Wordly Worries

Xanadu Weyr - Greenhouse
The greenhouse stands along one wall of the garden, the trees surrounding its immediate perimeter cleared away so full sun falls upon its length for the entire day. Its frame is comprised of white wrought-iron, strong despite its decorative appearance, built to support the thickly-crafted glass panes that substitute for side walls and high ceilings. Two stories high, the oblong building is one part jungle retreat, one part hothouse garden, for though its function is to provide medicinal plants for the infirmary, and keep the weyr in fruits, vegetables, and herbs in off-seasons, the addition of a fountain, a variety of flowering 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 staircases at either end, each set of stairs a narrow spiral that leads up to a wide catwalk skirting the upper reaches of the greenhouse. Benches and circular tables 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. The potted presence of flowering herbs, plumeria, and night-blooming jasmine fill the air with a fresh, spicy, 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 aisle, waist-high planting beds are tilted to provide easy access to the weyr's denizens. Beneath are cupboards and drawers containing planting supplies such as seeds, bags of potting soil, fertilizer, pots and hand tools, along with several signs encouraging the careful addition of favorite plants to their appropriate beds. A work bench for potting plants and a closet for shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows have been tucked unobtrusively into one corner, accessible to anyone who might spy them amidst carefully-kept shrubbery.

The greenhouse is picturesque on almost any day, but on a rainy day like today, it qualifies as a favored retreat for those who wish to surround themselves with the green and growing, without getting soaked in the process. It's thus that many of the benches and circular tables around the perimeter of the domed space are already occupied by a variety of people going about a variety of tasks. Stefyr's small table is a prime location to view some of the blooming flowers, but it's not these that have the big blond's attention in full. Rather, it's the pair of books settled side by side on the small tabletop. His brows are dipped and really, someone probably needs to send help because it looks like he's hurting himself with the degree of focus that he's giving the books. One has anatomical diagrams with words that are series of letters that he might not even be convinced aren't just an inside joke for healers, and the other is obviously a dictionary meant to assist him in decipher the secrets held within the other.

Was he trying to be Ajral bait or is this a coincidence? Because whether or not that was Stefyr's plan, he has succeeded beautifully. Greenhouse, table, flowers, familiar back-of-Stefyr-head, books? INSTANT AJRAL. Likely he was focused enough to not really notice her approach, though she is wearing those clicky-heeled sandals, so her feet were audible if Stefyr's poor brain took a break. She's also not aiming for jump scare, so she comes around to the side to lean against the table, rather than speak from behind the younger candidate: "Interesting reading?"

Although it may not have been Ajral in particular that Stefyr's mental calls for help were intending to attract, she is arguably the very best choice, given the content of the books laid out before him. Who else already knows how to pronounce these words, after all? Not he. His lips move, but no sound comes out. His features pinch in a way that suggests disgruntled persistence at a task he's determined to do, no matter how complicated. It does happen that despite his good intentions to continue, he sighs and straightens, letting his head fall side to side in stretch from the hunched position he had inadvertently slumped into the longer his study session went on. The clicks don't fit an environment that is all too familiar to him from his stint as a gardner when the greenhouse was still being completed and he tilts his head back in time to look right up at the other candidate. "Aja," RUN. That's relief, that's a blush, but not something that's going to stop him. "Please help." He gestures to the books. "I'm learning new words." That blush changes to a degree deeper in the pink zone. What's laid out is really some very simple basic anatomy of female and male bodies, but with all those very technical names to a previously literacy-struggling farmer would doubtless be daunting. "Do you mind?" He inquires politely, at least, once she's had a chance to glimpse the topic at hand.

This is the absolute opposite of running; this is siting down, right here. When Ajral sits she is trying not to smile, because she should not be so pleased for her presence to be so appreciated, and also because she should not be so delighted by adults learning words. Even if she is. She feels as if perhaps it would be rude to broadcast these ideals and thus it's just a little bit of pleased sparkle to her eyes, instead. "Mind?" She takes a closer look at the words in question, and simply nods: Stefyr can do the blushing for the both of them, because she just shakes her head. "Not at all. What's difficult?" Farmers, she knows, are familiar with things like birth and body parts, so it's probably not the concepts.

Stefyr, for his part, doesn't seem self-conscious about the activity, just… the content. That content does make his blush increase in depth by yet one more degree. It's possible there's a mental chant briefly allowed of, 'She's a healer. She's a healer,' only given the last healer that he spoke with about this topic… well. At least only one of them is awkward this time. His fingers casually rest on the page (CASUALLY, OKAY? But just you see how fast that casual becomes something more direct if Ajral tries to turn a page away from these fairly clinical and complete diagrams). "I'm just… I'm sounding them out." Because that's what you do with new words. "And I'm not… sure… I'm getting it right." His fingers tap a couple trickier ones - clitoris, for example, perineum, and other places on the page to things as tricky as vesicouterine pouch, greater vestibular gland. She can really take her pick. Even the word 'ejaculatory' as in duct seems to be tripping him up. "It's bad enough to be trying to sort what's what," he gestures to the dictionary that probably gives definitions as technically correct in Healerese as possible, "when I'm pretty sure I'd just sound like… well, someone who doesn't know anything," which he probably doesn't, "just trying to ask the question. It's like when I was learning to sign. I'd get things wrong and not know it until weeks later. Sometimes longer. When they teach these kind of basics at HealerCraft, how do they go about it? And how does no one faint from the movement of blood to their face?" That last is probably a joke, but given the hand that isn't busy keeping the main book from flipping pages has to go scrub across his face to try to manually move some of that persisting blood to other places, the joke falls a little flat.

"Sign is difficult too," Ajral gets there eventually, responding to just about everything presented to her completely in reverse. "It is hard to learn things without context, so I think the fact you know that means you're doing well." If Ajral even knows how to blush, which no one has ever seen and might be on Ki'lian's list of more minor and unimportant life goals, she hides it with makeup and right now she seems about as down to Pern as possible. There is no page stealing! "Also some of these words don't make sense. The choices of how letters work together can be really odd, I'd say half the people I hear try get clitoris wrong the first time." She said it right when she said it, and then intones, "Clih-TOR-iss," to demonstrate what the other half are saying. "Since the accent isn't in an intuitive place because the words are weird and that makes it harder. We're taught in lectures, of course, so we learn how to pronounce things from instructors and are seeing them written at the same time. Thus, essentially, we are — not cheating, but at an advantage — and not going through the process you are. That one," she points at perineum, oh, that awful word, "people actually fight over how to say." This is not a joke. They do. "It's meant to be peh-ruh-NEE-um, but pair-IN-ee-um is so common that people in some regions think it's also right. Accents, I guess. Actually, rubbing your face will accomplish that goal, so three cheers for intuition." If she could answer the question without pausing, why not do so? But she's grinning playfully when she does.

Maybe it serves as a point in Stefyr's favor that he seems genuinely invested in the study of the subject and this is not just some stunt to produce Ajral's elusive blush, if it ever makes an appearance under her makeup. The healer's more-professional-than-not or at least not-awkward handling of the subject, seems to help Stefyr's own embarrassment start to ebb. Not before he catches her last words, his hand still coming away from his face only to leave behind a sheepish look. "Maybe I'll have to try harder not to blush in the first place now that you're onto me." He does habitually rub his face; maybe it's all those feelings shown in blushes or even just shown at all that he's trying to be rid of each time. His listening has been intense, through the words she offers and now he tries his hand at them, repeating them with the advised pronunciations, stumbling a little, but managing - faster, if she'll offer him the necessary corrections as he works over the words. "It is funny how some words can be pronounced more than one way and mean the same thing. Or two different ways and mean two different things but still be spelt the same." That gets a grin; Ajral is in the presence of a newly minted logophile and he probably could go on, but doesn't. "I wish I could get hold of a dictionary that had these sorts of words but didn't have me cross-referencing with other definitions just to understand how one goes together with another. Or maybe I just need anatomy of more parts," YES, STEFYR, MORE HEALER-SPECIFIC KNOWLEDGE THAT PEOPLE TRAIN TURNS AND TURNS TO UNDERSTAND AND USE WILL CERTAINLY NOT CONFUSE YOU MORE. "The healer I spoke with said something about it all making more sense in practice. And I can't imagine these are really the words people use to talk about things, even if it's probably good to know the real names, in case I end up at the infirmary for some reason." He winces because … well. IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES. He certainly is. (OW OW OW.)

As soon as it's clear that this is feedback that is genuinely wanted, Ajral will coach as Stefyr goes, and correct accents placed on wrong syllables or vowels turned incorrectly. Mentally, she is cursing language that this even needs to be done; it's not his fault, it's the fault of whoever decided that letters do not always make the same sounds. "Agreed, I mean, what is wrong with 'ocean', anyway? Who decided on that spelling?" Thankfully Pern does not have a Pacific Ocean where all the 'c's are pronounced differently for them to cry about. "You are doing well, though. I'm sure that somewhere at Healer Hall I can find a book like that, but I'd have to actually be able to get there first. I can ask a friend," she says, tucking a piece of hair idly behind one ear. "It does make more sense in practice, for sure, and most people use varying different slang that you shouldn't be embarrassed to clarify because it tends to not always make much sense. I don't tend to, personally, because of that ambiguity, and …" She trails off for a second, then is unable to not smile: "While the infirmary definitely appreciates precision, the most common related affliction I've seen, the name makes no sense? It's called balanitis and it's an infection of the head of the penis but it's called that for no reason at all I can figure." BECAUSE GREEK. IT MEANS ACORNITIS. But Pern.

Can Stefyr, in any way, be blamed for the fact that his legs shift in involuntary reaction to place one over the other under the table as if this, somehow, could defend his precious parts from anything that sounds like that. "Shells." It's a breathed curse and his blue gaze goes to the Healer for a beat of one, two, and then he's laughing. This isn't just a chuckle or a guffaw, no, nothing short of body-shaking laughter that has his head throwing back and leaves him grinning ear to ear at the older woman. "I do not envy you a role in the infirmary, but I like the stories it gives you." Because he really would like to never encounter, in any way, an infection like that, but evidently between that and the slang-clarification words, he's vastly entertained. The grin manages to tamp down a little bit as he looks back at the books he has. "If it wouldn't be too much trouble," still comes with a smile but is certainly more serious in tone, "I would appreciate an inquiry to your friend. I don't have a lot of savings yet, but I'd be glad to purchase a book like that if it couldn't be borrowed and I had enough." He has only been at the Weyr a few months now and wages you can spend are not a thing on a family farm, or at least, not his. "Slang is funny. Whether it's for this," he gestures to the books, "or generally. Just like spelling." Surely he appreciates ocean for everything she implied. "Things like this aren't your specialty, are they? I heard most Journeymen have one. A specialty," and though they've been in the same candidate class this long, evidently that detail hasn't made it to Stefyr's ear yet.

"You'd be welcome to borrow it as long as you needed, teaching is his thing," Ajral hesitates to think about whether there's a better word to use there, 'thing' being almost offensively vague. "His niche, I would almost say, but not a specialty, just something he encourages to a ridiculous extent, so I know this particular person will be able to find that book." How it gets from the Hall to Xanadu is a better question and one Ajral isn't terribly worried about. She'll make it work. "But you're also right it isn't mine - no future Apprentice Master here, I'm a mindhealer with bad luck to be stuck working walk-in clinic at times." Hence the balanitis adventure and all the times she's had to suture dumb injuries. Both are Weyr staples.

And what, one might wonder, does it tell the mindhealer that Stefyr shift again in the wake of that particular revelation, as though he could protect his bits (the one's not even situated there) by crossing his legs that much more? His brow knits, blue eyes moving across the healer's face as though he's knitting together whatever his concept of Ajral was to this point with that word that could imply so much. He clears his throat, NERVES, but what he essays after a moment is a cautious but game, "That sounds like a fairly fascinating specialty." Does he want to ask for trade stories? No, evidently not. "The kind of thing that could help people, if they let it." And yet, there's a little guardedness to him now. "Do you.. Is it the kind of thing you only … do when you're on duty? Or is it the sort of thing you can't really turn off at the end of a shift?"

Presently Ajral's analysis is set to 'off,' or as close to it as can be — and so her focus remains between the table, the book and Stefyr's face. No judgments of movement here, not when she's not supposed to be making them, though it is true it can be difficult to leave it behind: "Often people don't. Let it. They think it means they're broken, but the healthiest people get some form of therapy," is Ajral's same-old spiel, but it's true. "It's always good to have someone to talk things out with who has no preconceived notion and no bias. But I pretty much have learned to turn it off, yeah," comes with another smile. "I have to or I'd be driving myself over the edge with finding too many meanings in everything. Some things are impossible to miss, but generally it's got a switch. I don't ever look at other candidates in that light." Evangeline's obvious ADHD aside, but that was impossible to miss.

"So treating friends is out," Stefyr observes in summation, with a slight easing of tension in his shoulders. He bends his head back over that book, looking over the parts, murmuring the words (mostly correctly this time) again as a way of giving his mind a moment to settle and re-orient. AND LOOK, he's not even blushing this time. "It sounds like it would be a challenge for you, if you couldn't. The world is complicated enough without over-thinking." Even if he's probably guilty of doing that on more than one occasion, but who isn't? "Do you enjoy it? I mean, beyond what made you want to choose it for a specialty." There could be other reasons to choose that specialty after all.

"Generally, yes." Ajral doesn't elaborate on the rules behind that 'generally,' a word she has to abuse; if there were twenty mindhealers at Xanadu, it would be an always yes, but here sometimes it's a little bit — impossible to avoid friends. It is, however, possible to avoid people she's standing with right at that time because that's an ethical boundary others expect. Unfortunately it means bringing someone in outside for candidates, so everyone will be glad when Ajral finally gives up the knot for good. "I mean, generally yes I don't treat friends, but also I do enjoy it — that one doesn't need a qualifier. I've always been good at it." She doesn't bring up that she got there due to a natural gift for hypnosis, because people don't get it and think she's terrifying when she actually says that, "And I do like helping solve others' puzzles, whether they be organic problems or overwhelming situations. Or in this case how to pronounce medical terminology, which while not a mind problem, is still technically a problem I'm glad to help with. The separating out parts of my instincts was just … actually, it's just skills that I end up teaching patients. I have to be good at all these things too," she adds with a smile, "before I can tell others to do them." So she's the sanest person in Xanadu, but no one was ever arguing otherwise. Have you seen the rest of Xanadu?

There's a low humming rumble originating in Stefyr's chest that precedes his mild, "That makes sense." He doesn't seem to expect that she needs his affirmation of her logic or her skills or anything else beyond his indication that he follows what she's telling him. "It seems like friendships could make treatment somehow messier from both ends." He's quiet a moment, staring at the some indistinct point in the gardens, near a pretty flower as it happens. "I do appreciate your help with this." He gestures to the books. He doesn't seem to wish to jump back into the books themselves, and maybe the whole topic of her career needs to marinade in his mind for a time before he comes back to it, because he lets his eyes focus on what he's looking at. "What brings you to the greenhouse anyway?" Maybe it's an obvious question, given the rain, given the inviting colors and vitality inherent in a place like this, but he asks it all the same. "I'm assuming you didn't have a nefarious plan to run into someone with books of embarrassing content." SHE MIGHT NOT HAVE ACTUALLY KNOWN THAT IF HE HADN'T JUST SAID SO, BUT THERE IT IS. His fingers drum lightly on that page he's holding down, lulled into trusting inattention. The words he actually says are said in a tone of dry humor, his blue eyes coming back from the plants and to the woman's face after a moment.

She might not have, and she will never reveal whether or not she does! Though it's easy to assume that Ajral can read moods, if not just read minds by looking at people — she just doesn't often comment on the stuff she sees. Sometimes that's the only way to be able to turn it off. But the prying, she keeps locked in a box when she's not on the clock! "Like I said, I'd be glad to help. And yes, friends make bad patients the same way friends aren't constructive people to vent to usually. I try to be a constructive friend to vent to, but I have to be more careful what I say than with a patient." Doesn't matter if patients don't like you. "And at least today, I didn't have nefarious plans. I just really really like plants. This is my favorite place in the entire world."

"Today," Stefyr echoes with a grin that appreciates the possibility of nefarious plans another day. He flips his books closed then, shifting to put them into a bag settled down by the leg of his chair. "Plants, you say. Would you care to take a walk around with me? I was hired on initially because they were just putting this together and needed extra hands for it, so I'm pretty familiar with everything in here. I could answer questions, if you have any?" It's not great expertise, but the big blond does seem to be trying to repay the healer in kind for her assistance. That, or maybe he just wants to walk through the flowers with her. It is a pretty place to go for a walk after all.

It's a worthy exchange for Ajral's time with pronunciation and then some, because she grins at the suggestion. "I would," she confirms, "I would like that very much and I think it will save you from being the target of any nefarious plans." Unless Rhodelia, who has that first spot in her friend-heart, insists otherwise, but so long as that doesn't happen … "There are these blue flowers over here that seem to bloom in more than one season and maybe you can tell me about them," is accompanied by a couple of steps vaguely in the direction of said blue flowers. (Of course, her favorite, to go with her flock of blue firelizards.)

"I don't mind being the target of nefarious plans, if they're ultimately non-lethal." Stefyr's words are out and gone into the world before he can really think through how good life MIGHT HAVE BEEN for him if only he had KEPT HIS BIG MOUTH SHUT. But being from a family of 12 plus 15 cousins, pranks are probably practically a language of love for the big blond. Of course, turnabout must be considered fair play… "These are ones I hadn't seen until I got here." He tells her of the blue flowers she's most interested in. His explanations of the plants are sprinkled with the sort of small anecdotes that might make them more memorable along with plenty of information about native locales, growing seasons and requirements and any of the other sorts of information he no doubt had previous experience for and only broadened when he came to work at the Weyr and in this greenhouse in particular. And so goes a pleasant walk through the newest addition to Xanadu on this rainy, dreary day.

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