Well... That Went Well (Said Nobody Ever)

Xanadu Weyr - Weyrlingmaster's Office
There's nothing fancy about this office, in fact it's quite utilitarian. There's nothing but a desk, a bookcase, a large filing cabinet and a long bench table - all made of wood stained in a warm golden hue. The desk, which consists of little more than a wooden slab, sits in the corner opposite the door. Allowing an eye to be kept on the young dragons and weyrlings, the wall that divides the office from the barracks has three large windows with wooden shutters in the same honey as the furniture that can be closed for privacy. Spacious dimensions, leaving more than enough room for the Weyrlingmaster to meet with his AWLMs - or several weyrlings at the table, which is placed underneath the windows, is softened by creamy walls and soft lighting. Otherwise the room seems almost bare.

It's a pretty typical afternoon that brings N'on to the weyrlingmaster's office. Judging by the windblown look to his hair, he's probably fresh off a round of patrols or something, but at least he doesn't look like he's spoiling for a fight? At least, he wears the same friendly-neutral expression he normally wears, anyway. He gives a knock on the door before peeking in to see if Ila'den is in. He's got a folded note already in hand, but he waits in the doorway for an answer to his knock.

And typical afternoons find Ila'den in typical assistant throes: elbows deep in paperwork, writing utensil poised in the curve of fingers and thumb, both elbows on his desk as that too-big body leans over something of questionable importance. It is with an apathetic kind of slow that that lone grey eye rises to answer the calling of a knock, something that speaks to disinterest in the way the bronzerider takes note of the greenrider looming about his door — dismissive in the way that his attention falls back to his paperwork after an almost predatory assessment, pauses there for one, two, three moments too long. "How may I help you?" comes that raspy growl, a voice delivered unerringly soft with calm. But he isn't tracking N'on's progress any further than that, instead marking something off on that piece of paper that seems, for now, to be what's holding his interest.

N'on doesn't seem too put off, but then again… In Xanadu these days, a mere growl is probably a relief. In fact, he takes the question as an invitation to step inside and right up to the desk. He holds out his hand-written note with a rather bland smile. If Ila'den should deign to take it and read, he'll find a question written there: "Did you tell Candidate Evangeline that she won't Impress?" If he chooses not to read it? …Well, they'll cross that bridge when they come to it.

To be fair, that growl doesn't leave — it can't. That's just the voice Ila'den was born into, his curse to bare, one of so many unfortunate things that does nothing to curb the edges of Ila'den's caustically lack-of-interest personality. And Ila'den doesn't look up right away; he takes precious moments to check something off on his paper, takes even more to push them aside, and only then does that grey eye level on that note extended to him. The bronzerider takes it between calloused fingers, skims the words writ upon it with a raise of his brow that might have been permissible if only it didn't precede the sudden rumble of low, husky laughter. It's short lived, the humor on his lips never quite reaching his eyes, that momentary baring of canines a little too sharp for friendliness. Every single muscle in Ila'den's body is too infuriatingly at ease as that impossible man leans back, as he holds the note between forefinger and middle and cocks it back towards N'on, for the greenrider to take. "I am curious to know why anything said between myself or any of Xanadu Weyr's candidates is your business." And don't worry; it was less a question and more a statement, but Ila'den will wait.

There is something incredibly patient in N'on. That bland smile remains firmly in place, just… waiting. Staring. Watching Ila'den until he reads the note. When he receives the not-answer, the smile doesn't flicker. He simply takes it back, sets it on the desk, and starts to print out an answer. It's a rather longish note, but on the bright side, it gives Ila'den more time to be conspicuously disinterested! When the greenrider is finally finished, he holds it out and waits for Ila'den to take it. "She comes to me for guidance she isn't getting from leadership. Hard to know if I'm working at cross purposes to you unless I understand your reasoning."

And be conspicuously disinterested Ila'den does — by pulling that paper back into his purview, by leaning over it to write while N'on puts words to paper. For what it's worth, Ila'den's reaching up to take that paper as soon as N'on extends it, though his eyes don't follow the motion. One, two, three moments is all that it takes for that grey eye to skim parchment before the bronzerider presses it back across the table under the weight of his forefinger. "It is not the weyr's duty to hold Evangeline's hand." And for all that the words are acerbic, there's no hint of anger, no ire, not a single change of inflection in Ila'den's tone. It's that same raspy-growl, that same soft calm, that same almost bored dismissiveness adopted in his posture as Ila leans forward, brings both elbows onto the table and laces his fingers together. "But let's say that it was. You are a wingrider in galaxy, am I correct?" The smile that comes with that question is wolfish at best, all the pause Ila'den gives because the bronzerider already knows the answer to that question. "Last I checked, your extensive list of responsibilities did not include 'candidates' or 'their insecurities', and mine did not include 'reporting to Galaxy's wingriders'. So." A beat, and Ila'den's gaze is dropping again, his hands coming apart so that he can pull that parchment back towards himself. "You are free to choose whatever it is that you want to believe. The weyr does not pay me to entertain the childish need to play a victim, or engage in petty gossip."

Does that smile flicker? …Nope. It's the same calm, energyless smile that refuses to react implied threats or roadblocks. The same casual interest with which he might face down a snappish, injured wherry. He takes his paper back so he can write another note, bent over the desk as he carefully inscribes his thought, then stands up again to offer it out. "You clearly are far too busy for this. You'd be rid of me much faster if you simply cleared the air."

Inscribed thoughts received by the intended recipient, and Ila'den's only response is more of that husky, low-pitched, rumbling laughter. It doesn't last for more than three heartbeats at best, but it lingers — in the edges of his lips, in a hint of canines. "Aye, I am far too busy for this." But now Ila'den is merely pushing back N'on's communication, leaning back over his paperwork, picking up his writing utensil. "So perhaps you can go and ask Evangeline, and close the door on your way out."

N'on watches Ila'den for several long moments. Feel that tickle on the back of the neck? It's N'on. Staring. Smiling. Thinking. Sure, he /could/ take it paper and leave, but then he wouldn't be N'on. When has he ever done the safe and rational thing when dealing with eccentric leadership types? Probably like… once. But that was an accident. So he goes back to his paper and starts writing again. This time, he places the paper directly on top of Ila'den's paperwork, before standing back to wait. "Then I can assume what she told me was accurate. I just want to know why."

And much like it is not within N'on to do the 'safe' and 'rational' thing, it would be too far of a stretch to imagine that Ila'den is at all the type to be cowed. So what happens within the reality of an irresistible force paradox; what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? That paper that comes down on top of his work is picked up without so much as a change in posture, a change in expression; there's no real reaction as it is retrieved with a disinterested kind of slow and set to the side — not pushed back, not even looked over for longer than it takes Ila'den to remove it. "You are free to assume what you like; it does not interest me." Or concern him, for that matter. Ila'den's merely going back to work, unperturbed and unmoved.

N'on's eyes visibly narrow at Ila'den's dealing with the note. A crack in the calm facade? Maybe. Certainly, on a beach somewhere, a green dragon gives a rumble of discontent. But he doesn't write another note. Nor does he leave to let Ila'den get back to work. Nope. He picks up that /clearly unread/ note and places it back on the top of Ila'den's paperwork. And if Ila'den tries to push it aside without looking again? N'on will do it again. He's got all night, a sharp pencil, and a notebook full of paper, baybee.

Okay, look. After the fifth time of discarding the same note and finding it right back on his paperwork, Ila'den keeps it. But he doesn't just keep it; no, the Bronzerider applies the tip of his own pen to it, scrawls out something deliberately slow and then folds it up. POP. A bronze firelizard appears, and Ila'den's grey eye rises to find N'on as he ties it around the 'lizard's leg. "Take that to Evangeline," he rasps. And POP that flitter goes again, seeking out the candidate while Ila'den returns to his paperwork and waits.

N'on's jaw clenches and something hardens behind his eyes. He makes… some sort of gesture with his hands. It's not a known obscenity, at least, but it's so fast that it's out and done in a mere moment. Judging by the look on his face, it probably wasn't nice. And then, for good measure, he shoves the pile of paperwork off the desk. Meanwhile, somewhere, Zhelinath's quiet rumbling discontent flares abruptly to a forest fire, indiscriminately aimed at the firelizard in question, Ila'den, and a certain bronze, with a single word formed of roaring flames: « MINE. » Does she mean N'on? Evangeline? Both? WHO KNOWS. The only clear fact is that she's angry and uncharacteristically vocal about it.

You know when your day is perfect? You get the day off, and you spend the whole time doing what you want to do. Yeah. Where maybe you visited your Nana, and she fed you ice cream and then gave you marks because it's your turn day soon. Perhaps the caverns are serving the perfect meal, and you got the first bites. Possibly you just got a brand new firelizard, and he's tucked into your loving arms right this minute, asleep from his first meal. YEP. A day when the litter box cleans itself. That is the kind of day Evangeline was having. A small blue firelizard is tucked in her arms, following behind her into the office is a black nekkid cat in the bright yellow T-shirt. Evi seems happy, there's a skip to her step. There was a small skip. She had no reason to be suspicious until she read the note. None of it made sense, N'on's handwriting about her impressing quickly formed a lump in her throat. With a small knock on the door, she enters the office, wearing a bright pink skirt and a white top buttoned at her wrist and neck. Hair is braided up, but if one could be paler than Evangeline already is typically, well, she is the color of the paper. Her mouth opens, no words. Opens again. No words. There's the paper on the floor, there's a cat behind Evi, there's a perfect day laying in tatters around her. This is why we cannot have nice things. Dishonor to both of them, dishonor on their cows.

And here he comes, summoned into action by the touch of a voice that he catches in a flurry of blizzard — a force of insidious loathing at best, a beast more than dragon whose hissing beats back against heat. But Teimyrth doesn't stop there; he goes for N'on. It's a metaphysical claws that rend and tear, a brain-freeze that's somehow acidic as it rips into every synapses with total disregard. « MINE, » comes born on a furious howl, delivered to Zhelinath's rider because speaking to the green directly would be below him. And Ila'den watches. Ila'den cannot read sign language, but he can read posture, he can see N'on's expression, he knows within those heartbeat seconds of N'on reaching out exactly what he is going to do. And the bronzerider doesn't stop him. He watches paperwork fly and scatter, he offers no respite from the onslaught of his lifemate who is an amalgamation of too many ugly things even though the bronze does — with punctuated distaste — retreat from the greenrider's world. But Ila'den's regard has gone as icy as his lifemate's voice, no vestiges of boredom or long-suffering patience left — just this, a calculating cold that speaks to a man who may know too much about being a monster. So this is what Evangeline comes into, this mess, the way Ila'den's attention doesn't leave the greenrider across from him as he issues a soft, raspy, "Sit," for Evi. But there's no change in his tone, no hint of inflection, no agitation to be found in his posture or his gaze as it comes to settle on the candidate he's summoned to his office. "And provide your boyfriend the clarity he's asking for so that you can both stop wasting my fucking time." That comes with a hint of teeth, with the beginnings of something lacking patience and cruel. And then just. like. that. Ila'den's only sound is the soft give of leathers as he moves, overdressed as always, when he picks up several of those papers and puts them back on his desk. And then he leans over them. And then he gets right back to work.

Some people like to say that pain shared is pain halved… Whoever those people are, they never envisioned a situation quite like /this/. Zhelinath, in her absolute fury, does not exactly retreat from the older dragon's blizzard. Logic might dictate that, once he turns that fury upon N'on alone, she should only share the experience second-hand. And yet… Mental claws rip through N'on's mind, and the greenrider crumples, supported only by a hastily thrown out hand on the top of the desk. A wheezing exhale is his only audible reaction, and in the same instant, Zhelinath screams from wherever she is, a pained cry mixed with youthful betrayal. One really would think it was /her/ mind he'd dumped his poison into. N'on himself can't quite seem to catch his breath. His eyes have the glassy look of one stunned. He doesn't even registered Evangeline's presence until the bronzerider references her, and even then, he just turns that stunned look toward her, as though struggling to put one thought after the other.

Evangeline cannot hear all dragons, she has no clue what is going on in this office. The note is balled in one hand, and she walks in a stuttering step towards the chairs. Ila'den says sit, so she sits, but then N'on is crumpling sideways, and she jumps up and places her hand on his shoulder. Narrowing her eyes at Ila'den she looks between the two of them, "WHAT is happening, why.. why am I here? Sir, he's my friend I- Um. I." You know those hidden reserves of strength Evi has? When in a foxhole, she finds herself fully? Well, she's there. "Sir, please help him." Begging seems to be a theme for her right now, first with Ki'lian and now with Ila'den. "It's ok here. Um here." One of the rolling chairs is pulled up behind the man, and she all but pushes N'on into it. Whoever this person is, she is only present when someone seems worse off than herself. A hand moves to N'on's arm, and she squeezes it gently, breathing fast and shaking her head. Leaning down, she grabs up Lightbulb in all his black Nekkid glory and places him on N'on. "Here, I.. don't know what's wrong, here.. pet the cat." Evi's kindness shines through; she's kind to a fault. Only once she feels N'on is settled does she sit down and face Ila'den, "Sir. Please help." She means it, she looks as befuddled as can be. "Can um, can we leave?" Opening her hand she reads the note, "I.. told you that in.-" Yeah, in private, her face falls, and she deflates into the chair. Silence, brown eyes looking out the window as she sinks into the chair. ~You will never be let down by anyone more than you will be let down by the one you love most in the world, it's how gravity works, it's why they call it falling every year you have more to lose. (credit to Andrea Gibson)

Help? Teimyrth answers Zhelinath with rage, a furious howl of dragonsong that reverberates in one mighty roar. But Ila'den is untouched, icy in the way that grey eye comes away from paperwork to watch Evangeline and N'on both, no hint that he might, in fact, rise to be of assistance. "It will pass." There is no physical damage, just the touch of a mind too dark — the very one that so rarely deigns to bespeak anybody outside of his rider. And clearly, it is a good thing that Teimyrth's voice is spent only in a private connection to Ila'den. See, if you thought the rider was bad, you clearly haven't met the dragon. But at least, for now, Ila'den doesn't go back to his paperwork; for now, Ila'den watches Evi struggle to get N'on comfortable, watches as she asks him for help again and the bronzerider sits immobile behind his desk because any ounce of kindness left bled out the moment those papers hit the floor. Can they leave? Now, that grey eye lands back on N'on, an absolute chill in the way he regards the Galaxy wingrider. And then Evi is reading that note, and Ila'den finally speaks — again. "I am sure that he had good intentions," comes on a rasp. AND WHAT'S THIS? ILA'DEN DEFENDING N'ON? "But I have no interest in being a part of your lover's quarrel." And Ila'den shifts again, rolls his shoulders in the confines of his leathers, drops his gaze back to his papers. "Pick somebody else to be your villain next time, Evangeline, and you," a shift of that pen towards N'on without looking up, "Choose your battles more wisely. Now get the fuck out of my office." Or don't. He's focused on his papers. Again — or, what few of them he gathered back up, anyway.

Whatever is going on inside N'on's head… Well, it's apparently going to stay there. He goes along with the chair-sitting thing because falling down is even /less/ manly than rolling chairs and hairless cats. The second 'help' is what brings him out of it, with a little bit of a snap. He blinks a few times, paler than he was when he walked in, and looks between Evangeline and Ila'den with a slowly growing horror that he swallows down behind a tightly gripped jaw. Mindless of the cat in his lap, he reaches out to try and grab Evangeline. It's mostly to get her attention, with that kind of serious-face eye-contact he's occasionally capable of when he /really/ needs to say something. It starts with the sign for 'apology', since that's probably one Evi's seen from him a few times at least. Then he verrrry sloooooowly finger signs one word for her. "D-A-N-G-E-R." Whatever Ila just said, it doesn't quite seem to soak in. He glances that direction with poorly-concealed anxiety, then pushes himself unsteadily to his feet and tentatively tries to usher Evi out of the office.

Careful the things you say, children will listen. Careful the things you do, children will watch. And learn. Children may not obey, but children will listen. Evangeline hears Ila'den, she is listening to him. For a few short moments, she is disconnected from her body, her eyes seeing but her mind rapidly running through how she even got here. This process takes a moment because it begins in a house three days before it collapsed. A small whimper escapes her throat, "Ila'den, sir, I um. I. Um. I um." Like a skipping record, there's a disconnect because how did she get here. WHose fault even is this. The tiny whimper and quiet crying, N'on's touch startling her from the place where lost things like her go to hide from the world. She has seen the word DANGER before, but while N'on goes to leave, she shakes her head and pulls her legs up into the chair. Signing back to N'on, she signs I H-A-V-E T-O L-I-V-E W-I-T-H H-I-M. A pause and the crying starts again, then I F-I-X. Now the fact that the 15-turn-old abandoned child is the one fixing this adult man child quarrel is neither here nor there. The girl is determined to fix it. Staring at Ila'den she stays put, content to stay here forever. Maybe die here. Everyone might underestimate how serious the anxiety and depression have been for the girl, how the loneliness bites away at her at night, how she had finally found the light again, and now it's gone. She had finally felt at home. Knees to chest, she looks over at N'on, "Can you um, please- " HICCUP. SOb. HELP ME I AM DROWNING. HICCUP. "Take Lightbulb to Nana's, she um" HICCUP. SOB, the worst of quiet tears. "She lives off the forest, Senkyou, she um. She will take him. Zhel can speak to Dulacth; that's her dragon." Hiccup. Sob. The small squeaky breathing of a distressed teen girl willing to somehow be an adult, even when it's horrible and hard and COMPLETE BULLSHIT.

Maybe Ila'den is too used to those looks, the fear that N'on casts his way, the fear that he meets without a flicker of change in his expression. The greenrider tries to pull Evangeline from mounting this place where there is too much and — and Evangeline is crying. Here. Here is where Ila'den closes his eyes, where that too big, too cold man draws in a breath and perhaps invokes long-dead queens for a patience he isn't feeling in this moment. And then he rises, a creak of leathers that bulge under too-damn much muscle moments before the bronzerider is shrugging out of his jacket. And, as always, there is nothing to see beneath except for the second layer of protection he always dons: a light-fabric, long-sleeved tunic. Not once does his attention stray back to N'on as booted feet carry him slow, measured steps around the table — a conscious effort, a minimalizing of movement to shed the illusion of threat, to warn well before he's upon her with that jacket. And he brings it down over her head as he sinks into a crouch, making himself the smaller of the two as that grey eye looks up through that temporary sanctuary he's provided that smells too damn much like him. "Look at me." It's gentle — or as gentle of a voice as Ila'den can effect with a rasp. But he's holding onto the edges of his jacket still, applying no pressure, but certainly enclosing her in that space. "Breathe."

When Evi signs her answer and starts to cry, a complex world of emotions mixes up on N'on's face, so muddied that they can no longer be teased apart. Fear is there, for sure, taking up a lion's portion of space. Regret. Sadness and worry, too. His mouth opens and closes again, just once, in a weird vestige of words that he would say. Wants to say, but can't. Then, hardening over all of it like a clear-coat over the world's muddiest paint job, his old friend: frustration. And before he has even started to settle on a course of action, suddenly Ila'den is there. While N'on remains rooted to the spot, the man is… giving her his jacket? N'on's fists clench and then open, fingers alternately stretching and tightening into fists. It isn't a warning of violence to come, but an unconscious physical manifestation of anxiety. The word 'breathe' seems to be his breaking point. Inner conflict spilling all over his ever-expressive face, he takes one step to the side, stumbles just a bit, and then makes good his exit. The poor cat is left behind. So is his notepad, forgotten on Ila'den's desk.

All of the reports on Evangeline since Ila'den's last seen her and more so since Ki'lian got ahold of her would read improvement. She is trying. All of it reads that she is trying hard. The only thing really suffering is her weight, which has dropped a good deal since the Ki'lian incident. The crying softens to a small whimper, and she hears N'on leave but doesn't say anything. No words. Silence. A deep breath is taken, and the jacket is moved so big brown-green eyes meet Ila'den's. She says in the saddest puppy whimper that is also attempting to be a dignified lady but failing, "FOr the record, I told him EXACTLY what you said." That's it, she has said her peace and sits in the chair. She is not moving, he can move her, he can yell at her. Outside of being physically moved, she is done, she was having such a good day. Now she is content to rot right here, under this coat, in this chair until something big enough moves her.

"I don't care," Ila'den tells Evangeline — and it's not a dismissive refusal to hear her words, but a statement of fact: he doesn't care what she told N'on. He doesn't care what N'on thinks he said, or how this little game of telephone went so awry. Ila'den. Doesn't. Care. He doesn't care for the pettiness of he said, she said, he doesn't care to defend himself, he just doesn't care. And he doesn't care if Evangeline sits there, either — he sits with her, or rather, he remains crouched before her. And he doesn't yell. He doesn't speak at all. No, after a long, quiet moment he… hums? He hums. And then softly, softly, too softly, Ila'den sings to fill that silence. But if Evangeline has it in her to listen to the words, it's clear that they're meant for her: Don't survive, thrive. Oh ye of so little faith, don't doubt it. Victory is in your veins. And when the song is done, if Evangeline is there, Ila'den will stay with her still — unmoved to speak further into silences when he eventually rises to move back around the table and finally, finally get back to his work.

There are times when words are too much, too heavy, too hard, too stuck in your throat. Evangeline simply stays put, her body tired from both lack of eating and from the idea that she cannot escape the constant turmoil around her. Humpty dumpty lived a hard hard life, but so did the people putting him back together. Unfortunately somedays Evi does the job all by herself, listening to Ila sing she realizes she has been invited into a private space and remains silent as the grave throughout the singing. After a long while she falls asleep balled up in the chair, Lightbulb wanders the office until told otherwise. Tomorrow is another day, and she has one more mouth to feed. Eggs are almost ready, that change she has felt coming since she arrived will happen whether she likes it or not.

Ila'den allows Evangeline to sleep there, allows her the keeping of his riding jacket while he works until, inevitably, the weyrleader comes in silently to collect him home. And Ila'den will come — but not before he's gentle in lifting Evi from that seat, one arm around her back, the other hooked under her legs. It is with alarming ease that the bronzerider hefts her against his chest, with an alarming gentleness so at odds with what Ila'den presents to the world that he carries her through rows of beds and candidates and sets her down on her own, to tuck her in under covers and then walk the distance home with his weyrmate.

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