Books, Booze and Brilliant Ideas

Xanadu Weyr - Archives
The walls and ceiling of this large, windowless room have been fitted with wooden paneling and flooring to cover cold stone. Kept polished, the dark finish gleams, and the thick tapestry on the floor muffles footsteps and further insulates from unwanted noise. Those wooden panels are set with tall shelves that contain ledgers and tomes, maps and diagrams from the first founding of Xanadu to the present. The shelves encroach and fill the room, and one can find - arranged by topic - the records of domestic Weyr management, wing statistics, weyrling management, diplomatic efforts, weather reports, events and vital statistics all dating back over one hundred and fifty turns.

Though kept scrupulously clean and in glass-fronted cabinets, it's impossible for the older tomes not to have gathered some dust and mold over time, so the scent upon entering is of antiquity - musty, earthy and rich. Electricity provides ample lighting with which to see, tuned by spectrum to minimize fading of the pages. A large wooden table sits in the center of the room with several seats arranged around it. Placed on the polished top is a stack of paper, a container of writing instruments, a large magnifying glass and basket of emergency glows.

In one shadowy corner, there's a service access - almost invisible behind the panel that forms the door but given away by the brass key hole set at waist high in the wood. As it is kept locked, one would need a very good reason for wanting admittance and seek the appropriate person having the key to unlock it - the steward, the headwoman or one of the weyrleaders.

It's late enough in the evening that most people have abandoned the use of the archives and are pursuing relaxing things like late dinner or the mythical and much sought after sleep. Not everyone though. The tell-tale is the soft sound of a lullaby winding its way through the shelves, sung by a voice low and rough, but good enough for the purpose. The source is the young man settled against the base of a shelf, his legs sprawled before him but limited by the shelf on the other side of the aisle. Stefyr's head is tilted back to rest against the edge of the shelf behind him, short blond locks nestled against the tomes there. His eyes are closed, no mind being paid to approaching sounds, or his surroundings, or even the handful of books spread out on the floor around him. They're simple books, the sort used in lessons for the young of the Weyr. He doesn't reek of ale, but a person getting close enough could certainly smell it on his breath with enough strength to explain why sitting in the archives late at night, singing a lullaby seems like a good idea.

Risali doesn't have a fun reason to be here. Outside of work, she doesn't even have a good one. Or… perhaps that's the best one. Look, it doesn't matter. But she is here, now, holding a stack of what appears to be stacks of Important Business given to her to sign by her Juniors (who really should be the ones putting them away, but Risali tries to help where she can). But she's tired; it's there in the way she presents herself, in her posture; it's set in the cast of her eyes and the shadows around them, defined in the wayward strands of hair that, despite being crammed into a messy bun on top of her head, still — somehow — manage to be too messy. It's like she hasn't slept, like she hasn't taken time out of her day to slow down and see to self care. Even the way she moves is sluggish, as if every movement requires the same amount of effort it might take one to wade through molasses. All that tired is the reason why Risali doesn't hear that voice soon enough — or, perhaps she hears it, but doesn't register that it's an anomaly present here, in the archives, where there should only be the hush of pages turned in books. But she does. She does catch on, eventually, and she's right in the middle of pulling over a chair one-handed so that she can REACH HIGHER when Stefyr's song — his voice — hits her. She pauses, strains her ears. A beat, two, three, four, and the Weyrwoman lowers herself back to the floor with no thought to grace. She's on the move, following unfamiliar sound down a hallway of aisles until she's coming around the shelf she needs to to bear witness to whatever this moment is. She goes still, leans into the press of wood with one shoulder as she hugs work-tomes to her chest and those grey eyes watch as Stefyr sings. She seems intent not to interrupt him, not yet at least, so she keeps her distance, closes her eyes, and remains. Maybe when he's done she will back away to leave him to his vices, but she's certainly not coming forward to prematurely announce her presence.

Stefyr is no Harper, to be sure, but one doesn't have to be trained to still have had life's practice enough to be passable, and the acoustics in this room, despite the shelves that muffle sound so effectively, work to his favor. He doesn't hear Risali's approach and, really, with his eyes closed, he might be in his own world - his volume rising a little with the notes. The sound is a lullabye, the words are a love story, of a young man seeking to promise love to his lovely rose, words of sacrifice for that love at the cost of familial grief. Sound familiar? It's laced thickly with emotion and it can't be any wonder given what he's shared of his history. His voice cracks a little when the lyrics inevitably find the word 'forever,' and suddenly he's sitting up, sniffing hard, a hand rising to rub stinging eyes. "Shard it," he swears softly, but emphatically. And only then does he catch sight of Risa and freeze. He's not a grown man tearing up amid children's books, nope! Nope. Nope. Nope. Only, he really is. At least another breath keeps anything but a leak from escaping his eyes. "Risa. Sorry." Awkward. He tries to get up, but he's a little stumbly in making the effort and ends up on his knees instead, fingers grasping for the books as though he might hurriedly stack and replace them.

Awkward? Awkward might just be the way it takes Risali one, two, three heartbeats after Stefyr has said her name to open her eyes. Awkward might be the way she's looking at him — wonder, certainly but not pity, not quite. "I don't know that song," she whispers, her brows knitting together as she watches clumsy attempts at a clean up and, after a few moments of inaction, she moves. She closes that distance with steps that grow in confidence every second one forward until she's there beside him and setting record books off to the side. She sinks to her own knees, reaches out to catch his hands in her own if he doesn't pull away to try and still those frenetic attempts at… distraction? "It's okay," she breathes out on a whisper, squeezing his hands if she has them in her possession and letting go. Either way, the weyrwoman's eyes are dropping back to those books and she's dragging a finger over the title of one before picking it up and tucking it in against her stomach. Another, and another, and another come with it as, for just a moment she allows herself to focus on that instead of on Stefyr. Maybe she's giving him a moment to compose herself — and she must be, because she isn't looking at him when she whispers, "Do you want to talk about it?" Asking him if he's okay seems pointlessly silly — he's clearly not. "We can also…" An exhale, as if she's trying to think of what else they can do except she can smell the alcohol on him and that… "Dance." Now her eyes lift a fraction of a heartbeat to find his and then return to their task. "Or find some dinnerware to throw at the ground and yell really loud at." Because who is Risali to prevent somebody from dodging their own emotions when she's so good at dodging her own? "If you don't want to."

The gathering of the books might have been as much embarrassment as distraction, but after another, briefer, frozen moment, Stefyr does take the opportunity to compose himself with a couple of slow breaths. When she looks up again, he's ready to meet her gaze. His lips flatten just slightly at the idea of talking about it, but the next has him furrowing his blond brows. "Don't know how to dance." The murmured admission is followed by a simple quasi-demand, "Teach me," only then he's frowning, "That's not what I was going to ask you to teach me." What was it? "Piano. That was it. But then I thought you were probably too busy. I'd probably be a terrible student anyway. And now I have to learn to read better, and write better, and all because I wanted to learn how to speak like N'on." He frowns faintly at that but probably only because it does sound like an awful lot to learn already. Obviously he's drifted from the point and his gaze has drifted with his attention. It snaps back to the goldrider with a perhaps alarming amount of focus for a man clearly a little in his cups, "I'm sorry I upset you. I mean, maybe I didn't, but it seemed like maybe I did. It was…" He gropes for words. Words are hard when he wants the right ones and only the wrong ones are reporting for duty. "When you took me flying on Leirith. I had no idea. I've never experienced anything like that. And it was scary." He doesn't seem especially abashed about being afraid, but rather says it candidly. "Being out of control always is. Do you ever feel like that?" His eyes search her face as if he might find the answers there before she speaks.

Risali listens as she works, then sets aside a small stack of books next to her Important Ones. Hands go to her knees, and she finally brings her full attention onto him, watching his lips as he speaks, jumping to his eyes when his search her face and pressing her lips together in a wry resemblance of something that might have been a smile, except it pulls a little too far to the side and settles somewhere at a 'grimace'. "If you teach me that song," Risali offers first, "then I will teach you how to do both." Dance. Play piano. "And if you can find time between all of that and your weyrwoman's hectic schedule, I can help you read and write better, too." It's something she has to do every single day in her profession. But it's the apology that has her pressing her eyes closed and shaking her head with an exhale. "Stefyr," it's gentle, and then she gives up. She gets back to her feet, and makes careful steps with booted feet around books, and then she sinks to her knees right in front of him. And then she's leaning forward, to bring her arms around his shoulders and, if he doesn't protest, if he doesn't pull away, she's pressing her cheek in against the side of his and holding tight. "I wasn't upset at you. I was upset at me. I…" one, two three. "I should be the one apologizing to you. I guess I…" AM TERRIBLE WITH WORDS? She is that, it's why she halts so often, as if she's trying to find her own right words to insert into those pauses. "I know the way people look at me and the things that they say. I… forget sometimes, that not everybody…" Lives the same way she does? She doesn't finish that, she leans back instead if he's not withdraw already and brings her hands up to cup his face between her hands, to seep her thumbs along his jaw before dropping them to tuck in between her thighs and her stomach in small fists. "Like I'm out of control? Every day." There's the beginnings of a smile, but it gutters out as quickly as it's come. "But sometimes those thirty seconds of freefall are exactly what I need to be okay again." Figuratively? Literally? She doesn't elaborate. "Come on." YES SHE IS GAINING HER FULL (unimpressive) HEIGHT and holding out a hand for him to take. "We can at least start with the dancing." NOW? HERE? Fight her. … Or, you know. Just tell her no.

If Stefyr weren't so nice, the way his eyes follow people, their motions and their expressions, might be disturbingly like stalking up close. As is, it may be a little unnerving how much focus he gives Risali as she speaks and then moves. On a normal day, the blond rarely does anything about physical contact until it's already come and gone (see: all her punches). Alcohol might magnify that, or maybe he simply doesn't object to the hug. Maybe he's needed a hug since he left his farm and just hasn't had anyone to ask for one. Maybe it's a little weird. He, in fact, embraces her back, but carefully, like he might break her. Though his breath hitches, it's probably more because of all the feelz than anything else. He doesn't cry, though, even if his eyes are a little glassier than they were before she got so close. He doesn't even speak until she's up and reaching down her hand. He takes it with only a little hesitation, and gets up, not tripping himself or her thank you very much. He doesn't say no. What he says is, "Then we can apologize to each other. I'm not taking mine back. Because you were-" his turn to have trouble with words, "-feeling the way you seemed to be feeling," so specific, "in the woods, and the last thing I wanted to do at all was make you doubt-" he gives a helpless gesture with one hand: everything? Anything? Something at any rate. "Learning," he shifts his attention to the other topic, looking down at their feet - his so big, of course, and hers not nearly so - "would be nice," it's wistful. "I don't want to take on too much at once. I already feel like I'm coming apart at the seams," for more than one reason, "and I don't want to take up your time. You must not have much to yourself as is." What with all her responsibilities and only so many things she can delegate. "Maybe we should pick just one to start with." He's so sensible that it comes through when he's tipsy. To be fair, he doesn't look entirely certain about his own words, so he's not confident in his tipsy sensibilities.

"Okay," Risali whispers around a real smile. "We can apologize to each other." She will concede that point, much as he concedes his space and what seems to be his comfort to join her in standing. In… dancing? NORMALLY this would be the part where Risali started shouting lyrics, and stomping her feet, and pulling Stefyr around in circle after circle — but he's too drunk for that. She knows it. So she places on of his hands on her hip and catches at his bicep with one of her own before catching one of his too-big hands in one of her not-nearly-big-enough own. And she dances. A slow one, two, sway back and forth that moves them in a small, manageable circle around the room. And for a long time, she just watches him. She watches him, and her brows knit, and Risali's lips part as if she means to say words but can't quite think of what those words were or doesn't trust them to be right so she presses them back behind closed lips. Another moment, and then she tries again anyway. "Are you…" how does she word this? "Are you attached to gardening? I…" am probably about to proposition a TERRIBLE IDEA, so prepare yourself. "I could use another assistant. Rhodelia is… well… she's amazing and she's funny and she's one of my favorite people, but she gets overwhelmed too and sometimes papers go missing or people don't get scheduled or —" OUT WITH IT, RISALI. "D'lei could use help too, you know. He's… he's better than I am. He's…" She's rambling, because she knows she's treading shallow water. "Do you want to?" WANT TO WHAT, RISA? "Be our assistant? We… we could teach you in down time and…" And what better way to practice reading and writing every single day other than to read? And write? "It's okay to say no," she breathes. "It's okay to need time." Because he's inebriated, too. "Gardening is just as fine a profession."

Stefyr is moldable, his hands following her placement and settling where she directs them. His clasp of her hand is comfortably firm, so he's so far gone as to be unaware of his strength or anything. Not only does his grip tighten on her hand and hip but he stumbles when her offer becomes clear. He takes a moment to sort out his feet and loosen his hands to something more comfortable before he looks down at her, his brows long since having swooped down from the bounce up they made at her words. "I- 'm okay at gardening. I can lift heavy things. Dig holes. Water things. It's familiar." His lower lip is gathered slowly by his teeth to be worried before he exhales and blinks down at her. "I can read, but I'm really slow as yet." She may have noticed the level of the books spread out about him were if not for the very young, were the sort of practice that they give the still young. Sentences to paragraphs, not yet whole chapters. "I would appreciate more time to learn but… would I really be of any use to you? To D'lei? I haven't met him. He might not even tolerate me." There's a little frown for that. It's possible, despite the former farmer's typically unassuming demeanor that he could do or say something of exceptional idiocy to garner D'lei's immediate ire.

Would D'lei dislike him? Risali isn't D'lei. Her ability to answer that question is… worthy, apparently, of breathy laughter as grey eyes take in the gardener. "D'lei is the one people like." That's her answer to that, he can take it how he will. "And if you aren't a bully," she keeps up that movement as her eyes find his, "then I think you're safe." Because D'lei is weyrmated to her, isn't he? That requires no infallible amount of patience or knowing just when to push and just when to pull. It also means you have to put up with Leirith and probably say 'yes' to 99.99% of all of Risali's terrible ideas but LET'S NOT FOCUS ON THAT. "You don't have to answer me now." A beat. "You don't have to answer me ever," softer, softer. "But you can focus on mostly my things while you learn. Rhodelia will be there to help you when Dash or I are attending weyr business and can't be here. And the juniors, they…" WELL. There's another press of her lips, another laugh. "Nessalyn might require a little bit more caution. But Citayla will help you." Definitely.

"But I like you?" It's awkward that it comes out a question. But perhaps what Stefyr means is that if he likes the one people don't like, what does that mean for his and D'lei's ability to like one another. The young man's lop-sided smile comes a beat later, but vanishes as he trods (lightly) on her foot and reflexes still not too slow draw his heavier foot away. "Maybe this would be better later. I had some ale." As if she couldn't tell with his breath in this proximity; he probably isn't aware of that though. "Later," he decides. "This would all be better, later." Like, after they've both had a chance to sleep on Risali's obviously wonderful idea. Perhaps to even think of all the reasons it's wonderful. Stefyr steps back, "I'll teach you the song. If you want. Mum and Aunt Tildy used to sing it at night sometimes." He shrugs, "But the piano. Sometime. And the dancing. For sure." The rest… "The rest… later." They'll talk later. He crouches briefly to get his stack of books and turn to shelve them. They're probably not exactly right, but he'll come back and fix it tomorrow, if some industrious archives worker doesn't get to them first. "Thanks, Risa," he offers, reaching to take her hands briefly for a squeeze before he's slipping away through the warrens of shelves to the exit.

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