Xanadu Weyr - The Hollow
This part of the woods has opened up into what would normally be called a clearing. Rather than an open piece of land and a view of the sky, however, the center of this area appears to have been wholly occupied by one of the largest trees in the forest. It stands before you, ancient and massive, it's branches reaching up nearly one hundred and fifty feet into the air and its base measuring nearly as far around. The ground leading up to it is mounded and misshapen from the tree's massive root system. At one point, the tree appears to have merged with another, and a hole large enough for two grown men to stand inside of now resides on one side of this giant, arboreal creation. The inside of the hollow is smooth and free of disease or fungus, giving testament to the tree's ancient health and vitality.

It is not the biggest tree on Pern by any stretch; any number of Skybrooms come far closer to touching the heavens with their staggering height. It may not be the oldest deciduous mass on the continent, either. It is simply a tree. But in that respect, it seems to be the very item the universe had in mind when it first conceived of the thing. Its bark is rough in some places and smooth in others, colors radiating from deeper brown at the base to a smoky dust color as the trunk continues upwards. Branches both small and large reach outwards and upwards, too numerous to count, the lowest of them hanging a mere six or seven feet from the ground. Around the tree is a halo of light, shimmering in dozens of shades of green and yellow to reflect the thousands of leaves above. Lean up against it. Sit beneath its branches, within its hollow. Perhaps the tree would welcome the company, after such a long time on this earth. If one was careful, they could probably climb up into the tree a great distance.

A mutual rest-day with one's arguably best bro is not a thing to be squandered. Nor are epic plans such as a hike in the woods (sanctioned by a helpful assistant weyrlingmaster who took down their route and made them agree to stay within a 20 minute walk-run back by cutting a straight path back should they hear any unmistakable humming) something to be missed just because the day was overcast. It hadn't rained early in the morning, but by mid-morning, just about when it would've been good to stop for a snack, anyway, the sky opened and let down a steady rain, just heavy enough to penetrate the canopy and advise finding a bolt hole until it lightened up a little. Thus, they're found settling into the safety of the hollow, a little damp, with their packs (Stefyr's ludicrously small for his broad back, per usual) and canteens, Stefyr just tucking away map and compass. "It ought to let up in a bit." He surmises, digging into his small bag where he's settled on the smooth ground of the hollow, on one of the higher, dryer sides of the thing. "Nuts?" He offers, so blandly, and in his hand as he offers over a small paper bag of shelled nuts, he also holds one of Rhody's pinup desk, complete with… you guessed it: nuts of its own. "You could've warned me." J'accuse! There is a little real reproach in his voice.

Little rain never hurt anyone! Yet Keruthien’s relieved not to be completely soaked through to the bone. Maybe it brings back memories of that one night (not that that ended terribly at all, either)? The hollow is definitely cozy enough and he’ll settle in quickly, with his own pack set aside well out of danger of wet or damp. He’s taking a shallow sip from his canteen when Stefyr offers the nuts, a wry smirk playing on his lips and a delayed chuckle of: “Sure! I love nuts.” Just as blandly only NOT because even if he tries, his comments are rarely wholly innocent. Shaking a few out into his cupped hand, he’ll promptly hand the rest back to his bestest bro and set to work on cracking one shell open. “Mhm?” Lifting his gaze, just in time to see that card, he grins as he recognizes it. The reproach seems to go right over his head. “What part of ‘they’re obscene’ from Rhody wasn’t warning enough?” he teases, lacking an edge to his return quip. Tossing a nut into his mouth, he’ll continue to grin around the act of chewing quietly. “I also seem to remember you holding on to the deck.” J’accuse! (not really)

"All of it. I mean, aren't there other ways a thing can be obscene? Obscene doesn't sound like something a person would want to look at." Obviously Stefyr did want that… or did he? "I put about fifteen of them into files she's likely to go into in the office." He explains to Keruthien, deadpan. Like he pranks people epically every day. "And speaking of finding thing in unexpected places… you wouldn't happen to have any idea why that creepy doll of yours ended up being my cuddlebuddy the other night, would you?" J'ACCUSE MORE, FOR REALZ. His brows are up and the bland, bland tone of dry inquiry already says he's made up his mind about exactly how it happened. "I didn't need to turn that color red in front of all of those people. And you're the one who shoved it in my face. Was I supposed to not look?" HONESTLY. "Besides, some of those drawings are more informative than the diagrams in the book the healer gave me about sex." Yep, proud borrower of that one. Okay, not proud, but at least he's not pretending he doesn't have it.

The hollow rings with Keruthien’s low, hearty, laughter when Stefyr brazenly admits to filtering some of the cards into various files. Damn it, why didn’t he think of that!? As for the argument of obscene and obscene and the mystery behind WHY one would view it? Ruthien doesn’t answer. Instead he just broadens his grin to something definitely cheshire-like, blue eyes narrowing with mischief. “I dunno. Someone else might’ve thought it was funny to move him?” YOU GOT PROOF, STEFYR? Aside from claiming it’s him based on ownership. Does anyone own the fugly critter? He scoffs lightly, bemused, glancing down as he splits another shell open to pry the nut free from within. Munch-crunch. “Mhm, I guess that was a bit uncalled for but I won’t lie, it was worth it. Next time I look to mortify you, I’ll just aim to keep it between us? Hows that?” Deal? No deal? “Besides, it was all in good fun. No one’s gonna care how you react by blushing! It’s not like you screeched like a little girl or something…” He says this all calmly, evenly. No hint of malice in him, whatsoever. A brow quirks, “That so? Dunno if I’d use it as solid reference though. Just saying!”

Stefyr's lips twitch a little. Keruthien is making him break his Bland Mask. "I gave it to Pima," and he can't not grin as he says it. "I dunno that Rhody'll ever be able to get rid of it, but…" Mischief lights his blue eyes in turn as he looks toward the Original Prankster, whom he doesn't believe innocence of at all. "What's a little mortification or six shades of red between friends," the big blond can at least agree on that one. "Actually, the healer basically told me to go sleep with people to find out how it worked. She said not to trust the book because it didn't really explain it." That has him raising a hand to rub his face before he helps himself to some of his own snacks, offering it back over toward the other young man. "I'm… I don't even understand how people go about finding anyone who knows what they're doing to teach let alone… I don't know, she said it should mean something and that feels a little beyond me, you know?" Does he? Stefyr's looking at his friend with one of those lost puppy looks of his.

Keruthien’s all about breaking things! He’d much rather laughter and even just a smile, even during a rather serious conversation. He may not act like he’s taking it seriously but neither is he hinting that he’s mocking Stefyr or the subject on the table. “HA! Pima, really? Why?” Curious (and innocent!) minds would like to know! Another brief chuckle and he’ll attempt to elbow him a little, even if he has to lean precariously to do so, in the side. “Exactly!” More snacking, though he listens attentively while the other speaks and it’s only until he’s finished and giving those puppy eyed looks that he dusts his hands free of empty shells. With a low exhale, Ruthien shifts a bit against the ground, the sound of his boots scraping as he moves to stretch his legs out in front of him. Time to get comfy! “Healer had the right of it,” he admits, tilting his head as he smiles crookedly. No judging, no teasing at what’s hinted by Stefyr’s topic of choice. He’ll go for honesty, even if blunt and a touch rough. “Doing it is really the only way to know. It’s like learning a skill and most folk get it that anyone going in for the first run won’t know anything beyond blind instinct.” Is he speaking from experience!? “And, eh… I dunno? Everyone’s different. Some like to have that “deep meaning” attached to sex,” Yeah, he’s just gonna say it out loud. Sorry, Stefyr! “And I guess “love” falls under that.” Cue him actually air-quoting with his fingers. His smirk says it all though, he’s obviously got his preferences but he lets his best bro just… absorb the answer so far.

'Absorb' is just what Stefyr does. His expression is introspective as he listens, though his eyes don't leave Keruthien, taking in body language as much as words. Acceptance of how a person is, happy, sad, mad, or silly seems to be hardwired into him. Even were his bro to mock him, it probably wouldn't stop him. As tends to be his habit, it will take him more time than just whatever they have here to fully process everything and internalize the helpful bits. But on first blush (and he is doing that physically, too, of course), he replies, "That sounds awful." Ugh, vulnerability, whyyyy. Quite possibly the 'awful' also applies to love, but then he hasn't had the most positive experiences to date - which is why he's in love with an egg, of course. Or was it two? In any case. He rubs that free hand across his face again, mumbling from behind it, "I guess it's easier in a Weyr to be straightforward about thing than it would be back home on the farm, if there were even anybody not related to me to worry about that with." He sighs and lets his hand fall away, and possibly the topic, too? "How come you don't have these problems?" Of the 20 turn old virgin variety. Then, with a tap tap tap of fingers on his knee, "I was going to put it in Evi's things but… some weird stuff happened during Leirith's flight and things got weird when she didn't even understand what was not okay about it, and I sort of explained to her in not the nicest of ways how pissed I was… am. Sort of am." He seems unclear on that, but he goes on anyway, "and now things are just sort of … weird. I didn't want her to take it wrong. Rhody is a safer target. I just have to watch my back now." With not one but two pranks directed in his coworker's direction.

“What’s awful?” Keruthien looks a touch lost for a moment and befuddled, almost in a comical manner, until dismissing that thread of thought in favour of focusing back on Stefyr. His shoulders lift in a shrug, uncertain. “That I wouldn’t know? At least, that’s what I hear a lot too but…” There’s a low chuckle for the whole ‘related to everyone at home’ and an exhaled breath that sounds almost like Ruthien can understand (or relate to it — ha ha, pun intended)! Why doesn’t he have these problems? “Eh, I don’t worry about it much. I guess?” Another shrug, a helpless spread of his hands in an empty gesture. Followed by an impish smirk and smug look that’s mostly feigned, as he tap-taps a lone finger to the side of his nose. Shh, here’s a little secret? “I might’ve snuck a kiss or two,” Or an uncountable dozen. “Nothing more, during a lull I had between my last failed Candidacy and returning full to my Craft. Then I got to Journeyman in rank, some freedom back and heh… well.” That’s that. “I know what I like and I don’t really… trip myself up on the details?” To put it confusingly lightly. He scrubs one of his thumbs along the curve of his jaw, mildly thoughtful and sobering for once as Stefyr reflects on his trouble with Evangeline. “Wasn’t mutual, on your end?” he muses, idly. There’s a faint grimace and he’ll attempt to reach out to clasp Stefyr on the shoulder in a comforting way. “At least you tried? Isn’t all your fault, regardless. Sometimes folks just don’t mesh! You can still talk ’n stuff but anything beyond that, well…” The rest is left to drift unfinished, because Ruthien’s NOT good with serious talk. He skitters away from it, in favour of hints of pranks. “You think Rhody is a safe target? I dunno about that!”

The drawn in breath and puff of frustrated exhale turns into something to choke on. There were a lot of things that Keruthien just told him that Stefyr would probably like to talk more about, but everything is full stop because. "Shit no." It might seem harsh, but this needs immediate clarification in his mind. His nose wrinkles. "I get that Evangeline is old enough to stand, but I— I can't even see her as a grown up woman. And I didn't care for the way she threw herself at me while she was naked and I was half so. Thank Faranth Khavro was there in case I needed witnesses as to why I had her teeth marks in two places and was carrying her trussed up in my towel to the infirmary. She said she felt sick. And I sharding well didn't know anything about flights or what they could make a person feel or… But she's a child in my eyes." Maybe not in everyone's but, in his. "If I was going to take an interest in a woman, it wouldn't be in one so young as to not know up from down." Welcome to the asshole that Stefyr can absolutely be from time to time. He grimaces, staring at his boots. "I wanted something during that flight, but it wasn't her." A flash of a look toward Keruthien is serious enough to warn off joking on this matter. "I'm good being Evi's friend, but nothing more."

There’s actually two “on occasion” assholes in this hollow and Keruthien is the second! Only he’s oblivious (or acts, anyhow) that his mannerisms sometimes swing that way. Case in point? The way he scoffs, amused but also mildly shocked, by the full story. “She BIT you!?” he exclaims, only to chortle a little under his breath. “Damn, I don’t even think I’d take that well! Good on you for that.” Seriously. “I guess I don’t get to say much, since I’ve always been in a Weyr and flights don’t hit me as hard. Like,” He pauses a moment, one hand twirling idly as he tries to process tricky thoughts and emotions into words. “I still feel ‘em but I can control myself? Most folks can. You’re not wrong for seeing her like a child. Wasn’t all bright myself at that age but that’s just… straight up immaturity on her end, there.” He holds his hands up defensively. “I know, not fair of me to say it and I’m sure she’d defend her case, as is fair. Just… trying to help ya feel less… crazy about the whole thing.” There he goes, right into assuming that that’s been a thorn under his skin for awhile. “Just because it walks and breathes don’t mean you gotta be attracted to it,” NOW he’s teasing Stefyr a little, just a tiny bit and with a flash if a grin. It sobers under that look and he swallows back whatever else he was about to ramble on about. “Nothing wrong with any of that.” He means it too, even if the expressions he wears don’t quite match.

The nut sack is set on the ground. Both of Stefyr's hands come up and scrub across his face and then in through his drying hair. "Yeah. I mean, I definitely felt something, but all I did was kiss someone. And it wasn't Evangeline. I don't think she'd actually defend herself to you, really. The bites were less love and more loathe by that point, I think. And she was sorry for forever, but because she bit me and because she threw herself at me, not because I could've gotten in some seriously deep shit for carrying a naked candidate over my shoulder to the infirmary, not that we got there before we ran into that cousin of hers who's a rider here and took her off my hands." For which he will probably be forever a little grateful. "I don't want to get kicked out of candidacy," and he doesn't have to tell Ruthien about his other infractions that are on his cumulative list. "I'm not attracted to everything that breathes," he blushes even though that wasn't really what the intended tease was about, probably. "Actually," he clears his throat, "I'm finding," why, is this another intimate problem he's about to share? Why yes it is, "That I'm largely having trouble distinguishing liking someone as they are, as a friend or whatever, and wanting to kiss them. I mean, I can't just go around kissing everyone. It would be a mess. But I mean, how do you know when you just want to be someone's friend and when they're a friend you might like to kiss without actually kissing them?" LOOK. IT'S COMPLICATED, OKAY? "How do you know? With your stolen kisses." Now it's his turn to rib Keruthien a little. He sways a little toward the other young man a little as if he might nudge him with a shoulder if the distance between them were shorter.

“Eh, she’s young. That’s probably going right up and over her head!” Keruthien intones as sagely as possible, despite the fact that neither of them are THAT much older (or necessarily fully mature and in Ruthien’s case that’s always debatable). He smirks, half amused, half serious and follows with a slow shake of his head. “Dunno if they’d turf you over that. You clearly weren’t engaging it or wanting it. If any reprimand should fall, it should be on her. Y’don’t use flights as an excuse, y’know? I mean, if it wasn’t possible to control ourselves, the barracks would’ve been a disaster that day. If you get my drift?” DO YOU, STEFYR? Or will Keruthien have to paint a verbal picture? “Wanna know why I was kicked out of Candidacy once?” Hold up. What!? That is just tossed in there, haphazardly, before he turns his whole focus on Stefyr. Because that’ll help with his awkwardness, right? TO BE STARED AT? Ruthien chuckles a little, while rudely half-interrupting. “Yeah, you could — kiss everyone, I mean, if the moment comes about? And y’know… not forced.” He’s not making any sense but isn’t aware of it, because to HIM this is all common sense. Different mindsets, ftw! Tapping a finger against his cheek, he’ll look upwards for a moment, lost in thought and humming under his breath. “Hmm, well…” Somewhat cheeky little grin, for the ribbing, as he scoffs lightly. “I don’t often stop to think of it. If I happen to notice someone who interests me, I just… I dunno. Test the waters? Talk, joke, flirt. Most of the time it just ends there, harmless fun,” Or he’s completely unsettled someone. “And then sometimes it gets returned. Where it goes from there?” He lifts his hands in visual weighing of options. “Y’never know. But that’s how I roll. You’re gonna have to figure out what works and doesn’t, for yourself.” Sorry, Bro. No magical solutions!

"No, not forced." Stefyr agrees with feeling. If there's anyone out there feeling forced, they probably could find a ready defender in the big blond. "But don't you talk, joke and flirt all the time? You talk and joke with me." The flirting is left out, but he shoots his bro a look that questions even that. "I don't even know what flirting is. I asked Katailea, because she said she did it when she was a trader, to get people to buy things. But she didn't answer." He shrugs that off. OBVIOUSLY, IT WASN'T THAT STEFYR WAS TOO OBLIVIOUS TO NOTICE HER ANSWER. Who would believe that of sweet, naive Stefyr? He frowns now down at the nut sack as if all this confusion were somehow its fault. "So why did you get kicked out of Candidacy once?" Maybe it's strange that the young man accepts that part of Keruthien's history without inquiry into why he's just learning this about his bro now, but that's just how Stefyr rolls - taking people as they are, more or less. This is the more.

Keruthien’s grin is back in full force as he puffs up a little and acts all flattered. That alone is treading a little into ‘flirting’ territory. Maybe just a small toe over the line. “Guilty as charged!” And apparently not ashamed in the least by his behavior. There’s a click of his tongue and a wry look sent his way, “Dunno if I’d be any better to explain it. It’s like… hmm, no… not quite that…” He’s muttering a bit to himself, scrubbing at his lower jaw and chin before snapping his fingers. AH-HA! “It’s like joking but you’re subtly implying a lot more under it! Kind of.” Not quite. But hey, that’s been his experience so far? Maybe. And then it’s back full circle, to the little tidbit of his history. Ruthien doesn’t renege on the offer either, resting his chin now in the palm of his hand, while his elbow is propped against his leg. His gaze never leaves Stefyr, though it grows distant in recalling memory. “I was much more wild, then. Not in the rebellious way but just living in the moment, y’know? Still do.” He’s just somewhat tempered himself. “So I always did things without much thinking through. Long story short? Went too far, got myself injured. Badly. Complete write off! It sucked.” Understatement of the TURN, Keruthien! “But it’s that sort’ve shit that really gets you turfed, y’know? Folks bend and break rules all the time! It depends on the severity, but I can’t see ‘em kicking you out just because you had a few moments of being… well. Human?” Little mistakes versus BIG MISTAKES. Keruthien’s world is very much grey in some areas but also clearly black and white. He’s also taking a HUGE leap and assuming Stefyr’s problems are all itty bitty ones (aside from the obvious). “Not saying you gotta go on a crazy streak!” He laughs then, to dispel some lighthearted tones. There’s another attempt to playfully nudge Stefyr to the shoulder. “Try not to let all the little things eat at you. Life’s too short for that sort’ve thing!” Enjoy the NOW, bro!

Stefyr doesn't have it in him to stop listening, even when his poor (sometimes pea-sized) brain hits a moment of overload. His eyes stay on Keruthien while the other candidate speaks, expression growing increasingly thoughtful, increasingly inward. Maybe it's just that the big blond can't figure out if that means Keruthien IS or IS NOT flirting with him now. Judging by his poor powers of observation with Katailea's example, this one is not penetrating well, either, whether it is similar in nature or opposite. And really, he might not be blamed for needing time to meditate on everything he's heard in this lull in their more active day. He listens to that explanation about Keruthien's truncated candidacy, and he opens his mouth, then closes it. At least the man knows his limits. He doesn't get weird about anything, he just takes a breath and reaches for his nut sack, tying it up with the attached twine and tucking it away in his pack. "I'll try to keep my crazy in check, but I figure if I just keep aiming to be under yours, I'll be fine." That kind of light banter can see them through the rest of their hiking expedition. "Sounds like the rain let up. Let's keep going. I want to cover more ground." Physically, if not mentally. The latter can be left for another day.

“That’s the spirit!” Keruthien’s return quip is overly bright and cheery, to match the face-splitting grin he throws Stefyr’s way. His spirits are hardly ruffled by their conversation or by the abrupt change in plans. True to form, he’ll just roll with the punches and, gathering his stuff, will follow him out of the hollow. Easy going as ever, he’ll be all to happy to stick to light banter for the remainder of their hike. Whatever may come at a later time will be just that: in the future and not at all on Ruthien’s immediate radar.

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