Open Heart Transplant

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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.

Regardless of how the day started, independent of how the day went, Xanadu Weyr promises a dazzling evening, Rukbat's warm, golden glow already dappled with peachy clouds and pale, spun whisps that match the confections available in the carnival below. R'hyn could see it from the windows behind him, watch the side-lit ferris wheel's slow, ponderous, how-does-this-even-work cycle just above the treeline, if only he'd turn to look. He doesn't. If anything, he hunches further over his desk, pen moving in quick, jerky motions as he fills line after line on a long scroll of paper, fingers of one hand spread to hold it open as words flurry their way into physical existence. Their source exists just outside, Xermiltoth's harlequinned bulk visible on the rocky heights as near to the office windows as is possible to be, hot, golden thoughts cast out towards many but his words, for now, reserved only for R'hyn. The bronzerider pens them, soft mutterings sometimes interrupting the flow, having to back up, scratch out, redirect thoughts with lines and squiggles that make it appear as much map as text, but it seems a dialogue rather than a dictation or argument being put to paper, and would it just be a shame if something (or someone) came along to interrupt it.

The door opens just a touch too hard. It's not flung dramatically, but it does swing wide enough to bump the jamb and Stefyr's face holds all the storm that the sky without is missing. He steps into the room, barely contained feelings, and none looking to be of the good sort. He's still with the world around him though, to have ended up here, to have the sense to close the door behind him, to not be that asshole who makes assumptions and instead when his agitated steps bring him in front of R'hyn's desk, he manages to keep his tight tone even and not a growl when he asks, but it might sound more like a demand, but only because that control is being held so, so so tightly, "Can I talk to you?" Not 'can we talk.' That would mean R'hyn was part of this, whatever this is. It's 'Can I talk to you,' it's what a friend might say to a friend, what a man might say to another one when beer or something harder will be needed to sort a problem… only this man couldn't drink whatever problem this is away if he wanted to. Bad boys don't get drinks and get to keep their candidate's knot, which might be this not-quite-really-a-bad-boy's most precious possession right now. "Please." He manages to tack on, but his hands open and close into fists, the energy bound up needing an escape now that his feet have stilled.

The door bangs open, and for a moment, everything stops. Gold-washed thoughts go dark, the room somehow colder in their absence. Fingers tense around the hard edges of his pen, nib pulled from paper to keep ink from adding a blot to what is already a hard skid from an unconscious twitch of his hand. Blue-grey eyes lift, focusing on the figure at the door, surprised, perhaps, that it is Stefyr in the beat, two, three it takes him to pull his mind back from whatever deep thought his dragon had sunken him into. The small frown he doesn't know he's making pervades, but his posture straightens, pen set aside, gaze sweeping the length of the candidate's form, taking in the normally-affable man's clouded expression, tight words, shifting hands, making of each what he will before offering the only possible reply: "Of course." The ‘please’ is unnecessary, earns a tilted wave of one hand, as though dismissing the need for the sentiment as he continues with a low, "Here, or?" Anticipation lines the bronzerider's form, as though, were that drink, that bar, or any other location pursued, he might just indulge it, if only for the taming of what seems to be a savage edge.

"Here," is fine. He doesn't say that part, but it's implied. He doesn't even yet glance to where the blankets and pillows are kept. It's not that time yet. Right now, it's time to move. There's enough space for him to turn and walk and turn and walk back. "I need…" What does he need? Maybe he doesn't know. "Answers." His words are staccato in delivery, but unconsciously so. "What does it even mean to be a dragonrider? What am I getting into? I want it, here," a fist actually thumps his heart as though that self-infliction of discomfort helps communicate the depth of the need and maybe takes a touch of the edge off. "I know that, but how can I know that when I don't feel like I see it. We follow riders around, I work with riders," a flung gesture indicates R'hyn and the other arm toward Risali's desk. "I've heard dragons speak, laugh, I've had dragons ask impossible and ridiculous things of me," LEIRITH, "and I've flown on dragons. Watched them feed. But I don't see it, R'hyn." No 'sir,' no 'Weyrleader,' just R'hyn and he's too gone to even notice. His body trembles as he comes to a stop, too strung with feeling to stay still when his feet stop. "What am I missing?" is a ragged, on-the-breaking point request for rescue. What must be going on inside his head and what prompted this… well, none of that is managing to muddle out right now, but wide, too trusting eyes are on the bronzerider, painfully bewildered. Quieter, but no less pained, "How can I belong if I don't understand?"

"Alright," comes quiet, immediate, letting tension bleed out of his form as R'hyn leans back in his seat. He watches Stefyr move as he finds a perch for his foot on the desk's drawer handle, arm slung over his leg, casual if not for the attentive focus paid to motions, to words, to little things the candidate might not even notice himself, but in which R'hyn finds meaning. 'Answers' earns him an uptick of brows, as though the line or the delivery of it is not what the rider was expecting, but he doesn't comment, doesn't interrupt, keeps his silence in favor of hearing Stefyr out until the end. Only then does he look away, only then does he move, casting his gaze off toward some distant point in contemplation as he stands to join Stefyr on the far side of his desk, leaning his weight back on its surface that hands might fold at his lap. Words are slow to come even then, but serious when they do. "Being a rider isn't a tangible thing, Stefyr. It's not something you can know until it happens, not really. What you're missing…" Is the dragon, an idea he sums up in a helpless roll of one shoulder, head shaking ever so slightly as he finally looks up to fix the candidate with the weight of his gaze. "It's unknowable until - unless - it happens, as frustrating as that is." Eyes tense as he considers further words, the coming and going of many evident in the press and release of lips before he finally says, "But I don't think you belong any less, without that knowledge. Do you?" It's an invitation to speak further, the bronzer already sinking back into customary anticipatory silence as he waits.

Did R'hyn expect his answer to hit the young man as a battering ram? Worse than a punch, worse than a belt, worse than a wooden spoon. The answer that should have been simple, should have been helpful, should have done so many easier things than make this man crumple visibly, if not physically beyond the sudden hunch of shoulders the fall of his head into palms pushing too hard against his eyes. Eyes that sting. "Then why isn't it enough to know I want it? Why isn't it enough?" He probably doesn't know he's repeating himself, because the next suddenly hoarse whisper isn't really for R'hyn, "Why aren't I enough?" Then there's silence but for the heavy draw of breath that is struggling to control what can't be said and only felt, what might need release but isn't being allowed it. His hands linger over his eyes only so long. They have to come away before it becomes too awkward, and it's probably already that. Hands rush through short locks, brush down the sides of his shirt, onto thighs, then back up to pinch at the bridge of his nose, and knock away leaking moisture that definitely isn't tears. "Sorry. Shit. Sorry." And then the big blond is turning to make for the door. For escape from this new fresh hell of embarrassment and inadequacy, built by his own words, his own fears.

Ah. Well. R'hyn doesn't need words, does he? Not when that reaction is answer enough. The rider's big body tenses, parental instinct telling him to move, willing him to act, pushing him to stand up, to fix this right now; he ignores it, tames the reaction, lets Stefyr have his moment to try to collect himself, but never once does he look away. He listens. He waits. And when it's clear the candidate intends to head for the door instead of fighting his way through to find the truth in the denial of the identity he's built up for himself, then R'hyn speaks his name. "Stefyr." Its use is a command, an order to halt unspoken but nevertheless delivered, firm in a way that brooks no arguments, though - judging by the forward tilt of is form, hands pressed to the edges of his desk - it looks like he might be prepared for resistance regardless. "Come here," continues to make use of that tone, one softened only by the look of concern held in blue-grey eyes. "Sit." His head tilts in indication, hand pushing paperwork away from the edge, that Stefyr might claim it as the weyrleader intends for him to do. "Please," comes softer, quieter, more the request of the friend Stefyr wants him to be than an abuse of the authority he already possesses. If he listens, he'll find rare physicality in the form R'hyn's shoulder pressing against his, head tilting to peer across the narrow distance between them, expression open, honest in a way it isn't during their day to day as he murmurs a low, "Who says you're not enough?"

There is a moment, an extended moment after the young man freezes at the sound of his name in that time where it's obvious that he might buck against that tone, no matter how much it's not designed to be tested. Another day, R'hyn might not find Stefyr brought to heel by words alone, but today he comes. He pinches fingers to the bridge of his nose again, plucking away a couple more rogue expressions of emotions too big for even this big but young man. Then he turns from the door and does as he is bidden, settling there where things of greater import than one confused farmboy have been shifted aside anyway to accommodate him. The initial tension of surprise fades quickly. Risa is casual in her touches and while it's unfamiliar for R'hyn to do something similar and far less casually, it's not so far a leap to transfer his ease with receiving her casual touches to his, not here in this office where most of them happen anyway. He turns his chin just enough to look at R'hyn's face. Not his eyes at first. His nose, maybe. Lips. Cheeks. Brow. Anywhere but eyes. Then after another moment, he either surrenders to or braves up to the need. It's a need to look at him, to be connected in their glance when he forms words that are hard to convince out of his heart, "What does it matter who says them if they already echo in here?" His hand rises to close in a fist over his heart. Here, only maybe, just maybe, he's identifying the wrong internal cavern for that echo.

"It matters," is a quick response, given the bronzerider's usual habit of taking his time to ponder his words, "because they-" the weyr at large, indicated with a tip of his head "-can be wrong, and this-" a lift of one hand to place a gentle tap against Stefyr's temple "-is a traitor. But this…" The rider's fingers settle over his own heart, a one-two tap turning into a slow, thoughtful back and forth rub, rumpling over buttons repeatedly before his hands drop back to the desk with a 'hmm.' He's quiet for a long moment. Two. And then he pushes off the desk with a low: "It's no use. We'll have to operate. Lay down, this will only take a second." One big hand finds Stefyr's shoulder, gently applying pressure as he draws a sword-shaped letter opener from a nearby jar and pulls its dull length slow across the candidate's chest before letting its blunt (so blunt) tip rest just above his heart. RIP to those freshly sorted things that are in no way more important than this: than R'hyn thumping the fake blade in that same one-two tap pattern against Stefyr's chest before he gently tosses it aside, grip on the younger man's shoulder reversing so he's drawn up towards R'hyn instead, instincts winning out as hand slides from shoulder to the base of Stefyr's skull, pulling their foreheads together in a motion so Risali-reminiscent that maybe its a familial thing, this entirely-too-personal sharing of space when it matters most. Yet where others might simply close their eyes and embrace the moment, use it to instill a sense of peace and calm, R'hyn peers the distance between them, momentary smile faded in favor of fixing Stefyr with a sober expression, blue-grey orbs flicking to look from one blue eye to the other before he speaks again. "You are always enough." He withdraws, well after it becomes weird, probably, but not before he feels he's done his best to impart the sentiment, fetching a chair from against the wall so he can perch on it in a way contra to how it should be used, chest pressed against backing, legs straddling either side, low enough that he has to look up into Stefyr's face to harken back to his questions. "You're a good man, Stefyr. You're intelligent. You seek challenge yourself, to learn, not just about things, but about people. Anyone can see that you're driven, and passionate, but also kind… and maybe a little naive." What? It can't all be good, intimated by the small smile that flicks up the corners of his mouth, there and gone. "But when you become a dragonrider, you stop being you. You become a we. I don't know how to describe that to you, except that you are never, ever, ever alone again. Not once. Not ever. It's not like family. It's not like marriage. It's not like touching eggs on the sands, or a career, or anything else in this world. You can't walk away. It doesn't end. It is them, and you." His hands press together in demonstration and stay there, gaze trained on Stefyr's features, lapsing back into quiet for now.

There's a suspect sniff when the bronzerider labels the traitor for what it is. But any tears that might have been trying to manifest are short-circuited by the press of hand to his shoulder. There should be more tension and protest than there is as Stefyr's torso falls back to be cushioned by the uneven and far from cozy stacks of work. His Adam's apple bobs in spite of his personal knowledge of just how dull that letter opener is, and his eyes follow it until he can't see it, his hands not crumpling anything much when his fingers flex. There may be hope for him yet because he manages, "Tell my mother you're a qualified healer when she writes," to find out the circumstances of his demise, plainly. His voice is a weird combination of still broken, but also wry, as if the humor is helping fit some jagged piece of himself that had shifted back into better alignment. He doesn't resist the pull up anymore than he did the pushing down, and maybe it is the Risali-ness of the forehead to forehead, which has definitely happened before, repeatedly, that makes it so he doesn't flinch. It must not be a family thing where he comes from, because he doesn't try to close his eyes here, now, he's already looking into R'hyn's eyes, embracing the intimacy of this connection, despite blue eyes showing such fragile vulnerability. Ah, to be young and so profoundly confused. There's a shuddering breath after R'hyn's words, and his eyes do close then, because the shudder is a tremble that seems to start at his lips and then travel down through his body, a humming vibration that doesn't move him overmuch from where he sits, but rocks him in his core. Is it weird? When his eyes open, there's no sign of it being weird. No sign of discomfort or judgment or anything that would indicate he thinks it's weird, nor any rush to put distance between them, only breathing that was briefly ragged, slowly steadying. He doesn't track R'hyn as the man leaves the intimate space between them, nor does he seek to follow or anything else so foolish; he takes the moments that the Weyrleader, his friend? If he's not, this certainly adds in the 'going that way' tally doesn't it? Who else would put up with this level of self-doubt and angst but a friend. His eyes come back to the bronzerider when he starts to speak, and he listens with the greatest intensity that he's ever listened in his life, probably. It's scary intense. But it's not just listening because there has to be something more to the way he's looking at R'hyn, the way he swallows, the way he's pressing fingers to the tabletop. It's internalizing things. It's slowly, that he admits, "Risali told me I'm a good man, too. But I don't… feel it. How do you teach yourself to trust things like that when the voice inside just doesn't?" He's looking to R'hyn for wisdom here, there's that frightening naivety that he didn't deny, that trust that is already real, not just a willingness to. And then, because this, too, is important, "Is it hard to be a we always?"

Who else would? R'hyn, that's who - R'hyn who ascribes no meanings or titles to this, who instead stays present in the moment, laughs before issuing a low, "You act like I'm going to kill you. I'll just replace your heart with that stone over there." You know the one, the one that's definitely always been there, an ovoid perched on a stand that might be a fossilized firelizard egg, or might be a geode, for all that it matters right now. Right now is for the up-down swipe of his thumb in response to that cascading shudder, reassurance intended despite the gesture's simplicity, understanding, apology, empathy bound up in the forever-instant it takes Stefyr to find his breath. Then he withdraws, then he sits, then he looks up to watch that focus in action, matching Stefyr for single-minded intensity as his words are taken, processed, and returned in the form of more questions, the likes of which he doesn't seem to mind, even if he might not have the answers. The first certainly finds fingers threading back through his own hair, fluffing it, setting long-growing fringes askance as he says, "I don't know that the voice inside ever does. Know it for keeps, I mean. I think you just do your best and learn to trust the people opinion of the people around you." One brow lifts, lips twitching at just one corner, despite a visible attempt to suppress it. "Do you trust me?" MAYBE YOU SHOULDN'T, STEFYR, given how amusing the bronzerider thinks his own trustworthiness is, though perhaps this is just a representation of his own peculiar brand of self-deprecation, poking fun at his own expense to elicit a response in kind. It's slow to fade, at any rate, eyes finally breaking away to lift ceiling-wards, up and up to where he can feel his lifemate lingering upon the rocky crag. "Yes," is firm in its honesty, mirth leeching slow but sure the longer he lets that word hang in the air between them. Seconds pass before he continues. "Duty and sacrifice for one's weyr are beautiful in concept until you have to tell your baby girl you can't kiss her goodnight because the weyr can't function without a dozen sheets of paper with your name on it. Winning flights seems like a glorious conquest until a stranger is sobbing on your shoulder because they didn't listen, and it was their first time. I do things - I am things - for that dragon that I would not do and would not be if I didn't love him beyond every meaning of the word. He is more my everything than any one person can ever hope to be, even the person I've chosen to spend my life with." It's hard, he sums up in a shrug, leaning back to change his posture, to break up the tension in his shoulders even as it becomes slowly-slowly more clear that the warm glow suffusing the office is less the effects of the setting sun and much more the press of Xermiltoth's mind down upon theirs, what might have been dustmotes solidifying into a gentle but undeniable diamond-dazzle, soft and affectionate enough that R'hyn is compelled to glance up at Stefyr again and add, "To be fair, there's plenty of good, too." You know. Lest he scare the poor man off. Sheesh.

Maybe he shouldn't. But, "Yes," isn't unsure, although there's something deeper in the intensity of his gaze, still locked on R'hyn's even with the greater distance. How does it feel, R'hyn, to see not just that surface trust people give so easily, but the kind of gut-deep trust that means you could do this poor young man real harm with a few careless words? "I trust Risa, too." And really, if anyone needed proof that Stefyr has been infected with that special brand of Xanadu crazy… this is it. Two points on his internal compass are set and locked. Not so important as North Star or southerly wind, but possibly his rising Rukbat and setting sun. If there were one place in the Weyr that now holds some deep (probably fucked up) meaning for the young man, it's here. This office. "No one will notice, the rock." It's a belated joke but with a bitter edge, regarding his heart and the rock. Maybe there's too much truth there for comfort. He falls silent to listen, really listen, when R'hyn has wisdom to share. Stefyr's expressive face mirrors the imagined feelings for every piece that the bronzerider lays out, one hand rising to rub gently at his own heart, as if it cramps from the sympathy if not empathy of thinking that all through. "Having an everything sounds nice." He murmurs once there's the diamond dazzle and he's studying the older man. "I don't feel like I have very much that I would have to be sorry to lose right now. No family, just friends," the corner of his lips tugs just a little, because R'hyn, but he goes on. "No children. But I want all those things in time, and I can see how that gets harder. How it could be harder for dragonriders all around for some of those things farmers take for granted." He takes a slow, deep breath. It's a grounding thing, his fingers loosen their death hold on the desk. He glances down to the papers and back to R'hyn. "I don't want to… keep you from anything that's going to make you later to get home to your family." Family, he understands, even if he doesn't have his own here, yet. "But sometime… would you tell me more about the good parts? And the bad parts, if… it's not too personal? I want… I want to understand. More. Better." Will he ever understand enough? His eyes linger on R'hyn's another long moment and there might be something else there, something that goes unsaid. Maybe it's just not important; maybe it's just not important now.

How does it feel? Terrifying. But then, most good things, most things that serve to change and inform you are, and so instead of reeling away, R'hyn persists, lips pressing back to quirk just a little harder before he repeats, "Then believe me when I say, you're a good man." He emphasizes each of those words as though they were their own sentence, as though lending them subtle gravity will drive home their meaning, letting them linger for one second, two, before finally his gaze drags away to focus on the rock in question. "Mm, I'm sure that's not true," he challenges of no one noticing, considering hard edges and the glimmering center, wholly unaware of the magnetic shift redefining Stefyr's poles - or perhaps too busy teetering on the edge of his own precipice of thought to devote the time to studying the minutiae just this once. Lids tense, lips press, only eyes track back to Stefyr, looking at him as though he hasn't before, not really, not until now, as though he sees something beyond whims and wonders and that willingness to listen and learn and finds in it some reflection of himself. It's unclear if the comparison is favorable. Eyes skim away as fast as they came and he issues a noncommittal noise of agreement as motion finally seeps into his form, taking cues to lean back, brace hands, swing long legs wide to extricate himself from the chair's hold. His gaze goes unfixed as he returns the seat to its place against the wall, some of that Xermiltoth-driven brilliance fading as the focus of his mind narrows elsewhere. "How about I show you one instead. A good part. Come have dinner with us." His family. There's no brittleness to the offer, no fragility, no risk of feelings being hurt with a decline - just a simple offer Stefyr can leave or take even as the bronzerider recovers some of his usual attitude, smile pushing clear up into his eyes. "I promise I won't poison you so soon after surgery," he teases as he steps around his desk, stores writing utensils before folding his earlier paper up to tuck into one pocket. "You can always ask me questions, Stefyr. I might not always answer - I might not always have the right answer - but if it's something I can tell you, I will," said as he ambles slow towards the door, pausing with his hand on its edge as his head tilts towards the hall beyond. "Coming?"

The only hesitation Stefyr has in accepting is not only mannerly, but of genuine concern, "If I wouldn't be intruding…" But since the older man offered and Stefyr isn't about to imply that he doesn't know his own boundaries, he adds a quiet, self-effacing, "I'd like that." And maybe there is a touch of nerves because eating dinner with R'hyn and his family involves elements known separately but not yet really witnessed in concert. It takes him a moment to follow because he needs a moment to physically collect himself. When Stefyr stands, it's with a low groan, as though all that tension has brought on the aches of an old man. Really, even if he's only aged in minutes and seconds since entering, it's entirely likely that in maturity, he is somehow a different man walking out. Perhaps R'hyn's first ever emergency open heart transplant procedure was a success after all.

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