Mid-afternoon, Weyr downtime, and a visit from Quorra. Nora has followed Gehenna in finding her feet and toddling round with increasing confidence, and time has been spent playing and fussing with the children before the overexcitement tires the girls out. The same could perhaps be said of Kezia, except her emotions seem to have been forced: her conversation even more stilted than normal, and she's hardly managed a direct look at Quorra all afternoon.
Kezia may have thought that she'd fooled Quorra. Certainly, the younger woman has given no indication that she senses anything is wrong, engaging in the usual how-are-the-children conversations punctuated with comfortable (on her part, at least) silences while the two watch the girls frolic in the sun and sand and surf. Now the toddlers are stretched out on a blanket, fast asleep with at least one thumb tucked into a mouth. "Alright," Quorra waits only until she's sure the two are fast asleep. "Out with it." Kindly spoken, it's a demand nonetheless.
The efort of sitting still under the force of that demand becomes too much. Kezia scrambles to her feet, spitting sand off the blanket, and grabs another two oranges from the small pile that has been dwindling through the day. "Here." One is tossed gently at Quorra's lap, and then Kezia turns away, thumb picking already at the peel.
Quorra's perfect nail digs a crescent shaped mark into the fruit, then pulls away a strip. The peel is deposited into a neat pile to her side, but she's distracted only for a moment. Frowning, "what's wrong? Has someone been bothering you? If it's my brother, I'll --" the unspoken threat hangs in the air.
Kezia drops the orange. It lands in the sand with a dull thud. She makes no move to pick it up, and that in itself is probably all too telling. "No," she says, and she must know she's being unconvincing. "No, it's not -" And then, very uncertainly, she half-turns, and with only the very slighest bit of suspicion evident - which must mean there's more inside, she says, carefully, "What - why do you - say him?"
"Shards and shells," Quorra swears, "it is him, isn't it? What's he done?" The frown intensifies into a scowl, the orange forgotten in her lap, and all the intensity of her dark eyes focused on Kezia's form.
"He -" Kezia begins, weakly. She folds her arms across her stomach. "He -" The words don't come; Kezia hasn't managed to get them out to anyone yet. She just shakes her head, and despite the brightness of the sun, even in Ista's cooler season, Kezia shudders.
Quorra just waits, all patience though she's wound tight with tension. And when no more seems to be forthcoming, she adds, "it's alright, you know. Whatever it is. And if it isn't, we'll make it so." Through pure pigheadedness, if nothing else.
"No," Kezia says again. "No, I don't think -" She stoops, then, and picks up the orange, and walks a few paces down the beach, towards the sea, until an incoming wave swirls around her ankles.
Quorra's movement is slow, and quiet. She rises from the sand, leaving her orange on the blanket and coming up just behind and to the side of Kezia to stare out at the horizon. "We'll make it so," she says, again, whispered voice and warm presence all the embrace she'll offer. "You haven't got to bear it alone."
"You can't -" This is one thing Kezia has learnt over and over. "You can't change things." The next wave rolls in to cover her feet. "Once things are broken - you can't fix them. You can't take it back."
"I don't know." Quorra says, thoughtfully. "You can't make it not happen, but -- you know, Sterling had this vase, in the Great Hall. Some masterpiece by that Smith he almost handfasted, I think. And you know we had all those.. those.. men," she really means wher-for-brains, "and one of them broke it during breakfast one morning. The Smiths took it, and glued it back together, and but for a chip on the lip, you couldn't even tell. So maybe you can't fix it entirely, or take it back. But maybe, maybe you can piece it together so that everything isn't broken anymore. So the glass shards don't cut."
"But you know it was broken," Kezia says quietly. "If'n you don't look too close, or - or if'n you don't know - it looks all right." She swallows. "But really, it's all in little pieces." And that's just too unnerving to think about too much longer. "I'm not - I'm not that sort of person." Any of several kinds.
"I think we all are, sometimes. Just little bits of people, pretending to be whole." But that, too, is too sad a thought to dwell on. Quorra drags a hand through her hair. "Does anyone know?"
"I don't know," Kezia confesses, painfully. "I don't know at all. I hope not, but I - everyone seems to know everything, always." She looks down at the white-edged water that just edges her toes, this time. "I - haven't told anyone." Which shouldn't really come as a surprise.
"You'll have to tell someone, sometime," Quorra coaxes. "If not me, then somebody." She can imagine only a limited list of things Q'luin could've done to upset her, and even fewer that rate this sort of reaction. "And you know if you ever need away from the Weyr, you're always welcome at the Hold." It's only poor comfort.
"I'm away already," Kezia is beginning to visibly fret, "Here, now - it's already hard enough to get everything done, I can't - there's too much to do - I'm not complaining," she adds hurriedly. "It's just - there is a lot and it's even harder right now."
"The things that need to be done always seem to expand to fill whatever time you've got," Quorra says, sounding tired. "I'm grateful for it, sometimes. Makes it easier to forget. And pretend," her smile is twisted, "that I'm all glued back together again."
"It's more like I try to squash everything in," Kezia says, tired. She casts a look over her shoulder; the girls still both asleep. "I'm not -" Kezia confesses, miserably, "Very good at pretending."
"Are any of us, really?" Quorra asks, philosophically. "If we pretended well enough, seems we'd even fool ourselves. And I'm never fooled, and I don't think you are, either. Not for long, anyway. So it's on we go, with fake smiles," she tries hers on for size, "and fake words, but at least there's moments. Nobody can take that away."
"I'm not very good at smiling," Kezia admits, shakily. "Or - or speaking, really. I - just don't know. I never - I never really know what to do. I just - try to go on. I just have to try." She finishes off very quietly. "I'm not even sure, sometimes, why I'm trying."
Quorra's glance, this time, is sharp, though unseen behind Kezia's back, and her words give no hint of it. "There isn't anything else. It's try, or sit down and stop trying. It's for them." She gestures towards the sleeping children behind them. "And for the hope maybe, that someday -- well, someday."
"That's what everyone says," and although Kezia's still quiet, she also sounds very slightly bitter. "For the children. For tomorrow." She looks down, and her voice now is plaintive, as if willing it to be otherwise. "But - you never get tomorrow. There's only today."
"I know." Quorra's store of positive phrases seems to have run out. "I know. But there's got to be more, than just this," she's desperate to believe. "Hasn't there?" Asking for solace from the wrong source, probably.
"I don't want - not this," Kezia puts her free hand up, to tangle her fingers in her hair and then twist them together into a fist. "Not any of this, but it's nothing to do with want. I know. I know." It's a mantra for herself, however pessimistic. "Life just happens - and that's it."
"Only if you let it," Quorra says, rallying. "But you can change things, if you figure out how. Find ways to get what you want." She always has, sneaking around the shoulds and should nots to blaze her own trail, though it's never quite good enough. "It's when you /let/ things happen to you that things get all mixed up."
"I don't want to - let things happen either," Kezia is beginning to sound distressed. "I didn't want to let it happen, I just - I couldn't stop it." She slides her hand down, out of her hair, although some of that comes too, to cover her mouth.
"Couldn't stop him?" Quorra asks, deliberately vague. She pulls her hair over her shoulder and begins to braid it, looking and not looking at Kezia.
"I didn't even try," Kezia breathes, muffled through her hand. "I don't know if'n I could have. It just all -" She shakes her head, and turns away, just a little.
Quorra's face darkens, eyes sparkling with tension reminiscent of that just before a lightning storm. She finishes the braid and tosses it back over her shoulder without bothering to tie it up, and the wind quickly steals tendrils away to whip about her face. "When?" She tries to keep the anger that builds out of her voice, for none of it is meant for Kezia.
And Kezia capitulates, just like that. "That night - the goldflight." And then, because she is Kezia, she starts backtracking before she's even really said anything. "He was - nice about it." And somehow, it's that statement that seems to horrify her.
"The goldflight," Quorra echoes, then persists. "And N'lon doesn't know?" She purposefully relaxes her hands, about to curl into fists at her sides, speaking with an easy casual air that, she hopes, is deceiving.
"I don't know," Kezia lets her hand drop limply to her side. "I haven't seen him." She hasn't seen many people, avoiding whoever and wherever she can. "I don't even know," and this, almost, is the most miserable part of it all, "What he'd think."
"You should tell him." Quorra, being weyrbred, is fairly certain his reaction won't, at the very least, hurt Kezia. Hopefully. "Flights happen. He won't think any less of you. But you'll feel better for it."
"But - it never happened to me before," Kezia admits in a very small voice. "I'm not a dragonrider. It's - I don't have any excuse." She's not even sure it's an excuse. But then, despite her turns at the Weyr, so many of these dragonrider concepts are still so foreign to Kezia. "I don't even feel better now."
"Dragonflights affect everybody," Quorra says, obviously distracted. "Just tell him. You might feel better, then." She's already turning away, mumbling a vague excuse about 'needing to get back', and stalks off down the beach back towards the weyr, leaving her orange forgotten and only half-peeled on the blanket near Nora's head.
"'Bye," Kezia says, quietly, and long after Quorra's too far away to hear. She stays where she is, until the tide has ebbed and her feet are caked in wet sand, and Nora rouses with a sleepy cry, and Kezia is all too willing to be distracted herself.
The stone tiers curve around almost half of the immense hatching cavern, providing ample seating for guests to get off the burning sands and watch the spectacle of the hatching. The hatching ground spreads out below across the vast cavern. To one side is the egg mound, upon which rests the queen eggs when there happen to be any, for attentive brooding.
You may 'look on sands', or 'look on ledge', or even 'look
You see Veryne here.
Q'luin and Taini are here.
It's a cold evening, but it's much warmer than Fort, and Taini sits in the galleries, writing in her journal. Her face is red and blotchy, but she doesn't appear too upset. Instead, a half-smile seems to lurk hidden on her face. She appreciates the warmth of the galleries, and they bring interesting memories, so she has found this place to sit, think and write.
It's one of those weird rare frosty days at Ista Weyr that always sends the Igenite Q'luin to warmer pastures. Today, however, he cannot escape the weyr, so he seeks to escape the cold by heading to where it most feels like home. There are no eggs presently; the sands are nothing but a mind field of crackling shards leftover from the last hatching. Each step elicits a different sound, and soon the rider is purposefully altering direction to get the larger chunks.
It's a glimmer of bronze that comes first, flashing out of ::between:: above Q'luin's head with a warning chitter, and then back in again. Quorra herself appears next, taking the stairs two at a time and pausing at the top to survey the lay of the land. For someone who comes to Ista Weyr to 'get away' and make pleasure visits, Quorra sure doesn't look like she's gotten away or found pleasure in much of anything, for she's scowling darkly and the bronze firelizard, now perched on her shoulder, is obviously agitated.
Snap. Crunch. Crack. Taini is disturbed from her thoughts by the bronzerider's shell-crunching steps. She looks down, and frowns. "Qi!" She calls, leaning out of the shadows to make herself visible. "Having fun?" As she peers out, she notices the firelizard and then the lady he looks to. She nods to Quorra. "Busy here tonight. Maybe I should find a quieter place." If there is such a thing.
There's a minor leap, both boots landing square on a largish piece of shrapnel. *Crack* It isn't fun Q'luin is after, but rather sanctuary and something stupidly monotonous that will wipe away whatever is plaguing him at the moment. Taini's voice snaps his head up, and recognition brings about a frown to further taint the burnished features. "Ah, it's Barlord week, apparently. Ista's duties to your queen, weyrwoman." Then there is Quorra, but as he looks her way, the rider notes the moodiness he knew so well while growing up. "Ista's duties to Ista Hold as well, Lady Holder." There's the faintest hint of tease in the raspy voice.
Quorra's expression quickly clears, and a soothing hand finds Amrie's headknobs. "Weyrwoman," by knot, or face, or her brother's greeting, she recognizes Taini and grants her all due respect. "I trust your lifemate is well?" She pauses for an answer before turning to her brother, and though her eyes flash, her expression remains calm, like the eye of a tornado. "Whatever are you doing down there, Qil? Is that any way to greet your sister?"
Who, her? Oh, right. "Thank you, bronzerider." If he's going for formality, she'll even throw in a salute. "Really? More than just Teej and I for classes?" She frowns. Then Quorra speaks. "Thank you, ma'am. She is well. Fort's duties to the Hold, and your father." She nods toward the sands. "It looks like he's crunching shells. I think I saw a little doing that back when. Drove some of the other weyrlings batty. Of course, everything was so close together..." She grins. "How are you, ma'am?"
When Taini salutes, Q'luin opens his mouth to correct her, and then it settles in that a goldrider is actually showing him respect, so the maw is used for other purposes. "Aadi, who says she's a Barlord, and Th'deus." Skip. Hop. *Crunch* "I need to talk to T'jano. When does he usually come for classes?" The dragonhealer's progress angles in Quorra's direction, and by the time he's made it to the galleries' bottom tier, there is an obvious trail of carnage left behind. "Quorra," aims to rectify the prior greeting.
"And my Hold's duties to Fort," Quorra replies, belatedly. Something must be wrong if she's forgetting even basic etiquette. "I'm doing well, thank you. I've just come to ask my brother something.. you'll excuse us for a moment, won't you?" Her smile is polite, not a bit less than it should be, and yet something is off in the entire performance. She links her arm through Q'luin's and steers him just out of range of Taini's ears.
"Yeah, Aadi sort of latched herself on to us, and she's such a good fit we keep her." Taini says with a grin. She turns to face the pair of twins to continue the conversation, shutting the journal with a snap. "Well, it hasn't been really regular lately with the added work from the weyrwomen at home and since it's just the two of us..." She shrugs. "It's whenever we are free and M'cay isn't busy." She laughs. Tenzinth and Bee and Mrrth have gotten really good at figuring that out." She opens her mouth, about to politely acquiesce, and poof, they're out of range. So, she opens her book again, and continues her writing.
Q'luin doesn't struggle, but glances back over a broad shoulder to peer at Taini as he's pulled aside. "I hear you are getting married to some sop minor holder. You can do better." Tiny beads of sweat have formed, but that's about it. Inside this tavern is his type of weather.
Quorra ignores that completely, keeping her face pleasant though her voice has enough venom in it to make up for it. "If you thought that I wouldn't find out about what you did, you're mistaken. And if you think /N'lon/ won't find out, then you're even more wherry-brained than I thought was possible for someone related to me. Don't you go near her. Not even to see Nora." With that, she gives him a good whack in the stomach and turns on her heel, pausing only to wave cheerily at Taini and add, with an exaggerated eyeroll, "brothers."
"Mmm." Taini will agree wordlessly. She knows about brothers in spades. "Farewell, ma'am." She returns the wave when it appears she's walking out again. "Speaking of brothers...." Taini begins to Q'luin when Quorra has gone. "What did Thadd want to talk about?" She has a feeling she knows, but she asks for confirmation. "And if it's what I thought it was..." She frowns. "Not the way to..." She sighs.
The swing at his stomach doesn't give Q'luin much warning to clench muscles in anticipation, so it lands hard. Omph! He gasps out, "Oh runner shit!" There's laughter in his head - Zhoreth is off somewhere and quite amused. "Oh you too, shuddup!" Who that was too could be easily mistaken. Before Quorra disappears, the angry bronzerider shouts, "It's just sex! You've been away from a weyr too long! Goin holder soft!" Obviously this is a defensive rant. Sorry, Taini, Q'luin is ignoring your questions, and possibly pretending he didn't hear them all together.