What are you afraid of?

Candidate Barracks
A long, low ceilinged room opens off the entrance hall to the arena. One wall is slightly curved, set against the outer wall of the arena itself. Cots are set in two rows along the length of the room, each with its own small press at the foot for personal belongings. Wide windows are spaced along the outside wall, letting sunlight in, while other lights are available for the night time hours. It's always warm here when there are eggs on the sands, and candidates seldom need more than a light blanket.

This is a backscene, from 10/3/2019- Post egg touching.

Quick on the heels of the candidates, with the sun only just starting to rise, Citayla makes a strange sight shuffling into the barracks. Largely, this is because she's supporting one of their number where needed — Evangeline is the last to exit the sands and head back into the barracks, but for now, Cita's top priority. There will be time later for cookies and calming beverages of choice, but, well. It's hard to deny that this candidate needs extra assistance. "Three-four-five-six, hold." Citayla cajoles, still sleep-rough, glancing around the barracks with the narrowed eyes of somebody who doesn't have the slightest idea where they are. "Purse those lips this time, now, Evangeline. Breathe out. C'mon. Hey, where's your cot?" Because there might be more than one with feline in this joint, and well, setting Evi in something that's not her own bed isn't the best way to calm the poor thing down. "You're okay. We're in the barracks. Your cot's here somewhere, it's not…whatever was in the egg. Where's Curtains at? I'd love to see your latest designs." Babbling? Maybe a LITTLE, but distraction isn't the worst track to try, first.

The total stillness that has come over Evangeline, her gait is shuffling as Citayla presses her into the barracks. Wherever she is mentally, it's obvious she does not see anything around her. Brown-green eyes are glazed over like she is speaking to a dragon, but she doesn't have a dragon. Pale, trembling lips are partially ajar, and every few words she makes the barest, most minimal attempt to listen Cita by exhaling and then inhaling with a sharp broken sob. At least finding her bunk isn't hard, one bunk contains a quilt that is at it's base red but has yellow fans on it, each fan is a quarter circle, and the top is yellow, but the bottom portion is every color, every single fan blade is unique. Patterns, animals, it's a one of a kind object to be certain and something crafted with expert care. The quilt is MUCH to large for her tiny cot bed, and underneath the waves of fabric are three cantaloupe-sized lumps. Raising one hand, she points to the bed and stumbles towards it, sitting down on the edge of the bed and becoming every bit the statue, except for small rocking back and forth. After a few moments like this, she looks up at Cita and shakes her head, "I am fine. Thank you." So she can lie. Closing her eyes tightly, Evangeline makes an effort to block whatever happened with the egg from her head. "I… was in an earthquake." The noise could be merely mumbling, the weakness of her voice has no carry, is flat and emotionless.

For what it's worth, Cita seems to accept the progress, humming approvingly under her breath for every attempt at a breath. "Nice and slow. I know you can." A firm statement, no room for arguments — Citayla is sure of this, doesn't even pause to consider that her charge might not be able to slow down enough. The cot, definitively Evi's, is eyed for a wistful beat before she's bustling the candidate along, tutting quietly. "Your quilt is gorgeous. My grandmother makes quilts like that, over at Honshu. I have a similar one in our weyr. I don't know that I've ever seen this pattern though. Grandma's are more rectangular." She explains, nudging any of those cat-alopes necessary to move over until she can sit down next to Evi, tug the extra length of it over the girl's shoulders. Sorry, kitties. "Of course you are. Keep counting, now. Six. Hold." Cita demonstrates, trying for direct eye contact. When she's released the breath, the rider frowns. "At Half Moon." She eventually mulls up, expression distant, sad. "Do you want to talk about it?"

This year is the hardest year of your whole life. So hard you cannot see a future most days, the pain is bigger than anything else. Takes up the whole horizon. No matter where you are you feel unsafe, you feel unsaved. Your past so present you can feel your baby teeth. Sitting on the couch you swear your feet don't reach the floor. You keep remembering the first time you saw a birds nest held together with an old shoe lace and the scraps of a plastic bag you knew the home of a person could be built like that, a lot of things you'd rather throw away. (Credit to Andrea Gibson, Angels of the get through)
Sometimes, one must choose the hard thing. Evangeline sits next to Cita, one hand snaking under her quilt to grab a cat. A black hairless cat is pulled out and placed in her lap, both hands knead the loose skin like he's a bread loaf. The teen's eyes are fixed down on her toes as they wriggle visibly beneath the toe of her boots. Inhaling sharply, she spares a glance at the quilt, and nods, "Ma made that with Grams for me, all the swatches.. they are old clothes." As Cita seems to be a sad as well, one hand reaches under the covers, and a calico colored nekkid cat is pulled out and offered to her. "I lived outside of half-moon hold, it was small. Mostly just us." One-shoulder inches up and then down as if the detail might not matter that much. "One… morning… Everything came off the walls." A slight gasp, the ragged intake of breath. "The ground, out front, it opened up… like it might swallow the house." Shaking her head, the image so vivid in her mind. "Ma and Arali thought it might be alright, but everything kept shaking, and the hole got bigger and closer. We couldn't leave." Her voice shifts from fear to a flat monotone, as if she is reading a boring grocery list. "After three days, the lights went out, and there wasn't any water. Ma sent a 'lizard to the Weyr, the rider that came.. He only had a few trips in him. He was tired." Her eyes go up and try to find Cita's, as if all of this not really the story, not yet. Looking over at her calico cat, she says, "That is coatrack.. she looks like a bunch of coats piled up. All different colors." This story probably needs that break, so she runs a hand over coatrack and lets Cita sit with what she has said.

Cat loafs are the best loafs; Cita makes appropriately adoring faces down at the feline, of course. "Hi, kitty." She greets, because Citayla is a polite person sometimes. "Of course. Very thrifty: they have new life in your quilt, the clothes. Still warm, hm? Your grandmother and mine have far more of an artistic eye than I do." There's no condemnation, only fact; eyes wandering the neat way the patterns sit, the colors. The healer smiles. "My stitching's not bad, though." You know. Just. Usually more alive, and also not at all applicable to quilting. Cita's comfortable with the cat; tucks the little feline onto her lap and pats the smooth hide contemplatively, eyes still on Evangeline. She listens in silence, save for the occasional clucking listening-noise, shoulders angled towards the candidate. Absently scritching blunt-ended no-nailed fingers against the feline's ears, Cita nods after a while, sighing. She doesn't mention the ground swallowing other houses, or the casualty reports she definitely kept an eye on from her new home — she might be a little absentminded, but the rider's not completely off the rails. The knowledge sets her shoulders, though, tightens her lips into an expression just shy of a grimace, as she tries to smile, consoling; fails, by just a smidge. Or a mile. Either way. "If a rider's tired, they…they might mess up. Visualizing." It's a thin excuse, one Evi probably doesn't have any context for. Cita doesn't notice that part, but she cottons on after several beats to the fact that there's something unsaid, here — some facts not lining up in neat little rows. Cita meets the girl's eyes, and maybe her expression is harder than she means, but she's the second half of a very broody pair, and — no. It's not her place; not even her place to speculate. "He was very tired." The rider echoes, a prompt, gentle, but not pushing. She smiles, after a beat, eyebrows still creased as she traces little patches of color on the feline. "She certainly does. Look at that orange. Coatrack, orange and black go well together. How did you know that?"

For her part, Coatrack is doing her job beautifully. Lots of purring, rubbing her face on Cita's hand and kneading with no claws to show her affection. Lightbulb for his part sits, allowing Evangeline to knead her hands into his skin and use him as a feline stress ball. "R'hyn thinks my names are silly." A small aside, but she smiles the tiniest bit, hinting that no one asked R'hyn did they. "Gramms taught me how, but I have not tried anything like this." Flipping her wrist over to indicate the quilt below her and the goldrider. For all the world, she seems to be holding back, the next part of the story does not come. Distractedly she says to Cita, "No, no he was tired. " The frenzy in her voice, desperately trying to believe this to be true. Folding her bottom lip into her mouth, both of her legs are folded up into her skirt. "He, the rider, he had two trips in him. There were eight of us total, and he could only carry three of us." Evi holds her hands up, first showing Cita 8 fingers and then putting three down. Next, she puts down three more until she is making a peace sign with two fingers. "That means Ma had to decide, she decided Acarod and I should." The last portion is lost, back to rocking back and forth before she says. "Ma said we had to stay, that we would be alright." Arms are folded over her chest, and the rest comes out so fast. "We… we were under the table, in the front room. Me and Acarod, he cried and… water dripped down the walls, something broke in the plumbing. The house kept moving." Looking up at Cita, it's visible half of her is stuck. "I knew we were done, the ceiling fell in. Creaking, shaking. I never knew there was so much dust, Acarod sat in my lap to stay dry. I told him we would be ok. I lied." Her voice breaks on the admission of a lie. "I lied all night, I thought we were dead. Ma left us to die." Silence takes over, and she lays back on the bed. "Cita, the egg… it tries to suffocate you. Tell Ilyscaeth, I am sorry."

Cita doesn't even seem to notice the path of her hands after a while; it's natural, holding a feline in her lap, the default state of being that she spends all of her time trying to get back to. This feline is good at the feline business, though, and Cita makes little kissy sounds almost thoughtlessly at the young cat. "R'hyn's got no sense, sometimes. Does he, Coatrack. Thinks he can talk. Evangeline, do you know, he has a firelizard named Donut." RUTHLESS. Cita takes no prisoners, not even here in this, her paired mates' own office. Or office-adjacent. Whatever. Neither of them come out to be exasperated in her direction, anyhow, so Cita looks pretty pleased with herself for just a beat. It fades, though, on a quieter kind of smile. "You'll get there. There's certainly plenty of old clothing in the Weyr's supplies to practice with, if you need something to keep your hands busy." She's already trailing by the end of the statement, caught by the frantic expression, the pitch to the girl's voice — "No, Evangeline, no. I mean." Too long in a Weyr. "If a rider is tired, they put themselves, their dragon, and their passengers in danger. They disappear: they don't come out of between." It's not really something you should tell a kid in a fragile state, but she has to explain, has to give the candidate that foundation: if their rescuer was too tired, he wouldn't have come back. Not that night. Maybe not at all, in the frenzy of trying to put out hundreds of metaphorical fires all over Half Moon's flyover space. "Between is safe. If you're alert." Cita's quiet as she explains, finally loosening hands and going back to more gently petting the feline. It takes a slow breath of her own for the rider to watch fingers rise and fall, knowing full well that it's not fingers — they represent people, specifically one of Ilyscaeth's candidates. The hard expression isn't fully banished this time, the healer's gaze skittering over to the wall where one of her 'mates might be if they were working. They're probably asleep, though, and Cita's capable enough. At a loss for a moment, Cita glances down at the feline, pats slow streaks from between ears to her tail. It takes a few of those to gather her thoughts, look up again. "You did what was right. The table was the safest place to be, Evangeline, you did well. Sometimes we lie to those we love. When they need it. There's no shame in that." The rider is firm, here, each word chosen slowly, carefully. She took her time: this, she's certain of. "I can't imagine being in her position. I can't imagine what I would do," That's a lie. Sometimes we lie, though. "You're not dead, though. You're very alive. Ilyscaeth would disapprove, otherwise. Would you like for Acarod to be brought to Xanadu? We always have room." A beat. A slow sigh, rueful. "You don't need to be sorry. None of you do — but neither do they." That's the hard part, the part that Cita catches on, eyes downcast. Traumatizing? Yes, but: "I promise you, the baby doesn't know what it's doing. I. I had my share of encounters with ones like that. They eat at you. They just…they're babies. But you don't have to spend time with any that, ah, are quite so intense. We understand." We? Well, Ily might not really, but you know. She probably tries. A little.

Laying back on the bed, Evi shakes her head, "Weyrwoman, I don't blame him. I blame." A full pause and Evangeline closes her eyes, the exhaustion of bearing one's soul and being mentally assaulted all before a proper breakfast is /too/ much. On second thought, breakfast would have made this morning worse for everyone. "Ma did what she thought was best." The tone in her voice is choppy, hinting that she might not have chosen the same path if roles were reversed. The full defeat mingled with exhaustion in the girl's form shows all over her face. "Ma would never let you take Acarod; she does not know-." Her words cut off, a child who might have revealed something that she shouldn't. With a sigh, she let it come, "Ma, is not aware yet that I am here. I do not think anyone told her I am not at Monaco." THE WEYR HAS KIDNAPPED A CHILD. Sort of. Possibly an unwanted child in a way. "Ony said she would go get him, for the hatching, but I don't know how. Then again, she is Ony." The respect mingled with consternation in her voice for her cousin could be funny, in any other situation. "No one tells you that.. they can do that." Suddenly she is reticent, her body collapsing from the excess emotion, and she is asleep. Then her shoulders twitch, and eyes peel open "I don't blame the eggs.. they didn't leave me in that house." No, her mother did. The person who she helped raise 5 kids with. The woman who held her loved her, brushed her hair, and told her stories before bed. That person left her to die. Closing her eyes again, it becomes evident that sleep will win, and maybe that is for the better.

Cita tuts under her breath, shifts a little so the girl can settle in her cot. "Cita." She corrects, gently, but doesn't dispute the rest. "Of course you don't, love. I didn't want you to think that he would…" Do what? Choose to abandon her? Cita shuts up, there, because that's not a path she has any place to go down. She sighs, instead, gently tucking Coatrack under one of the candidate's arms, up close and safe. "We'll see what we can do." She promises, quiet, not saying anything on the subject of having y'know. Kidnapped a kid. They'll burn that bridge when they get to it say both of their pretty strong broody-hen instincts. We'll just say that Ily's are taking the wheel. Totally. "You're right." They didn't. They should. "I'll talk with the Weyrlingstaff about that." Cita murmurs, and stands, pulls the oversized quilt up a little; not restricting, loose still, but warmer all the same. "I'll be back in a little while. Rest well." The rider tells the candidate; she's reluctant to go, but she has a dragon to yell at, Risa's Assistant to chase down and grovel at, and a lot of cookies to requisition. It's going to be a busy morning in Cita-town. "If you need anything, please, tell Ily. She'll fetch me." Evi's asleep, but the healer can't manage to head off without making that clear. Head off she does, though, on one last reluctant glance around the barracks.

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