Dark Corners

Xanadu Weyr - Store Room
The storerooms here are carved into the stone, stretching back deep underground beneath the upper hallways that serve for residences and work areas. There is, after all, little need for natural light here; a series of electric lights are more than sufficient to illuminate smoothly cut walls and the assortment of supplies kept until they are needed once more.

For some of the things here, that time will be long in coming. Broken furniture and torn clothing awaits the opportunity for someone to repair it - or else the kindling and rag piles. Other items are more immediately useful; gently worn clothing and boots are neatly arranged in rows and on racks, especially in the quickly outgrown children's sizes, and an assortment of furniture and small appliances in functional condition await new homes.

A series of side rooms connected to the kitchen are the larder which feeds the Weyr through the winter. Sacks of grain lean against barrels of salted meat and wheels of hard cheeses stacked high. Refrigeration and dragonflight make for a more flexible winter diet, but it still takes a great deal of food to provide for this many people. The food is a tempting target for tunnelsnakes, and the occasional scuttle can be heard in the otherwise quiet depths of these caves.

Toward the southern edge, near the path leading down to the hot springs, there's the laundry rooms, a set of steam-filled chambers where water and soap are scrubbed into fabric of various sorts and the dirt and grime is scrubbed right back out.

Much of the stores are easily accessed, requiring only the appropriate permissions to be borrowed from. These supplies are, after all, here for the good of the Weyr and the people living here. A few rooms - those containing particularly valuable or dangerous items - are kept locked.

Dinner time is keeping the portion of the stores closest to the kitchen abuzz with activity and the routine in-and-out of the kitchen workers to grab this or that particular ingredient for the ongoing replenishments of trays in the caverns and anywhere else they serve. Farther back in the stores, however, things have taken up a downright tranquil sort of air, a quiet that has the din from farther away as pleasant white noise. That may be why Stefyr is sitting in one of the pockets off the main wind of the corridors, using one crate as a seat and another as a writing desk. He has a small glow basket to help add additional light to the task he's undertaking, which appears to be writing some kind of letter. Why he can't do this in the barracks or the archives or the craft complex or any of the other places with plentiful real desks and adequate lighting for letter writing is anyone's guess. But one thing can be said for this spot: it's private and relatively quiet, for now.

Relative quiet should be considered a precious resource an especially in a Weyr around dinnertime! Whatever drew one more Candidate to the vastness of the stores is anyone’s guess. There’s a legit credible list of reasons, but knowing how Keruthien is, it’s really a chaotic toss of the dice! It could be for actual chores or he’s here on a whim and it’s even potentially a mixture of ALL OF THE ABOVE! But he’s not one to linger on the details and so, without so much fanfare, he’ll be the one to crash this solo party! Sorry, bro. He’s not got it in him to see the obvious and leave well enough alone! At least he doesn’t announce his find, loud and proud? Nah. Keruthien’s just going to double take on a chance passing where he’ll glimpse that glowlight. Curiosity sets him to prowling closer and… aha. With a slowly widening grin, he’ll do his best to ghost up right behind Stefyr and bend down and forwards, just so he can peer over the blond’s shoulder. “… extra lessons?” This’ll be voiced only if he isn’t spotted or his cover blown; even so, he keeps his voice low and polite. Yet we all know that HE knows what sort’ve effect it’ll bring. Sometimes his innocent act isn’t all innocence.

Keen observation from Stefyr seems to be largely reserved for the realm of understanding people, though occasionally he has been known to have more than one glow in his figurative basket, and growing up with so many people he can't be oblivious to approaches all the time (he wouldn't've survived!), but the task at hand is taking so much of his concentration that the big man actually jumps on the crate-made-stool, ink flicking across the page, "Shells," is the swear and his shirt (ONE OF HIS NEW, BLUE SHIRTS, WOE, RIP SHIRT) is used to dab at the spilt ink. His head turns but he already knows that voice, so it's not a surprise now to find the face it belongs to. This candidate's expression seems torn before exasperated and rueful, but in any case he's not helping by doing something useful like reprimanding the man given to mischief. Instead, he just draws a breath and exhales, his expression settling into what it really is: tired. It's not late enough in the day to warrant this kind of exhaustion, but there it is making the man's usually animated expression flag. "Trying to write home. To tell them I'm not coming back." He murmurs after a moment. "I can't keep getting these letters." It's so quiet when he adds, "It hurts too much," and then the very large man looks… so young. So vulnerable. Poor puppy.

RIP blue shirt, we barely knew 'ye! Keruthien's wince will have to be apology enough for now (does he ever actually apologize?) but there's at least some sincerity behind it. Whoops? Yet what did he expect, sneaking up on folks in the quiet wings of the stores? Blinking, he'll at least keep himself from launching into his usual high energy ramblings upon seeing that tired look. It draws a slight tilt of his head, in subtle questioning that soon draws an answer without him having to fish for it. "Ahh, those kind of letters," he says with some inkling of understanding, while he'll crouch down in preparation to join him; whether by nudging another crate in place or if the one in use is big enough for the both of them! He doesn't mind perching on the edge, so to speak! Even if it broaches on personal space and bubbles, Keruthien doesn't mind cozying up (and yet he's not encroaching so much as to drape against them). So vulnerable, so young! Ruthien isn't so chaotic as to try to stroke the blond Candidate's hair or, you know, actually act upon the puppy-dog look. Instead he merely inserts himself there as a comforting presence and while it's in tight and potentially close quarters, he doesn't impose himself further (yet). There's a comfortable silence for a heartbeat or two and then, gently spoken. "They're never easy." The letters. "Both to receive and to write." His gaze is fixed on Stefyr, not to intimidate but because he's the focus — and it's out of politeness and privacy, should anything still be legible on those papers, if he'd even begun to write before Ruthien crashed in on the moment.

Stefyr's shift to the side as Keruthien prepares to join him is perfectly natural as if he's at least in tune with the other young man at least that far. The crate can probably handle them both even if it does leave them sharing a personal bubble and isn't the most comfortable place in the world if anyone comes out of their head enough to really notice. It's the kind of slightly uncomfortable that just sometimes fails to matter enough to do anything about it. Keruthien might not act on any of that, but the blond does, shifting just enough that he can rest his head on Keruthien's shoulder as he groans, closing his eyes. That's probably the assistant's agreement with the sentiments his smith companion is professing. There are legible things on the letters, but with the number of strike outs, he was going to have to write it over again, even if the ink wasn't splattered across it. "Can you do it for me? No, don't," it's an almost immediate cancel of the request. The man opens his eyes, looking up at his bro from this awkward angle of closeness, "Why is it that the hardest things are always things you have to do for yourself?" He sighs, moving to lift his head from its brief resting place.

Keruthien welcomes that shift of weight and the lean of his head to his shoulder; instinctually, his body adjusts and he'll lean into it, supporting him without so much as a bat of an eyelash. TOO LATE! He heard that and is already speaking his "advice" before Stefyr even finishes taking it back. "Well, I'm not going to write it. They'll probably know it's not your writing! But I can help you get the right words? Honestly, probably just best to keep it short 'n sweet. Too many words and it'll be muddled." He'll have to tilt his head a little, unintentionally drawing them closer as he does his best to glance back and downwards. It's awkward for the sake of not being wholly comfortable, rather than awkward in general! "Dunno?" he answers honestly, with a vague grin of muted humor. "That's probably why they come up with all the sayings about 'life would be boring then, if it was too easy'… something like that. Not that that'll help things, right?" Even as Stefyr moves, he'll give a little nudge of his shoulder to his, in continued support. "Nothing with family is ever easy." Ruthien adds, the grin now morphing to a smirk. "At least in my experience."

There's a solid eyeroll for unhelpful but plentiful platitudes. Stefyr doesn't even need to say aloud how much he neither wants nor needs those. The look says it all. "Thanks," is for the offer of helping find the right words. "I'll sort it, I think. I've been learning a lot about words along with a lot of words and I think one of the things I've learned is that the words only really count if they're yours. Maybe for something professional, working with someone would be good, but when it's like this…" A single shoulder shrugs. He glances aside at Keruthien, his lower lip drawn briefly between his teeth to be worried lightly before being released. "You, uh…" Ready, bro? Good thing you're sitting down. "You don't really talk about your family. Not in a… real way. I mean, lots about them, but not about… you with them." The relationships, he means. It's not as though this isn't a little bit the pot calling the kettle black, but this isn't really an accusation so much as a quiet offer that Ruthien can take or leave. "They'll be at the hatching, will they?" He wonders as much for personal curiosity as for a lead in for that invitation if Keruthien wants to take him up on his listening ear.

"I get it," Keruthien quips with one of those too-bright and warm smiles of his, in the wake of Stefyr's gentle 'thanks but no thanks'. It doesn't trouble him and he won't press the issue of writing those letters or push his help or advice any further. It's just how he is, moving from one thing to the next. Is he ready? Not quite, but he doesn't react negatively either. He'll blink for a moment, a mildly blank look on his face as though the question doesn't quite register. Only it HAS and it takes him a moment to process it. Eventually, his eyes will narrow and his mouth will draw up in a wry smirk, focus returning and firmly settled on his fellow Candidate. "Probably? I mean, most of them are living in Xanadu." Unintentionally, his phrasing makes it sound like it's an expected requisite and not because his family is there for him. Which is sad and equally so as he continues on in a normal tone but with an air of detachment he's not aware of. "How is it not a real way? I share what I know of them, because that's what matters, right? I mean, I guess I could speak of my time with them but those aren't always happy stories." A beat, a little quieter and a hint that he's speaking genuinely, as his gaze lowers under a lightly thoughtful frown. "I don't like sharing those. Mostly because it's no one's business to know but because it's just…" Depressing? "A downer. And people have their own stuff to deal with, y'know? But if you're really that curious…" Are you ready, bro? "I've not really spent that much time with my family. Not the extended members, anyways? I didn't even know K'vir, really, until he transferred here and even then he never really reached out to me. There's bad blood between my mom and her brother — K'vir's father — so I was largely cut off from that side until I was old enough to harass them on my own. My dad, Mur'dah, had a good life here but a rough go later on. I'm closest with him but even he's got… his own life. I've got my half sisters, through my mom, but we get along as well as oil and water most days." Pausing for a moment, he'll run the tip of his tongue over the bottom edge of his lip before speaking up again. His hands, which were resting between his legs, have begun to idly rub and fidget together. How odd? "And my mom? Well, I don't think she was ever really… meant to be a mother. I didn't get it much as a kid but I do now." Too little, too late. "I've no idea where she is, now. I ask my dad some times, but if Ujinath won't talk to Kalsuoth, there's not much else I can do. That's the rough gist of it."

He listens. All matters Stefyr are set aside for these moments while he listens to his friend. He wouldn't have offered the invitation if he wasn't prepared to do just that. His eyes watch Keruthien's face, expression intent but not emotionless. There's a touch of sympathy without edging into anything as pointless as pity. How wrapped up is Keruthien in what he's explaining and how much is he paying attention to the other candidate? Does the smith notice that while he speaks about his family, specifically the part where he starts talking about the family that all have their own lives, that one of his friend's arms slipped around his low back in literal support? It's not a tight enough grasp to be a hug, but it is contact that brings Stefyr's body that much closer, his side pressed lightly into Keruthien's. The curly-haired candidate's family might not be very there, but Stefyr is here. After enough time, his presence would be hard to miss. When Keruthien finishes there's silence from the other young man. Maybe it was too much for him? Maybe it was the downer Keruthien believes it to be? Maybe the logophile is just looking for the right words. Maybe there are no right words. Stefyr's head tilts and his cheek rests on the other man's shoulder for a long moment before lifts his head again and looks at Ruthien, eyes seeking eyes. "Were you loved?" The question is so quietly asked, so gently because it could just be so painful for someone who wasn't, that if the other man didn't want to answer it, he could, as easily, pretend that it wasn't heard at all.

Initially, Keruthien doesn’t catch on to the arm slipping around him but subconsciously he’ll lean a little more towards Stefyr, rather than away. Physical contact doesn’t fluster him in the slightest and with him so preoccupied? It won’t click until the blond’s head is resting against his shoulder again and he follows up with a natural tilt and press of his head in turn — it’s a comforting gesture and reaction. Meeting that gaze, Keruthien will scoff a little at the question, a slightly nervous inflection underlying his voice for a brief spell. “Well, yeah? Of course I was and… still am.” Hesitation, there, but quickly masked by a lopsided half smile. “My childhood was actually pretty run of the mill. I didn’t lack for nothing when I was young. As I got older, I realized not all was sunshine and rainbows, y’know? Saw the raw, uglier side, of relationships that folks are good at hiding.” No dodging the answer or pretending not to have heard; Ruthien just lets his immediate thoughts on it slip freely to be shared. Maybe he feels comfortable enough around Stefyr? His shoulders lift in a small shrug. “They’re my family though and I love ‘em. Problems and all.” Even if it’s not quite as reciprocated and really, not a very thorough explanation at all. He gives Stefyr a little nudge, though it’s more of a solid lean as he expects some resistance from the other. A playful gesture, something to lighten the mood.

The way Stefyr studies Keruthien's face might be uncomfortable. It's certainly still intense. But rather than seize on hesitation or ask prying or leading questions, the blond simply says, "Good. I'm glad." And that's that. He gives the other candidate what he's possibly expecting in the form of a gentle jostle back the other way. "My family had some of that. The things people are hiding." It's, perhaps, an offer of some measure of vulnerability in exchange for what was offered to him, or maybe it's just that he wants to share a little something that explains he understands his own version of something Keruthien has experienced. "It's complicated on a family farm." He adds after a thoughtful moment. "I didn't notice it so much when I was young," an almost echo of his bro there. "But the older I got, the more I saw more of what was complicated." Another pause, then, "My uncle loves my mother. She doesn't love him that way, but I don't think he'll never not love her in a way he shouldn't." He bites his lower lip just briefly, his eyes fixed on an indistinct point just past the other young man. "When my brother… when he got engaged to my best friend… who I loved…" He takes a slow breath and lets it out and shakes his head. "I could see the path of my life laid out like a mimic of my uncle's and I… I just couldn't do it." He looks to the curly-haired candidate, something in his eyes asking for understanding for some deep guilt that is carried in connection to this abandonment of his home, his life, his family. SO MUCH FOR TRYING TO LIGHTEN THE MOOD. Better luck next round~

Keruthien isn't uncomfortable from the scrutiny, but only looks puzzled and curious in passing to it. There is relief, however, in the minute sag of his shoulders when Stefyr doesn't press further on whether or not he feels loved by his complex family. "Child's innocence, is what I'd heard. Guess it wasn't just me." he murmurs, but is otherwise silent in a respectful manner while Stefyr talks. He won't have to look far, as there is immediate understanding to almost all that was just shared between them. Something in Ruthien's expression softens, some of that fox-like cheerfulness eroding away to a more honest and sincere form of himself. "Don't kick yourself for wanting to get away from that," It's quietly spoken, but true to heart. "You sometimes have to make those tough calls, to protect yourself." Broad term spoken, but Ruthien narrows it down, by reaching across to brazenly press his fingers right where Stefyr's heart should be. Protect this. "That's what matters, in the end. Even if it means you gotta leave home and strike your own path or take a step back to not be sucked up into their drama." Was that last bit more directed at himself? Very possible, but he doesn't linger on it long. His hand falls back, but not to his lap as would be expected. Instead, he tries to find one of Stefyr's, touching lightly first as if seeking permission; if he doesn't draw his hand back, it will be claimed, and twined, with his. A quick squeeze, firm and supportive, will follow. He gets it, even if both he and Stefyr's situations are not wholly parallel.

"It's… I'm not exactly kicking myself," Stefyr murmurs, his hand moving with welcoming ease to lace his fingers with Keruthien. He's not exactly not kicking himself either, if that choice of words is looked at from the other direction. "I had… responsibilities there. Duties. Different than what's here, but… I mean, the farm was so… interdependent." He actually draws their joined hands up between them as visual example. "It's not that my job couldn't be done by someone else, but that the abilities of the farm to handle the work was determined by the number of able bodies to tend the crops, the herds." He grimaces, letting their hands fall. "As much as there's emotional stuff in my going, there's also practical. Things I owe them for the situation I left them in. I… I tried to give them enough warning, but no one really believed me when I said I would go after the wedding." He reaches his free hand to scrub across his face. "Anyway. I guess if I do find a lifemate out there, or even if I don't, I can find a way to make amends for whatever practical hardships my absence made for them. That's what I feel guilty for. For keeping them from the prosperity they could've expected this turn, and next and the next." FOREVER. "Because I'm not there and won't be." He looks down at their joined hands and his fingers do gentle strokes across the smith's, the blond man's expression thoughtful. "The thing I might like best about being here is being able to touch people without it meaning marriage or scandal. It doesn't have to mean those things, to just touch. To just be." Since he seems perfectly natural, really, with this casual touch. He looks up to Keruthien's face after that, small smile, if a little sad, playing across his lips. "Has what you've done worked?" He reaches to touch the other candidate's heart in turn. "To protect yourself?" It sounds like there's more to tell there, unless Ruthien doesn't want to, since Stefyr is unlikely to press generally for things that are private.

There’s no shortage of openly visible curiosity on Keruthien’s face when Stefyr explains himself further. Not that he takes any pleasure or joy of hearing of the struggles and the guilt, but more the insight to a life he never would have known existed beyond the Weyr. For all the freedom he’s had, he’s woefully naive and ignorant in his own ways. He’ll watch as their hands are lifted and understanding dawns slow in the way his eyes refocus on Stefyr. “I’d never have thought of that.” Is it an apology? It sounds suspiciously close to one but true to fashion, he doesn’t linger long on it. “But you did warn them,” He’ll focus on the one point, as he cannot grasp enough of the rest to offer any insight, along with a reassuring squeeze again of their joined hands. “And it’s your life and your choice. I learned that awhile ago.” His gaze will lower too, to that touch of fingers and there is a quiet chuckle, for the next admission. “It’s true, the rumours of Weyrs being a little more… open when it comes. Have to be, I guess? But I like that about it too. I don’t know if I’d do well, under too many rules. I can follow some but others?” Not so much. Not when they restrict too much about living life to the fullest. The sad smile brings perhaps the first faltering one from Keruthien, but before he can react further, he’s being handed yet another deep question. Blinking, he looks down to where Stefyr’s hand touches his heart and he doesn’t draw away. His brows knit, then his gaze lifts to peer up at him, a slow, subdued smile curving his lips. “It has, actually.” Or he’s very much in denial (or really, just unaware because he’s young still, in some ways). “I don’t dwell on the negatives as much anymore. I just… enjoy each and every day to the fullest — or try to.” In a nutshell, really. There’s more to it but Keruthien isn’t so much in the mood to follow that rabbit hole. “That way, I don’t hesitate in taking leaps by worrying over it. Choosing a Craft, choosing to Stand — twice! Climbing trees, enjoying a night of drinks and cards, taking everyone to my favourite cliff jumping spot,” He rambles on, listing a few more recent ‘choices’ made that on the surface seem insignificant but are all important memories for him; no matter how small! Not all those were ‘perfect’ either but that doesn’t matter to him. “I can do those things,” he murmurs, with a hint of building wryness and mischief (but it’s no joke here). “And things like this.” Whether Stefyr’s hand is still over his heart, it won’t stop him from leaning in and forwards with obvious intent. It’ll be plenty of warning, even before he’s tilting his head in a tell-tale manner and well before he moves in for the kill. If he hasn’t completely recoiled by then, Ruthien’s aim will be to kiss him, as they’d danced about and teased however long ago. It’s neither a chaste kiss or overtly passionate, but it’s confident and lingers just-so, before naturally drawing to a close.

Stefyr's hand lingers over Keruthien's heart, but perhaps because he's gotten distracted from the gesture in watching the other young man's face, listening again in that focused way he has. Everything contributes to what Stefyr hears, not just the words themselves but how they're said, the qualities in the voice, the intonations and pacing, the microexpressions that accompany them. The big blond is far from flawless in the understandings he draws from these minutiae but it all lends to the look that communicates he's present in this moment, taking in everything offered his way. As such, it shouldn't be much surprise that the candidate reads the intention in his fellow's movement, and maybe he even guessed what was coming from the build? No, that would be too much to expect of Stefyr, for whom flirting is still a mystery, but when the curly-haired candidate's lips pass some invisible line of closeness, the blond moves to meet him. As with so many things, Stefyr meets Keruthien on his terms: melding into the feeling of that right level of something between chaste and something more. The hand that had poised on the other man's heart for so long comes up to lightly cup Ruthien's jaw, fingers brushing along the bone and down the skin just where jaw leaves off and neck begins until fingers are curling around the back of his neck and staying there for as long as the kiss lasts. When it breaks, there's a slow exhale from Stefyr and a settling back just a little to look at Keruthien thoughtfully. "Mm," is a rumbly sound in his chest as much as it's a part of his usual baritone. "Yes, I think I see the advantages of this kind of life. But…" He hmms, "Maybe we should do that again, to make sure I understand." He quirks an amused brow at Keruthien, tilting his chin just a little in subtle invitation, but there's no pressure there. It could just be the one kiss, and that's all it need ever be since it already was and can't be taken back even if either of them wanted to. It certainly doesn't seem that Stefyr's in that mindset as his eyes meet Keruthien's steadily.

The hummed sound that Keruthien’s voices could be both pleased and encouraging, as Stefyr’s hand moves from his jaw, along to the back of his neck. Leaning back just enough to meet the other’s gaze directly, his eyes are bright, even if partially lidded A satisfied, bemused cheshire grin curves his lips, as he chuckles low. “Mhm.” he agrees, while also acknowledging that he’s discovered some of the advantages of the lifestyle he leads. Subtle invitations are unnecessary, as he’s hooked the moment that joking quip is made. Throaty laughter follows, along with a shift of his weight and posture to something a little more balanced but to also minimize the distance between them. Sharing that crate makes it trickier, but that doesn’t deter Ruthien in the slightest. “Take all the time you need,” he murmurs, bemused but offering his own subtle invitation (and permission, too, perhaps). Once again, there is no hesitation with kissing him. It starts off much the same, only now there is more confidence, a touch more boldness as he’ll seek to deepen it past chaste. What starts as one, progresses slowly to two, maybe even to three, if Stefyr does not balk or break away. There was truth with Ruthien’s teasing of dark corners and what business is done there, as there is no shyness in the way his hand will now return similar touches and gestures to jaw and cheek, to the curve of his neck and even up into his hair. Around them, in the distance, the world moves onward; for now, Ruthien is content to live in that immediate moment. If consequences were to occur, they do not even register on his mind, as, to his thoughts, nothing has profoundly changed. They are merely acting upon a mutual desire, set in motion for here and now.

The logistics of sharing a crate and kisses might not bother Keruthien, but they do bug practical Stefyr enough that before he engages in further understanding, he shifts off the box, pulling on that still interlaced hand to bring Keruthien up with him, if the other man will come. Then there's that step in with all the titillating energy that imbues the simple but meaningful move. "We'd be here past my bedtime," is the whispered response as soon as Stefyr is close enough for the breath of his words to tickle Keruthien's lips, his own quirking in boyish amusement with his own joke about his still restricted privileges. Nevermind that that time is still a couple of hours off. Though there was no hesitation from Stefyr for the first kiss, if possible there's even less and a meeting of the confidence with which Keruthien kisses, even if Stefyr's still in the stage of trying things out with his kisses to see what works, although he seems to have had enough guidance to not try anything egregious. His hand will slip from Keruthien's just so that it can wander from the other man's hip to low back and along his spine as the kiss that does turn from one, to two, to more. He lacks the experience of dark corners, but deepened kisses are engaged in with enough building passion that when the kisses finally break, he's breathing a little hard and somehow he's ended up pressed quite completely against the smith, his head moving to kiss along Keruthien's cheek to ear before he stills there, just breathing, just being close. Maybe he'll just stay there. Maybe because it's nice. Maybe because he's embarrassed? It's hard to say with his face hidden, but his body is only the usual kind of tense against the other man, not a new tension since the kisses broke.

Oh, laughter almost bubbles up for that whispered response and the joke within it, but it settles more into a breathy exhale. Keruthien will follow the pull to stand, stepping easily to close the distance between them one more. There is no shame, nothing withheld, in the way he will press his body to Stefyr’s. Even when the other’s hand wanders over his hip and lower back, it only encourages more, rather than less. For the first time, there is a touch of color to Ruthien’s skin, likely unnoticed in the dimmer light here but with his breathing on the heavier side as well, there’s no hiding the effect the kissing has had. Not that he tries! Not in the slightest and there’s a low, satisfied, hum from him, as he tilts his head to allow him access as lips trail elsewhere. Ruthien is content to linger there for several heartbeats (likely felt, as much as resounding in his ears), his one hand pressing firm into the curve of his lower back; eventually, it will set to caressing in slow movements. Comforting. Gently encouraging. One or the other or both, but the options are left open. “Had enough?” Ruthien’s voice is whispered, a touch gruff, but amused. His head turns, tilted just-so that he can nuzzle against his neck, sneak a few little kisses, playful-like to the curve of his jaw. This is nice and Ruthien is clearly enjoying himself. If there is embarrassment involved, he has not clued in, but neither is he pushing headlong into far more intense activities.

There is embarrassment involved, Stefyr's cheeks flushed with more than just building want, but perhaps not for the reason most expected. "I…" he clears his throat a little, pulling back enough that he can be seen, but tilting his chin in more than agreeable response to the lips along his neck and other temptations. "That's about all I know. I kiss people." There's two messages here, two important ones even. First, that the blond lacks the experience to perhaps progress further even if he might like to, and second that it's important to him that Keruthien at least hears from his own lips the truth that he kisses people. People other than Keruthien. "Is that a problem?" He probably has no idea that it just isn't fair that he asks that question and then bends his head to kiss down the side of Ruthien's neck in turn, even nipping the skin there experimentally. "I like this, but I like our friendship more and don't want to give up one for the other." That all holds the ring of truth and, hey, at least he's being straightforward about all things Stefyr? It's not really that he wants to get out of this moment; he doesn't, but he does want to check that this moment is okay with whatever might be the next moment.

Keruthien doesn't chase further, once Stefyr draws back and his gaze lifts naturally to find his. Brows furrow but for a half-beat, then his expression smooths out as a rather lazy, wry smile tugs at his lips. His exhale is part amused chuckle, but the messages have been received and, most importantly, understood. No mocking, no judgment, no accusations or even the hint of disappointment. The attention drawn to his neck, not so much with the kiss, but the nip, will yield a result of distracted and delayed conversation; he will scoff, but with an edge of pleasure to it. Summary? He liked that. He'd probably like more of it, but he leaves that choice firmly in Stefyr's hands. Instead, he merely leans into the other's body, his arm still looped around him now pulling tighter in an embrace. "No," he finally answers, with that same near-grin present and yet oh-so serious in the same breath. "It's not a problem. I kiss people too. Other people." Lots of people? He doesn't specify. "So, I'd be an ass to call you out on it and expect to have you all to myself." A gentle tease, directed more to himself than him. "Definitely enjoyed this too," Here, Stefyr! Have some pure, blunt, honesty! "But you won't have to worry about trading our friendship over a few kisses. I'm not the sort to get bent out of shape over it? I mean," Pausing for a spell, he chuckles low, flashing a fox-like smirk that toeing the line of 'flirting'. "If this continues? The kissing? That's fine, if it's what you want but I'm also happy to be a friend." No strings, no commitments, nothing more and no pressure, because if Keruthien's not going to cage himself? He's not about to force someone else into one. Again, another prompt in a slightly more teasing vein: "That doesn't make things too complicated, does it?"

Perhaps Keruthien wasn't expecting to get laughter from the young man still pressed against him. It's the kind that if it were more serious, might be the sort to turn to tears, but instead it's just a rueful laughter and the weight of Stefyr's forehead tips with a tump onto the smith's sturdy shoulder, groaning as the laughter leaves. The former farmer's hands link low around the smith's hips as he straightens to look at his friend, smile shades of that ruefulness. "That makes things the simplest out of anyone I've tried to, very badly, clarify this sort of thing with." They understand each other, on this point in the very least. "This," he starts and then interrupts himself to place a small kiss just to the side of the other young man's lips, and trail kisses up to his ear again, teeth grazing earlobe and tongue flicking playfully before he finishes his sentence in a low voice that stops just shy of a whisper, "can come or go, as long as the friendship stays." Because it's really just that simple, isn't it? Can't it be? Maybe between these two like-minded young men. And he doesn't even seem to really need Keruthien's verbal response to that before his lips are finding the man's throat and there's more of that experimental touching of lips, tongue and teeth, teasing along the flesh there and down to the collar of his shirt, while his hands seek to slip just under the smith's shirt so the palms of his callused hands can seek skin for more. Really, he doesn't know much more, but he can, and will if permitted, take his time to learn the more innocent ways of touch that might stir reactions from the other young man. More of that kissing stuff certainly wouldn't go astray either.

No, laugher wasn’t expected but it’s very welcomed when it does happen! He’ll welcome the thump of his forehead to his shoulder too, bearing the weight with a sort of light smugness about him. With hands to his hips, he’s wholly relaxed despite the notes of intimacy and not the least bit flustered when their eyes meet again. “That doesn’t surprise me,” he remarks with another one of his low chuckles in the face of his blunt honesty. “About some getting tangled up on the smaller things.” It’s difficult to gauge and there’s likely a shared understanding there too, albeit a little murky on Ruthien’s side thanks to his constant obliviousness. He’s silenced, at least for coherent speech, when another kiss is placed and the graze of teeth and further experimenting lead to an exhaled groan. “Mhm. I want it to stay.” The friendship. It CAN be that simple or, at least, Ruthien will strive to make it so. At what costs? That is the uncertain part, but he is not even remotely aware of the thought. As experimentation continues, he will be an eager subject, which in their case is both good and bad. Experience isn’t a factor or a hinderance in Ruthien; he will keep going, because it feels good and right (what could be wrong, in this?) and because the other involved is mutually eager. Who is he to deny that? Hands join the mix now, his body reflexively moving, shivering a little under a new sensation. His hands will lift as well, in their own seeking way, to touch and caress where he can reach without interference. If permitted to continue, it would have carried on. Would it have spiralled further? Who knows. It is for the best that there is a sudden disruption somewhere in the stores, an overly loud (yet distant still) burst of lively and animated conversation. Enough that snaps Ruthien back to reality, harsh as it may be, as tenses. Drawing his head back, there is no way to miss the heavy lidded look to his eyes, or the way his heart beat hammers and his breath is more of a stifled pant. Yes, it’s very good timing, even if he clicks his tongue in frustration, when the voices do not recede as hoped. “… guess that’s that? And just when it was getting interesting…” Making light of the situation, as always, with some teasing and a mixture of low laughter and disappointed sigh. Ruthien will reluctantly untangle himself, though not without one last quick kiss and lingering caress of his hand over the others. Then? Distance, but only to the very minimal edges of ‘respectful’, should they be entirely found. Nothing to see here!

As far as Stefyr is concerned, he and his bro are entirely on the same page. It feels good. It's emotionally uncomplicated. It's perfect, for just what it is, in this moment. And no one here is thinking beyond that. Not until that noise disrupts the progress of the experiment. No doubt the data collected is still viable, but Stefyr jerks at the sound loud enough to jar him out of complete immersion in the moment - immersion that saw the location of their little not-quite-tryst curtailed. His cheeks are flushed, but not with embarrassment. He leans back, looking at the other candidate and there's at least three beats where Stefyr's not quite back in the here and the now that is changing. "Mmm?" It's a noise of inquiry because he's still with Keruthien, even if the older man is starting to leave him behind. He catches up in a few slow blinks and a few steadying breaths. It doesn't stop Stefyr from pressing against his fellow just a little bit more, just as Ruthien seeks that kiss which is returned with equal interest, reluctance, now-latent zeal. His hands mirror the other man's and with a sigh he lets go. He glances over his shoulder to the doorway, definitely coming up with creative ways it could be blocked off or barred or— He looks back to Keruthien with a lazy smile. Then he passes by the other young man, darting in at the last possible moment to press a kiss to his cheek before he's moving back to his crate. "Were you down here for a reason other than happening upon me in a dark corner?" He asks this as he makes a very studious show of shuffling his papers to a clean sheet and picking up his pen again. NOTHING TO SEE HERE AT ALL, don't mind any of the physical evidence.

Even if he was the first to break away, doesn't mean that there are no lingering effects for Keruthien — he's just good at keeping them hidden beyond the one's he can't fully control. He'll run a hand through his hair, which doesn't really help the slightly dishevelled look he's adopted. Leaving Stefyr to shuffling his papers and picking up that pen, he'll find something in which to casually lean against and not be suspiciously all up in the others personal business. SEE? So innocent! Even if seconds before they were making good on adding fuel to the fire to old rumors surrounding them. "Eh, not really? Wasn't ready to wind down for the night, so kind of went for a walk to see if I could find something." Or someONE. Wasn't it Stefyr's lucky night, then? Those voices continue on, in some other part of the storage rooms. It starting to sound like a disagreement and it's beginning to pull on Ruthien's curiosity more and more. Suddenly, THEY may be eavesdropping on them, rather than the other way around! Mischievously, he'll forget all about getting caught, returning to Stefyr's side to crouch down, if need by, to stage whisper. "… I think we're about to intrude on a little lover's tiff, here." he jokes. "You're probably not gonna get much done sticking around here. Want to borrow my room? I'm not really using it." There's also the implication that Ruthien will go along with his own business and NOT be a terrible source of temptation for them both. Truly, there's no hidden meaning behind the offer; only that he's realizing their time here is ending and he's trying to genuinely help again.

Stefyr ceases his pretense of shuffling papers as Keruthien comes to the side of the crate. It seems like only then that he really tunes into the business that isn't theirs, canting his head to hear the voices and sighs. "Thanks." He offers in answer to the innocent, friendly offer of a space to work, "But if I'm going to your room, I'd want you with me, and I wouldn't get anything done. And-" reluctantly, "- this is important." He stands and moves to collect his papers and tuck them into the messenger bag that was discreetly tucked between the crates. "Uhm, you'll have to get that shirt laundered," he points out to Keruthien as he settles his bag over his shoulder. JUST LIKE HIS OWN. And in fact it's the very ink that had been mopped up with the blue shirt that transferred to the other man's garment. OUT DAMNED SPOT. The stain of guilt. Only, neither of them seems especially guilty. Stefyr doesn't even seem sorry when he says, "I'm not walking back to the barracks with you tonight," another night, sure, fine, "because I really will miss my curfew if we do." Because how many dark nooks are there between the stores and the barracks? Plenty, especially if the nookie-nook-hopped all the way there. That might be a fun game some other night, but not when there's a letter that needs to be written. "I'll see you later," is not a question, since they live in the same place and are not infrequently on the same chore rotation. It doesn't look like he wants to avoid the other man at all either, considering that he brushes his fingertips just lightly across Ruthien's as he passes him by, flashing a smile his way before ducking out the door and disappearing down the hall.

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