Leaps and Labels

Forest Pool
Formed by ancient volcanic activity and composed of mostly of a single solid rock, the uneven surface of this island contains little dirt. Tree roots delve into cracks and grip tenaciously while the thin layer of humus provides nourishment for the moss, ferns and sparse plant life of this park-like woodland and cushions the forest floor underfoot. Shafts of golden sunshine slant between the trunks, creating emerald puddles of light upon the moss, encouraging flowers to bloom where insects flitter.
That crack where the bowls falls had drained here opens to a deep, still pool cradled in cliffs of stone, the depths of jade waters therein probed by fingers of light filtering through the leaves overhead. Large enough for a dozen people to swim comfortably in, the rise of rock shelf above provides a thrill for those daring to cliff-dive or a perfect spot to sunbathe upon.

It was late afternoon before the Weyrleaders' assistants had to go do a thing. It was an important thing, that much was clear. What it was was a lot less clear. It turned out to be sneaking off to go cliff diving again. If they're caught, they can blame Keruthien, surely. That's legit, right? It doesn't matter because right now, there's no one here to catch them dodging the work that, let's face it, today didn't actually need them under foot. The novelty of repeated and even some back and forth challenges for trickier (but still safe) jumps and leaps has largely worn off and now there's that comfortable blanket with towels for pillows that gives both assistants a place to lounge high up on top in the sun, hair drying, eyes closed. "I don't suppose there's a chance we can convince Risali and R'hyn to make this their office. If they did, they could just shove each other off the cliff when they were feeling testy." He grins at the sky before rolling onto his side to reach for his mini-pack and dig through to produce some satchels of dried fruit and roasted nuts. It's not as fancy as Keruthien's feast, of course, but it's better than nothing and he sits up to partake, dropping the small sacks between himself and Rhodelia in open invitation.

"You actually probably could," Rhodelia doesn't even need to blink before quickly responding. "Downside would be… we then couldn't escape work by coming here because work would be here and that sounds awful." Her nose suitably wrinkles at the thought even as she grabs a handful of those nuts so helpfully tossed over. She flops over so she can get a better look at the snack-situation. "I do know a couple other places, but most of those are either good for swimming or sunning, but really not much for both. Not close anyways." Darn Keruthien already showing everybody the most perfect place.

"True." Stefyr agrees with his co-assistant's excellent forward thinking. "Scratch that then. I'm sure those other spots are good, but this one's just so… nice." So nice. He helps himself to some strips of fruit, looking out over the view. "I really am glad I came here. Leaving home. Getting caught up in…" Is there a better way to sum it up than, "everything." He gestures to the whole of Xanadu. Then he shifts to more properly face Rhody. His brows draw down in a more serious look of consideration as he studies her. "Dare I ask how you're doing with everything? The eggs are getting harder." That everything.

Some dried fruits are definitely better than others and Rhodelia is on a mission to find the best ones as she leans over and pokes through, rejecting the boring raisins and focusing instead on the dried berries and redfruit. Once a slice of redfruit is found, she raises it in a type of salute. "Sometimes you gotta protect the best places." Professional advice. There are definitely a few hiding spaces around the Weyr she might not have even told Stefyr about yet. That's for the more advance lessons in assistantship. She tilts her head at the confession. "Really? No longer missing the whole family and stuff?" She keeps a pretty straight face at the consideration. "Eggs will do that. Keep seeing the dragonhealers poking around more often. They always want to monitor more the closer it gets…"

"Well, my mother hasn't stopped writing, through my father, to come home," Stefyr murmurs as he contemplates his strip of mango, fiddling with one feathery edge of the fruit before taking a bite. "I…" he stops again, trying to find the right words if his searching expression, eyes still on his fruit is anything to go by. "I feel like I've been undone and made up all over again, again and again, since coming. It doesn't feel good while it's happening, but I feel like… more me? After. If that makes sense. I don't think the me that I am, the one I like better than the versions that have come before, would fit back home, not anymore. He still wouldn't be a person Gaelis wanted over a more interesting and older brother. And I don't think…" He pauses, worrying his lower lip before he lets his next words out into the world, "I don't think I'd want her and what came with her… that whole life… anymore." He shrugs, glancing up to Rhodelia as if he hopes any of that ended up making sense. "But you didn't answer the question." J'ACCUSE. And he looks at her expectantly, eggs, dragonhealers and other distractions left quite intentionally by the wayside.

"Does your mother not write herself?" Rhodelia is a little bit perplexed at the whole middle-man situation, but she'll nod along as Stefyr continues. Her own fruit piece is flipped back and forth in her hands, more something to occupy her hands than something to eat. "Getting free of family can do that… even if they mean well, sometimes family tries their best to make you just like them…" She gives a helpless shrug. "The Weyr doesn't know who you were before, so they don't really care if you end up acting not like the old you cause this is the you-you." All those yous may not really be a you, but more first person observations disguised as hypothetical second. Nevertheless, she'll meet those expectant eyes with a raised eyebrow. "I'm me. I'm doing. What more did you want to know?"

The first question prompts a sigh. "My mother… could if she wanted to. I'm not sure why she thinks the pleas are more effective coming through a messenger. She sent my brother, Daro, here after Turnover, to bring me home. He knew I wouldn't come before he left, but he came because she would only have insisted someone else go if he didn't. And he had his reasons, I guess, for wanting to be the one to come." Those reasons cause Stefyr's expression to turn stormy, briefly, but he reaches up his free hand to push it through his hair before tossing his piece of mango off somewhere for the grubs or whatever delights in discarded, partially eaten dried fruit. "The funny thing is that as hard as she always was on everyone, herself included, it would be her I'd be most likely to come for. Maybe in some strange way she knows I need this, not what they have, and but she can't bring herself not to ask for what would please her best?" That might all be extraordinarily insightful of Stefyr, really. But then, he's had a lot of time to chew on the why of the proxy himself. "Are you different here than you were before you got here?" He wonders, brushing his sticky fingers on his trouser knees to no avail as he searches her face. It's those fingers that draw his attention away from anything she might want to hide because the obvious next step is to use his teeth to scrape the sticky off, even if it has acquired a little lint. Oops. "I want to know how you're doing, but you don't have to tell me since you don't want to." Because Stefyr does not believe for even half a second that Rhody has misunderstood his original inquiry. He lets his focus that briefly flickered to the other assistant with one raised brow that calls her on it but his gaze doesn't linger to press the point.

"Maybe she also just wants to believe that she always has the option of asking herself if she really thinks she needs to. If she does it now, she'd lose it?" Rhodelia shrugs. While she might have theories, she doesn't know the man's family and won't really push it any further if he doesn't, especially as his face turns a bit stormy. His next question is met with a moment of silence as Rhody pauses to gather not just any words, but the right words. "I was a failed apprentice when I got here, over four turns ago. It was so different before it kind of seems a little hazy trying to think back on it. Like it was a dream I can't quite remember all of the details?" The last question also gets a pause as she gives a sharp exhale. "It's not that I don't want you to know. Its just… its hard. Talking. Feelings and all that." Her hand flicks quickly as if to dismiss all those nebulous topics that she tries not to face. "I don't know how you do it, really."

The big blond is silent a long moment, semi-sticky fingers forgotten on his thigh. He squints at nothing in the distance and just when it seems like maybe he's not going to say anything at all, Stefyr turns his face back to Rhodelia. "I guess it's that I thought I hit rock bottom already, and then I did for real, and then for even realer. And it's not really that I want to talk about what's going on in here," that sticky fingered hand touches his bare chest over his heart. "It's just that if I don't, I'd never sleep. Once I started, it was harder to stop, but… if you knew what goes on up here," that hand rises to tap his temple, "you wouldn't give me so much credit. There's a lot I don't say." And then, he shifts, coming onto his knees, his hands settling atop them as he sits back on his heels, facing her. "I don't need to know anything you don't want to share. We can just sit. We can just talk work. We can talk about your dog if that's what you need. I just… I just want to make sure that you're not stuck with a weight on your chest at night that makes it feel like you can't breathe." That sounds like a feeling he's unhappily familiar with. There might be more he wants to say about the other things, but this is too important. His expression is intent and here, for whatever she needs in this moment. If she says go jump off a cliff, well. He pretty much would have to with a perfect cliff so close.

Rhodelia lets out a little laugh, not at Stefyr, really, but more the circumstances described that are just a little too real. "Honestly, I think the universe takes it as a challenge whenever someone declares they hit rock bottom." She gives a serious nod with that. Why else do you think no matter how bad things might get, the woman will never utter that phrase? She's jinxed herself often enough in the past! "I'm pretty sure Ajral would say all that talking and questioning is a good thing. A healthy thing." The healer has definitely encouraged her to do some more talking, but that's a set of healer's orders which have been mostly ignored. She'll mirror his own shifting, although she draws her knees up to her chest instead of settling them down. "I'm afraid to talk, so I don't. And I've had weights on my chest for so long, I don't think I'd know what to do if it were gone." She'll at least try to make that a joke with an awkward and forced smile. Honestly, she's more likely to go jump off the cliff herself. At least they know it's not rocky bottom down there.

"Well, there's a hatching coming up, so there's it's obvious shot." Stefyr replies, his expression doing that bland thing that is always partnered with his sometimes wry sense of humor. That might help to ease the heaviness of all the rest. Ajral's advice gets a nod of acknowledgment, with a little side to side movement of his head like maybe he doesn't quite completely agree, always, but it goes uncontested for now. For now, he presses his lips together while he listens. "Can I help?" Three words. Three words that he's said before, that he actually spoke in some form on their very first meeting and probably countless time since in their daily duties and even their after-work life. He doesn't try to move to her, doesn't try to urge her to more, and he doesn't even offer her platitudes or advice now. He asks just the one question, and then waits, his presence very solid in his silent support.

"If I've survived five hatchings, I think you'll survive just one. Although…" There's a sparkle of mischief in Rhodelia's eyes as she tries to keep the grin from crawling onto her face. Tries and fails. "You do have a lot more mass so statistically, you might be a better target for mauling than I am." She forms one hand into a faux-claw and makes a swiping gesture. She avoids looking directly at Stefyr as he offers those three words, yet again, prefering instead to stare up at the sky. The probably unjudging sky. Eventually, she lets out a sigh. "I don't know. I wouldn't even know what sort of help to ask for even if you could help. I know I've done all this before, but it still feel different somehow and I don't know why."

"If I don't make it, don't let Risa and R'hyn re-use someone else's eulogy at my funeral," Stefyr replies after an inhale that eloquently speaks to the burden of being the biggest if not the only tallest of the candidate bunch, his expression masked in faux mourning for his future self. "But Ila's self-defense techniques might work against baby dragons, and I'm sure he wouldn't, you know, just kill me afterward for hurting one." So statistically his chances of survival are exactly none. PLACE YOUR SAFE BET NOW, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. Still, now he moves over to sit beside Rhodelia, going cross-legged. "That's fair, really. You don't need to know what you need or why it's different. At least, not yet. It might sort itself in time." He shrugs. For now, he'll seek to slip an arm around her shoulders, a light pressure that's more of that here feeling. "I'm here, though. If there's ever something." A pause and then, "You know that feeling… it isn't you. You'd still be here if you could find a way to let it go. You might even be more you." That comes with a small smile.

"I'll do you one better. I'll write your eulogy!" With that amount of glee in her voice, you can bet your last mark that whatever Rhodelia would come up, it wouldn't be something Stefyr's mother would be wanting to hear, but at least her poor fellow assistant would be deceased and not subjected to it himself or he could probably also die of embarrassment too. But serious talks here, she gives a nod. "And really, you know if the dragons coming for you or not. Or well, you know if it's not coming for you. Just don't wade up into the middle of the eggs and you should have plenty of room to get out of the way." Voice of experience here after all and she is willing to share some of that with her fellow. She freezes for a moment as that arm wraps around her. It's a flash of tension that disappears nearly as quickly as it came before she leans into the arm instead of running away. "I'd have to figure out what that feeling is in order to know that. Right now the closest to letting it go is to just pretend it's not there."

Stefyr's brows lift at Rhodelia's kind offer. "Then I get editorial privileges." And since he can't exercise those after his actual demise, it's only natural that he invites, "Let's hear it." Right now. Well, okay, not right now. First, there's those serious things to address. The advice is probably internalized but it's not commented on. He's always ready to withdraw that arm, that hand, whatever he's offered if it seems she really would rather not have it, but since the tension comes and goes, his arm remains in what is less an intention to comfort as simply to be more connected. Maybe Risali is rubbing off on him. "Maybe that's what you need right now. To pretend. If you wake up one night and need something different, someone to listen, or just… a hug or whatever, I'm just down the way." Isn't that nice? Friends so close you can watch them snore or drool (neither of which Stefyr does, personally, by the way, but he has friends too).

Rhodelia waggles her eyebrows as he doesn't decline that offer. "Fine. I'd need to update it after your actual death anyways…" And so she might sneak in more edits than just actual cause of death instead of whatever placeholder was used. At the invitation to share it, she raises her eyebrow. Does he really want to hear this? Even if Stefyr doesn't, she's clearing her throat before launching into the beginning, "There once was a naive farmer boy from Xanadu… who found himself in trouble up to the wazoo… yada yada yada but screw you!" Look, Rhody never claimed to be a poet, but she can at least rhyme a little before returning to more somber subjects. Her eyebrows raise once more at that last offer. "If I didn't know you, that would almost sound like flirting!" But she's fully on the side of assuming Risali has rubbed off on the farm boy.

Stefyr stares at her. Yep. That's one very long stare. His expression is blank. It's beyond bland. He licks his lips just to prolong the moment. And then, "Nope. Fired." He even manages not to grin. "Risali and R'hyn can just re-use something. It will be better than that." Trash. IT'S TRASH, RHODY. It's only after he's looked down to his free hand whose fingers drum lightly on one of his folded calves and traces his teeth with his tongue inside his mouth, making a thoughtful sort of sucking sound when he's finished - maybe there was mango between his teeth. He squints up at the horizon and then back at Rhody. "I'd give it a shot, if I could figure out what it was." Flirting, that is. "I asked Katailea and she didn't answer. I asked Keruthien and he did answer but made it worse." AS HE DOES. "Near as I can gather, I'm starting to get the impression that it's the way you ask someone to bed without actually saying those words. Or, if not to bed, to kissing or necking or, whatever." He plucks up a handy speck of dirt from their blanket and gives it a toss toward the perimeter.

Well, it's not the first time Rhodelia's been fired and continued on with the same job, she just grins back as maybe complete trash was what she was going for. "Maybe they can reuse the one that was used for the really old uncle." Cause that won't seem out of place at all. And then it's on to squinting and she narrows her own focus on him, looking almost as perplexed but in a different way. "Are you saying you want to flirt with someone?" She nods along as he explains what he's gathered. "Well, you pretty much got it. And if you ask fifty different people, you'll probably get fifty different answers. Mostly it's folks finding any excuse to get closer than they otherwise would. Like proximity will lead to the kissing and then to all the rest."

"I mean…" Stefyr starts with another great inhale, his chest lifting and falling again as he tilts his head a little in Rhody's direction, not looking at her as he says, "It has to be better than that was, right?" And he rolls his eyes over to her to nail her with one of those very bland looks of his. Then he grins. The grin vanishes as a blush touches his cheeks and he looks down to look for more particles of dirt on the blanket. "Well, it's becoming increasingly apparent that that's sort of the first step to sleeping with someone, and if I impress a dragon, I probably need to learn something about that, so, yeah, I mean, generally, I'd like to learn to flirt with someone. Maybe someones." Plural. He reaches up and scratches his forehead with the back of a thumb. "I kissed Khavro. At Leirith's flight. And later." So there's that confession out. Even as he says it, his fingers drift in lazy little circles on her shoulder. They still when her words really penetrate. "So, like… this? Would… be…?" He uses his spare hand to indicate the two of them, his arm around her, a look of genuine confusion on his face as he looks over at the older woman.

Rhodelia faux-gasps as he continues to insult her not fully formed limerick. "And here I thought I could write as well as my harper sister!" She'll even bring out the prodigal family member guilt as well. The only reason she breaks away from the arm is so she can get a better look at him. It's awkward trying to crane her head like a foot up when sitting side by side. Her hand does tentatively reach out to set on top of his, if Stefyr will allow it so at least some contact is maintained. Maybe Risali's rubbing off on all of them. "Well, if you kissed someone looks like you might be able to flirt more than you know?" Even if she's doing her best not to show any surprise at the particular revelation. The last question has her chewing on her lip as she ponders. "Do you want it to be? I've been trying to avoid welll… with everybody." Distance has been her protection mechanism after all.

His hand turns under Rhodelia's, an automatic response so he can lightly clasp hers. The pursing of his lips is the consideration of the question before it leaves his lips, but leave them it does as Stefyr raises his brows, "Does it count as flirting if I basically pulled him into a private corner and just kissed him both times? I mean, he was okay with it." That seems an important point, really, that he hasn't forced any kind of thing on anyone, even with the apparently impulsive circumstances of those kisses. That last has his lips pressing together to seal up any similar impulsiveness. Rhody, of all people, deserves his thoughtful consideration. "I'm… not… really sure how I'm wired for all of this, yet. I…" He thinks again, trying to fish out those right words. "I think I have trouble seeing the lines that other people do. Between friendship and more. I don't know that I know how to stop myself from caring about a person in whatever way feels right to me, and I'm not sure whatever that is lines up with the ideas I had back at the farm." In case this is as confusing to her as it appears to still be to him, he tries, "I find a lot of people attractive, I guess. I mean, you, too. But I wouldn't… Risali once pointed out to me that going around kissing everyone would be a bad idea." And maybe he half got it. Maybe he's getting it a little bit more now. "I don't know… what you would want from me… with me? If you wanted something." And all that being as convoluted as it is, he throws that hot mess like a hot potato to his co-worker, squinting a little at her, "Do you? Want… something? With me?" Not that that's anything but flat out vague.

"Well… I wouldn't normally recommend that for everybody but some folks 'flirting' can be that direct…" Rhodelia makes air quotes with her free hands. At least Khavro didn't object but considering Stefyr's giant-ness, doubly not a good idea to try with everybody. Those carefully considered words earn a hand squeeze. "Don't feel pressured about all of it. There's a lot of ifs… and even if you do Impress, weyrlinghood lasts a while. You have some time to figure things out. Rushing into things…" She gives a little shudder. "Doesn't always end well. Especially with feelings." It's now her turn to blush and stare at her hand, which also happens to be in his hand, but she does hesitantly raise her head to make eyecontact at the hot potato question. "Even if I did want something, right now I think it'd be a bad idea. It's not you, not at all…" It's her, really. And maybe Rhody gets the honor of using that line on Stefyr for the first time even if she does mean it's mostly her. "We're coworkers. Sleeping with your coworkers gets messy. And…" This gets another big sigh. "I'm afraid. You'll impress and I won't and I'll be stuck on the outside watching. And it'll hurt."

Stefyr's lips are doing that pressed together thing again, though less firmly this time, more as though he's listening and doesn't want to take the chance that he'll interrupt. When she finishes, he brushes his thumb gently across the back of her hand a couple of times. "Or we might impress together and be facing a whole other set of issues." He watches their joined hands while he thinks. "I don't… want to land us in something complicated that makes it harder for me to be there for you or you to be there for me." He takes a breath, "I think I'm still figuring everything 'me' out. And it sounds like you are, a little, too. So… I don't… I mean. Labels?" He shrugs, giving her a little wrinkle nosed helpless look and shake of his head. "I don't need them." And then, "We don't have to be anything but whatever we are. It's… good? I think? It can be something else if—" And then the words just fail him and he looks to her as if to ask if he should try to muddle on.

The mention of Impressing together has Rhodelia giving a bit of side-eye to the other candidate. "That would definitely bring other issues. Issues I don't even want to begin thinking about." She'll stick with what she knows for now. What's safe. "You need to figure out you." Or considering this is Rhody maybe coming to terms with not being really sure of anything is also good enough. "And as for us, we're friends. For now." She'll make no pretense at knowing what she might want in the future. "And those eggs should be hatching in less than two months or so. If we should both happen to be on the side of those left standing… I happen to be an expert at drinking myself silly afterwards." A particular drinking where she'd really welcome a friend.

"Okay," he can agree. He doesn't need the labels, but if Rhodelia does, Stefyr isn't the sort of person to take away whatever she needs to carry on. "If I'm still there at the end, I'll take you up on your expertise. Only…" He looks to her with one of his puppyish looks, head cocked to one side, "I'll probably be drunk under the table in one cup." Even with his size. "I wish they'd let me drink again." But if he asked, Ila would probably just make that Ila face at him. That one. You know the one. He sighs. "Okay. I'm going to jump again." And up he gets, not letting go of Rhodelia's if she'll let him pull her up. In fact, if she'll let him, he'll seek to briefly enfold her in an embrace, with a murmured, "It'll all work out somehow," which is all the reassurance he'll offer on the previous serious topics before he says, "Last one down carries the pack," his tiny pack that might fit her better, "on the way back." And he'll even playfully jostle with her if need be to try to makes sure the loser isn't him.

Friend is a label that's safe enough, so Rhodelia will accept that one without turning tail and running. As for his confession of being an oversized lightweight, she gives a laugh and a wink. "Always knew you were an overachiever." Look at her looking at cups half full for once. The help up is appreciated and even if the embrace is a bit of a surprise, she'll return it with a pat on his back. "It always does." She's been lucky like that so far. As for the challenge, she gives a snort before she starts off for the cliff. "No fair! Your legs are longer!" Even so, she'll do her best to try and keep up. Does it really matter who ends up being the last one down? Eventually the pair and pack will all make it back to the barracks before too long.

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