NOPE Moments

Xanadu Weyr - Forest
The trees grow thickly here, avians nesting in their branches and flitting about after insects. Flowers sprout up and speckle the ground between, the green of small plants and their blooms of bright saffron and cheeky rose that creep all the way up to the bases of the trees and adorn the fallen leaves and mulch of the forest floor. Those trees rise upward in their aged magnificence, gargantuan limbs casting often welcome shade, the general atmosphere and scent of the path is one of freshness and wild abandon.

A path winds its leisurely way through the trees, wide enough for wagons to pass. As it goes through into the forest, a number of other trails branch away, both more and less traveled. Many of them lead to private weyrs, but there's a few more trodden paths - notable among them a road to the feeding grounds, set against the western slopes.

The forest grows wilder the further north one goes, deep growth and ancient places, and the road splits in two against it. One branch leads to a clearing with a large stone building finished with wooden cladding, while the other turns back toward the meadow. Just before it emerges, a trail veers off to the Firelizard Theatre.

Stefyr has been known to spend some of his days off venturing further and further into the forest, but with the dragonhealers' pronouncement that the eggs are hard enough to hatch within the month, those adventures have been curtailed. It doesn't mean Stefyr has to like it, or that he won't walk in this still thick section of forest that's still close enough to the path that leads to many places, just for the seeming of the solitude that deeper places in the forest can offer. He has that funny daypack much too small for him, canteen attached, over one of his shoulders, tanktop and shorts appropriate to the still hot summer weather. He has no map out today as he wanders the trees where he can still see glimpses of the path but is still largely out of the way from the busier track, moving in relative silence except for the occasional careless cracking of underbrush.

As Stefyr wanders down the Path Less Traveled, the sun rising ever higher overhead, his progress is followed by three firelizards cavorting in the trees. One tiny green with a wild, wailing cry sings a duet with a larger, stockier green who provides a bass rumble. Rhythm is provided by a glimmering gold that hiccups along in the wake of the two greens. All in all, it's quite the cacophony. But just as all things must end, so does the path Stefyr has chosen. It's easy to see why it isn't well-traveled. It ends in an impassable cliff and wide clearing, with no path to the top and nothing of particular note to look at. Nothing, that is, except a certain ladylike green who is curled up at the base of the rocks, rumbling quietly. Zhelinath has a slightly dull cast to her hide today, and her eyes glint a sorrowful grey that seems all out of place on such a beautiful morning.

The firelizards that dart in and around the trees bring Stefyr to a standstill. It's not that there's dislike in his gaze, but wariness as he tracks their progress with his blue gaze. It's this tracking that eventually brings his eyes to touch upon the much larger green (green?) settled at the base of the rocks. He frowns distinctly now, moving forward heedless of the singers, heading for the dragon. "Zhelinath?" He questions not just because she doesn't look like herself, but also because he's asking permission to place his hands on her hide, to stroke her gently in some bid for comfort he seems to intuitively think might be needed if she'll allow it. "Are you well?" His eyes do cast about, doubtlessly looking for the other half of the pairing, concern creasing his brow.

Zhelinath must be a touch distracted, because in spite of the firelizards warning, she doesn't seem to register Stefyr's approach until he speaks. When he does, she gives the slightest startle (though slight is relative when it's a house-sized being). As she looks over her shoulder at him, a tousled head simultaneously pops up from where N'on had been hidden, tucked between Zhelinath's forelimbs. For an instant, the pair wear identical expressions of surprise. Then, they recover. The green gives a mournful croon, and N'on just plasters a smile on that looks somehow more like a wince. Maybe it's the shadows under his eyes, but he looks somehow… attenuated. Still, he climbs clumsily out of his comfortable hiding place, with a vague signed, "Fine, fine…"

Look at all those bells go off in Stefyr's head. Watch. It's a pretty good show as his expression morphs from only slightly concerned to downright worried. He's moving, one hand gentle on the dragon insomuch as he's able to keep the contact as he rapidly approaches N'on and… Well, N'on might be able to credit just where Stefyr works and with whom as reasons why instead of a greeting or anything more appropriate between friends, whatever the tall, broad man reads in that smile-that's-more-a-wince and the shadows under his eyes has the candidate coming right into what is usually N'on's personal space and seeking to enfold him in strong arms. If it's permitted at all, it's not a long gesture, but a firm and meant one. He might back off after a moment, or he might linger if it seems like N'on needs more hugging. If there's flinching or resistance, that's a cue for Stefyr to step back and out of the greenrider's space, but under the circumstances, Stefyr can't not try to offer some tactile comfort, really just as he had done for the dragon herself.

N'on doesn't exactly flinch away. He does kind of go stiff with surprise, but it passes into a kind of sudden giving in. With such a close proximity, it's easier to observe a certain fragility. Something like the emotional equivalent of a bone fracture just waiting to become a full break. When Stefyr finally pulls away, N'on dashes uncomfortably at his eyes, then signs a repeated apology. He hands stay lifted as though to offer some sort of explanation, but in the end he drops them back to his side and shrugs with a weak, apologetic smile.

Stefyr doesn't go so far since it seems like his embrace isn't something unwarranted nor unwanted, and so when there's that step back to gauge and then the signs of apology, he looks at the greenrider with an unreadable expression and then just says, "Nope," and he's tucking the smaller man against him again, for longer this time, unless there's protest. "I don't know what's wrong, and I don't need to, if you don't want to talk, but I can do this." If nothing else. These words come quietly to N'on's ear during that firm embrace that is meant to provide some small, safe place in this pocket of the world. He won't stay that way awkwardly long, but long enough. The next time when he steps back, he's already saying, "No apologies. Not to me." Whatever this is about, it's not about Stefyr or Stefyr providing support. He reaches a hand out toward Zhelinath, to that place that N'on showed him the day in the meadow, to scratch if she'll have what little physical comfort he can afford her.

There's just enough time for N'on to get a sort of round-eyed expression before he finds himself wrapped up in an embrace again. Maybe it's the kind words that do it, but N'on melts a little, just shivering while allowing Stefyr to provide that support. It's something he almost never does… this complete letting go. It goes on for a long time while Zhelinath continues her unhappy rumble. When attention is offered to her as well, she Idaintily rests her chin on the ground next to him, the side of her long nose brushing against their sides. The moment lingers long before N'on reluctantly draws away. He reaches into an inner pocket of his tunic and produces two handmade cards. There's a definite kitten, glitter, and apology theme going on with them, and the greenrider offers them as though it will explain anything at all.

"Crackdust," is a swear with feeling because the sight of those cards practically explain everything to someone who has received other versions of the same damned thing. The fact that he has intimate knowledge of such cards should be apparent from his expression, straight exasperation and his next words: "What does she think she did wrong this time?" Then, "She'll go at it for sevens if this isn't resolved." FRIENDLY WARNING, N'on. But then Stefyr's big hand is gently reaching to cup N'on's elbow even as his other hand continues providing solace to Zhelinath, "Can I help somehow? I doubt either of you are in a good state right now, whatever happened." He still doesn't push for just what did happen, but he shares his safe assumptions.

N'on gets a lost, uncharacteristically helpless look as he looks over the cards. He finally pushes the cards into Stefyr's hands to free up his own, then sighs deeply. "Assistant Weyrlingmaster," he signs. Then, "Stupid." He lightly hits the side of his head, to clarify who is the stupid one. "Danger. Help her?" Zhelinath rumbles quietly and tilts her head in appreciation of the attention.

Stefyr takes the cards, but pinches them by the corner. He, of all people, knows how glitter spreads and sticks; he sparkled for over a sevenday after R'hyn's impromptu turnday office decorating. He looks at the cards a moment before sighing and tucking them into his back pocket as he focuses on N'on's hands. His hands come up to touch the greenrider's wrists. It's not to stop his hands, not to trap them or keep him from his words, but maybe because he's trying to comfort, to soothe movements that maybe he doesn't like to see describing his friend. Hands rub briefly up and down N'on's forearms and then drop away. "Here. Let's…" He looks at Zhelinath and then gestures to where N'on had previously been ensconced. "May I sit with you? Will you tell me more?"

N'on probably has glitter all over him, but he probably has worse problems to worry about. His hesitation at Stefyr's offer seems more to do with his state of mind than any real reluctance to accept the help, because he eventually nods a little and gestures the Candidate to join him. Once he's settled with his back against Zhelinath's leg, he takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. Then, he begins his explanation, only occasionally pausing to settle his nerves. "I went to speak with him about Evangeline. Just speak. I wanted to help her. Thought he would too. He wouldn't read my words. He stole them and sent them to her. Just to upset her. I got mad…" He stops there. His hands are shaking a bit, but he rubs them together as though it's from the cold, and tries to continue. "His dragon yelled. Hurt." He taps his head. "She's upset. Thinks she caused it." He throws up his hands in a gesture of helplessness, and then leans his head back against Zhe.

There's only one interruption, it's brief, it's to touch N'on's arm from where Stefyr settles against Zhelinath's leg alongside the man, still close enough that the unspoken support is right there, steady. With that touch, there's a quick gesture, and N'on can ignore the fact that it's hand flapping because Stefyr doesn't want to interrupt aloud to clarify which he-assistant N'on went to see. If the greenrider clarifies, there's only a nod of confirmation that he understands. When N'on finishes, the bigger man reaches for the rider's hands and rubs them with his own, gentle but in a way that is a real attempt to help the blood to circulate better, to ease whatever tension is in them. He's focused on that, just that for a few moments. "I'm sorry you went through that," he offers quietly after some moments of rubbing with fingers and thumbs and occasionally a brush of palms along the inside of the man's forearms or whole hands long the backs. He never invades past the elbow, but the gestures suggest some kind of practice with whatever calming technique this might be. "What help does Evi need?" Stefyr is a helpful person. Of course he would want to know. And then, finally, his hands hold N'on's loosely so the man can take them back to use them for speech, but briefly the grip is firm enough to imply concern as he searches N'on's face and asks, "Are you okay?"

All the touching almost seems to go unnoticed from whatever headspace N'on currently inhabits, but at least it seems to keep him from completely coming apart. He clarifies Ila'den by finger-spelling, and for Evi, he just shrugs helplessly. Mostly, he's keeping it together right up until that final concerned inquiry. The greenrider meets that eye contact for only a moment before his expression crumples, his weak facade breaking down in slow motion as he shakes his head. Nope, not okay. "Stupid," he signs, again, but there's something more there. He scrubs his face and folds his arms. He looks afraid, for all he tries to hide it.

It's another one of those 'nope' moments. Stefyr watches the shaking head and the sign only long enough to get the gist of where this is going and he's moving, only this time when he wraps N'on in his big arms it's from an angle that keeps the greenrider in contact with his dragon, as though by instinct he's guessing that contact will offer more comfort, maybe than what he alone could do. His cheek gently sets against N'on's head for the time being, and his murmur is low. "It's okay to feel whatever you're feeling." Just in case the greenrider needs to hear it. It's a lot of guesswork, really, for Stefyr to try to sort out what would help, and which words might accidentally do more harm than good, but he's here, doesn't appear to be going anywhere and doesn't appear to be concerned with his embrace going on for however long helps in any small way. Then he's quiet and he'll only move when N'on starts to shift in a way that indicates he probably should give the other man some space.

It's a long time before N'on finds the willingness to communicate again. Maybe it's just the human contact, or maybe something about Stefyr is just inherently calming, but he slowly settles, his breathing returning to something calmer. Zhelinath make a quiet croon, and curls herself even more protectively around the two men. Finally, N'on tried again to find words to translate into sign. "Bad memories." He signs another apology, even if it's unneeded. "Worried for Evangeline. He hurt Zhelinath. Can you make sure Evangeline is safe?"

This time when Stefyr gives N'on the space to communicate, he keeps one of his arms loosely around the greenrider, the arm slipping from shoulders to middle, but staying - probably in case the need for an emergency hug arises, or possibly just to continue the contact. "Sorry," Stefyr breathes, for the bad memories, leaning close to the greenrider and stopping himself just shy of where his lips might have been going to contact the man's temple in further comfort, his forehead tipping instead to briefly touch N'on's hair before the bigger man straightens up again. That arm remains, but even more loosely, just a light contact. "I… don't know Ila'den well. I know R'hyn better. I don't think R'hyn would leave Ila'den in his position," not now that R'hyn is in the position to do the hiring and firing, "if Evangeline or any of the rest of us were in real danger from him," although "real" may be a matter of opinion. But he's not, in any way, denying this green pair's experience and he cannot and is not personally speaking of the bronze part of the pairing in question. He does go on, the hand that isn't already lightly around the greenrider touching the nearer forearm lightly in reassurance. "I will talk with Evangeline and if I can help her, I will." He doesn't exactly promise to keep Evi safe because that's not a realistic promise to make, even if it would be a comforting one. But right now, Evangeline isn't here, and N'on is. "Is there anything else I can do to help you? I don't like… I want to help you both to a better place," emotionally, "if it's at all possible." It's for Zhelinath, too. A pause, "We can just… sit here, a while. Like this." With his arm there. "Or like we were," with the hugging. It's a suggestion, but not one the greenrider has to take.

Somehow, Stefyr's reassurance tactic makes N'on shrink a little. He tries so hard not to show it, but nevertheless, it's still a thing. He looks very intently at his hands, letting Stefyr talk without contributing much. It's the question that finally draws N'on out again. He looks up, into Stefyr's face, and it's right then that he finally realizes just how close they are. And how much touching is happening. Zhelinath makes a quiet little noise, and the greenrider turns a hue closer to pink. Hey, it's an improvement on his earlier pallor, at least. He shakes his head, gives a pat to Stefyr's arm, then glances away again. He signs yet another apology, and after a beat adds, "Shouldn't." For good measure, he apologizes again. Just in case it didn't come across the first five times.

The shrinking does not go unnoticed and there's a vague frown, but really Stefyr has come too far to stop, and so it goes. It's when N'on seems to realize there's something potentially non-platonic in all this touching that Stefyr presses his lips together and reluctantly withdraws. "Just a friend, offering a friend what he can." The murmur is quiet but he's not looking at N'on as he says it. He steps back a pace, hands going down by his sides where they can't be mistaken for being somewhere they shouldn't be. "Would it help if I just sit? Over here?" He gestures a little way aways. "Keep you company, if you want it?" Not that Zhelinath doesn't make the best company, but more friends can sometimes be better. "I could tell you about my night the other night. It won't help anything, but it would be distracting." Maybe that's the order of the day now? "Or would you rather be alone?" Because he can offer that, too. To walk away, even if he doesn't really want to.

So many options, and here N'on sits, staring at his hands and fidgeting with his fingers. He looks up, his expression conflicted and still fragile in some difficult-to-define way. Zhelinath shifts her weight, which just so happens to nudge the two men closer together again, which draws a long-suffering look from the rider. "Friend," N'on starts to sign, then taps Stefyr's chest. "Candidate," he signs. There's a reluctant look as he carefully evades Zhelinath's ploy and puts a bit more distance between them. "Tell me," he finally settles on. At least hearing about Stefyr's life seems relatively safe.

Well, as it turns out, Zhelinath has an ally. Stefyr, upon reading the objection in N'on's hands, snorts and then slips his arms around the greenrider unless there's a real fight about it. "I can't get you pregnant. That's the only rule about touching." And he knows that because he's already broken enough of the other ones to get in trouble, so he's tracking them now. "Friend." It's a firm reiteration of the word. "I thought you might have been concerned about…" WHATEVER THE END OF THAT SENTENCE WAS GOING TO BE BUT ISN'T. "But this is just a friend being a friend. And besides, no one else is here," he gestures to the forest. And if Zhelinath wants to tell everyone that Stefyr was providing comfort to her distraught rider, she can go right ahead. "So," unless they have to fight about this whole contact thing some more, he'll settle in there beside N'on and tell him a story. About firelizards. And his bed. And eggs. And entrails. And if he can make N'on laugh in the process, more's the better. If he can just help, however temporarily in lifting this wounding - or opening of an old wound, he'll do what he can to do just that, until the greenrider really does want space, really does want alone time or wants company for the walk back to the Weyr. Stefyr will stay all day in support of his friend, because he has the day off, and that's just how Stefyr Stefyrs.

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