Heartbreak

Participants:

Rocio.jpg Kaskan.jpg

Date: December 15, 2010
Location: Eastern Weyr Baths
Synopsis: Kaskan finally tracks down Rio to face their mutual past and deal with resulting emotions.
Rating: PG
Logger: Kaskan

Rio
Large eyes so dark that they are nearly void of any chromatic hue, stare from over a pale ivory veil that shrouds this woman's features, loops around her face and is secured somehow within folds of itself. Her hair, only partially covered, perhaps so that the veil does not look like a bandit's mask, is rich near-black brown. Rio has a fine-boned build, not quite five feet, with delicate hands and nimble fingers, narrow wrists and a small waist — other details are obscured by slightly overlarge, earth-toned clothes: A tan shirt hanging over grey pants which are themselves tucked into black boots. Rio has workman's calluses, and on her right forearm, she wears a brown cloth vanbrace held in posiition with a thumb-loop to her right hand. Rio wears a Eastern Weyr Weyrling's knot. —19 turns.

Kaskan
Thick wisps of ebony fall in half-hazard lengths to shadow rugged features, over-long layers typically in disarray as they feather pale blue eyes, flare about his ears and tickle the nape of his neck. Full lips precede a square-ish jaw, which often bears a dusky shadow of its own. Scars from too many fights mar what would be a handsome visage, most notably one that splices across his left brow stopping just short of his eye. A slight hitch ends his left ear in an oddly curved shape, though it's usually hidden beneath his hair. Darkly intense, his bearing is defensive and watchful, wiry muscles having filled out to create a solid, sturdy frame. Not overly tall, he is a grounded, immovable rock - just as thickly guarded on the inside as he is thickly muscled on the outside - a deceptive impression that suits him well for the panther quick grace that's displayed when he's on the move. —19 turns.

[ Eastern Weyr: Baths ]

Underneath the upper set of hatching sands, this cavern is fairly large in size, though it is dwarfed in comparison to others nearby. A natural hot spring, the steamy water has been diverted into one large pool - capable of holding about twenty odd people - and several smaller ones around the edges. Shelves have been set up along the northern wall, lined with different scents of bathing salts, sweetsands and oils. Under the shelves are benches where folk can dress and undress. Even given the tropical nature of the climate, this is still one of the most popular places in the weyr.

Kaskan has had enough of waiting, enough of being blocked, enough of evasions. Tonight, he's sure, will be the night. If he has to lurk in the shadows of the hallway to the baths all night he will. Having finally struck upon the idea of finding out Rio's daily routine he found out through some discreet questioning that she visited the baths about this time. With how reclusive she's been of late he figured she'd be alone - devoid of human /and/ dragonic company. The latter was his biggest concern. The young queen would probably tear him limb from limb before an accord could be reached due to the expected emotional level of this meeting.

So, Kaskan waits. Closing a few strategic glowbaskets made it even easier to blend. Having overturned a crate for a seat he pulled the hood of his jacket over his head and simply sat in the shadows as far down the tunnel from the entrance as he could and still keep it in sight.

She was the glowmaster for much of her tenure at this Weyr. And so Rio's feet track the path of the night-drenched Weyr with the familiarity of someone who could tread them blind. No worries, that the glows are closed, except the vague concern that another pathogen has struck at the glowing fungi that coat those glows. But instead of halting and examining the lanterns, Rio continues into the baths. Even she cannot see the hooded figure within the darkness of shadow. But she is quiet; likely Kaskan will not hear her passing, but feel it. And that usually her veils are of some hue that matches her dragon…He might see that drifting along.

Then Rio's in the baths, habit and wariness leading her to the more secluded of the sets. Once she's assured herself that no lovers lurk there, she sets down her own fresh garmets and begins to disrobe. Eovarijath is, finally, asleep.

Kaskan stiffens as soon as Rio nears and remains so until she has entered the baths. So much is hidden by those veils of hers yet now that he knows to look for it he can see clues that are similiar to the girl he remembers. Petite build, slight of stature. The sway of her walk. Then his muscles belatedly react, jerking him aright. Breath quickening, he stands and moves to the entrance pausing there momentarily to gather himself before stepping inside.

Thick steam assails his senses as soon as he enters, eyes narrowing into the gloom. He spots her more as a shift of shadowed movement and approaches quickly now, wanting to catch her before she disrobes. That would certainly set her off on the wrong impression. So he stops within sight but not within reach and clears his throat, her name a soft benediction on his tongue. "Rocio."

By the half-masked glowlamp light, he'll see her frame jerk around to attention, toward him, and the veil that had been released is automatically drawn back up again, until she stiffens into stillness. Rio's voice, clear somber alto: "Kaskan." She acknowledges the name he'd called her by, claims it, and waits there. The half-glow will illuminate only the left side of her: The veil. One dark eye. The vanbrace on that forearm.

Kaskan is a visual contrast. Shirt and trousers are noticably crisp and clean, tucked and fit to flatter his lean, wiry frame. His hair is less disheveled than usual although it still falls in random layers that tend to wisp partially across one eye. He's obviously dressed for the occasion. However, red lines limn his light blue gaze and shadows form rings below it. His complexion is sallow and sunken compared to its usual robust olive tan. Several fresh cuts and one terrific bruise mar his features, even his hands bearing signs of recent abuse in the form of partially healed scars. His left arm hangs oddly stiff compared to the other as if he's favoring it, bent partially across the front of his body.

The silence stretches for a few moments, seeming to thicken like the steam rising from the water. Having run the gamut of darker emotions the past few sevendays he's mentally exhausted now and simply soaks in the sight of her in light of what he knows now. Finally, he swallows, his voice still rough as he says, "I've thought so many times about what I would say if I could just see you again. But now… I can't find the words."

She studies him, stares at him, allows herself to -remember- and compare and contrast in the absence of her sleeping queen's jealousy. —Until he speaks. Such sweet words. And Rio's eyes fall shut, her head turns away. She stands there, caught, despite the dark and the misty sweltering fog, and the dimming half-masked glow. "I… Am so sorry, Kaskan. I…Did…Not." Her swallow is audible, "Mean to… It…Was a bad reaction. Pride and pain and anger and revenge and I let it get the best of me."

"I… Had hoped you'd forgotten about me. Moved on. I dared not contact you. Crom may yet send assassins…" She manifests no typical movements to betray her stress; only her voice, tight and drawn, as she looks away from the man, and then, finally, back at him. "I am sorry."

Though it would seem impossible, Kaskan pales further at her words. Tendrils of the consuming devastation he felt for not being able to protect her from what happened try to squirm their way from the deep pit where he buried them, but having let them burn unrestrained through his system already he pushes them down again with a visible effort. His right hand clenches at his side. A tide of questions lurch to the fore at the things she says but he clenches his teeth tight, stubble-free jaw working silently. First he must know for sure; squash the niggling sense of impossiblity that still badgers him relentlessly. "Please… let me see you."

She understands, immediately, what he asks.

Rio's regard snaps back at him, wide-eyed. Somewhere, distant, Eovarijath lurches in her sleep, claws digging into the stone of her couch.

The woman stares at Kaskan for a long moment, before finally she responds. Voice hollow, utterly lacking the music of life that has always marked Rocio's alto: "You see me. Now. Who I am. What…You want to see…Is what they did to me. That I will wear forever." Harsh, that, with Rio's regard skittering away from him to the depths of the baths.

Kaskan flinches at that quick reaction, taken aback by her sharp response. But his blue eyes swarm with intensity as he meets her stare, recognising at last why her eyes always arrested his attention on previous occasions. He thought he was drained.. spent.. a ashen husk, but the sound of her deadened voice cracks his heart anew. "Rocio," he breathes, taking a step closer. His hand rises, palm out-turned; reaching without meaning to touch. "You're wrong. Nothing can change the way I see you."

Her touch is quick, the brush of fingers on the outside of his hand, fluttering soft. Maybe reminiscent of a tease once before, in a garden, when he'd ignored her for a moment too many. But this time, it's the barest of contact, and Rio steps back into the embrace of the shadows, and the lights will flicker around her, and then, presented to him, is a glow basket. Should he take it, in that hand she'd touched, then she'll take the liberty to open the glow fully, so the sickly greenish hue casts her in stark shadows and lines.

Rio stills then, studying him for a long moment, before she murmurs something whose syllables seem only to make sense to the utterer. Then, with her eyes for a moment, pinned to that blue gaze, Rio will reach up and unfasten the veil. As the cloth drops to reveal the deliberately gruesome scars across her cheeks, Rio's eyes simply shut. She does not want to see the horror reflected in the features of this man whose love used to be her world.

Kaskan feels her touch not as a feather but a flame, seering nerves with a deceptively soft carriage. He takes the glowbasket but never takes his eyes off of her, feeling a stirring of long-buried memories in every graceful movement she makes. Her serious demeanor gives him some forewarning, his imagination having run rampant with the rumors he heard back then. They must be true. Bracing himself, his knuckles whiten on the basket.

His reaction is as strong as she feared, but not for the reasons she feared. A sharp intake of breath is drawn before he can stop himself; shock at the extent of damage done. But the immediate swell of emotion he feels is not disgust or horror, but hatred for those that caused it and again the overwhelming self-flagellation for not having prevented it. For a few seconds he simply stares, mental image of the girl he loved overlaying the scars and confirming for a certainty her identity. A sense of indescribable relief washes over him and he steps closer still, the basket switched to his weaker hand so the other can rise to hover over her cheek. With her eyes closed he watches her a moment, just letting himself drink in the sight of her in true form and not the taunting image that haunted him for so long. Then he lays his palm against her skin without the slightest flinch for the scars beneath. "Rocio," he whispers, his voice thick with the northern accent he normally hides. "You don't have to hide from me. Do you really think I loved you only for what you were on the outside?"

By the time Rocio had made it to the other Shunned, had been taken to their healer, the ash that had been maliciously rubbed into her facial wounds, those on her arm, had so secured a foothold and infection, that the cleaning was excruciating and any hope of repair, out of the question.

Healer's hands, and her own, were those who last touched those scars, and the contact somehow was infused with a sadness, a hopelessness. Rocio's facial features are more than twice Jaya's ruin; these wounds were deliberately inflicted on someone who could not fight back, designed for maximum horror.

His words elicit a tremor through the entire woman and instinct now is to pull the shield across her features again, though she turns bright-eyes toward him now, fully. "I cannot look upon it. How can you?"

Kaskan swallows hard at the pain that lays bare in her expression, the scars running so much deeper than just her skin. His own features harden against the anger that swells, his temper ever getting the better of him. Digging deep into the regulating methods he's learned as a guard he manages to keep a tenuous hold on the reins, but a wild light pools in the blue of his eyes. Forcing himself to visibly explore every scoured inch and ragged line of her scars his expression slowly smoothes with acceptance, his thumb tracing a slow line along her jaw. "Because I see past them. These marks aren't /you/, Rocio. They don't change who you are inside."

Rio stares for a long few moments at his long-remembered regard, as he draws his touch along her jaw. She cannot help but dip her head, to press slightly against that touch, to invite it to longer consideration. And there's the small matter of an involuntary sound, guttural, whisper-soft, when he touches her.

At length, she'll swallow and drag her attention back to the man. Her hand reaches to cover his, to confirm that touch, to remember, maybe briefly to wish. "Kaskan. I… Never meant to … Will you forgive me? I broke my promise to you." Several, probably, though she had no choice about it. But the question is as earnest as if the tresspassess had been deliberate.

Kaskan lets his hand rest just below her cheek, a long quavering breath leaving his lungs as her hand covers his. With the added quality of the steamy mist and awkward lighting the moment seems so surreal that a sudden twinge of fear arises, taunting him with so many remembered nightmares that started out the same only to end with her dissolving into thin air screaming his name. He leans closer, closing the gap left between them until his brow nearly touches hers. The scent of oil drifts across his senses - no doubt a daily necessity for her now in caring for her dragon. He breathes it in; further proof of her reality.

A cold chill slivers down his spine at her words, uncertaintly pulling dark brows downward. He tilts his head back enough to see her entire expression more clearly but doesn't relinquish the touch of his hand. "What do you mean?" he asks, aghast that she would think herself the one in need of forgiveness.

She steps forward, toward him, at this contact of forehead to forehead, and her other hand comes up to draw fingers over his shorn chin. So many memories crowd forward, that the woman is somewhat confused. He'll feel her breath start, and hold, then start anew and her voice in quiet agony, "If I had not killed him, he'd have… Let me loose enough that I .. We.. Would have gotten away. If you still wanted me. But I was so angry. And he hurt me. And beat me. And I killed him, and it was selfish, Kaskan. If I'd endured… " Maybe they could have been together.

Rocio had a lot to think about, prisoner of Crom for the duration of her pregbnancy. "What have you become, because of this? What are you now, Kaskan?" Her fingers trace over his rough skin, then slide tentatively into his hair.

Kaskan is assailed by such a sudden barrage of conflicting emotions that his body stiffens from head to toe. The touch of her fingers to his newly shaven skin is like a shock, parting his lips on an indrawn breath. But its her words that wretch his insides to pieces. Guilt rides his conscience with star-studded spurs as her admission richochets through him like a bullet, leaving behind a hole-filled heart. His angered lips had made the same accusation many times during his darkest hours; those times when his mind sought any refuge from devastation and loss. Eventually he shored those feelings up behind a wall of cold cynicism but now remorse looses them once again. Time has given him enough perspective to recognize them for their selfish nature, leaving behind a piercing pang of regret for having thought them in the first place.

Distraught by his internal struggle, Kaskan doesn't register her questions. Not until her fingers sift into his hair does a small shiver cross his broad shoulders and his regard refocus on the plains of her face. "Rocio.. no!" he demands sharply. Unable to frame the anger into words right away he drops both hands on her slender shoulders. Ignoring the pain the motion causes from his own injury his fingers grip with fervent intensity, shaking her lightly. Looking into her eyes with widened agony he bites off each word that comes in a roughened tone, "Don't ever apologize for that to me again. It was not your fault."

As if the nightmare is about to come true he suddenly wraps his arms around her and crushes her against his chest, the sharp rise and fall of his heavy breathing filling the breadth of his shirt. It takes several moments before he'll trust his voice again. Then, softly to her ear, "Rocio," he starts, her name a sigh, "/I'm/ sorry. For so many things." Not protecting her. Blaming her. Believing the lies and not finding her. The dark depths he sunk to survive. The list goes on and on. To see them reflected in her eyes would complete yet another version of his nightmares - the one where she hates him for what he had become.

Timing sucks, sometimes. She draws her fingers into his hair, steps into him, and he snaps /no/ at her. Rio's entire frame stiffens and she'd stepped backwards with celerity. When Kaskan grips her with fingers secure enough to shake her, Rio pulls back decidedly, arms coming up to a defensive position — only to be crushed between them.

Tremors bark through her, pressed there. Wild, wounded creature, she, with scars bared on the outside, but yet to heal fully on the inside, and this particular notion of capture is far too reminiscent…

Her voice cracks, spoken before she can manage to edit tone or words: "Let me go!" The panic is there, and Kaskan will feel the feeble press of arms held at awkward angles. Seconds ago, she was willing to step into him. Now, captured, Rio's throat tightens with the welling of an irrational fear, residual of another experience with a tall, strong man, which was out of her control. "Please."

Kaskan feels her stiffen, hears the fear in his voice, and instantly goes cold inside. FOOL! - a shrill mental voice berates him. He's lived with the philosophy of thinking of himself first for so long that he didn't even stop to think how she might feel to his forcibly grabbing her. The old nightmares were too strongly entrenched. Visibly fighting to get his own reaction under control he releases her shoulders, fingers spreading stiffly. Immediately the pain he'd been ignoring lances through his recently re-located shoulder and down his arm. With a small sound he lowers both arms and takes a half step back from her, injured limb drawn close to his stomach.

Expression as dark as the bruised splotches marring his skin, he watches her face closely. Spine straight as a rod he waits to see if he upset her too much, his tone achingly apologetic as he whispers hoarsely, "I'm sorry…. I wasn't thinking…"

Instinct sets in, during times of high stress. Rio'd not anticipated her own reaction, and she's rocked by it. Her vanbraced arm instinctively reaches to pull the fallen veil back up to automatically tuck it back into its fastener, while the woman tries to contain her breathing, not panic.

Things are no looking good for the first dragonflight, here. Rio'd almost had herself convinced that there'd not be a problem. Definitely going to lose the knife, when Eovarijath gets proddy. But, Rio didn't reach for it in this instance.

And this instance is something she wants immediately behind her. This response, this abject and involuntary fear. Her heart races and blood pounds in her temples. Rio's eyes, so wide, so black, stare at him over that restored veil. The slight woman holds herself entirely — absolutely — still, no doubt another lesson learned from long incarceration. Then she allows herself to breathe, audibly, and her head drops into a vague nod. "You startled me. Your reaction was normal. Mine was not, Kaskan. I… Will be fine."

Another few moments, before she's able to pull in a long breath, deeper. "Kaskan. Not your fault, what happened to me. Sometimes… I am still reminded. I haven't… " Her eyes now dart away. Whatever Rio may be, now, she was raised Traditional, and she does not speak of such forthright things, with any comfort, "I have been…Unable to bear… Another man's touch. Since … The …Other one." She won't even dignify the son of Crom, and her husband, with a name.

If she had that knife nearby Kaskan would plunge it into his heart himself. The pain would be less than what he feels now watching her replace the veil and grow distant with remembered horrors. Jaw tightening he clenches his teeth against the barriage of curses that rise unbidden at the thought of the Crom scion who ruined both their lives. His fingers twitch, curling with the urge to move her veil aside. Black hatred washes over him for the necessity she feels to wear it even with him. His stomach curdles with the strength of those grim emotions, all the moreso for the inability to lash out at those that cause them.

"Rocio," he starts after a few moments. His good hand rises intending on lifting her chin to him but he stops abruptly fearing an adverse reaction again. "If there was any way I could take that pain away from you I would. Knowing now that you've lived with it all this time is killing me worse than when I thought you were gone and not suffering at all. Is there /anything/ I can do to make you feel better? Anything at all?"

She's struggling. But she doesn't want this to step away. Doesn't want him to leave. Rio reaches, hesitating in autonomic nervous system, but finally urged on by mind, so that the fingers of her 'good' arm — the one whose forearm is not covered — catches his hand. Her fingers curl around his. A second later, her hand is within his, curled, and drawing his hand to her sternum, so that she might, in that action, curl his fingers around hers. "I … Do not suffer, in my day to day life, Kaskan." Quiet words, "I have Eovarijath. She is my life, my dragon. When she can be more civil about you, I would… Introduce you two. Dragons forget."

Her sigh expels more would-be words in a breath, to wait until another is drawn. Rio's regard lifts of its own accord, to study the man's blue eyes. "I am… Glad you live. Are alive. Are here, Kaskan. I … Am glad you are not angry. I didn't want to… I would like to make things right, between us. /He/ is gone. And I have my regrets, did not…Never did want him. But you… I was afraid to contact you. I suspect Crom has sent assassins after me. I do not advertise myself. And Eovarijath was so… Jealous. Of my reaction to you. I… Do not want you in danger."

Then, "What have you done to yourself?"

Kaskan holds his breath when she takes his hand, hopeful but uncertain. The urge to gather her close again wracks his muscles and a shiver runs through him with the effort to restrain them. That breath is released on a long, drawn out sigh as she curls her hand into his at her chest. His grip is firm without being tight, his skin rough with half-healed scars.

Mention of her young gold garners a slight nod, his groomed hair finally resisting the order he tried to enforce upon it by swaying with wisping irregularity across his brow and one eye. "I'm glad you impressed her. That is the best protection you could ask for. Here you'll be safe and cared for better…. than ever." His tone is relieved but bitter at the same time, brief pause an obvious change of direction for what he was going to say…. 'better than with me.' She may forgive him but he'll never forgive himself for not protecting her more. Stormy hues shadow the slate blue of his eyes making them seem more grey.

Before he can answer her question something she said beforehand belatedly registers and he frowns, the dipping of dark brows emphasizing the old scar that drops across his brow and stops just above one eye. An ugly sense of foreboding slides down his spine like fingernails on a chalkboard. She said 'afraid to contact him'. "Did you know where I was?"

"I had hoped…" Rio draws his hand up under her veil with practiced ease, and slides his knuckles over her lips lightly, then speaks against his skin. "I had hoped that you were married. Had forgotten about me. Had moved on and was happy." She is able to look him straight in the eye as she answers, the honesty being maybe brutal. "I hoped you were well. And." She stops and swallows, smoothing a voice that threatens to break, "You would have made such a fine husband. I had hoped that you had that joy."

Then her other hand comes up to catch his, and his hand is passed off once more, the angle of his fingers altered, so that they run over the vanbrace, stay there for a moment. Rio keeps his gaze, but her fingers remove the cloth of the other forearm. Into his fingers, unseen, the arm twists again, so that his fingertips can feel the smooth flesh of her forearm marred then by the horrific burns of a brand on human skin. "I was outcast. I could not return to you." Simple words, simply stated.

Heartbreak. Shock. Heartbreak. The see-saw continues. Voice stolen by the effort it takes to breathe through a clamped throat, Kaskan can only listen as she lays out her thoughts and hopes. Each falls on his conscience like the crack of a whip, sparking emotional offshoots that are harder and harder to control. Ever since he fell in with the roving thieves and cut-throats who gave him an outlet for his rage and taught him what it meant to fight to survive on a daily basis Kaskan has had issues with maintaining his temper. Holding on to it now is only possible because of the raw beating his soul has taken over the last two sevendays, leaving him a burned-out husk with less to flare at the merest spark.

"Forgotten about you?" he whispers, voice cracking. The sheer magnitude of such an idea momentarily steals comprehension. His fingers move to lightly brush her lips and chin as they near, keeping her fingers curled within his at the same time. Older memories long forbidden cast echoes of earlier moments like this across his mind's eye, moments when he had felt those lips on his and seen them curve into a laughing smile. Bittersweet, they draw a soft moan from him.

Then she moves to reveal darker momentos and his face blanks with loss of feeling entirely. As his fingers brush over the branded scars he groans louder, his shoulders curving inward and chin falling to his chest. Over-long raven layers fall forward to hide his expression completely. "I will /kill/ them all!" he hisses, realizing the worst of his imaginings over her fate weren't nearly horrible enough. Then his fingers tighten on those scars, curling around her arm, and he looks up with the heat of a thousand suns burning his blue gaze into the dark pools of her own. "Rocio, /how/ could you think that I would care about this? I loved /you/ and no mark burned into your skin would suddenly change that!"

Rio is a keen observer of human nature, and an equally shrewd listener. She studies him for a long moment, before her fingers loosen, to release him if he so wishes. "Then what did?" She caught the past tense of the verb: Loved.

But she shakes her head. "No. I'm sorry. Don't answer that. It's unfair." Regret veers her regard away from him, once more and she draws a long breath in, as she now studies a glow across the room, allowing her night-sight to be stolen in that greenish illumination. "Do not kill them. They did as they were told." Monotone. "I was found guilty. I was to be banished. That is the tradition. At least it is not on my forehead." Obviously, the scarred face is not tradition. But her regard, now nightblind, goes back to his features, "Kaskan. What would you have of me now?" There's no flirting girl in Rio's demeanor. That was burned out of her by her experiences. No coyness or games. Just a straightforward question, "Do you wish to lay a claim on me?"

Kaskan rears as if she physically slapped him, breathe leaving his lungs in one fleeting rush. His grip lightens but his fingers remain on her wrist, the physical contact a tenuous lifeline for the current state of his sanity. He hadn't meant to use the past tense. Once she points it out his mind reels with a dizzying lash of emotions. Ever since he found out that Rio, weyrwoman of Eastern Weyr and rider to golden Eovarijath, was /his/ Rocio he's been struggling with having let that love go only because he thought it was impossible to have again, frozen in perpetual perfection within his heart, and now here it is again - living, breathing and at his fingertips. He's not only afraid to reach for it but afraid of rejection once she knows exactly what he has done and become since then. Color drains from his face again, lips parting in a silent loss for words.

He listens as she continues, knowing that she's made assumptions but unable to clearly explain himself. Her defense of the monsters who marked her for life earns a low growl. Obviously he doesn't agree. As she looks away his rugged features turn bleak with dispair and he swallows hard against the constant urge to wrap her up in his strong arms and hold her tight against his chest. He won't make that mistake again, however. That she cringes from his touch is even worse than the nightmares of her dissolving with his name on her lips.

When she looks back again he quickly schools his features into those of concern, masking those deeper emotions he's not ready to deal with yet. Her questions call to them though, tension slipping across his expression in crinkles that feather his darkly rimmed eyes and lined shadows that deepen his brow. Looking into her eyes he seems not to breathe at all, time a vague concept lost in the foggy steam that surrounds them. "I don't know," he finally answers to her first. Then, softer still to the second, "Would you want me to?

She thinks, really thinks. Revisits the thousands of thoughts she's already had on the subject, before she'll finally steel herself anddip her head for the duration of a long breath. "Kaskan. I … Will always love you. It's why Eovarijath reacted the way she did. She was.. Jealous. I lived my life for you, before. For the promise of some eventual 'us'. And I wanted that. I …" The regrets, the unspoken apology cascades into her voice now, and it wavers, "I did wrong, in killing him. I could have, should have waited. And in that," Rio looks up at him then, her eyes beginning to focus again, "I lost you. And I lost a child. But I have Eovarijath. And I finally have a home again. You…"

This is the part that is hard, and Rio actually had to release, with lingering reluctance, his hands, before she speaks. She cannot say the words while she maintains that vibrant connection with him. "It is not fair to you. To… To…" The tears come unbidden, without sound, just leaking from her eyes, and Rio looks again into the darkness, "To ask you to play a second, to Eovarijath." No wonder the dragon's jealousy is so palpable.

And there it is. The rejection he'd been expecting - dreading, actually. Realization comes only as something cracks and breaks deep inside that he didn't even know was there. Stubborn pride is all that keeps him on his feet. She doesn't even know why he doesn't deserve her anymore, but he does. Every awful, horrid bit of it. The truth hits him like a stone anvil making it inevitably easy to accept. As much as it rips his heart out to admit it, she does have a good home and a full, promising life now. He has no place in it. Bitterly shoving down the part of him that screams in protest he steels himself to do what's best for her, convincing himself that it is what she wants.

The loss of her touch saves him as well, severing the last link to older remembered touches stolen in quiet, romantic moments. That road leads to madness. "I will…" he starts, only to be stopped by the glimmering sight of her tears. The intended proclamation of his eternal support dies unspoken and what comes out instead is from a deeper well, his good hand rising unbidden to reach beneath the veil and brush a damp trail. His voice is deeply strained and thick with emphasis on every word wretched from his throat, "…always love you too, Ro." Then he turns suddenly and strides out of the room, bent on getting away from her before he gives in to falling to his knees and begging her forgiveness, proclaiming his undying love. He doesn't stop until he's crossed the weyr entirely and entered the surrounding forest, there to break down into a million shattered pieces where only the stars and folliage are witness.

He leaves. He left. He's gone. /Kaskan/. There's the brief moment, supposition, that simply drowing in the pools would be —-

Unacceptable.

The tie to Eovarijath is too strong to let Rio think about that. But it is not strong enough to heal a heart broken, again.

Mechanical motions get Rio through bathing. Through rewrapping the marks of shame on her. She does not remember the walk back, through abject numbness. Only when she folds down next to the sleeping gold, and weeps until exhaustion finally takes her.



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