Picking Up Pieces of Stefyr

Xanadu Weyr - Wingleaders' Ready Room
Attempts have been made to brighten this windowless room by painting the walls white and installing overhead lighting, but the fact remains that it is rather a utilitarian, sparsely furnished and cramped room. The center is taken up by a large wooden table finished in a pale, natural hue around which a dozen chairs are pulled. Pen holders and stacks of paper are placed at intervals down the center of the table, while small locking wall cabinets provide a safe place for wing journals to be kept.

On one wall is a large whiteboard with a calendar on one side and a corkboard on the other to which various notices have been pinned. Around the room's perimeter are another dozen chairs of the same make as those around the table - metal-framed and armless, the wooden seats and backrests finished to match the tabletop. They allow for the wings, the leaders of whom share this room, to take turns holding meetings inside, but leave little room for maneuvering.

The only saving grace to this 'no frills' workroom is it's proximity to Xanadu's Council Room - right across the hall - and the access to the library of scrolls, hides and books kept in there. It's quite possible this was once a closet for the overflow of records, for the lingering scent of ink and hides assails one the moment upon stepping through the door.

Okay, so the day of the first egg touching was probably a little off for most of the candidates who had the delightful honor of meeting their potential lifemates. Stefyr wasn't assigned to Risali-detail that day, so if it was more off than not for him, who's to know? Maybe Risali happened to see Stefyr "working with" (playing with) the animals in the feeding grounds and doing farmly labor there under N'on's supervision, along with Evangeline and maybe, just maybe, if she did, she could assume all was well. The day after when things started to settle for some, Stefyr was assigned to work with the Harpers, only at mid-morning, there is suddenly a fleet-footed Stefyr moving through the administrative hallway looking like a hunted man and ducking into the Wingleaders' Ready Room for the entire reason that it is totally empty this morning. Empty except for the young man with one arm on the wooden table for support as he crouches beside it taking great, hiccupping breaths that are trying hard to keep something much too big from bursting out of him. Behold, Stefyr undone.

And then there is Risali who, in her own ways, is coming undone. Every interaction has been forced smiles and shadowed eyes that do nothing to soothe the impression of a woman who's spent too much of her 'free time' time doing her own sobbing, and not nearly enough time sleeping. It's pure, dumb luck that Risali just happens to be on her feet with her office door open, looking down at a report for the seventieth time that morning at just the right angle for movement to draw her attention. So Risali sees Stefyr, she notices that hunted duck into an office that might afford him some semblance of privacy, but she only notices him in so much as she can notice him in these final few days before Leirith rises. There's not enough focus, not enough concentration for her to fully register that something isn't right fast enough for her to… make the right choice? Be there? It's why it takes an almost alarming amount of time for Risali to move, for her to set her paperwork back down on her desk and walk the length of the administrative hallway to find Stefyr. But she doesn't knock, she doesn't announce herself because she's too far gone in Leirith's influence to truly heed those polite norms set by societal expectation. No, she just walks in, her feet halting at the threshold where grey eyes drag slowly up from her own besocked (yes, she took her boots off) feet to Stefyr. And for a long, long moment, she just stares at him, as if she cannot manage enough anything to process through what, exactly, it is that she is seeing. "Stefyr," comes on a whisper, preceding Risali stepping into the room clumsily, pressing the door closed by leaning against it with her back to it and staring for a moment longer. "I'm here." And she's moving to him, sinking down to her knees beside him, leaning forward to bring her arms around his shoulders and pull his MUCH LARGER BODY against her MUCH SMALLER frame. She shivers, and she arches into that press of him; she bites on her lip as she presses in somewhere near his ear and whimpers, but then she forces herself to be still. "I'm here," she whispers again, her own voice feeble despite the sudden clarity in it, despite the way she holds a little tighter. "I'm right here." Not, 'It's okay,' not, 'Don't cry.' Just that she's here, because she is, and empty platitudes have never made anything okay, or hurt any less.

If he'd realized someone was there, he'd have made an attempt to be fine. But he is too far gone in his own heart, in his own head, with thankfully no freaking out baby dragon attached (phew) to register the sound of the door. The gasps aren't winning the battle with the strangled sobs and that's taking all his energy and focus. The first whisper is even missed judging by the way that he doesn't startle and look up until Risali's arms are settling around his shoulders. Complete romantic and sexual inexperience is actually a help right now, because it means that even if some part of his brain registers the whimper and arch and shiver as something somehow not wholly an act of comfort, it doesn't land into any charted water that would give him a guide on how to respond on that level. What he knows is platonic comfort, friend and family, and those are the set habits which have him after a moment of prideful resistance, crumpling against her. It probably has them sprawling to the floor in an ungainly mess, because he's big and she's small and that's just how weight and gravity works. This must also slot into some familiar something, because he automatically shifts to roll on his side then back so he's not crushing her, but one arm doesn't leave her so maybe she comes with him. It's not awkward at all, especially not with the tear tracks down his face, his red nose and struggle to get breath. Are there words yet? No, not yet. There's a ceiling though, and he seems to fix his eyes on one of the electric lights there trying for something, for calm.

Stefyr crumbles and, for as strong as Risali is, she is certainly not strong enough. So she does sprawl in that mess, and she does come with him, her arms still tight around his shoulders, her chest heaving with the effort it takes the tiny woman to block out her dragon long enough for her to think. And then she doesn't want to think. Then she's hooking one thigh around his hips and pulling herself up to settle over him, then she's using those hands at his shoulders to push herself up, to drag her hands down — across clavicle to chest where she curls them into fists and maybe sees his face and forces her eyes closed. "Faranth. I'm sorry," she forces out, a hiccup of sound that's bordering on hysterical. "Ignore…" THAT SHIFT OF HER BODY? THAT GENTLE SLAM OF HER FIST INTO HIS CHEST IN FRUSTRATION? "It's Leirith." WHO IS MAKING IT WEIRD, SHE MEANS. "But I'm here." And those grey eyes are coming open, suspiciously wet as she forces herself to lean forward instead and press her thumbs along his cheeks, just under his eyes. And then she lowers herself again, settles on his body and drops her chin onto his sternum, watching him while he watches the ceiling, while she forces her hands back to his chest near where she's resting her chin (IGNORE THAT SHIVER). And then she just… presses her cheek and her ear to his chest instead, as if she means to listen to his heartbeat, translating whatever she hears into unseen script against his chest with the tip of one finger. THIS IS ONLY SLIGHTLY AWKWARD. But she doesn't seek out anymore words. She whispers another, "I'm here." And she lets him be as okay or not okay as he needs to be. Even if she can't quite will herself INTO A MORE APPROPRIATE POSITION TO BE SUPPORTIVE IN RISALI but she's totally (she doesn't) got this.

Risali is here. Stefyr… well, he really sort of isn't. Obviously, that's his big, broad, steady body under her, that's his heartbeat dashing in his chest for reasons that at any other time would be all because of Risali's proximity and his age and inexperience, but in this unique moment has a whole other reason. "My brother is here," are the first words he can find and his voice is so rough one would think he had been screaming until he was hoarse, not just straining his vocal chords while holding in all the screams he can't sound in a place that has no safe, private place to do so. Serves him right for moving into the barracks. (His neighbors in the residence hallway wouldn't've appreciate it anyway.) "Mum wants me to come home. Daro wants me to come home. Gaelis-" his voice cracks and he leaves off, another pair of tears escaping his eyes and his chest lifts and falls under Risali's head with a shuddering breath. His arms shift absently to curl a little around her. It's not quite an embrace, but it's close. GOOD NEWS. He doesn't register her shudders or— is this awkward? Yeah, it probably is. Or should be. He's not here enough for it to be that, though. He's not even here enough to register that one hand moves to stroke her hair like she might be some particularly therapeutic cat. It only happens twice though, before his hand stills between her shoulder blades and some of this registers. His body tightens a little under her, but when he speaks, his voice is a little more solid, "Rhody said your… that Leirith's proddy. And that it's like that time of the month, with moodiness and cramping and… are you okay?" Yes, that's what he was told, and being worried about her okayness or otherwise is giving him a path back toward something resembling at least a superficial level of okayness for himself.

So Stefyr speaks, and Risali listens — and she stills, she holds her own breath as if she might miss the answer to the question she's about to ask if she so much as breathes. She lifts her head, those grey eyes find his and, "Do you want to?" she whispers. Does he want to go home? And she waits. She waits as much as Risali has ever been able to wait for anything, fidgeting with fingers, and hands, and — Faranth, Risa, NO!!! But then the focus comes to her, to the state of madness Leirith's inevitable flight has invoked and she laughs. She laughs at Rhodelia's explanation as much as she laughs at wishing that were true, that maybe she fit into at least one box, since none of the others could accommodate her either. But even in this, she is not quite the same. There is no anger, no rage, no jealousy. There's a bubbling hiccup of laughter that has an edge of hysteria to it, one that Risali tries to quiet by pressing her hand to her lips but it's no good. She can't stop. "I'm not… I'm not laughing at — I'm sorry, Stefyr." So she swallows air, and she tries to focus, and she tries again. "For… for some, it's moodiness, yes. For me, I…" She what. She shivers again. "I like the way you feel under my hands, and the way you smell, and I want…" a breath, lips trembling as if she's trying to keep in whatever words come next, but she can't because, "I want your hands on me," comes out anyway. And then, then she is forcing herself away from him. It takes excruciating effort for Risali to peel herself away from Stefyr, but she does it. Because Risali has STRENGTH IN SPADES, DON'T YOU FORGET IT. "But it's… Leirith." Finally comes, as Risali manages to settle next to Stefyr instead, still pressed close, but this time with her legs drawn up to her chest and her chin dropping to her knees. "But I'm not important. You are. So let's… let's not talk about me. Do you…" FOCUS, RISA. "Do you want to talk about it? Do you… do you want to dance, or…" LEIRITH, NO. "Or run? I even… You can hide in my office, in my fort. Nobody is…" And there, she looks stricken, "nobody else is coming today." But she forces it away, she swallows down emotion, and forces herself to look down at Stefyr instead. "I can even get us some hot drinks and food, and we can talk. I promise I…" YOU WILL WHAT. "… will try to keep my distance." FOR BOTH OF THEIR SAKES.

"No." It's a stubborn word, a word that is an anchor. Has Risali heard him say, "No," with such determination and badass command before? Backbone. It's there, just not usually manifested. "This is my home." The fact that his arm tightens on her while she laughs almost confirms his decision, because he doesn't look offended or hurt. More than anything he looks like he understands the laughter, the hysteria, even if there's no realistic way he could understand everything at least not from her perspective, but maybe hysteria is awfully close to what he's feeling. He doesn't seek to hold onto her when she's expending that precious effort to part from him. He does shift and sit up on his own, one hand coming up to dash away any remaining moisture from his eyes or on his cheeks. He looks down at his palms, flexing his fingers, confusion creasing his brow and then he looks toward the Weyrwoman - his boss - his friend, and he offers his hand toward her, almost like he doesn't know what to do with it, so it just hovers in the air, palm up near her drawn up knees. "I can… rub your back?" He offers, because he really doesn't understand. Did she even speak words that could translate into sense to poor, naive Stefyr? "I'm not hungry. Water would be good. Since I don't have drinking privileges." What an awful time to have lost those, huh, Stefyr? MAYBE YOU'LL DONE DO BETTER IN THE FUTURE, idiot. "I don't want to take your space if you need it. I'm supposed to be working with the Harper. I got pulled from class to go see Daro. My brother. My favorite brother." He swallows hard, but aside from a hitch in his breathing, he doesn't seem about to revert to the stalled implosion. "I fell in love with an egg. Is that a real thing?" He shakes his head. "I didn't measure up. I mean, I don't know what it thought, but I knew. I'm not… I'm not even sure who I am here, Risa." And then he looks at her with some kind of desperation his hopeless expression. "Who am I?" Like she might know. Like she could tell him or at least give him a clue.

"Good," Risali breathes to that answer, to that conviction, matching his intensity for just a moment before the topic changes and she devolves and he lets her. Now they're here, at this point, where Risali is staring at Stefyr's hand as if she's torn between more laughter and… something more quiet, something more akin to affection before she slips her hand into his and laces her fingers between the cracks. She shivers, but she squeezes, and she holds on. "Maybe another time," she tells him, because now the act of his hands on her body would drive her to the brink of madness, "but I can get us some water. And you can share my space, for however long you need." That, at least, is safe. For now, she just drops her chin back to her knees and she listens. She watches Stefyr while she listens, delineates his face with brows knit in a mixture of empathy and worry, tightens her hand with every admittance that comes. But then Risali is scooting closer, pressing her shoulder into Stefyr's, pressing her cheek against his shoulder, tucking his hand between her thighs and her stomach, still trapped in her own and - - who is he? Risali looks up only then, tilts her face and then unravels her body, shifting so that she can bring her other hand to his cheek and ignore the tremble that starts somewhere in her fingertips. Who is he? "Stefyr," she whispers. "You're Stefyr." And there's a quiet smile, a press of her lips into something quietly adoring as she shifts to be a little more level with him, to raise her head from his shoulder. "You're the one who always says yes when you could have said no. You're the one who… quietly accepts everything about other people, but somehow can't seem to do the same for himself." And maybe she's wrong, but that's what she sees. "You're the one who thought it was important enough to make somebody feel like they weren't alone, like they belonged, so you made a choice to teach yourself how to communicate with them better. You're the person who brings me food and leaves it at my door and trusts me - -" Ohp. Risali's biting down on her bottom lip, swallowing hard because she has her own demons, ones that have not dissipated despite the stronger desire to make sure Fyr is okay, " - - to figure everything out." MAYBE HE DOESN'T. "That's probably a mistake, by the way," she whispers, an attempt at POORLY DELIVERED HUMOR. "You're the - -" a hiccup of laughter, broken though it might be because she is crying, "- - badass that Leirith wanted to stand, because she saw all of those things in you that I don't think you can see in yourself. So no, Stefyr. I don't think it's weird that you fell in love with an egg." And now she's sweeping her thumb back along his cheek bone, watching the movement before her gaze jumps back to his. "But I would think it weird if an egg didn't fall in love with you."

It's possible that Risali didn't know Stefyr could growl disapproval, but that's exactly what the rumble in his throat is when she makes her POOR JOKE. He doesn't interrupt with words though. He does shift a disturbingly stern look down at her with that noise. HE'LL TRUST WHO HE LIKES, OKAY?! It's her. Well, and others. But also her. He probably would look away, would hang his head, would do something that lets him hide a little from the light she's trying to shed, because it's a painful light, that much is on his face. Who knew, Risali, that someone else here doesn't take real words that are as much a kind of praise as answer particularly well. He doesn't tell her not to say them, though, and he leaves his gaze on hers because with his face in her hand, he has to look at her, or near her - sometimes it's near her. "I'm some of those things," he'll compromise to agreeing after a moment. "I'm also other things. Worse things. You just don't know me well enough to know." And then he'll drop his gaze down, to nothing, sighing, shoulders hunching protectively forward. "I don't want to chance a dragon not living because I didn't walk on the sands, and after meeting them— well, one of them," the eggs, "I want to go out there. I want to know if what fits here," a hand clutches to his breast as if holding the sides of that invisible gaping absence, "is out there. But it's a selfish thing, Risa. I'm a selfish person," says the man who does a lot of things for a lot of people - except he seems to believe it. Only now does he seem to realize that Risali was crying. Is crying? His callused hands are suddenly there, framing her cheeks and wiping her tears with his thumbs. "Don't cry for me," just in case it's for him. "Please, Risa. I'm not…" what? "…worth that." And then he's going to make everything PERFECTLY NORMAL and NOT AWKWARD AT ALL UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES and reach to gather her into his lap for a hug. Not. Awkward. At. All.

Risali did not, in fact, know that Stefyr could growl disapproval. BUT SHE LIKES IT. Or she just likes growling; listen, the end result is the same: she shivers despite herself, but she presses on. SHE BELIEVED SHE COULD, STEFYR. AND SO SHE DID. "You can be all of those things, and all of the other things too." Risali says it with conviction. "And that's what makes you Stefyr." Because being good and being right all of the time is… well. It's certainly not human, is it? But she's back to listening, and suddenly his hands are on her face and Risali is turning her lips into them and she doesn't stop her lips from catching on one of his thumbs, or pressing a kiss into the palm of his hand. These are things she would have done anyway, casual affections from the weyrwoman who perhaps, even after all this time, doesn't fully grasp the boundaries of affection outside of extremes. SO FIGHT HER. "Shut up, Stefyr," Risali whispers without any real heat, blinking grey eyes open so that she can watch him as she nuzzles her face back into his hand, and catches at his wrists, and wills her breath to something normal. "Everybody is allowed to be selfish sometimes. You…" a beat, a struggle, as if Leirith's rending away her ability to think and speak again. "You don't get to tell me who is worth what. And I… I won't let you think that any of those little bad things negate all of the really good things about you. Leirith picked you. I picked you." AND LOOK AROUND YOU, STEFYR. How many people do you actually see so close to Risali? E X A C T L Y. HIGH HONOR. Or, you know. Just… a clear sign you should RUN FOR YOUR LIFE. She even almost wills herself through a lack of reaction to that proximity, to being in Stefyr's lap, but she shivers, and she presses, and she digs her fingers into his wrists harder and harder and harder in a bid to keep herself still. "We should," comes forced, almost frantic, with even more tears. "I'm sorry. We should go. Into the office. I'm… I'll tell the harper that I need you for something important, and…" SHE'S SLOWLY PRYING HERSELF AWAY AGAIN — but not too far away. "You can tell me… about the egg you fell in love with. You can tell me about your favorite brother. Or we can… drink water, and pretend we're drunk, and dance and sing until we can't breathe and we can't think. And then tomorrow. Tomorrow… you can figure out who you are and where you fit. And I'll be here, to cheer you on or… or to build you forts so that you can hide until you're ready to face the world again. Deal?"

There's a little laugh from Stefyr. Poor boy. He sounds tired. Bone-tired. Tired like he's finally, finally giving up, giving in to the ghosts that have been howling at his heels since he left home. It's not a sad sound, exactly, just a drained one. "Deal," is a single word that washes away the casual affection, the shivers, the awkwardness if any is even there, and maybe it's not in their bizarre brand of developing friendship. Maybe a day spent in Risali's blanket fort where they share stories and silences and call it work will be good for the duty-driven young man. Every once in a while, it's okay to hide from the world. It's okay to take simple solace in a friend's company. Today, that's what he'll get from Risali and tonight maybe his sleep won't be so troubled by doubt and nightmare.

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