From Puppy, With Love

Xanadu Weyr - Shore of Lake Caspian
The cliffs that run along the shore come and go, various weyrs nestled along the tops of them or dug into the walls, but eventually they recede enough to expose a beach. The white sand echoes the rise and fall of the cliffs with a multitude of sandy dunes, endlessly creating tiny valleys that are constantly demolished and rebuilt by the frequent arrival or departure of dragons. The dunes smooth out as the gentle slope approaches the edge of the deep blue water. The sand darkens, and a shell here and there stands out for children to collect.

The beach narrows to the southwest, leaving a path barely wide enough for dragons in single file before cutting in to a smaller, more sheltered cove. The sands are the same white, the waters the same blue, but they're calmer and more tranquil, more protected from the winds that ruffle Lake Caspian and the currents that tug beneath the surface.

Rough, wide stairs lead up to the meadow above and the road that runs along the top of the cliffs, passing through the fields and heading for the river mouth that can be just barely seen from here. The largest of the staircases up the cliff is located near the docks that jut out onto the peaceful blue waters.

THIS IS A MAGICAL WEYR WITH MAGICAL PROPERTIES. COME STEP THROUGH THIS PORTAL, D'LEI, AND WHERE ARE YOU NOW? OUTSIDE. MAGIC. LOOK UP, NOW DOWN, NOW BACK TO ME. WHAT'S ON YOUR SCREEN? A SET POSE THAT YOUR SET POSES COULD LOOK LIKE. That's where Risali is by the way. She's outside, having found herself facing another night of Ilaryn and Citayla taking charge of their children because CITA HAS NEEDS, and Ryn has EQUAL NEEDS, and ILA HAS DESIRES TO SEE THEM BOTH HAPPY (AND SEE ALL THE BABIES) and so GONE. ALL OF THEM. HIDING AWAY WITH GRANDPARENTS OF VARIOUS DEGREES AND NOT HERE, where Risali, alone, found herself in deep, deep, deep negotiations with a very large, very lonely bottle of rum. It started innocently enough; it started with dancing, with using SPOONS as makeshift microphones as she danced through the weyr in a t-shirt and sang AT THE TOP OF HER LUNGS. But then she got more restless, felt like she was caged, like she needed to get out, like she needed to breathe, and so she ran. She put on just enough layers to be reasonable, just enough layers to not be miserable the moment she stepped outside and Leirith met her on the beach. "ON YOUR MARKS," a twitch of tail, "GET SET -" « GO! » "LEIRITH THAT'S CHEATING!" And we all know that CHEATING IS RISALI'S JOB. BUT THE WEYRWOMAN TAKES OFF, running as fast as she can, ignoring the fire in her lungs, ignoring the fact that she's not quite steady on her feet, ignoring the fact that this might not be the best idea because she has Velvet at her side and Leirith on the other and the crips, biting chill of a winter breeze pushing back against her body as she runs. "COME ON, VELVET!" she encourages, and the puppy rises to the challenge, throws herself into the chase with a BARK and another BARKBARK that has Risali expelling laughter as he feet carry her towards Leirith - okay, and maybe almost into that, and that too, and she almost trips over her feet enough to faceplant but LISTEN. SHE'S GOT THIS.

Oh. No. Twist D'lei's arm sooo hard to convince him that he just haaas to give over his children to be fed and played with and snuggled by their grandparents. SO TERRIBLE. …yeah, funny, it's like there's never all that much resistance to those CRUCIAL NEEDS that come up as they do. So yes, there is FREEDOM and there is DRINKING and … D'lei has actually been away, down near the docks where a ship's… docked… because they're the docks, see… to meet a man who's been on that ship, and who maybe has some thoughts about what else is going on with other ships, and might also like rum but… THERE WAS NO PARTY. Which is, of course, why Risali's bottle of rum was so lonely, on account of not having anyone to party with. BUT. He's escaped now, and he's fleeing - which in his case means walking, or at least, it did mean walking until he caught a hint of the VERY SUBTLE procession that is a gold steamroller and a laugh-running Risali and a barky-enthusiastic puppy. So yes, he STEPS ASIDE from the Leirith-rampage, and he reaches down to scoop up the remnants of snow from the ground and squish it together with his hands into a not-very-good snowball, and… wait for it… wait for it… aiiim, as the quiet D'lei maybe fades into the dark, aaaand… fire! Snowball, to the Risali, on the beach!

IMPACT! Maybe Risali saw D'lei, maybe she doesn't know just yet, but inebriation and Risali being Risali combine to make one very terrible idea into a great one. So the weyrwoman shrieks a laugh as she stumbles, and then makes a very dramatic show about it. She staggers, holding tight to flecks of white that mark where D'lei scored a victory as if she is nursing some fatal wound, eyes going up to the skies as if pleaing with long-dead queens for penance as she staggers more, and stumbles, and GOES DOWN IN A SHOW OF BLOOD, AND BLOOD, AND DEATHHHHHHHHH. ET TU, DASHIEL? Leirith's laughter boom, that massive body digging in talons and paws to halt as Velvet DANCES IN HER LITTLE SNOW BOOTIES and makes her way with EAGER ENTHUSE over to Risali's face. That tail starts going half a million mils per hour, that tongue ENGAGES, and there's another shriek of laughter from the weyrwoman where she lay. "No, Velvet! No! I'm dead Velvet. You are supposed to go on without me!" BARKBARK LICKLICKLICK seems to be the appropriate response to such dramatics, and so Velvet does just that, which just has Risali laughing more hands coming up to protect her face which just gets fingers LICKED and CHEWED and REALLY, it's probably some puppy form of CPR but so far it isn't happening. "No, Velvet! Go! Avenge me!" « I THINK THAT YOU SHOULD HIT HER WITH ANOTHER, » Leirith offers up, cheerful as ever. « SHE IS STILL MOVING. » "WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?" « MINE. AHAHAHAHA. »

Blood, snowy blood! Thou white stain that marks that sweet breast, the fate too unkind for this cruel world! D'lei laughs, because he too is cruel - Dashicruel - and he makes his way closer as Risali COLLAPSES to her DOOM… or at least to PUPPY TONGUE licking all the face. "She'll be a beast of terror yet!" he calls out - at least, if beasts of terror are what you call happy-thused canines with licks and mouthings and - "BARKBARK!" Velvet has noticed that D'lei is here, and OMF. OH. HER. FARANTH. She dances, jumping toward him - then back to Risali, because that face needs licking, but also there's a D'lei, and what does she even do? How can a puppy who desperately needs to be in two places at once to love two different people possibly manage? Velvet doesn't know, but she is going to TRY her HARDEST to learn how to teleport from sheer enthuse and love, racing in circles and figure-eights and giving run-by-lickings and trampling hair and BARK!

SUCH A CRUEL FATE, TAKEN OUT BY ONE CRUELER-EST WEYRLEADER WHO DIDN'T EVEN HAVE THE DECENCY TO ANNOUNCE HIMSELF BEFORE THE SLAUGHTER. MAY YOUR GUILT CARRY YOU TO YOUR GRAVE, SIR - or that laughter, that laughter that comes between deep swallows of air, that come between tiny, joyful, unpunctuated sounds every time there's another run-by licking to contend with in Velvet's most DETERMINED ATTEMPTS to be everywhere at once. Any other time, Risali might have stayed in the snow for too long, might have attempted to pull D'lei down to meet the same WHITE, FLUFFY FATE but today she did not bring nearly enough layers or drink nearly enough rum to make the cold any less cold to not quite-so-protected limbs. So instead Risali shifts to her knees during Velvet's pass back to D'lei, and then gets to her feet - just a little unsteady where she stands as clumsy hands swipe away snow and Velvet chooses, for now, to dance around D'lei in circles because THERE ARE NO MORE FACES IN NEED OF LICKING WITHIN HER REACH. And even now, even with that smile that dominates her face as grey eyes, full of mischief, come up to meet amber, there's something not quite right, something about Risali that says there's a lot at work behind all of her usual machinations keeping her together. It's something that makes that smile a little less, that look a little more, the way she moves towards D'lei and then sinks down into a crouch to properly assault Velvet with FACEPETSQUEEZES and kisses to her nose not quite right. AND THEN SHE'S THROWING HERSELF IN AGAINST D'LEI'S KNEES, TRYING TO TAKE HIM TO THE GROUND (and mindful of Velvet) with glee - or, perhaps, just another distraction.

Do you know what no faces in reach of Velvet's licking means? It means SUCCESS, or maybe tragedy, but given that there is enthuse and happy all around, Velvet is pretty sure this must be a good lack of lickings to have, and so she dances in her glee of it and her nearly-boundless puppy energy that will last right up until she falls over unconscious to snooze the sleep of the thoroughly played. And yes, D'lei is lured in by her - or maybe wants to come apply affection to her, as she does it to Velvet - but all he manages of that is a brush to her hair before she's tackling him to the knees in CRUEL BETRAYAL OF THE BETRAYER. That's at least a double cross, maybe the rare quadruple cross! D'lei wobbles, stumbling along even as Risali does her best to knee-lock him and shove - but, ha! He manages to get one leg free, and uses it to plant into a wide-legged position that gives him the stability to STAY UP (for now) and bend down with a hmmmmm face that - you guessed it - Velvet is leaping and bounding up to LICKLICKLICK.

TRICKERY! But as D'lei leans down and Velvet ATTACKS, Risali lets go of D'lei's legs to throw her arms around his shoulders instead and JUMP, locking legs around his torso and hoping against all hope that she will unbalance him since he's already leaning forward. And hey, the impact might hurt, but it will be SO VERY WORTH IT. Either way, she's holding onto him as tight as she can, and while Velvet assaults one side of his face, Risa assaults the other with onetwothreefourfivesixseven kisses. "Just give in, bronzerider. I know that you want to. Just let it happen, shhhhh. Shhhhhh." WILL HE CORRECT HIMSELF? WILL HE EAT IT? WILL HE BE ABLE TO ESCAPE RISALI-MARSUPIALS TO ATTAIN VICTORY? We just don't know. But Leirith is so very un-sneaky as she makes her way behind D'lei to - boop - TOUCH HIS BUTT WITH HER SNOOT. TIMBER?

It's a conspiracy! Not just Risali out to get him (wrassled down to the snow, that is), but she's gotten Velvet in to help and - ET TU, LEIRUS? IT TROO, LEIROO. So yes, somewhere in there between licks and woodpecker-kisses and butt-boops and slick snow, D'lei MAKES LIKE A TREE and falls down. AND NOBODY IS AROUND TO HEAR, except of course for Risali and Leirith and Velvet who is dancing over their legs and helping by being a tripping hazard and - "Whoof!" That's D'lei, not Velvet, because that's the sound a bronzerider makes when you pull him down and use him as a heavy object to squish yourself and make sure he doesn't have too much extra breath or, you know, dignity. NOW YOU KNOW, and knowing is… being squished underneath a bronzerider, apparently, who half-catches himself with one arm so at least he's not completely playing the role of a ten ton brick over the mayfly, but… yeah, there's some thud and squash involved for Risali to get him over her this time.

Ironically enough, Risali makes the same sound as the air leaves her lungs, and Leirith's bombastic joy takes off, the gold laughing as she moves AWAY from human counterparts to impart herself upon the snow - to watch, with blue eyes that whirl as she tilts her head to take them in. Velvet is clearly already trying to lick at faces, and it takes Risali a moment or two to remember how to breathe and then laugh. But there's no complaints, just arms and legs going tighter (though not tight enough to strangle) as lips and nose nuzzle into hair and Risali breathes deep and then whispers a giddy, "I win." And then she relaxes her grip, brings freezing hands up to cup D'lei's face between them, to sweep thumbs back against his cheeks; to trace nose, and lips, and jaw, and brows with the tips of fingers while grey eyes chase after their progress and commit the bronzerider to memory. That smile is a little more muted now, tempered by affection even if that hint of mischief, that hint of laughter still pulls at the corners and threatens to overcome. "I love you," she tells him, not because she needs to hear it back, but because she's slightly intoxicated and the censure of thoughts is not first and foremost on her mind. Not to imply she wouldn't tell him sober, of course. And then she's tilting her head back, and throwing one arm into the snow above her head and singing. "Violate me in the violet time, in the vilest way that you know! Desecrate me, savage me, utterly ravage me, on me no mercy bestow!" Annnnnd she's laughing again.

VICTORY is had in being freezing on one side and crushed on the other, squished and squashed and iced (with icing on top, except, it's actually bronzerider on top and icing on the bottom). And yes, Velvet is licking all the faces, and all the hands that touch those faces, and all the hair that is lickable and nommable and… it's just a dog-slobber covered mess, is what it is, but she is happy. D'lei squishes, and he smiles down as fingers trace his features with something that's just a little wry, just a little too much worry still left behind the happiness that… is there, yes. And the affection that can be there with happiness and worry both, the bridge between them that lets them cohabit here. There's a curve of lips and duck of chin, an increasing of both those not-actually contradictory emotions as Risali speaks her love, and then… she's singing, because of course she is. And a terrible thing it is, too! Maybe even virulent. "…my worst, then." It's soft, quiet - far beneath the sound of laughter in volume, not managing that level of joyous enthuse (in part because he isn't intoxicated), but… D'lei leans in, tilts his head and presses lips - soft - to Risali's.

It serves well enough to bring down the volume of laughter - to silence it as D'lei's lips find hers, soft though the contact may be. And Risali presses back, tasting of rum, and Risa, and something errantly sweet; Risali closes her eyes, traces fingers along the curves of ears and thread them into D'lei's hair, forming a temporary barricade to protect against overly-eager tongues (though not, perhaps, overly-eager teeth). But when she pulls away, when she takes a breath and blinks her eyes back open, there's a moment of hesitation in touch, in looking, in asking that question that does come on a whisper that's so at odds with her joy of only moments before. "Why are you making that face?" And where usually Risali might give an out, might pummel him with snow or tell him not to answer, this time grey eyes find amber, jump between them even as her lips tremble with words that start to form but never come, that pull together in another attempt and end with an out anyway because she just wouldn't be Risali if she didn't at least remind him that, "You don't have to tell me."

And this time it's D'lei that says, "I love you," with that smile that's got happiness and concern both, that's full of a tenderness and stirred by deeper currents. He shifts, just a little - enough to brush his fingers against her cheek, chilled for him but still warm against her. "I want the world to be more full of you…" Earnest, warm… but that's only half the mood. "And I want people to care for you… not just for what they can have by taking all the care you give and demanding even more." Amber eyes are intent, the distance of cold and time making that emotional closer to mournful than anger, the flash of active response tempered and quenched to its more lasting shape. "I worry because you love them -" There's no jealousy to his tone, no sense even of romance to that affection of which he speaks. "- and they don't love you back."

Even inebriated, Risali is still enough to listen, to register words, to translate meanings and expressions and… "That's the thing about love," Risali whispers, fingers coming to rest on D'lei's lips, gaze dropping to where they press as emotion manifests physically, bringing wet to her eyes (though she holds it back, manages to tame the tremor in her voice even if - yes - some of those tears slip free in silent betrayal). "It doesn't ask for anything in return." It's about the giving, not the taking; it's about the happiness of others, not the happiness of one's self. It is selfless, without condition, without - "I don't need them to love me. I have you. I have Selene, and Kyriel, and Darian, and Zyri. I have K'vir, and Leirith." And here's a smile, fractured though it is by the persistence of emotion that she has to bite down on her bottom lip to still, to quiet. And then she tries again, even if all she can manage is another whisper. "It's more than I ever thought I'd have. It's more than I deserve." And now she crumbles. "But I killed somebody D'lei. So maybe they're right." But don't worry; Risali is a Phoenix. And what do phoenixes do? They rise. They rise from the ashes. Maybe that's why Risa's swallowing down that noise that threatens, why those lips press together in a determination to collect herself, to ignore the fact that D'lei is blurry. "But I never needed them." She has you. That's the context, even if she can't quite finish it because she's busy pretending she's fixing ERRANT WRINKLES IN HIS CLOTHING. And then TRYING TO DISTRACT HIM - or maybe that's a huff of honest laughter when Velvet's tongue FINDS THE WET. OM NOM NOM NOM. She does manage a (shakily) teasing, "So are you going to put me out of my misery?" while she fends off puppies by giving them fingers to chew. And then a quieter, "I'm okay."

D'lei kisses those fingers, and he listens, with the twitch of wry smiles and earnest affections, with soft concern and deep abiding love, that… "Just because you don't need it, that doesn't mean I don't want it for you." Because love, and Risali's not the only one who feels it; who has that urge to help and care and fight the whole world if he has to… even if sometimes, that fight gets rough, and dirty, and what it takes to win - to survive… "But you still care." D'lei's gaze is steady, even as Risali admits that guilt she carries, cracks the walls of everything-is-fine. "You love that fucker, and you hate that it came to that… and that's more than most people would do." He tilts his head up, kissing beneath an eye on a cheek, at her forehead, then - nope, Velvet has the other cheek, none left for D'lei… and there's a smile that flickers there, a slight nod… and he's silent for a moment, there and solid and watching her and breathing with her and being with her, and he's quiet - though he smiles - as she teases and waits for that quiet truth of words that she doesn't have to say but he'll wait for regardless… and they come, and the smile warms, and he leans in to kiss her chin before… "Nope!" The tone is cheerful again, bombastic even as he pushes himself up off of her and catches her arms as he does. "I'm going to torment you for ages, make you suffer and writhe in agony." He's also going to grin to her, as he drags her up off the ground with him one step back at a time. "You're never going to get rid of me." It's a threat, in that playful tease - but it's also a truth, a promise to be there on her side through the fights and the quiet times and all the rest. HE GOT YOU. SO THERE.

"Somebody has to." Care, she means, the whisper carrying a weight that makes her voice crack because, because… the 'because' isn't important. But this moment is, this quiet give of affection, those kisses on her fingers, and her cheeks (because we can't ignore Velvet), and her forehead, and her chin. But she smiles back, allows herself to be pulled to her feet where she wobbles unsteadily and catches at D'lei's sleeves even if he hasn't let her go. "Oh good," she tells him as he helps her to her and she manages to stay upright. "I was wondering exactly how my life could get any worse, but that's it. That's the answer: you. I should have guessed." SHE'S TEASING, even if her face is a mess, but her smile, at least, is genuine. And there she goes, stumbling towards him, to bring one arm around his waist and tuck in against his side while she tilts her head back to look up at him. "There's no time to waste. You can start by jumping with me on the bed, and then maybe dancing, and singing. Really loud. I hate that you know. Absolute worst." But she does want to stomp in circles, and sing, and maybe burn off some of that alcohol. "And then maybe if you're really lucky, you'll get to execute some of the making-me-writhe kind." IF YOU CATCH HER DRIFT. "Bonus points if you beat me home." Which she knows is ridiculous, but one press of her lips to his shoulder later and there she goes, doing the DRUNK RUN back towards their modest abode with Velvet taking off after her and Leirith… content for now to remain. But she sings the entire way back. "TO THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE I AM COLD AND OBLIVIOUS; GIVE ME A MAN WHO IS LEWD AND LACIVIOUS, TO VIOLET ME, IN THE VIOLET TIME, IN THE VILEST WAY THAT YOU KNOOOOW!" But SHE GOT DASH TOO. Now, always, and UNTIL LEIRITH TAKES HER BETWEEN.

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