Friends of Rank

Xanadu Weyr - Greenhouse
The greenhouse stands in the centermost part of the garden where full sun falls for the entire day. Frame and walls, made entirely of white wrought-iron and thickly-crafted glass, allow the sun into the 2-story, oblong building making it part jungle retreat and part hothouse garden. Though the function is to provide medicinal plants for the infirmary as well as fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs for the kitchens, the placement of tropical plants and a clump of palm trees at either end make it an arboretum of sorts, giving respite and relief from Xanadu's dreary, green-starved winter months.

Ornately-fashioned columns and rafters are of the same white wrought-iron as are the spiral staircases at either end that lead up to a catwalk skirting the upper reaches of the greenhouse. Benches are stationed under the perimeter of domed ceilings located on the ends of the oblong building where palms planted below reach skyward and provide some seclusion. Flowering herbs, the scent of plumeria and night-blooming jasmine fill the air with a fresh, spicy and sometimes heady scent.

White gravel floors provide drainage for the automatic sprinklers that mist the plants, cleverly divided and set to different times for different sections. Down the long center part, waist-high planting beds are tilted to provide easy access, underneath them are cupboards and drawers containing planting supplies such as seed, bags of potting soil, fertilizer, pots and hand tools. At one end a is a work bench for potting plants and a closet for shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows.

The clouds above Xanadu are thick and hang low, their bellies gray and fat with rain that has already begun to fall in light spurts of drizzle that starts and stops. The rain shower hasn't started yet, but it will. The golden light of the suck is stuck behind the blanket of clouds, leaving the Weyr a dreary grey sort of color this morning. It's not incredibly early. Perhaps just after breakfast. Sweeps have already begun, dragons kept low due to the weather. Ka'el's stomach has been fed with breakfast and juice, but the Weyrleader hasn't kept himself holed up in his office behind his desk and stacks of papers that are in dire need of organization. Maybe he's gotten a case of cabin fever. Tired of being indoors and in the same room for too long. Whatever the case, he's not found there today. Or anywhere in the caverns. Kanekith is sprawled out in the meadow, welcoming the tiny drips of drizzle that bead upon his metallic skin, but Ka'el is not with him. He's here in the greenhouse, dressed in denim instead of dress pants. A tshirt instead of one with a collar. Hands don garden gloves as he works at the planting beds, a spade in hand as he repots a plant, eyes focused and concentrated.

It's not such an odd thing to find Marel in the greenhouse of a morning, given her profession outside working for her wing and Weyr. How long she's been there this morning and for how long she's been watching and perhaps avoiding Ka'el is debatable, but there's no opening of the doors to the outside world, nor is there the sound of clompy footsteps to herald her arrival. She just seems to appear from somewhere, quite as if she's one with the plants, the crunch of her cane against gravel all that gives her away. "Does this mean you've been spending too much time with me?" she wonders aloud, standing somewhere not so far away, to the bronzerider's right. "…And do I ask just what you've got Mur'dah doing and why, or would you rather I interrogated him?"

Ka'el gets the leafy plant into its new, wider pot and begins to gently loosen the roots from the packed earth they've been confined to. Gloved fingers press, wiggle, and massage to loosen up the dirt before new earth is situated around it. It's as he does this that he hears the soft crunching sounds of something. Plants don't crunch or move! He pauses, looking up at the sound of a familiar voice. He glances to the greenhouse door. He hadn't heard it open. How long has she been here? Her first question inspires a vague smirk. The second has it gradually vanishing from his face. "In my opinion, I haven't spent enough time with you," he says, hands resting upon the edge of the pot as he watches her. "But no, this isn't because of you. This is because … I miss home. And doing this reminds me of bein' there. As for Mur'dah," he makes a slight face, unintentionally. "Interrogating him will get you the version of the story in which I'm the arrogant ass as usual and he the hapless victim." He nods to another plant in a small pot. "Also, as usual. Will you help me with this?"

"This is true," Marel can concede, her voice drifting lower and quieter, "but I think we can share responsibility for that, or your rank and I can." Tiny, inching steps bring her closer, cane planted down again only once she's stopped and needs to lean her weight against her driftwood support. "Mur'dah is never wrong," she murmurs, not in agreement with her twin, nor as a statement of fact, but shared for how her brother's behaviour makes it seem. "But that doesn't mean he's never wrong in that." The belief. "You can be an arrogant ass when you want to be," she reminds him, gently. She's not taking sides. Not yet. "What happened?" It seems she will assist him with the other plant, for without confirming aloud that she will help, she somewhat awkwardly settles herself on the ground next to him, reaching towards the plant to free it and examine its root network before considering how deep a hole to dig for it.

"When I want to be. When I need to be," Ka'el says, having known for quite a while that he is no saint. "But I'm not always, though he seems to believe it." He glances over at her just to make sure that she gets settled with no issues. He doesn't offer assistance. Doesn't reach out for her as a brace. Trusting that she can do it on her own and if not, that she'd ask for help. And once she is on the gravely ground with him, his eyes turn back to his own plant and he begins to fill the empty spaces of the larger pot with dirt. "He wishes to make a fool of me. He doesn't believe I deserve the position I've been given, he told me as much the day after Seryth rose, and he wishes to undermine me by makin' me seem incompetent." His eyes narrow a little, a glare sent at the plant's stem. "He made me out to be a fool to a new resident, Headwoman, and Jr. Weyrwoman." He exhales, needing to start from the beginning. "I worked late one evening on paperwork. Nearly everyone had gone from the wing. The lights to the hallway and rooms cut out, and he and his .. friend snuck into my office in the darkness and threw this… thing inside. A devise that flashed lights and made an awful sound. Something else was thrown that exploded…sparkles and dust everywhere and all over me. Couldn't see a shardin' thing. Scared the shell out've my firelizard, who ruined my work in fright."

"Did I say I believed it?" Marel replies, pausing in her work to give him a sidelong glance. "You're not so many turns older than us and you'd just slept with our mother," she reminds him. "Of course Mur'dah was going to be angry. I'm not saying that he's right to have done what he did, but it doesn't mean that he doesn't have the right to wonder at your ability to be Weyrleader or be angry just because." She sighs and reaches to drag one of the larger, earth-filled pots towards her. "…He doesn't act his turns, sometimes. And sometimes you act more than yours and so do I. If this 'friend' is the person I think it was, then it must've been more about trying to show off than undermine you." Though keep from rolling her eyes, she cannot. "Yes, you're Weyrleader, but you're also supposed to be his friend. Have you thought that he was pulling what he thought was a harmless prank on his friend, not his Weyrleader? I don't argue that it was childish, and I really don't know what he was thinking, but still."

"You had the decency to keep whatever opinions you had of me to yourself, Marel," says Ka'el, eyes not on her but instead on the plant he's tending to so carefully. "You thought enough of me not to refer to me as 'some kid bronzerider' that no one will take seriously. He may have the right to think of me what he will, but what right does he have to throw it all in my face and then expect me to welcome him with open arms and laugh at pranks pulled at my expense?" The plant is potted. Done and ready to be put back on the shelf, and so he stands to do so just as rain patters on the glass walls and rooftop, sneering at the word 'friend'. "I'm not his friend." He turns to her. "He made that rather clear as well. He's told me then that he doesn't think it's worth trying anymore because I don't make time for him. So tell me why, after saying that, he would think sneaking into my office in the middle of the night with a resident who've I've never met before and do what he did would end in any way but badly?"

"Then what are you going to do about it?" Marel demands, much like a parent might challenge a child who's received a poor mark on a test. "If you're not his friend and you don't want to be, because whatever he's doing now seems like work for a brat who put salt in the klah instead of sweetener. Are you going to make a point and make things clear, or let this silly little cycle keep going on and on?" She's running a finger along one of the plant's roots as she does this, though she stares right up at Ka'el. "Maybe I'm wrong and it's better for both of you to make sure you know exactly where the other stands. Are you going to be his Weyrleader or not? You need to decide how much my brother's opinion matters to you." Icy-green eyes dart back to the plant while she reaches to dig a suitable hole in the soil with her free hand. "He's my twin," she says softly. "And you're not my brother or my weyrmate or anything 'official' like that, but you're my family too. You need to make decisions. Both of you."

"You think I was too lenient?" Ka'el believes so himself, but he's never been put in that situation before. What does one do when left to reprimand one who formerly was a friend? Too harsh of a punishment would put him in an awkward place with Thea. Not enough of one and .. well, then possibly he won't ever be taken seriously. This is a balancing act he's unfamiliar with. "At the end of the seven, I am to speak to him," he says, answering her question after. "Trust me Marel, I've tried to end whatever this is far before now. I've given him a wide berth since the day he came to denounce my worth to him. I haven't given him any impression that I want anything from him other than his duty to Comet. Yet, things like this continue to happen. He's already decided I'm not worth his time. I've already decided I want little to do with him beyond my duties as his Weyrleader. He needs to follow through and stick with the choice he made. I have." He carries another plant and another pot back to where she is and sits again. He's quiet or a bit, digging gently through the dirt with a spade. Then. "I think of you like I do family as well, official or not."

"I think you're afraid of Mur'dah's position as your Weyrwoman's son," Marel says flatly, carefully scooping in earth around the newly potted plant, its old container set aside and away from the walkway so as to keep anyone from tripping over it. "Or you really do want to remain friends with him and you're afraid too harsh a punishment will put an end to that." She stares down into her lap for a while, considering her words. "If I ever mess up, I want you to tell me how it is. I want you to give me the same punishment you'd give any other rider who was lazy or didn't respect you, regardless of whether I'm the Weyrwoman's daughter. Discipline of the wings is between you and the rider. In the eyes of the Weyr, me and Mur'dah are riders first, Thea's children second. Or so it should be." That he sits back down beside her is caught out of the corner of her eye, and so in place of comforting words, she leans in against him, shoulder to shoulder. "…Are you afraid I will hate you if you punish Mur'dah?" the brownrider asks in a mere whisper. Then: "Have you thought it might have been the new resident?"

Ka'el initially snorts, though perhaps it's due to the use of the word 'afraid' more than anything else. "He'd love it if it was that. To feel immune because of his birth." The edges of his mouth pull downward slightly. "I work well with your ma, and I aim to keep that true. My problem is that I haven't had to worry about giving punishments until Mur'dah. Problems in the wings are dealt with by Wingleaders and Seconds." Delegation at its finest! "I'm informed and oversee, and things have been minor. Late for shifts or missing shifts or arguments between riders. No one has done something directly to me that'd require punishment. That's an area of needed growth." He has things to work on, and he knows. He loosens the plant from its pot as he continues to listen to her, but after a while begins to slow. He glances her way, drawn by the touch of her shoulder to his. "I promise." Anything can happen, including Marel being punished. Her whispered question though has a very vague smirk lifting his lips. "Honestly? No. I never thought you would hold anything against me because you never have before. If you were to hate me, it'd be because of something I've done directly to you." The mentioning of the resident though? His smirk leaves. "Mur'dah is seventeen turns old. If he fancies that girl, take her for a walk on the beach. Show her the gardens. Fly over Xanadu. Take her to dinner. I won't accept his attempt at showing off as an excuse."

"Maybe Mur'dah is a young seventeen," Marel murmurs in defence of her twin, fingers idly smoothing at the recently disturbed soil in the larger pot. "Maybe the problem is that there's very little age difference between you. It's… it's difficult," she says slowly. "I don't know how to explain it. It's… I'm not afraid of my mother. I love her and I know she would punish me if I stepped out of line, but I'm not afraid. I respect her. And I'm not afraid of you and I love you and I know you would punish me if you had to as well. I'm… afraid of getting things wrong and making myself and my family look bad." She bites down on her bottom lip. "I work hard and I don't mess around because I'm… afraid of disappointing myself or other people." A deep breath, then, "I don't know if Mur'dah has those fears. I don't know if he needs to be afraid of punishment or disappointment or… anything. But I think people do need to be worried about what you'll do if they let you down, whether they're afraid of you or it's by other means." Her next breath, she holds, until she clarifies, "I mean that maybe it was her idea. The girl."

Ka'el's head nods softly every now and again, eyes on her, then on the darkly colored earth whose aroma reminds him of places far away. The sound of rain is a drumming lullaby above them, running down the edge of the greenhouse glass like tears. He doesn't interrupt her this time, allowing her words to marinate in his mind, taking them apart letter by letter to inspect. His attention roams now to the broad leaves of the small plant as he stores in his mind information to use at a later time with a different person in a setting less serene than this one. "I think I understand what needs to happen," he says as he refocuses on his word, tipping the pot a little to urge the plant out of it. "It wasn't the girl's idea. That was one of the first things out of his mouth, after recovering from his fit of laughter. If it had been … she'd be in far more trouble. She's new to our Weyr, and while it was already beyond foolish of her to go along with it, orchestrating it would've doomed my already wilted opinion of her. Soriana has delt with her." How, he doesn't know. "I didn't mean to unload all of that on you, Marel. I'm sorry. Seems like whenever we run into each other, there's always something."

Marel reaches out, careful to keep muddy fingertips from connecting with Ka'el as she aims to loop her arm around his waist and lean in against his shoulder again. "It's okay," she assures, her voice gone back to its murmur. "I'd rather you feel you can talk to me than not, even if it is about Mur'dah. And if something worse needs to happen, then I'll do my best to pick him up if he falls." Carefully chosen words there; 'pick up', not 'coddle'. "…I want what's best for him. Sometimes, I don't know what that is. I'm sure he feels the same about me." Especially of late, what with knives and wounds and anklets. "I think I need to talk to this girl, though. It sounds awful, but I'm beginning to not like her already." She sighs and casts another quick look up at him. "Do you have to go back to work right away? I made cookies," she invites. As to why she's made cookies already, so early: "M'kal always falls through the door as if he's starving."

Ka'el gently leans against her, pulling off his gardening gloves now and setting them on the pebbly ground, resting against her now as she leans against him. "I do like talkin' to you," he admits with a slither of a smirk on his lips. Even if it is about Mur'dah. Or knives. Or drinking. Or anklets. Or flights. Where have the days gone where their conversations were nothing but playful and silly? Dinners taken in the cavern with Caveman Kale? "Thank you, Marel. I hope you feel you can talk to me about things as well. As your Weyrleader, but moreso, as your friend." This is one friendship that he has no questions about. As for Mur'dah's chosen partner in crime, he slightly wrinkles his nose and nods. "First impressions are difficult to shake. Hopefully yours is better than mine and she proves herself to be more than … a blind follower." He hesitates at the term, but in the end sticks with it. Now, there's a mention of cookies and he perks. "There's always time for cookies. And I don't blame him. Galaxy's tough, and with his added responsibilities, I'd be worried if he wasn't starved at the end of the shift." He grins, playfully now, as he brushes off his hands and rises, lingering to offer any help that she may want.

Marel did not need assistance sitting down on the ground, but, what with the nature of leg injuries, getting back to her feet is another matter entirely, even with her cane to help her. She reaches for Ka'el to accept the offered help, trying to figure out the tricky matter of balance without tugging the both of them back down into the gravel, and she does eventually make it back to her feet all in one piece, her cane held securely in her left hand. "You'll always be my friend," she murmurs, hoping to reassure him. "Even if I don't like or disagree with what you have to say." Cracking a smile of her own, she adds, "We should stage a blazing argument one day." One day. Not now. Now, there are cookies, but first, there's a little trip through the rain and hopefully no-one falling over in the mud or on the slippery grass.

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