Checking on Monsters

Xanadu Weyr - Weyrleaders' Office
Office and retreat, this is the domain of Xanadu's Weyrleaders. The door is in the southern wall, quite close to the western end while the northern wall is dominated by big, expansive windows, framed by sumptuous deep blue drapes edged with a brilliant gold braid and tied back with a thick rope of braided gold and blue cord. In between, the western wall is covered floor to ceiling with shelves that house all sorts of records, manuals and supplies that are used on a day-to-day basis.
The southern wall has the Weyrleader's desk — plain fellis wood, well polished and masculine. From behind his desk, the Weyrleader can look straight through the windows and out onto the main airspace of Xanadu. The eastern wall is where the Weyrwoman's desk resides: a lovely piece of furniture made of warm cherry wood. From her seat, a glance sideways gives her an equally good prospect out the window. There are a few other seats, some comfortably arranged around a low round table for small, informal meetings while there also some that can be drawn up to one of the desks.
On the west side of the door, the space is occupied by a low oblong table where refreshments can be set without someone needing to intrude. There is also an 'incoming' tray where incoming correspondence or similar items can be left.

It's evening in Xanadu, the busy bustle of the weyr going hush as work leaves off for the day and Risali remains. She's a ghost in these hours, a wraith whose sole comfort tonight seems to be a steaming mug of klah and an untouched tray of food that Stefyr or Rhodelia left for her before they left. There's a blanket over her lap, a stack of papers on her desk, and three sheets spread before her, sheets that she's hunched over on her elbows, one hand holding her hair at bay near her bangs while the other underlines bits of text with a pencil. It's monotonous and tedious work, work that could surely wait until the 'morrow except that she doesn't want to go home. So she stays, and she works, and she pauses long enough to rub at eyes agitated with a lack of sleep and probably tears, but she persists. SHE BELIEVED SHE COULD, N'ON. AND SO SHE DID.

One can assume that N'on had as busy a day as anyone. He definitely has a weyrmate waiting at home. So what's he doing headed down the administration hallway after just about everyone has already gone? WE'LL FIND OUT, I GUESS. He knocks tentatively at the door, then pokes his head in to see if anyone's home. When he spots Risa, he smiles awkwardly and gives his standard finger-wiggle wave of greeting.

Risali looks up from her work at the sound of that knock, confusion momentarily drawing her brow inward because it's late and Rhodelia and Stefyr (and R'hyn) have gone home for the evening. It's why she doesn't respond, why she's already looking at N'on as he peeks into the office and the weyrwoman's focus remains — not quite detached, but certainly removed. But she's an honest-to-Faranth mess, a spattering of angry bruises on display along her arms, around her neck, framing wrists. There's a mark grazing one cheek and Risali knows it. She knows the accumulation of what damning evidence lies on her skin and it's why, before she answers, that blanket on her lap is being pulled across her shoulders instead, pulled tight and settled high before she attempts a smile. It's crooked. There's something in it broken, and when Risali speaks, her voice is hoarse — from misuse and abuse alike, a mix of syllables going pitchy or not coming out at all when she speaks. "N'on. Hi." A beat, and then Risali is blinking, looking around as if realizing where they are before one hand emerges from beneath layers to gesture to a set opposite of hers. "Is everything okay?"

N'on's eyes go round when he sees Risali, and his brows rise sharply. For a moment, he's frozen there, then he glances to either side. He steps inside and gently closes the door behind him. She gets a cautious nod, but then he steps further into the room. Without bothering to pull out his notepad, he touches his face, in reflection of where the mark grazes her cheek. Then his own neck, arms, wrists… Finally, he points toward her, his expression a caricature of worry.

"You should see the other guy," Risali whispers, an attempt at humor that even she knows falls painfully short of the mark. But then she's shifting, dropping her gaze, shuffling papers as if to buy herself time while she thinks on an answer and — "I don't remember." It comes with a press of lips into a wry version of a smile, emulates what should be and replaces it with something self-deprecating, something defeated, something broken. "But it's… not what you think. I —" A pause, because Risali was never very good at talking about herself and now is no different, even when N'on deserves an explanation if for no other reason than he cared enough to ask. "It was a flight." It's a hushed admittance, one that precedes a grimace when Risali's eyes drop again. "I doubt that's what you came for, though. Please," and she's gesturing towards one of those chairs again. "Sit."

N'on stands through all of that, silently watching her. In truth, it's hard to tell /what/ he thinks, beyond a vague but distinct concern for the state she's in. When she comes around to mentioning that it was the flight, his eyes narrow just slightly. Still, he accepts the invitation to sit, but only after pulling the chair around to sit on her side of the desk in an unspoken declaration that this is an informal meeting. He finally pulls out his pocket notepad, and starts to scribble away. When he's done, he tears out the page and passes it over to her. "I heard some things, so I came to check in. I didn't know it was this bad."

If Risali is surprised by the informal, silent (NO PUN INTENDED) declaration made by N'on pulling his chair around to Risali's side of the desk, there's nothing of it in her face. Truth be told, she moves inches to the side for the greenrider to come around, and once he's settled and writing, the goldrider is true to form, holding no compunctions about personal space. SHE LEANS ON HIM, presses her shoulder to his and doesn't break the contact even as she reaches for that paper to slide closer to the edge of the desk nearest her. Those grey eyes flicker over it and — she pushes it away. Now she leans, but only so that she can tilt her head to look at N'on. There's something there, something that's hard to read, hard to gauge, because there's an amalgamation of too damn many emotions in that one expression — like she's breaking, like she's ashamed, like she's angry. "It was the flight," she reiterates softly, "R'hyn looks…" A breath, a moment when she grasps for words and her lips move without an ability to catch them. "Worse." A wince, and she's looking away. "I broke his nose. At least… I think I did." Because who else could it be? It was only Risali and R'hyn in that room, and the literal bloodbath left in the wake of broken furniture and two battered bodies didn't have enough answers for all those questions. But then she's looking away, then her focus is on the wall, then her voice is heartbreaking brittle as she manages, "But I suppose you're here because of…" Their hostile work environment? She can't say it. Instead, she offers a breathy, broken, "I'm sorry." But she keeps it together, even if she has to keep her gaze fixed on a point not N'on to keep what remains of her composure.

N'on is normally a bit more shy of being touched by people. He's not exactly a hugger, but when Risali leans against him, he doesn't even flinch. He takes in the explanation, willingly playing support as long as she needs it, and when she ends on that heart-breaking apology, he doesn't try to go searching for words. What words are there? He tentatively wraps his arms around her shoulder to offer a very brotherly hug. Whatever is going through N'on's head, it must gain Zhelinath's attention, because the green is suddenly sending a tendril of thought into the room. Anger simmers in the background of her thoughts, but her tone remains gentle and civil. « We will break more than his nose, if you want. » There's an odd sensation in the way she says 'we', as though Zhelinath and N'on are thinking and speaking as one, though it could be chalked up to a combination of imagination and the quality of the anger underlying those words.

Risali shifts into that hug, tilts her head into N'on's shoulder and catchings fingers in his tunic somewhere against his side as she accepts that offer of brotherly comfort and she returns what very little give she has left. But that voice comes, and Risali's grip tightens before she leans away, before she dashes the heels of her palms against her eyes and looks at N'on again. A beat, two, three, four, and she shakes her head. "It's not him," which is surely a struggle for the weyrwoman to admit. "It's me." And it's true. She's the one who's letting go of every piece of composure she has to make sure R'hyn is just as miserable as she is. "It should have…" those lips tremble, and she looks away again because she has to. Because it's the only way she can regain her composure. That's why it takes her a moment, but she manages. She manages to find some strength to put into her voice, even, when she continues. "D'lei didn't come. And every time I see him sitting where D'lei should be," a breath, a huff of laughter that's lacking humor, erring towards a punctuation of the utter irony in this admittance, "I get angry." And those words, those words come fierce, as if that anger is where Risali is drawing on the strength to keep going because it is. Because her weyrmate is somewhere fighting for his life and she's here, unable to be with him, unable to stop time, forced to keep moving forward when she wants nothing more than to make. it. Stop. "So if you're going to be angry with anybody, N'on." And now her eyes are back on him, and there's a hint of her usual strength, that total lack of cowardice that is sometimes a detriment. "You should be angry with me. Not him. He's a good man. I'm the monster."

If Risali is expecting some sort of immediate rejection, it never comes. If anything, N'on just sighs heavily, and gives her another hug. When his point is made, he pulls away enough to free his hands. With pointed eye contact and a solemn expression, he starts to sign. Zhelinath, in rare form, translates his signs into words, specially for Risali. « You are not a monster. We know what it is to feel helpless and frustrated. To lash out because there's no place to put that anger. That doesn't make you bad. It makes you human. »

Maybe she was HOPING FOR IT. Maybe Risali thinks it's what she deserves. But she watches his hands carefully, and only after Zhelinath has translated for her does Risali breathe out, "I understood some of that." A gesture, towards his hands, a smile that's pained. "Dash was… he was trying to teach me. Stefyr's been helping me a little too. I'm still not very good." But she moves her hands in what might be an apology — for more practiced hands. "I'm sorry." That she's still not very capable of this type of communication. And then there's something that goes a little more broken, a little more sideways when reassurance comes and Risali forces her eyes from N'on's hands to his eyes. "Thank you," she tells him, clearly not believing it, but no less grateful for the reassurance. "I'm sorry again, that you… were worried enough to come and make sure that we are alright." A beat, and then she's looking down at those papers again. "Whoever told you… I'm sorry to them too." Because there are so many people who frequent these halls that could have let slip the absolute divide in their leadership. "How are your duties?" BECAUSE MAYBE SHE'S A COWARD AFTER ALL, the kind that doesn't want to talk about herself.

N'on shakes his head a little and waves off the question about his duties. A little crease appears between his brows, and he continues, with Zhelinath still translating. Some things are too important to risk a miscommunication, it seems. « You don't need to apologize. » He hesitates, hands poised mid-sign as he comes to a decision. Once he's decided, he launches ahead, frowning more deeply. « You won't remember when I first came to the weyr. I was so angry. I got into fights at the slightest excuse. I wanted to hurt the world because it hurt me, but all it did was make me more unhappy and more hurt. If you try to handle it that way, it will burn you up from the inside. » He reaches over and gives her hand a squeeze, again with that pointed eye contact. « Talk to us, so we know how to help. »

And Risali listens, she focuses on every sensation, thought, impression that sinks into her mind; she watches N'on's hands, prepared, then, when he grabs for hers to squeeze and she grabs back to squeeze harder. The request is simple: Talk, so he can help. Talk so he can help. It sounds so damn easy in theory, no more or less complicated than reciting a favorite line from a favorite song and Risali can't do it. She laughs — not with humor, but with something darker, something broken, something that acknowledges the complexities of her inability or unwillingness to open up so completely by way of self-deprecation. It's more an exhale, an expelling of air from her lungs that hitches and dies immediately after, that's banished by the application of teeth to a battered bottom lip. Then she tries to speak again, through tears, "Thank you," for his kindness, for his selflessness, for his willingness to help, to listen. "But I…" HAVE NEVER FORMED HEALTHY COPING MECHANISMS, N'ON. "I don't want to talk about it." It's a stark whisper, one that paints a picture of pain barely leashed, a woman holding herself together by tenuous, frayed thread. That's how she deals. That's how she works. "We can dance if you want to. I can…" Now she's crying again, "I can listen while you talk, but I…" Another bite of her lip, a shake of her head, "I don't want to talk about it. Please." Talking about it makes it real. Talking about it makes her hurt. So she chooses to be angry, because it's the only way she knows how to be sad and strong at the same time.

N'on watches Risali solemnly, with a wealth of empathy reflected in his eyes. There's a bit of a glimmer there, held in check with a strong application of will, while he squeezes her hands again. Gently, he extricates himself so he can continue. « I don't want to talk, » he signs, Zhelinath echoes. « I never want to talk. Talking is hard. Harder than hauling haybales in the sun all day. But sometimes you need to, even if it's hard. » He squeezes her arm quickly, then resumes signing. « It doesn't have to be me. But you should talk to /someone/. The mindhealers are very helpful. They helped me. »

Risali's eyes drop back to his hands, watching while she listens, trying to see through tears that she can't seem to will away. "I miss him," Risali whispers, "and I'm scared." That he won't come back. That he won't survive. That tomorrow, or the day after, or the one after that will come with the kind of darkness you never escape from. "Talking about that won't fix it. It won't… it won't make it better." Now she's catching at N'on's arm, squeezing because she needs him to understand that she's not being combative. She's trying, in her own way, to explain herself. "I learned a long time ago that people don't actually want to know how you are. Or they do, but when they can't fix it, they feel just as helpless. And that's…" a breath, a tightening of her fingers, "That's not fair to them. It's not fair to you." Now she's pulling away, dropping her hand into her lap, looking at it with the kind of expression that speaks to mounting hysteria, that almost caves under breath that starts to come quicker, that leaves the Weyrwoman looking more bewildered, more lost, more like she's going to crumble in a thousand different ways, all irreparable. But she manages to swallow down air, to bite on her lip and SLAM a fist down on the desk. The truth is that the pain works to bring her back to reality. "How is V'ayn?"

N'on just listens. He doesn't /look/ lost or helpless. He looks sad for her, in that still, silent way he has. But mostly, he just listens. That is, until the fist slams, and he flinches in spite of himself. There's a flash of genuine fear that flickers across his face so quickly that it might almost not have been, except for the faint, lingering taste of Zhelinath's disapproval on the air. Almost immediately, he regains control of himself, and he smiles sadly. "I'm _not_ afraid," he signs emphatically, then points at her fist for clarification. Zhelinath has stopped translating after that little show of temper, but N'on hasn't budged from his seat. He doesn't even address the question of V'ayn. He just sits there. Silently. Waiting.

"It wasn't for you," Risali issues, so softly she may not have spoken at all. "It wasn't frustration." But she doesn't elaborate on what it was, that the pain in her chest, in her head, in her throat was suffocating her, that she was starting to panic, that the only way to escape total dearth was to jar her body away from those thoughts with a different kind of pain. How do you explain that without sounding crazy? So Risali doesn't try. She parts with a hushed, "I'm sorry," and then she's leaning forward against her desk again, folding her arms one over the other and dropping her head down into them. "How is V'ayn?" she tries again, muffled though it is from where she rests. V'ayn is safe — and lest she be rude, she tilts her head so that she can watch N'on's hands if he does choose to answer this time.

N'on tilts his head, watching Risali speculatively. Again, he fails to answer her question. His mind seems to be on other things: namely, what might be going on with Risali. When he does choose to speak again, he returns to his notepad. With Zhelinath retreating from her helpful translation, it's the best way to ensure he isn't misunderstood. After carefully jotting down a couple of sentences, he tears out the page and passes it to her: "You don't _have_ to be Weyrwoman. You could choose D'lei."

« WE NEVER GIVE UP. WE NEVER SURRENDER. AHAHAHAHA! » Well, Zhelinath may have retreated, but Leirith is there to fill the void of silence the moment Risali's eyes have finished skimming that piece of paper. She sits up a little, folds her hands together, presses as what might have been the beginnings of a smile flickers into existence and then gutters out on her face. "You know that I can't, N'on. You're a dragonrider, too. My duties belong to Leirith and to Xanadu before they belong to anybody else." The curse of a weyrwoman? The curse of two sentient beings trapped together in one mind? "They wouldn't let me go to him anyway; the best outcome of that scenario is that I end up sick as well, and then what use am I to anybody?" To herself, to her children, to K'vir, to her dragon, to her weyr. To D'lei. "You aren't going to answer me about V'ayn, are you?" And now she holds his gaze, steady, while she waits.

N'on shakes his head at that. "You can," he signs, emphatically. "You /choose/ not to." With a frustrated expression, he resorts back to the paper. He scrawls on the paper and hands it over to her: "What use are you to anyone like this? This isn't about duty. It's about pride. We aren't in Threadfall and you aren't the only goldrider on Pern. Someone else could take over for you while you care for your family." After handing her the paper, he signs an addendum: "See the mindhealers. Or send for me, if you decide to talk." At least he has a sad litle smile as he signs that? Seems like he /isn't/ in fact going to answer the V'ayn question. He climbs to his feet, gives Risali a final pat on the shoulder, and starts to retreat.

Risali watches, and there's something haunted, something dark, something that falls out from beneath her and might have stolen away every single ounce of breath left in her lungs except that suddenly Risali is a ghost again, a caricature of the woman she was. "Clear skies," comes too quiet, without any emotion — good, or bad, or in between — to give any indication of intention. But she does rise, she rises with a movement of a small body that clearly brings her pain, follows him to the door with a gait that bespeaks muscles angry, something pulled, a plethora of not right to add to what's already in her mind. To complement it, perhaps, in a purely ironic way. But it's only so that she can close the door behind N'on when he leaves, and to lock it as soon as he's stepped out. She could fall apart here. Nobody would know it. But she stays at the door a moment too long, fingers pressed delicate against the wood, and then she turns back to her desk, where she settles back over those papers. She picks her writing utensil back up, she pulls her blanket a little closer around her shoulders, and then she gets back to work.

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