Dancing with Fire

Xanadu Weyr - Wanderin' Wherry Tavern
// It is often whispered, in the crowds that converge here, that a certain Weyrleader was asked what he wanted in the remodeling of the pub that was not so long ago given a refreshing. He muttered back over the rim of his ever-present mug, "I don't care what you do with the place, just so long as there is plenty of ale." With that in mind, cask after cask of ale lines the walls of the tavern, the remodeler's idea of a jest. As they age, the casks bring a real rustic atmosphere to the pub, along with the deeply wooden flavor that seems to be the theme throughout.
The lighting is dim, as it should be in all good pubs, and the tables and chairs are plentiful. A long mahogany bar, intricately carved with runner beasts, stands vigilant duty at the head of the bar, lined with stools for those patrons that seek the bartender's company. Behind it are drinks for those not inclined toward ale, as well as a door leading to the small kitchen where snacks are made and a back room that probably holds yet more ale.//

WHAT'S THIS? WHAT'S THIS? THERE'S RISA EVERYWHERE. WHAT'S THIS? SHE'S IN THAT TAVERN THERE. WHAT'S THIS? I CAN'T BELIEVE — Okay, sorry. HERE. HAVE A REAL SET: It's spring in Xanadu Weyr, that time of year when showers roll through intermittently to renew life after winter's freeze, when babies are born and children are at play and Risali COULD BE OUT THERE (and for just a moment, is) but is here instead, shouldering her way into the tavern, dripping wet from beneath a coat that she's already shedding as she takes not-nearly-long-enough strides across the tavern to settle herself into a booth at the back. She doesn't order anything. She settles herself down into a seat, rests her elbows on the table, leans forward onto her hands, and stares really hard at the table. Like. REALLY, REALLY HARD at it. Some sweet barmaid is thoughtful enough to bring the weyrwoman a small bowl of nuts, but Risali doesn't even stir long enough to say thank you. Alas, the most she can manage to do at all is drip at her. Quietly.

Already tucked out of the rain, Niko perches atop a barstool, quietly nursing a pint of ale as he relaxes after a long, hard day of… taking pictures. Hey! It's a mentally exhausting profession, folks! Not that he looks particularly tired - simply content to blow off a bit of steam before returning home to his all-too-proddy weyrmate. Damn Iczobyth, anyway. Risali's entrance draws a look of minor interest from the bluerider, but initially he seems content to leave the Weyrwoman to her own devices. However, the lack of exuberence - or yelling - or ordering of alcoholic beverages… or really, any natural (for Risali) reaction peaks his concern. Scooping up the pint glass in one hand, he slips off his stool and meanders over, sliding into the booth across from the goldrider. "What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?"

"Nice," Risali echoes, as if trying the word on her tongue — and it's there, a hint of her usual deviance, a pull at the corner of her lips that says maybe, just maybe she finds real humor in the exchange. "I think that's the nicest thing anybody's ever said to me. Are you trying to seduce me, bluerider?" She picks up one of those nuts because of course she does, rolls it between her fingers and then pings it off of him. "Because it's working," comes with a scrunch of nose, a hint of canines, a bit of tongue between teeth just before she bites down on her bottom lip. Then her arms drop to the table, hands coming together, fingers interdigitating as she leans her weight forward. That smile gutters into a grimace, grey eyes drop away from N'kon's face, to his knot, to — "I'm not sure." There's honesty in the answer, a raw kind of admittance that she's not sure why she came, but she's here now and she's not exactly sure what to do now that she's in this space, occupying this seat, conversing with one of her oldest… people. "Do you want to join me? I have…" a hesitation, as she realizes she has nothing and then recovers with, "Nuts. I have nuts." Brows rise, she shifts again to grab one, and closes one eye, making to aim at the bluerider once more, tongue between her teeth in concentration.

For a long moment of silence, Niko sits there, elbows resting on the tabletop, chin planted on hands joined in a single fist as he regards the Weyrwoman with a quiet, steady expression. Finally, he drops one hand, lifting his glass and taking a swig of the amber-colored ale. "Once upon a time, I might have been. Now I'm just a friend who's asking another friend how she's doing." Blue-grey eyes are steady as he places his glass back on the table, leaving his fingers wrapped loosely around it. "You seem… not your usual spunky self. Is everything okay?" He doesn't bother answering her question (after all, he's already here and clearly intends to stay!) - although he does drop his jaw to aid in her nut-aiming - if, indeed, she's going for the money shot.

It gutters again, Risali's smile. It turns into something wry with self-deprecation, something that has Risali looking away from N'kon when he answers her tease with seriousness. "Niko, I — " she begins, as if she means to contest or explain or will away her own awkward inability to people. She swallows hard on emotion instead, and when for just a moment vulnerability becomes her, when tears threaten to make this even more awkward, she blinks them away and offers a soft, "I know," instead. She offers, "I'm sorry," without clarity as to whether or not she means never pursuing what could have been or making him feel as though he actually had to clarify his stance. But she is a woman of action, the kind who doesn't let emotions hold her any longer than it takes her to run, to move, to TAKE THAT MONEY SHOT with a nut. She misses. Spectacularly. "I don't know." A beat, and then a tilt of her head, her eyes finding his once more. "What about you? Why are you here instead of with Ricki?"

Fingers unwrap from around the glass, reach across the table in an attempt to brush lightly over the back of Risali's hand as Niko's expression turns - wistful? compassionate? "I'm sorry, that wasn't helpful," he sighs softly. "Or fair to you. It's… a lot of things." She can hardly take all of the blame - after all, he had his chances and never took them. "I wanted a drink. And Iczy's proddy," he adds with a grimmace, as though those two words explain it all. Perhaps they do; every greenrider, after all, reacts differently to her dragon's heat. Reaching down, he fishes the nut out of the front of his shirt and pops it in his mouth, crunching down. "Salty. Risa," he sighs, fingers still invading her side of the table, "I don't like seeing you sad, and flattering as I might wish to be to myself, I'm hardly the reason. I'm still your… friend." And maybe that word isn't any easier for him to say than for her to hear.

Risali raises one hand between them, waves it back and forth as if willing away the cobwebbed vestiges of apology, as if dismissing his role in what never happened or his guilt at the behest of her words. She doesn't answer him, not about that, but there is a dip in her shoulders the bespeaks relief when they're talking about Ricki and her current state. "Ah," comes softly, another hint of deviousness in expressions otherwise understanding. "I think you need at least two more drinks." But then the focus is back on emotions — back on her emotions and there's something angry in the way she looks away, in the way she doesn't answer for the duration of chewing one nut and then — a sigh. "You're more than my friend, Niko. You're my person. I just…" a beat, two, three, four. "Dance with me instead?" Because at least that way, she doesn't have to talk about it. COWARD!!"

What, Risa can't dance and talk? N'kon is silent for a moment, weighing the request - and the previous words - but ultimately, the truth is that the bluerider is hardpressed to deny her anything. Without even a sigh - audible, anyway - he pushes his glass aside and slips out of the booth, wiggling shoulders and hips to loosen them up after sitting before reaching out one hand to her. "I would love to dance with you, Weyrwoman," he replies, with a hint of his usual mischievous grin - just a glimmer in his eye, a tug at the corner of his lips. And, wisely, he does not pursue his questioning - not yet, anyway. Let the dance begin.

NO, N'KON. No she cannot. That's half the damn reason she wants to dance in the first place: to distract. So when he offers up his hand to her, she takes it, she squeezes out her thank you as she pulls herself to her feet and settles the hand not in possession of his own against his bicep. "That," she says around the hint of a smile, "sounds like a lie." But it's a lie she is willing to pursue if it means she gets to dance. So she does, watching N'kon at first before looking away, making him endure the motions of a slow dance as grey eyes jump about patrons, and tables, and drinks, and food, and — "I couldn't do that to Ricki," comes softly. "I couldn't do that to you." Now grey eyes lift, another wry pull of lips as she keeps moving, though her pace becomes more sedate. "When I told K'vir about D'lei, it broke him." Brows draw in, her attention shifts away again, as if she's looking into the past instead of the man before her. "D'lei wouldn't have cared, but Kyzen" a press of her lips, a shift of her shoulders. "I can't say that he wouldn't have. And I didn't want to ruin you." Like she ruined him, maybe like she ruined D'lei is implied. "But you're still my person." Now Risa is pressing a hand against his cheek, drawing in her brows. "And I will always stand beside you." CHEEK PINCH, PULL. "So stop looking at me like that, and stop asking me questions, and dance with me." Like he isn't already DOING THAT.

There's a million things he could say - that he and Ricki had long-since worked out Niko's crushes and how to handle them; that it wasn't fair for Risa to make that decision for them - but in the end, N'kon simply lets the moment slip away, slipping one arm around the Weyrwoman's waist while the other reaches up to tug that hand free of his cheek, trapping it in slim, calloused fingers. "I have been guilty of many transgessions in my turns, Risali, but I never lie to those I love. Dance with me, all night." Those blue-grey eyes belie the grin that curves the corners of his lips - still so serious, just a tiny bit injured - but still they gaze, steady and straight, down into the tiny goldrider's face. And so, he dances.

"That's good," Risali answers. "I don't lie either." A beat, and then a hushed smile holding no humor. "But I don't always understand what I'm feeling." Whatever that means. But she does dance. She dances with him for a long, long moment, moves and leads, slows and lets N'kon lead, and then finally, finally the weyrwoman goes still. She goes still and grey eyes rise to meet blue-grey, to hold for a moment long, then a moment too long as Risa goes up on the tips of her toes and, perhaps for the very first time since meeting N'kon, she kisses him. If he doesn't pull away, Risali presses forward, paints his lips with an exhale, with a gentle scrape of teeth as fingers dig into bicep and hand and — she pulls away, her eyes blinking open, her feet taking her backwards (one step, and then two). The smile on her lips is quiet, muted, as if that kiss was more of a goodbye than what it had the potential of being. "Thanks for the dance, bluerider." Her brows knit, and she hesitates before breathing a softer, "Thanks for everything." And just like that, she goes. She turns on her heels, and she strides away, never really answering why she was here, only doing what she seems to do best: running away.

It tempts. If she could see Niko's face, she would see the frustration, the glint of anger and anguish, and the temptation to let her go, to let it end on this bittersweet note. Turns on turns of dancing - verbal, emotional, physical - has left the bluerider with more than his fair share of scars upon his psyche. In the end, though - it's not in his nature. His past has taught him many things, but most importantly - never let it be left undone. So he strides after her, his longer legs eating up the ground, and he slams a hand against the door to keep her from opening it. Can she take him out? Easily, without even a punch. With this goldrider, it's only ever taken words - a look - to cut him to shreads. Still, he stares down at her with narrowed blue-grey eyes. "Just… wait. Damn it, Risali, for once, just talk to me."

Risali's just about to pull that door open when N'kon's hand slams down on it and — welp. The goldrider jerks backward, slams her tiny body into his much bigger one and then swings around to face him. And maybe N'kon picked the wrong goldrider to corner, maybe he should have let the bittersweet moment end there, with a kiss, with Risali running away to deal with — "What the fuck, N'kon." Whatever that was. Instead she's hissing words to him under her breath as she steps forward. She doesn't cower away from him like somebody of her stature, somebody of her build might. No, Risali doesn't give him an inch, tilts her chin up in defiance, does nothing to disguise the flash of anger and heated temper lurking somewhere behind grey eyes, pulling at the corners of her lips as she faces down the bluerider without touching him — yet, anyway. "Talk to you about what? Why I'm here?" A beat, a tilt of her body towards his arm against the door. "Currently it's because you won't let me leave." And if N'kon endures her temper, if N'kon allows himself to remain just long enough, the weyrwoman will lose some of that fight — thought not all of it. "I don't know what you want," comes softer, though it does nothing to soothe sharp edges. "You want me to tell you about my feelings? About why I'm here?" Hands are thrown away from her person in agitation, out to either side of her body before they comb back through her hair. "I don't know. I don't know, Niko." So why in the hell does she suddenly look like she WANTS TO CRY? She doesn't though; she just harnesses that emotion back into anger (because it's the only way she knows how to be sad and strong at the same time). "Get out of my way before I move you out of it." It's misdirected anger for sure, but then… this is Risali.

"I don't give a fuck about why you're here except whatever it is is making you miserable." He's not soothing, he's not diplomatic - in short, he's nothing like is usual charming Niko-self. The bluerider's hand remains flat against the door and he remains - not looming, he lacks the bulk to loom - but steady in the face of her anger, neither taking ground nor giving it. Eyes still trained on hers, hot and angry and just a hint bitter, he takes one breath, then another. "What I want, Risali, is for you to trust me. You call me your friend, your person - but you only give me the surface of you. I don't need everything - fuck it, I don't want everything - but I want - fuck." Deflated, he drops his hand away from the door, scrubbing at its face with its constant stubble. "What I want - wanted - was for you to stop running away every damn time the conversation turned serious. Every damn time we might have pursued something beyond flirting." Anger drains - he could never hold to the more volatile emotions, not the way she can, and he shakes his head in ponderous movement. "What I wanted was you, Risali. Every fucked up inch of you. I still do, and that's the hell of it, but…" He steps back now, easing his hands into his pockets as he gazes at her in injured silence, then shrugs, not finishing the thought. Instead, "Just… go. Hit me and go."

And it's Risali's turn to endure, Risali who remains steadfast, whose gaze jumps between N'kon's eyes as he speaks, and she listens, and she doesn't back down, or away, or lose any of that fire his stopping her from leaving has ignited. But she is silent, she is still where normally she might have run, where normally she might have drawn her arm back and curled her hand into a fist and swung at Niko's face. Instead she's still; instead she shows him that she cares in the only way she knows how: she remains. She remains after he's finished talking, she remains after his hand is lifted from the door, she remains after he instructs her to do what instinct compels her to in the face of his blockade and she remains in the face of his own bitterness, his own injuries. It's her own heart hammering in her ears, her own blood slamming through her veins that she has to close her eyes to slow, to move lips in order to form numbers or invoke long dead queens for strength, or patience, or the ability to stay still long enough to not ruin everything. "Nikolan," she whispers when she's opening her eyes again, and she hesitates, her lips parted for words that don't form, swallowing down a breath instead and clearing her throat before she tries again, focused on her own hands. "I don't…" A beat, two, three — "I don't know how." And now she's lifting her eyes to find N'kon's. "I don't… know how to talk about what I'm feeling. When you…" A beat, a furrow of brows, and she continues with, "When you saw D'lei and I together, when I was… hurt, or embarrassed or upset, I ran. And he didn't follow me." She seeks out something from his eyes, something she either doesn't find or can't read because she's not N'kon, because she is not privy to the machinations that drive that brilliant mind. "So did you — do you — really want every fucked up inch of me? Or do you want the romanticized version? The one that doesn't exist — not for you, not for Kyzen, not for D'lei." A beat. "You have Ricki, N'kon. She's… beautiful, she's funny, and witty, and she isn't broken. You deserve better. You deserve her. You don't want me. You'd regret it, and we could never, ever go back to what we were before. Ever."

"Why does it always have to be an either or with people?" Niko asks softly, his eyes - more grey than blue - fastened on her face. "Why is it assumed that because you want one person that you can't have another? I mean - you have two weyrmates and still you look and you say - if me, then not her. If her, then not me. Did you ever ask, Risali, how Ricki felt about my feelings for you? My desire for you? For D'lei?" Because, as is so often overlooked, Risali isn't the only person Niko pursued so ardently. "I did. She and I talked about it, before I ever actively started my courtship of you and him. I had to know that she wouldn't be hurt, so I talked to her." Yes, there's a bit of censure in there - of course there is. Talking, or lack there of, after all, is the root of their problems. Again, he sighs, a soft exhale of breath, and draws his hands from his pockets, reaching out to gently brush his fingertips over her cheeks. "I can't judge how fucked up you are, my Risali, because you never let me see. And, ultimately, that's your right. If I have romanticized you, it is only because you haven't let me see the whole of you. But I can tell you - we're all a little broken. You. Me. Ricki. We all have our ghosts, we all have our scars, and we all have things about ourselves we'd rather avoid. But I can tell you, even at my most frustated, I have yet to see a part of you that I don't think I could care for." He drops his hands away, fingers spread as he shrugs his broad shoulders. "Everyone is made up of shadows and light."

Risali closes her eyes against N'kon's words for as long as it takes her to draw in a breath — but she doesn't defend herself, she doesn't clarify. Not yet. Instead she waits, she lets him speak, and she listens, and she keeps her gaze focused on his, allows him to see just how raptly she is taking in his words, his opinions, his — "It's not an either, N'kon," Risali says slowly, softly. "It's not me or her. It's knowing that, at the end of the day, she will be the one who hears your frustrations, who tends your hurts, who meets your physical demands because I couldn't or wouldn't. It's knowing that you have something good and, if you wanted it, you could have something better." Not something… well… this. Listen, if N'kon should have learned anything about Risali now, it's that despite all that confidence she throws around, she has no real self-esteem. "If you needed — wanted — somebody else, you could find a partner that could be what you deserve." Instead of her. Instead of this. And as for D'lei? Well. Risali's lips tug sideways. She didn't forget, even if it was overlooked in this conversation, but she does offer him a very soft, "That's between you and D'lei." Because yeah. She's totally that kind of a weyrmate. RUDEST. Then his hands are on her face and while Risali doesn't press into them, she doesn't pull away either. She watches him as he touches her, listens to him as he speaks, and then parts with a soft huff of laughter. "I know," she answers, and some of that heat dissipates. "But people are different kinds of broken, Niko. Some people drink, some people dance, some people fly." A beat, then softer, "Some of us run." And his hands drop away just as her hands find his face in their stead. "I don't think that I could give you what you want. I don't think I can be who you need." And here comes a quiet smile, pained. "You said it yourself: you don't want everything. I'm a dragonrider, N'kon, but I've never fully reconciled myself with half measures." She's not capable of casual encounters. "Maybe under another moon, under another set of stars." One, two, three, and her hands drop away, she steps backward. "You should go." Or maybe she should; she was the one leaving after all.

So much to say, so much left unsaid - unfinished… but Niko is drained. He came in to get a quiet drink before going home to his proddy weyrmate, and… well. Yet, in the end, the one emotion markedly absent as the bluerider leans down and presses a light kiss to Risali's lips is regret. "Someday, Risali, I hope you see yourself the way we see you. Me. D'lei. K'vir. And even Ricki. For now, though I hope you find peace this night. You always know how to find me if you're ever ready to talk." He draws away then, brushing one fingertip down her cheek, then turns and walks towards the door, pushing it open. A pause, a hesitation, a murmur on a breath almost too low for her to hear - and he's gone.

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