Comfort Gone Awry

Xanadu Weyr - Shore of Lake Caspian
The cliffs that run along the shore come and go, various weyrs nestled along the tops of them or dug into the walls, but eventually they recede enough to expose a beach. The white sand echoes the rise and fall of the cliffs with a multitude of sandy dunes, endlessly creating tiny valleys that are constantly demolished and rebuilt by the frequent arrival or departure of dragons. The dunes smooth out as the gentle slope approaches the edge of the deep blue water. The sand darkens, and a shell here and there stands out for children to collect.
The beach narrows to the southwest, leaving a path barely wide enough for dragons in single file before cutting into a smaller, more sheltered cove. The sands are the same white, the waters the same blue, but they're calmer and more tranquil, more protected from the winds that ruffle Lake Caspian and the currents that tug beneath the surface.
Rough, wide stairs lead up to the meadow above and the road that runs along the top of the cliffs, passing through the fields and heading for the river mouth that can be just barely seen from here. The largest of the staircases up the cliff is located near the docks that jut out onto the peaceful blue waters.

Why if it isn’t Leketh! There was no mistaking that handsome pale colored bronze after all with him and all his massiveness. He’s pulling himself out of the lake, stretching out his limbs as he drips dry despite the chill of the early morning, crooning over at J’en who’s perched upon a relatively low and flatish looking bolder some ways away. It was the hour that was responsible for allowing the bronzerider to be in relative solitude, away from the sorts of people that would know him and perhaps even have questions or condolences. Nothing stayed secret for long in a weyr, even if some of them were better off being left in the dark where they belonged, and undoubtedly the end of his relationship with Taeski was all over Half Moon Bay by now for those that were curious enough to listen to the local gossip. In Xanadu, no one cared. Jae sits, elbows resting on his knees as he stares blankly out over the lake, ignoring the soft concern his lifemate was expressing. It’d been a month, his physical wounds had healed, but the ones on the inside were certainly festering at this point.

And what goes good with a pretty pale bronze? A MUSTARD YELLOW GOLD! With wonky headknobs that sit at different angles and eyepatches over her eyes that clearly state the obvious: she. can’t. see. Risali can, though; the weyrling is as aware of the hour as she is of the bronze hide she spots on the beach, and while Risali’s hesitation slows her approach, Leirith… has no such qualms. The little queen barrels ahead without waiting for her lifemate to direct her and – WUMP. RIGHT INTO LEKETH. There’s a fluttering of the wings as the now-getting-pretty-large-gold settles in like she totally meant to do that and they are totally friends as she projects: boom, boom, boom, BOOM. But it’s not just Leketh who gets to be swept up in her mindvoice; no, she projects to J’en as well, a cheerful tone as she tucks her wings in against her back and - « Your hide is a funny color. » But for as insulting as the words may be? Leirith sounds just… cheerful, like she is making an observation in that innocent way that children do, without meaning any harm. Risali is not far behind, though the tiny woman stops at the foot of the boulder with hands pressed against it, leaning forward as she tilts her head back to look at the bronzerider upon it. “Jae?” There’s a tentative question in that single word, as if she’s asking whether or not she should stay.

Leketh was just standing there, minding his own business really, and here comes a spot of mustard to thump into him, luckily without leaving a splatter of herself in the process. He’d just gotten out of the bath. The bronze doesn’t seem to mind in the scheme of things, lowering his head and nosing along the young one’s side almost affectionately. J’en might not be good with children, but he was. « And yours looks like a condiment. » he projects back, no less cheerful, and certainly not sounding as if it was meant as a slight in the least. No, Leketh goes back to admiring her, giving him something else to do other than trying to futility console his lifemate. Jae on the other hand, stiffens at the sound of that all too familiar voice, the leather of his securely closed jacket creaking a bit as he tries to straighten out those broad shoulders of his. Refusing, to actually look at the weyrling, “Hey, Risa…” he replies, soft and sounding as if he was somewhere still very far away. It was a blessing that the tiny woman was behind him on the other side of boulder, because had she come at him head on, there was no way he was going to be able to keep it together. Not with her, never with her, it had almost always been impossible. Why had he chosen here of all places to stare blankly ahead at nothing at all? Surely, he would have been better off at Monaco or Igen, where not a single soul knew who he was. This, had been a mistake, and already he was desperately clinging to his stoicism like a frightened child who’d awoken in the middle of the night alone in the dark.

Even if it was an insult, Leirith’s response would be the same: laughter. The drums in the mini-queen’s mind pick up a tempo that better exemplifies her joy, and she raises her maw to the adult bronze with a wuffle as he noses at her side. There’s a shift, and then Leirith is laying her sightless-for-now head down on Leketh’s forepaws. HELLO. WHAT IS SPACE? SHE DOESN’T KNOW. « One dragon’s condiments are another dragon’s badassery! » she informs him, all up-beat, unencumbered delight. « What does the moon look like tonight? » she inquires, and though she can see through Risali’s eyes, there’s just something about seeing in the right colors that only a dragon can capture that makes it better. So there she is, at the edge of the bronze’s mind, the eager throbbing of much-too-loud bass as she waits for permission to be granted to his sight. Risali, meanwhile, is breathing out, “Why are you here?” But there’s no accusation or disgust; it’s simply a question, one that she asks as she makes the seemingly endless climb up to the top of the boulder and settles herself beside the Half Moonian. For once, she doesn't look at his face; instead, Risali's attention is ahead, watching the way the moon sits on the water, reflected back up towards the night sky in an endless loop of vast infinity. It's almost breathtaking, and so Risali leans to the side, shoulder finding Jae's, where she rests in companionable silence until he speaks, or one of them leaves.

Pulses of red that flicker to blue and back to again slowly slide like droplets of dew along taut threads of spinner silk from the darkness of Leketh’s mind, they follow the loops and twists around of quivering blackened mass at its very center. Once there the colors spread out into a wave of light which give the glob depth and shape, but fade out completely between his each and every word. Lowering his maw, the bronze touches his snout to hers where it rests upon his forepaws, silvery threads shivering with his laughter at the delight she finds, soon lifting his head and looking up at the sky, projecting for her the exact image that his facets interprets. Including the fuzzy white halo seemingly hovering over the circumference of the heavenly body, « It’s beautiful, actually. » If he is at all bothered by the young queen’s enthusiasm, it certainly isn’t reflected back at her, but then again he’d grown up with his clutch brother Xermiltoth who was king of all enthusiasm. All the time. Somehow, J’en had managed to look even more tense from behind with Risali’s breathed question, saying absolutely nothing at all as she scrambles up the backside of the boulder if only to climb back down to sit beside him. Pointedly, the bronzerider keeps looking forward in absolute silence, although in profile it was rather easy to see his brows were furrowed and he was trying his hardest to keep something in considering how noticeably the muscles of his jaw were twitching there beside his ear. Not that the tiny woman was looking at him, which is good, because the second her shoulder makes contact with his arm, his eyes fill and spill fat manly tears down one cheek and then the other. “Fuck,” he hisses almost too soft to hear, a knee suddenly brought to his chest and a hand whose wrist is rested upon it is then cupped over the betraying leaking part of his face. Shoulders are the next to go, starting to tremble at first and then shake before he has the opportunity to drop his brow down, wrapping his arms around knee and head to hide himself away from being stared at. Now was certainly not the time, but for now at least he doesn’t try to escape.

But Risali doesn’t stare, does she? At least, not at Jae. The weyrling’s attention is fixed on the endless black of night-washed water, lingering on the ripples of mirrored moon as her arm at Jae’s side comes up around his shoulders and she leans into him until her cheek is pressed against his tricep. She doesn’t say a word, not a single goddamned thing, as she waits, as unmentioned tears of her own gather in her eyes, as they fall. But Risali is controlled: there is no tell-tale shaking of her shoulders, no hitching breaths to give her away, no heart-wrenching sobs or throaty keens to accompany the descent of silent tears. It’s just the moon, bearing silent witness with the water, and Jae, as he gives in to his own grief. But Jae is no longer in a position to see her, so this quiet hurt that they share is her secret alone (and the moon's, and the star's), one that Risali gladly suffers in silence. Finally she moves, but it’s to run her hand down between J’en’s shoulder-blades, to the small of his back, and up again along his spine in a repetitive pattern meant to soothe. It takes Risali several moments of this, just this, of giving comfort and receiving nothing in return until she trusts her voice and - there it is, a song. It’s a quiet song, a mere whisper of lyrical sound meant just for them, loud enough only to reach Jae's ears and perhaps those of the dragons beside them. Leirith's curiosity pulsates at the interaction, at the near-tangible pain, but Leketh is keeping her distracted enough to ensure the queen withholds the endless flow of questions to be revisited at a later time - perhaps when Garouth has returned, and can explain with his shadow monsters why their minions might cry. For now, she is watching the moon through Leketh's eyes, the persistent snare-drum of her mind distant as the view holds her attention captive. « The moon is always beautiful! » comes her cheerful reply for the foreign bronze. « Do you chase it? » It may not make sense to Leketh, but rest assured that it surely makes sense to the gold at his side.

Canting his head to the side, Leketh changes the angle at which the moon within his view is shared with Leirith and just behind his vision is the ever steady thrum of energy along silken threads to represent his words. « My J’en and I go, often, to the sky but the moon evades capture even from that distant place far above. » The image of the moon shimmers out as a new one comes into its place, an endless field of black with countless pinpricks of light strewn across it, a distant and constant hum drones in the background and the smell of stale air mixes with that of something strongly metallic, with no soil or stone beneath talons but rather something stubbornly resistant to them but not harder. It’s disjointed and confusing this memory like a once vivid dream fading away after awakening, but the moon is there, much larger and more detailed than it was from there in Xanadu. Viewed it seems, from behind something that was there but not there, gleaming in the light that it captures as the round and cheerfully illuminated moon surface slowly drifts by and soon out of sight completely as Risali begins to sing. For J’en, there was nothing beautiful about the moon and stars, even if he could see them as Leketh did. Admittedly he could if he tried, but right now he was far too lost in the overwhelming emotion that savaged his current state, held back for far too long. His riding jacket, still as closed as it had been since he arrives, does him at least the small service of putting a buffer between himself and Risali’s well meant comfort. He could still feel it of course, but it seemed so distant, much like the moon must feel to Leirith. Whether or not he is aware of her tears is unknown, sobbing silently behind the relative safety of his hand and clenched teeth which were visible as his lips had drawn away from them. This was a bad habit he ha, coming to Xanadu, coming to see Risali. Oh, she had certainly been the reason he had chosen this place rather than anywhere else on Pern, not even the Yokohama that Leketh could barely remember brought as much solace as she. Then there is movement, the arms she leans upon gone, as its abruptly around her with long fingers curled too tight in her hair but thankfully far enough away from her scalp that there is no pain. He very nearly crushes her to his side, his face soon pressed and hidden against the top of her head, his other hand clenched with whitened knuckled hard against one of his leather clad thighs. Her lyrics make this worse, so much worse, and he wants to tell her to stop, to end it. Jae is unable to find the words, there is only his pain and his tears for what was lost unlikely to ever be reclaimed again.

There’s a thrill of excitement as Leketh shares with Leirith that place above Pern, floating among the stars, granting magnified visions of the moon – even if the dragon’s images are lacking in clarity, like the edges of a water painting, starting to bleed into little more than memories of color. Leirith watches this moon as much as she watches that moon – intently. « One day, I will take my seeing-eye minion there. And to the Fort, and the Ierne, and the Monaco Bay. » A pause. « And the Half Moon Bay. » And the queen shifts, moving closer, pressing her bulk into his as she curls her nose in to squish her maw between both of their bodies and SAPS HIS HEAT. But was it a bad idea? When J'en is shifting to put his arm around Risali, the tiny harper leans into his embrace, her fingers curling at the back of his neck and into the fabric of his jacket between his shoulders. She waits, and she sings on breathy gasps of air that are a fragile as the moment between them until there are no more lyrics to be sung, and then she waits even longer. "I'm here," she tells him, repeating it like a mantra. "I'm right here." But she doesn't ask what's wrong, or why; Risali simple allows him to leech comfort from her the way that Leirith leeches warmth from Leketh, waiting until he is ready to let go before she even loosens her grip.

There is only so much physical ability to shed tears in any given amount of time and although J’en does eventually dry out, he doesn’t let go of Risa for quite a while after that. He’s aware of her little fist curled tightly into the collar of his riding jacket, still clutching her to him as if his life depended on it, and it very well might. Past when as his sobbing subsides, he holds her still, beyond the time his breathing returning to an even distribution of in and out that is nearly unnoticeable. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, he releases her entirely at last. Jae brings knees to his chest, curling an arm between himself and Risali like a leather-clad barrier, and he’s silent for what might seem like an age. Every part of him racked in tension, then with a voice that was little more than a distant whisper, “Taeski found out about Vauril, he came home demandin’ to know if I knew, I wasn’t gunna lie to ‘im…but all I did was nod. I was expectin’ ‘im to punch meh a couple times, but I wasn’t expectin’ that knife. Got meh pretty good on mah arm. Then ‘e was gone.” A breath is exhaled, unsteadily. “It’s over. We’re done, ‘e and I.” Because he had Leketh, he would never truly be alone, but this was still a serious blow to the bronzerider’s already fragile sensibilities. He talked a good game, but when it really came down to it, he was just as human as anyone else. He wanted to love and be loved, however as humans were fallible, he’d made a critical error in hasty made judgement of what was a meaningful…healthy relationship…and what was not. Again. “I’m done.” he says, quietly and decidedly chilly. Zero for two, J’en was ready to call it there, to seal away any possibility for further attempts and perhaps already had. His heart, already beginning to slowly turning to resemble more the cold hard stone they were seated upon. Leketh lets his fading memory of the moon from the Yokohama fade back to the more pristinely sharp image of the same that currently hung above them, but this too wanes in favor of his mindvoice, shimmering beads of pink and pale blue thought along nearly invisible threads of consciousness. « Going all of the places, yes. Someday, I imagine you will. » Cuddling certainly high on the list of activities he’d been shelled with, he allows Leirith to seep some of the heat radiating from his girth, back to nosing at her golden body in as close to a caress as was possible for dragons. He remains standing on all four paws, as the queen was wedged more or less beneath him. « You and yours will have to come and visit us at the high place, my J’en says we will be staying there when we are not running drills or of need below. »

But Risali holds on well past that threshold being met, letting J'en hold to her like she holds to him, using him to hide her face as much as he's using her, and when the bronzerider pulls away and puts a barrier of arm and leathers between them, she lets him go. This is about J'en, and when he retreats, she allows him to retreat. She brings her own legs back to her chest, wrapping her arms around them, chin resting on her knees as she stares out at the water and… listens. And maybe here is where Risali should tell him that everything's okay, that he's okay; maybe Risali should be telling the bronzerider that he's made the right choice, but that he's making the wrong one now, because he is worth so much more than that. But she doesn't. Risali remains beside him, silent well after he's finished talking, eyes watching the tide ebb and flow as dragons stir beside them and converse with a childish innocence neither rider retains. And finally, finally, Risali moves. She pushes herself to her feet, and whispers, "Come on, bronzerider." But come where? Suddenly the weyrling is catching the hem of her tunic and pulling it free from her frame, leaving it to pull on the rock beside J'en as she toes out of boots and hooks fingers in the waistband of her pants, wiggling her hips as she slides them down her legs. She's still clothed beneath - but barely. It's enough. He can't see what matters, and she's already tying her hair off behind her head. "Get up, J'en, come on." And if he isn't moving already, then Risali will lean down to catch his leather clad arms in tiny hands and work to pull the much larger man to his feet. Leirith? She is interested in those shimmering, transparent beads, and she sends them dancing with bass, and drum, and life, and excitement. It is a good time to be alive, and there are so many things that she wants to see and will see - when she has eyes, of course. « We will come! You will show us all of the sights, Leketh. And we will have a party! » And she's laughing, because that's what Leirith does. She laughs, and she oozes joy, and exuberance, and innocence, and all of those things that contradict everything Risali and J'en are sharing between each other now.

'Come on, bronzerider.' J'en twitches at those words, having been watching Risali sullenly from behind the dark fringe of his lashes towards the end there. She was a beautiful woman to be sure, in another life surely he would have pursued her to the ends of Pern to make her his, but it was not to ever be. Uncurling somewhat, reddened golden eyes widen as she begins to remove her clothing and while he was just as weyrbred as she, he can't help but take a moment to appreciate her form as it is slowly revealed. This was some sort of punishment wasn't it? Again, Jae's expression changes, this time from that momentary flicker of surprise to the gradual unveiling to the very depth of his sorrow. He doesn't move on his own, giving her the look of someone who felt he was beyond hope, beyond saving, battered and bruised in a way that went beyond the damage as plain as day upon his face. A black eye, a split lip, and a heart shattered into a million pieces. Again. If he had tears left to shed, undoubtedly they would be pouring out of him now, but the most he can manage is looking a little glossy eyed. Risali will have to grab his arm and when she does he doesn't resist, letting her guide him to his feet. He stands there before her, head bowed. Of everyone that he knows, the goldling was the only one he trusted to show what lay behind all of his neutrality and even the inferno of his rage, what he keeps hidden from everyone else on the planet; the very depth of the sorrow etched into his very soul. He was broken, completely. Leketh is fleetingly distracted, turning his head away to peer over at his lifemate, whatever was resonating off of him enough to garner the bronze's full attention. The excitement of the young queen is just as distracting, only drawn back because hers seemed to be tending to his far better than he could right now. J'en knew he was there, he was always there with his endless reassurance and comfort, but what his rider needed was not something that he could provide. « A party? In the very high place? » Leketh rumbles low, unable to help it as he chuckles and soaks in all the positivity that she is giving off in radiating waves. Basks in it really, recharging his metaphorical batteries. He needed her right now as much as J'en did Risali, returning his head to the side of Leirith's rapidly growing form in another carcass of his muzzle.

Risali moves, working deftly with fingers that maybe have done this many times, to another bronzerider, in a time before she was a weyrling, with equal amounts of height between them. She's pulling at the zippers and ties that make up his leathers (though she leaves his pants to him), and she's even kneeling down to pull at the laces of his boots - assuming he lets her, of course. And if he allows her to work, she will strip him down to just his pants. Either way, she's pressing one palm to his cheek and brushing the pad of her thumb against his cheekbone, going up on her tippy-toes with the fingers of her free hand pressed against his sternum for balance. "I'm here," she tells him again. "Dance with me or swim with me. Those are your only options." Though, if he chooses dancing, he's probably still going to be swimming because she TOOK THEIR CLOTHES OFF, DIDN'T SHE? Or tried to anyway. Either way, she will either look foolish in no clothes by herself, or he will join her. And Leirith? Well, she just continues to exude life and energy at Leketh, laughing as he questions the where of this proverbial party. « EVERYWHERE! » She tells him with glee, lifting her head, bunting his neck with her maw and crooning delight at the bronze. « We will show the world how to have fun! »

Shifting his eyes off to the side, Jae's expression remains unchanged, the only movements he makes is the result of however he happens to be jostled as Risali unzips and unbuckles the front of his jacket, sliding the well-worn leather from his body to reveal the tank top he wears beneath. Rather than red, it is jet black and fits him far too well, but it does nothing to hide the wound on his upper arm, the dressing having come off with his coat. Six inches long, it had been sewn back together with tiny near perfect stitches, but the section of tree tattoo it juts across will never be even and perfect again. Some leaves and branches now slightly offset. Jae's gaze drop to his feet then, allowing the removal of his tank top, the gentle in and out of his breathing redefining the musculature to be found beneath. Golden eyes affix to the top of her dark haired head as she crouches to unlace his shoes and allows her to remove them as his socks as well, leaving him only in his low slung riding pants. All is still and calm, that is, until her hand is against his face and her thumb brushes along the height of his cheekbone and the warmth of her hand rests against his chest. Her words tear at him and he moves, sliding a strong arm around her slim waist, drawing her against him as a single tear drops from one eye and then the other, bringing his mouth down against hers. It's not passionate or fueled by lust, nor is it assuming. It lingers if Risali allows, broken and reinitiated a few times before he hugs her tightly to him and buries his face into the side of her neck even if he has to bend himself in half to do it. It could be gratitude, it could be a desperate attempt to feel something other than his misery, or simply to make some sort of human connection with another living breathing person. Leketh is back to being utterly focused on Leirith, unable to do much more than laugh at her antics, returning her affection with his own effortlessly. She was a welcomed change in his routine, not quite as solitary as his lifemate, but other than a few dragons back at Half Moon Bay he preferred to be off on his own. Sunbathing, eating, swimming, chasing fish. « That we will little one, that we will. » He muses.

Risali is not sure what she expected when J'en ducked his head towards hers, but she wasn't expecting this; she was not expecting the gentle, innocent application of his lips against hers, nor the immediate reappearance of her own tears. So J'en kisses her, but she does not kiss him. Risali makes a soft, startled noise as fingers scramble for purchase on clothes she's already removed and, finding none, they settle at his sides instead and she shoves. She shoves, and she tucks her chin in towards her chest, and hunches her shoulders, and she issues a sharp command within his name that's somehow bordering uncharacteristically on hysterics, riddled with an interesting mix of confusion, and rage, and startling loudness that cuts through the sound of the beach. "J'EN." STOP. Maybe the heel of her palm pushing at his jaw will communicate that well enough without words. The bronzerider may not be pressing the issue, and he certainly may not kiss Risali with any sexual or romantic context, but he's still kissed her and she still needs him to stop because this is not right, and her life is too complicated for another complication right now, and he is J'en, and she is Risali. On the bright side, she hasn't taken a swing yet, right? Instead, Risali struggles out of J'en's grasp, giving him another shove for good measure as she hisses out, "I am not Kielric, bronzerider." YOU FORGET YOURSELF. Leirith is pulled away from her amusement at Leketh to focus on her lifemate, Risali's confusion giving rise to anxiety and questions and - "I have to go." Risali swipes at the tears on her own face, the words said stiff with agitation but… she reaches out to grab J'en's uninjured arm if the bronzerider will allow, giving him a gentle squeeze to communicate that it's okay, and she understands before she leans down to gather up clothes she's only just shed. "You should swim, J'en. The water will clear your head a lot better than…" A moment, and then, more gently, "Sitting here alone will." And then she goes, because her lifemate is too young and doesn't understand and Risali's trying to reign in all of that… emotion that Leirith should not be feeling. "Come on, Leirith. Let's go." And the gold moves, bunting Leketh once more as she goes, silent despite the bass and drums that continue almost frantically as Risali… leads her away.

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