"

C'iel turns a few shades of color under his winter trappings and puts his hands up. "N-no! Gosh, I mean, not that I wouldn't! It's just that I SHOULDN'T?" There's Dash. Plus, there's Ceru, and Leirith is Mom, and that makes Risali… well, somewhere in the parsing of this mental arithmetic, his brain just breaks and he falls into a bought of contagious, ember-like laughter. He settles, grips the edge of a swing rope, and looks skywards. "Tired. Dizzy. But.. never been happier. Time feels like it goes slow but I.. uh.. I'm still getting used to all of this. Do you /ever/ get used to all of this?" Wild gesturing. His eyes catch the moon and he smiles. "Ceru is marvelous. Can't… get enough of everything. Everyone. And M—and Leirith? And…" You?

NOPE. Risali's gone. Poor C'iel. The minute the bluerider turns a few shades and stammers out an explanation (which Risali tries really hard to listen to earnestly), her teeth come down on her bottom lip as if it might stop the increasing pull of lips until they're both laughing. And when she recovers, those grey eyes are dancing, alive with a mirth that lingers just long enough for her to breathe out, "And why not?" It's genuine curiosity, though some of that good-natured humor dissipates as she listens, as she kicks into another gentle back and forth and then… looks away. There's a soft noise in the weyrwoman's throat as if she's thinking about how to make a complicated answer less complex. And failing. "I don't know," she answers honestly, because she genuinely doesn't. "Do you get used to having somebody always in your head, to your thoughts and your body and your feelings not always being your own?" A beat. "Maybe." It comes softer. "But I've never exactly gotten used to the mantel that comes with riding gold, or the expectations, or… the way that people treat you differently the moment they find out that you ride a queen." There's a slight tug at the corner of her lips, though it's a caricature imitation of the real thing, self-deprecating and wry. "I can tell you what it's like to be a dragonrider, but not a bluerider." Because it is, without doubt, different — right down to the responsibilities that come with it. "But let me know if you find out?" BECAUSE SHE'S BEEN WAITING DAMN NEAR A DECADE TO KNOW HERSELF. Still, the smile that comes when they're talking about Ceru is genuine, and only growing until another breathy laugh escapes her for questions about Leirith. "Loud." That's how Leirith is, and that mirth and that smile is turned onto C'iel before she holds out the bottle to him. "It's close to turnover." THAT COUNTS AS A HOLIDAY, RIGHT? And it means she gets to pretend she didn't hear the 'you' implied after his 'and…'

Poor Ceru, who's dreams are certainly taking odd twists and turns at him. And poor C'iel, who notably VANISHES around flights and the like. "Because it sort of feels like flirting with my mom?" C'iel ventures, which itself is confusing, to say the least. He starts considering the bottle longer and feels EXTREMELY guilty about it. "I'm not /used/ to it but I guess I…" He frowns. "Yeah. Your world ends up being different than ours in a lot of ways. And it's SUPER not fair! But I also wouldn't want to give up an inch of it." He pauses a bit and stares at the bottle, and up. There's a bottle in him, and a bottle over there, and he takes THAT one and a ginger sip from it. And a hiss of breath at the warmth that is just.. quaint. In a way, though, she already answered without fully answering!

BECAUSE IT SORT OF FEELS LIKE HE'S FLIRTING WITH HIS MOM. Risali blinks, eyes going wide with shock or surprise or a wicked combination of the two. It takes her one, two, three moments and then, "Pffft." She's ducking into her hand, as if she's trying to be really polite but just can't manage it and then she's laughing. She's outright, can't-catch-her-breath, doubled over laughing. "I can't tell if you just called me old, or if you just called me old," escapes her around too big of a smile. "Your Mom, C'iel?" Another hiccup of laughter. "I can't be much older than you are." But she's not offended. She thinks it's funny, and anyway they're talking about life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. "It's not unfair," Risali offers, softly. "It just… is." But she looks a little sad when she says it, as if she wishes it was not. "They are amazing, though. The dragons, I mean. It's odd how you don't realize you were missing something so important until it's suddenly there, filling up all that space." A sway, another tilt and press of cheek to rope as Risali watches C'iel take that swig and… she smiles, scrunching up her nose as she whispers, "You didn't actually have to drink any of that, you know." Because she didn't mean to pressure him. A beat, two, three, and she corrects her posture, kicking off again. "So what brings you here so late at night, C'iel?" Though there's another beat, and softly, she whispers, "Though, you don't have to answer that either."

C'iel blushes profusely and shakes his head. "It's not THAT! You just… you know.. you have to know." He swallows and sighs. "Know what it's like. Mixing up his and yours. Hers and yours?" He looks -utterly- guilty, even if no offense is given and sways a little in place, watching the liquid sway and takes another little bit. Not like his cheeks aren't already pink. But 'clearly that's enough' and he hands the bottle back, shaking his head with a little laugh. It loosens him up a little bit, at least. "Th'thing is, I didn't like… really like myself until I just. Couldn't deny all that love." He stares back at the moon, feeling the motion that is just so much not like flying. An earthbound kind of sensation. "I really like the snow. And it's been a long, long time since I was truly 'by myself.' But really there's… no good reason, I guess."

Does she know? Risali's lips tremble in an effort to fend off her smile, and she waits to swallow down air before she answers with an honest, "No. Dragons don't usually hold onto those bonds. It's why they don't always understand the bonds and the feelings and the connections made between people. They can feel it through us," a beat, a tilt of her head, "but it doesn't connect. Not usually. It's why…" A beat, an exhale, a hesitant smile and — "It's why Garouth caught Iczobyth, despite the fact that she is Garouth and Leirith's progeny. It's why Garouth chases Tineangrath, despite the fact that she came from them." THERE'S LOTS OF INBREEDING, OKAY. IT'S… IT'S COMPLICATED. "It's part of why the weyrs pull in people from holds and places outside of our own homes. Because if Leirith rose and my father's bronze caught her, there would be nothing stopping me from waking up next to my father the next day." A flicker of a smile, one that harbors no humor. Another kick, and she takes that bottle back, hugging it in against her stomach as her head tilts. "I'm sorry, though. I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable." Even if she kind of did, because she thought it was JUST A LITTLE BIT funny. Just a little bit. "Mm. I understand that." Even if Leirith's pretty adamant that Risali is a huge disappointment. LISTEN. Like Risali is listening to C'iel's explanation before she looks away, before she exhales. "Does it have to be a good reason?" Another quirk of her lips, then softer, "It's jarring, isn't it?" Being 'alone', she means. Softer: "Do you want me to go?" So he can be by himself, even if she's pretty sure he's alluding to dragons.

C'iel 'ohs' and looks even more curled in on himself. "… then I guess that /is/ me. Sort of. We get tangled up sometimes." He touches his own face. Is it just him? Yes, he seems to be all here. For some reason, though, talking about DRAGON habits doesn't make him squirm the same way. "It makes sense for them, and life goes on. They seem happy. Though I suppose that's why I… kind of haven't been around for those. I think Ceru is happy enough to…" wince. "Protect me. But I'm also sort of denying him that? Ahh, I'm not uncomfortable though. Not about that. Not about anything out here." He waves his hands in a big gesture and laughs warmly, shaking his head. Not everything needs a big justification. And not everything needs to be so absolute. He pokes himself. "I'm as alone as I'll get here. It's sort of nice to see you on.. my own terms, I guess."

Another bite down on her bottom lips, another smile for C'iel, and Risali's nose scrunches with humor around, "It's really okay." Truth be told, Risali would have been the one stammering for explanations if C'iel had been hitting on her. But she knew he wasn't, and she pursued his shy inhibitions because she's just KIND OF RUDE LIKE THAT SOMETIMES. "They are. It's another thing they usually don't understand about us." Why they dwell, why anything matters for more than five minute increments at any given time. "Their memories, they… can't retain much of anything at all. So they live for now, in the now. They don't understand how we live in the past or look to the future." Not usually — there are always some exceptions, though even those with longer memories are cursed with short-term longevity. But then Risali is silent, as if she's… trying to think. "Why?" she asks then, tilting her head and blinking across the distance between them. A hesitation, a wry twist of her lips (that she probably learned from D'lei) and, "You don't have to answer that." About why he avoids flights, of course. Still, she nods, drops her gaze to her hands and… then takes another drink. "You can always see me on your own terms, C'iel." It's not a chiding admonishment, it's an invitation, delivered around a flicker of a smile. "Though, maybe not all of your own terms." SHE IS TEASING HIM, which explains that look she gives him, with brows raised and lips and eyes set SCANDALOUSLY in a, 'IF U KNO WUT I MEAN' kind of way. And then she's laughing again.

C'iel slows a bit and exhales. "I sure hope so!" Because things are too calm, too 'as close to normal as it gets' on his side of things for it NOT to be okay. Those slow little drink-fueled fidgets continue to slip out here and there as he nods. "If—if there's one thing I suppose I envy about them, it's that. If something hurt us a long time ago it should very well just be done with it." He closes his eyes for a moment, trying not to feed much more woe out than needs be present. "… but I don't mind. Helping him connect the dots, even if the lines fade." And… why? It's likely he'd have to admit those things to himself before he could give words to them. He starts drawing lines in the snow with his toes, trying with a little 'ah…' before just giving up. There is a silver lining to it all, and he beams at that. "Y-you too! I mean, I don't know what's proper or not, but I think it's pretty easy to.. I mean… you're always welcome for me. And us. And me." He gently clears his throat, trying to rub some red out of his face and failing. "I suppose I'll have to.. be open to negotiations."

Risali's answer is another laugh, but no further comment. Then she's listening, making a soft humming noise of agreement, showing no signs of pressuring him into answering why he avoids flights even if her lips twitch in another hint of humor. Then Risali's taking in C'iel's face and all that red and she's parting with another huff of soft, breathy laughter. Thump. That's her feet finding the ground, her leaning down to set the bottle of booze in the snow for safekeeping as she turns on the tips of her toes to face him and then closes that small gap until she's standing just there before him, unimpressive even when he's sitting on a swing because she is short, and then she's reaching out to bring her arms around his shoulders and pulling him in for a hug. She presses her cheek to the top of his head and stays there for just a moment, regardless of whether he hugs her back or not. She doesn't let go, not even when that moment of silence is finally broken by a gentle, "C'iel," with a tone meaning she's about to explain something to him that she doesn't want him to take offense to. "I love K'vir. I love D'lei. I have… a beautiful family, and two men that keep me on my toes and — even better — love me too. I'm sorry I keep teasing you, but I promise that's all it is." And when she pulls back, it's to cup his jaw between gentle, gloved hands if he doesn't pull away, to lean forward and curtain him as much as herself with all that damn, loose-curled black hair, and to press a kiss against his brow. PATPAT to his shoulder, and she's already moving away, leaning down to pick up her drink, looking out towards the edge of the sand pit and then back towards C'iel. POINT. "I bet that I can jump further than you." From the swing, she means. WHAT DO YOU SAY, C'IEL? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED?

C'iel slows even further, stops dragging his feet when he sees Risa land OH GOSH WHAT IS SHE DOING. Though his imagination is no doubt /amusing/ none of the possibilities are terribly rife with scandal. Everyone is impressive, though, when you're C'iel and he looks up with a smile that goes to an expression of shock white surprise. She can't see all that though. Just get bundled up arms swinging around for a (for C'iel) tight squeeze. "Oh. Ahh. Heavens above! I, uhm, I never…" He makes a small sound at that kiss on the brow and leans back. ".. let's just say.. when I suggested you'd be welcome for tea, I wasn't implying anything else." He shakes his head and pulls himself loose from the swing. "Isn't it /less/ fun if you tell me? Or am I just that easy? Ahh, well… if my head was going places you'd probably be able to tell anyway. I am told it is 'not subtle.' And probably more singing." One person and one dragon in his life utterly confusing his senses is enough, yes! C'iel seems more than happy for things as-they-are and more than happy to step back and put a foot up on the swing-seat. "You're on. For all you know, I'll just keep on flying."

Risali's head tips back and she laughs even more, the smile staying even as she sways on her feet and watches him for a long, quiet moment. "I didn't think you were," is Risali's answer, hints of laughter mucking up her syllables. "But the fact that you felt like you had to explain that to me is why I was telling you." So that he didn't get the wrong idea — like she was actually seeking an answer, like she was actually hoping for some kind of affirmation or confirmation that he wanted to be more than just this. "I'm sorry," she breathes again. "You just… well, I don't know very many people that I can make blush. Usually they're making me blush." WHATEVER THAT MEANS, because she's flushing at the mention of it and that's probably why she's VERY MUCH CHANGING THE SUBJECT. A clearing of her throat, a wiggle of her shoulders, and a challenge in the set of eyebrows and eyes and that deviant upward pull of lips. "You're on. But you'll have to tell me at the end how it feels," she says, as she stalks back towards her swing and pulls herself up to stand on it. "When you get your ass kicked by a girl." LIKE HE'S SOME CREATURE BORNE OF MASCULINE PRIDE. She knows he's not, but that's why it's funny. And then she's starting that awkward process of swinging standing up. "On the count of three. One… two… three!" AND SHE'S AIRBORNE, all flailing limbs and the half-gasp of a half-scream that's more laugh than terror before she hits the snow. She doesn't keep her footing, she slams onto hands and knees and then rolls onto her back with a peal of laughter. Bless. The Weyrwoman must have lost her damn mind.

What is snow for if not breaking falls? … depending how much is on the ground. "I choose," he says, after ruffling himself up a little—scarves and jackets don't have quite the effect as scales or feathers, "To take all that as a major compliment." To his blush, he just tilts his head to the side and smiles, a little, at the corner. "Well… if you'd like, I guess I could try sometime?" It's a playful, if thick-headed retort that he's happy to drop and if he weren't being so damn SQUIRRELY he'd notice she'd just sabotaged herself. Oh well. The foot he's planted hefts the other, and he pulls himself in. "Pfff. You'll have to tell ME how it feels." Maybe we can blame the alcohol for that one, because it in no way makes sense. Practice riding minus lightweight, but he's not so far gone he doesn't manage to get it going… "Two… three!" There's a whoop! And a sailing C'iel. Who for a flash of a moment is just purely into it… like maybe he did this a LOT once upon a time. There's not even any hope of him keeping his footing because he's landing chest-first. He comes up a BIT short but he manages to.. penguin.. ahead? Yeah, that doesn't count. And the laughter? The laughter is right contagious. Louder when he rolls over onto his back, just catching half his breath from the impact.

BUT RISALI HAS A RETORT TO THAT. There's a very Toothless expression that comes across her face (you know the one, but just in case: and then a very dry, "Then you'll really have to tell me how it feels when a girl kicks your ass." But she's not serious; she can't keep that smile, that scrunch of nose and slight STICK OUT OF TONGUE that breaks through vague threats to reveal them as counterfeit. BRING IT ON, C'IEL. SHE'LL RUN CIRCLES AROUND YOU IN THE THINGS-I-CAN-SAY-TO-TURN-YOU-RED-AS-A-REDFRUIT DEPARTMENT. Mostly because have you met her weyrmates? (Reinsert Toothless face here.) BUT IT DOESN'T MATTER. Because she's laughing out, "What does that even mean?" before they're OFF! INTO THE AIR. And it totally counts because who the hell knows where Risali actually landed? She fell forward, which definitely means she's not at the line her feet actually hit. But it doesn't stop her from shouting, "Oi!" between laughter, and then rolling to PUNCH C'IEL IN HIS THIGH (very gently, and only if he doesn't jerk away before she manages). "You cheated!" It's with a wiggle of shoulders and hips and pushing feet that she gets herself up to C'iel's height, to press her shoulder to his, and let her head tap against his as she tries to remember how to breathe after the laughter has fled (even if the smile remains). "Thank you," comes hushed. But she doesn't say anything else; she just… remains, staring up at stars slowly being snuffed by the re-emergence of snow clouds, by the gentle white flurry of new falling snow for a time maybe too long. "It's getting cold," she finally breathes, like it wasn't cold before. "You should probably go get warm."

Wide, snow-filled-sky, crashing earth and a few soft bruises here and there. Remarkable how… mild it is compared to what a very-graceful-fall from a dragonback will do to you. He doesn't jerk away from the punch, though he puts up a /very dramatic/ wince and throws himself back into the snow with a dramatic splay. "I didn't think you were being literal! I give, I give~" Though he sighs, and tilts his head back in a gesture that is pure platonic affection. Not really even thinking about it, for the time. "You said jump, not slide…" So we can just measure at the BEGINNING of the streak. He blinks a couple times at the thanks, nods slowly, and is quiet too. … well, mostly. He's got half of a snow-dragon-angel with contrails, he may as well finish it. "… I guess it is," he agrees, in the least committal way. He stands up, dusts himself off, and smiles over. "I'll uh. Totally do that." And not go on a late, ill-advised night flight and be extra droopy and sore in the morning, nope. "You too, huh?"

"Well then consider it a lesson learned!" Even if she doesn't punch more and could, by theory, be 'giving'. And then: "I did. But your stupidly long legs probably mean you won anyway." Because let's be realistic: C'iel doesn't have to be tall to be taller than Risali. Once the bluerider is getting up, Risali's attention shifts to him, grey eyes takin in his form as he rises, as he dusts himself off and gives her a smile that she returns — muted, with a soft around the edges that lends more to an impression of brittleness than gentle. "Yeah," she says, softly. "Me too." But in case he thought she was stupid: "Clear skies, C'iel." And there she remains. She doesn't rise with him, she doesn't move long after he's gone. Whatever it is the weyrwoman's thinking about, it keeps her there until finally, at some point, probably Risali isn't even sure of how long, she finds her way home in the dark.

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