"I have something t'live for again."

Participants:

Rocio.jpg Kaskan.jpg

Date: Jan 18, 2011
Location: EW: empty room
Synopsis: A secret late-night meeting leads to admissions, explanations, romance, and eventually hope.
Rating: PG
Logger: Kaskan

When he gets back, when he gets word to Rio, he'll get a return note, delivered by a young kid who probably can't read. The note says,

"Ryan, glows, tonight, has something for you." Nothing signed.

And that night, indeed, a pimply-faced young man, earnest in expression and perhaps just a -leeetle- bit suspicious and judgmental (who is to say that maybe the lads Rio worked with, didn't have a crush on their Lady Boss, the Mysterious Veiled Woman who Impressed Gold…?) grudgingly surrendered another hide to Kaskan. This one is sealed with wax. While the first messenger was likely illiterate due to his age, this second one was stymied by the presence of the indelible marker of honesty - wax leaves a stain and does not forgive. An 'R' has been pressed into this wax.

The map is well-drawn, clear, with notes. And there have been glows, fresh, replaced in the winding lower caverns, mark his way, though the space between bright glow and bright glow are bridged by darkness. It's then a final glow, left only ajar, that there's a 't' unmarked. One corridor leads to a room marked by a nearly-shuttered glow, the other, to darkness. It is within this room, that Kaskan is to go.

The room, itself, is nearly dark. There is a glow on the far side of the room, and it is fully shuttered, so that the light only leaks through the flaws in the holder. Enough light is there, that, eyes adjusting to the sequentially-dimming glows, will make out a shape wreathed in pale fabric. Indistinct.

Kaskan walks those freshly lit halls without seeing anything he passes. Outwardly he moves with a confident ease, but inwardly his mind races, his heart pounds, and his breathing accelerates with each step. She said there were restrictions, but of what kind he can only guess. That's not something easily asked without raising suspicious brows. It doesn't matter though. He thought he'd lost her forever - every moment now is blissfully surreal.

So he pauses just before the final door, gathering his posture straight and running fingers through ever-wisping locks one more time. A deep breath. And he steps through the threshhold.

Darkness. Surprise narrows his pale gaze, the dim lighting quickly pooling in shrinking blue irises. He senses her before he actually sees her, unerringly looking in the direction where her vague shape takes form. "Rio." Simply her name, in a tone that speaks volumes.

"Kaskan." Confirmation, instant. Rio's alto is warm, and she'll step forward, then hesitate. When he gets close enough, he'll realize she's wearing a dress. Almost a gown, made with her dragon's white-gold hue in mind. Grey in trim, dusky in this insubstantial greenish light, and with a full veil to match.

The cavern has the musty, dusty-wet odor of the underground, acrid with those secretions from the earth that perfume such places. But Rio, once he's near, is scrubbled with sweet-soap and perhaps perfumed.
She's been here, pacing, waiting. Sure he'd come, and almost ill because of it. There's a table here, placed in the center of the room, but the place is devoid of chairs, almost as if someone needed somewhere to put a table, but the mated chairs were required somewhere else, and stolen away. Just the glow, waist-high, at the end of the table. "Kaskan. Watch you don't bump yourself. The area is clear your height in from the walls." And she steps to…

…Meet…

…Him.

Except she stops.

Gaze still narrowed, Kaskan makes out some details despite the low lighting. Her dress, for one, picks up what little illumination there is and reflects it so it's that which he notes first. He takes a step toward her.
Her warning is well timed as he hadn't been able to take his eyes from her since entering the room. At her comment he does a quick perimeter check and notes the location of the table, frowning slightly at the apparent emptiness of the room otherwise. With the table in mind, he takes another step toward her.
Noting her motion toward him he pauses, forcing himself to remain still and wait. He'd thought a lot about what he knows of her past experiences, forcing himself to dwell on aspects that he'd sealed deep over the last two turns. Adding her reaction when he moved to fast previously he made it a goal to restrain himself now. But when she stops a twinge of anxiety slithers down his spine. "Rocio, are you alright?"

Honesty, instead of flirtation, have served her well these past turns. Whereas the one often makes promises that one may not intend to fulfill, honesty does not compromise one's intentions. "Rio." Quiet correction, "And nervous." The murmur maybe has a touch of a smile in it. "Like once upon a time, when we met by a stream. When… We knew so little of the possibilities of the world." The evil, and the good. She steps forward then, training as a gracious host taking over, until she is by him, at an angle, and looking up at the man. "There are no seats, so I cannot offer you one. There was, before. And she sleeps." She, the other resident in Rio's mind. "Table to sit on. I'm… Very glad to see you." And she has no idea what to say, beyond that.

Kaskan clamps his lips over a quick intake, chagrined at his mistake. Of course, she's Rio now. Not Rocio. His mind still reels with meshing the two, tongue slipping when the brain is not fully paying attention. He listens, but the darkness is disconcerting. So many times he heard her voice in his dreams only to find her gone like mist when he awoke. That spinning sense of loss is heightened now, hearing her voice but not really seeing her. One hand reaches out to find hers, seeking at least the solidity of twined fingers. "I remember," he says to her recollection, his voice warm. Glancing at the table again he gives her hand a tug toward it, trying to put her at ease. "Then lets sit." He seems to be a man of few words tonight. The reality is that he has a thousand words to say but the crushing whirl of them in his head leaves no room for any to come out coherently. Lifting her hand he kisses the back of her fingers lightly, smile perhaps apparent to her touch. "It was a long two days, waiting to see you."

Almost on top of his words, are Rio's: "How was your camping?" Then, "Oh. I'm sorry." But her fingers clutch at his, and the dampness of her palms, as she curls her hand into his, is telling. "I will," she finally murmurs when she's sure he isn't going to speak again, "Going to be here for the rest of my life. So. You need not concern yourself over two days."

His hand is brought over to her other hand, lightly, and enclosed in her other palm. "I have thought of little else. And she is jealous again. I withstood many warnings, Kaskan, to be able to come here. Understand that gold dragons feel that by virtue of their color, they are always right, and have a right to run everyone else's life." In his presence, her Crom accent comes much fuller. "Tell me about camping."

Kaskan leans on the table, sitting just over the edge of it and bracing his legs. His hand surrounds hers, skin rough from practicing with the staff and too many fights before that but his hold is secure and sure. "Not concern myself?" he echoes back her words, shadows shifting on shadows as he shakes his head. "You're all I've thought about since… since we found out." Her explanation is met with initial silence, the intimate ways of riders unfamiliar to him and daunting to contemplate. Eventually a soft sigh betrays the intensity of his thoughts. "She wants you to have nothing to do with me then."

She turns into him, stepping up so that his knees flank her thighs, but she's standing yet, and facing him as he sits on the table. Her other hand comes to join the trio, and her fingers slowly meander over the hollows and lines of his hands. Rio's eyes, above her veil, look at him. "She…Claimed me." Her eyes flutter shut for a moment, then open. "And she has never had …She has never felt me… -Feel- for anyone, like…I…Have…For you." The last two words come out in a rush. "She does not understand it. She knows I will not, cannot, leave her, but she has never felt…That… In me. So it is new to her. And new things can be frightening. Especially…New things that just knock you over." Rio's hand leaves the others, now, and raises to draw fingers over Kaskan's chin, lightly. "Like when we kiss." Whispered soft. "Like what I think at night, sometimes. Like the fear that I feel, sometimes, that is not your fault. That comes from other memories, Kaskan."

Breath falters as Rio steps between his legs, her softer fingers caressing his. It's what he wanted, assurance of her reality in the dim lighting, but now that he has it takes a moment to pull his attention back to the flow of her words. He listens then, features hard with the concentration it takes to sit still and not respond. The habit of burying his emotions has become so ingrained, so tightly coiled inside, that now attempting to explore even the least of them threatens to spring loose an uncontrolled rush. He hadn't fully accepted that she still felt so strongly for him, but that she was too entrenched in her new life to have room for him. The consuming meld of two minds is slightly easier for him to comprehend now, though not without a shudder for the negative association he has with it. Her soft-spoken words add a new layer of understanding to his resolution and he swallows hard against the flush of warmth it brings.

The touch of her fingers to his chin breaks his resistance. His free hand rises to her stomach, then to trail lightly around her waist and come to rest lightly at her back. A protective impulse streaks through him at her last admission. His voice, though low, sounds louder in the utter silence of the room emphasizing how isolated they are at the moment. "Can I ever wipe that fear away?"

"The specifics…No." Even just speaking of it, just answering her question has Rio's stiffening, tensing. "I wish I could forget. Everything of that time, and what followed." Her breath wisps out. "But I had all the time in the world to think. To wait, then. So maybe there's that…That I need not forget. Someday, it will be that the good is remembered and the bad fades away."

That said, Rio looks away for a few moments, as if to recollect her thoughts. Even in this near-darkness, his gaze is arresting and steals her considerations away from what she'd originally hoped to accomplish. If Kaskan were not so damn /distracting/!

"Can you ever wipe the fear away?" Rio repeats his words, to draw his attention back to that topic. She's used that technique before, sometimes to corral his focus, and sometimes to regain her own. "What you can do, is be patient with me. I thought I was… Alright. I thought I'd dealt with it, Kaskan. But obviously I was wrong. You've seen that." Her words are not muffled by the veil; the cloth she selects is always light-weight, filmy, and the hanging layers is what obscures her features from prying eyes. "I want… When I am allowed… To… Try. To get past this. And I had not…There were none who I wanted to touch me." The admission drifts into the quiet room with no hurry. "Now you're here. You're the only one I've ever wanted. But… What it meant before, and what it might mean now… Is this something you are prepared to handle, Kaskan? When Eovarijath rises, she will choose a mate, and his rider…" She does not articulate what is known by every teen-to-adult on Pern. "I'm afraid that I'll try to deny him, try to hurt him. Dragonriders cannot do that, during mating flights. And that's just a mating flight. The only time I will have to …"

Rio's fingers just ride on Kaskan's hands now, and her eyes flicker back to study his. "You… Aren't going to like that, Kaskan. Whether or not you have … Whether or not we are together, or have been together. Perhaps you have become the wild creature I became, after all was said and done, when I killed him. But you may not kill anyone either. Will you… Be able to accept that?"

She waits for a moment, and speaks again, sure that he is still collecting his thoughts, "I cannot answer your question, exactly, without knowing that. Can I let you try to help me, if you will try to harm the man whose dragon catches Eovarijath?"

Kaskan listens, head tilted with rapt attention. His brow creases at the details given, even as he sets his jaw with the effort to pay attention instead of wafting on the feel of her fingers in his hair. A soft huff escapes at one point, sardonic comment mumbled, "I don't think I'd forget something like that." The hand at her back rises slowly and drifts back down to her waist again repeatedly, distinct without controlling. His thoughts tumble over one another in a confusing array, frustrating him all the more for the loss of his usual fine sense of control. Decide. Stick to it. Right or wrong, that's his usual method. But this time his initial reactions of caution and possessiveness are warring with those that go even deeper and fight harder to gain the upper hand. The more she shares her feelings the more they struggle to bubble to the surface, but still he waits to hear her out. At the end his chin jerks with surprise and his spread fingers halt mid-back, thighs brushing the side of hers as he shifts.

"Past where we were? Ro…" He pauses, voice catching. Slipping his fingers from hers he lifts his hand to the side of her face, hesitating a moment at the fastener of her veil. "Please, can I? I want to see you." Ironic, with the low lighting, but there's enough that his eyes have adjusted to the shadows and her veils only make her more indistinct. If she allows he'll remove it, then set his palm to her cheek without the slightest flinch at the scars that mar her skin. "Rio," he says then, tone thick with meaning, "I loved you from the day we met. Not one day passed after.. what happened, that I didn't wish my every breath away to be with you again. I know we've changed. You… might not like what you learn about me. But I've never stopped loving you and while I need some time to get used to the idea of… of flights," he stumbles, obviously changing what he was going to say, "I want to. I want to try. If that's what it takes to be with you I will try."

She allows his unveiling of her features, having been somewhat surprised that he took this long before he'd moved to do so. There's a touch of a smile at the sweet gesture of his asking. Rio shuffles a half-pace closer, so her outer thighs touch his inner, and her head leans against his hand. She is in no hurry to speak again. To be sure, she'd heard the man and understood his words, and she mulls over them, with a lazy half-lidded look so deeply rooted in this hedonistic pleasure of -being touched- by this man.

He'll know she'll speak by her indrawn breath, the raise of her chest and exhaled soft words, "Love so quickly come, has worn hard on you, my Kaskan." Her eyes open now and her face tilts up to look at him, where her hand loops around his neck, and she'll reach around to trace his lips. "What have you done?" Rio is not one to ignore the elephant in the room.

Go ahead and speak, Kaskan. Don't mind Rio's drawing off her hand from your lips, to touch them to her own, to kiss the fingertips, and deliver that back to your lips. "What have you done, that a woman who killed her husband, a Lord's son, and who left her child and her own love, and her family, so that she could, simply, live. Among thieves and murderers and others, outcast." Then her fingers leave Kaskan's, so her hand can raise to that vanbrace, and untie that as well. If he wants to see, he can see that dreaded sigil welted with heat, that proclaims her enemy of Crom.

Kaskan walks a fine line of control. Internal floodgates creak and groan with the weight of the waters held at bay, what has pushed through the cracks and crevices already threatening to undo his restraint altogether. Silence hovers for several moments as he simply soaks in the sensations of touch, smell, and sight; refamiliarizing himself with those remembered and new. If she only knew what demands desire was stamping on his nerves, muscles twitching with the urge to go well beyond 'forthright'! But one rejection almost convinced him there was no hope and he'll not make that same mistake again, to cause her the slightest bit of added pain.

Her touch sends shivers down his spine, lips tingling from those feather-like strokes. Try as he might, he can't keep from tightening his own hold slightly, fingers spreading against the curve of her back. His raised hand drifts upward so fingers can stroke her temple then curl their back to slide downward till his palm rests against the side of her neck, fingers delving into the edges of her hair. "I never thought we'd have this chance again," he muses after a moment's contemplation.

His breath catches for a second at her question even though he knew it was coming. Of course she wouldn't let that slide. Her self-descripiton elicits a brief grimace, shadows deepening the creases of his expression. And then she removes the vanbrace and his attention is caught. His hand falls from her neck to encompass her wrist, holding it in his open palm, thumb gently stroking the scarred lines. Control. Control. Jaw tightens and teeth grind, his lips setting into a straight line as his voice grows tight with anger, saying, "What was done, was done /to/ you, Ro. It wasn't your fault. Not any of it." A deep pang strikes for the brief time he spent cursing her for just that, untethered psyche floundering for solid ground. "I did…. I didn't react well to leaving. I thought I could blot out the pain with more pain, the wrongs with more wrongs. Nothing mattered anymore." His gaze turns back to hers, intent. "Some of it may well come back to haunt me, Ro. You're safe here now. I'm afraid…" He takes a deep breath, the wording alone hard for him to admit atop the content. "… of putting you in any more danger."

Her entire forearm, on the inside, is scarred with the brand. She's small, and the iron was made for, meant for, roguish brutes, so it spans from her delicate wrist to nearly the crook of her arm, and around both sides. One can imagine the horror of the scene of that branding, and the slow anguished pace of its healing.

Once upon a time, Rocio would show off in her daring sleeveless dresses, those gorgeous eyes challenging the lads to come and speak with her, to be bold enough to ask her to the dance floor when the Harpers played. Will was not the only of Crom's sons that vied for her attention, then, and at Gathers, the girl was often surrounded by other gals, who could at least pick up on those men who did not manage to secure a round on the floor, with Rocio of Crom. But it was at night, once she'd return from such fetes, in an empty clearing, that she'd dance with her Gardener's Son, and lay her head on his chest and hum the latest popular melody. While the others caught the energy and banter with the young woman, it was always Kaskan who got the last dance, and the first a few nights later, and to whom she always returned, leaving the others wanting. It was always Kaskan who could admire with more than his eyes or a fleeting hopeful touch. Rocio's smooth arms were sometimes a bracelet or several, that would jangle and tinkle, and draw the eye to her flawless dark skin. Now that scar disfigures, raised white shapes worming over the woman's natural swarthy skin. It's ugly. Rio knows that.

"Do not assume. Neither myself nor Jaya think that I am safe. I was safe in Crom's cells, because one of his prisoners would not be murdered. But the moment they branded me, cut me and turned me loose, I think there have been assassins on my trail, Kaskan. I don't know the price on my head, or if they have figured the connection between Rio and Rocio. But I am only as safe as… My name. And my…" She touches her veil, before swaying slightly back. "Lord Crom would see justice done for his son, but not at the expense of his reputation as a Lord. His prisoners cannot be murdered. But the banished can."

Rio won't look at the brand. She stares at Kaskan. "And it was my fault, Kaskan. I killed a man. Who was…" He'll feel her shudder, revulsion, "Was taking what was due him." Her jaw tenses and her breathing just stops until she can draw a deeper breath and release it. When she finds her voice once more, Rio asks, "What have you done?"

Kaskan well remembers those days, having gathered each and every memory as a diver collects pearls, hoarding them in the darkness for his own nightly review. Closing his eyes the details would come flooding back: the curl of her beguiling smile when she looked at him, the dark depths of luscious hair sliding through his fingers, even the tantalizing smells that lingered on her skin and the soft chime of the jewelry she wore. But most of all the way her sweet laugh would erupt on a whim and infect him with her humor and the wit that set her apart from other girls he knew. That's the Rocio he fell in love with… his Rocio.

Seeing the scars that whorl about her arm he seeths inside, rent anew by the careless way that bright young girl was destroyed and thrown to the wolves. As he's done countless times before he'll pummel himself over not being able to stop what happened or even to help her afterwards. That he was told a lie and thought her dead is no excuse. Somehow… somehow he should have known.

Looking at her now he can still see so much of those physical memories even though she tries to hide it from the world. She may have lost confidence in her beauty but he can still see it, and what he sees beyond it only makes it more clear. The woman she has become… Rio… is just the girl he knew with new layers added. Yes, he likes that. Some layers bad, some layers good. And he can help her peel away the bad ones.

Could the same be said of him?

She leans back, so he slips his hand from her arm and slides it around her waist his fingers spreading just above the others so that he holds her small frame in a loose embrace. Always loose, always careful, but always with confidence. Come fog, fall or fire, he'll not let her go again.

What she says is not new. He knew what happened to her in the north and now that he knows the rest of the story he would assume the long arm of Crom would still be reaching for her as much as he has always watched over his own shoulder for the same. The final reasoning she employs, however, has him grinding his teeth, dusky jaw working with the effort to contain himself. He fails.

"That filthy ovine was due nothing! He forced you to agree to it, remember? Sugar-coating it with a wedding doesn't change the fact that he only got you through blackmail! You reacted as any woman with a spine of her own, Ro - don't doubt it for a second!" Pulling her gently toward him he inclines his head, pale blue picking up some of the difused light as his gaze bores into hers. "You weren't some mindless wallflower that'd melt for him. You were strong-willed. He was… challenged by that." His tone falters with other memories. Ones he never told her. Overheard conversations while bent to his gardening; a trio of young Bloods pompously bragging of breaking young fillies for the sport of it. One jester in particular that he would have happily castrated with his knife if not for the stilling hand of his father. Shoving those thoughts aside he looks into her eyes now. "That's one of the things I loved most about you, Ro." Pause, then, "You still are strong."

Yes, he heard her question of him as well. It will come. But first, the urgent need to make her understand.

"I know. Gold dragons pick either those they can push around… Or those who will partner with them, that they are stronger. Eovarijath, even in the shell, dreamed of our flying. Together. When I touched her egg… I always felt swept away. Up. And with her. She did not find me because I am weak, Kaskan."

That pronounced, Rio's lips curl into a slight smile. "This is not to say that I do not have serious issues now."

Her hands smooth along his arms, feeling the incredible musculature that has developed since he was a much more wiry lad, and she leans back enough to nudge the glow-lamp's cover more. Her own eyes remain averted from the spill of greenish illumination, evidence of long practice to conserve her night vision. Then she'll turn to admire him again, the light at her back, turning her features into planes and shadows. Those scars on her cheeks detract from the the glitter, but not the quick smile, of a sudden, as her hands run along his arms with trailing fingers, and she'll lean back into his hands, at the length of his arms. Then she's got her fingers curled in the lapel of his shirt. "Do you still dance, Kaskan? Or simply brawl in bars and be fierce and angry? Have you practiced, like I told you?" Their last night together, which they never suspected as such, Rio has lived so many times since. And she'd said that he should practice his dance, teased that she was becoming so much better, and that as soon as they'd fled, and found some Harper to marry them, that they'd dance on the beach.

Another tug, and Rio's alto hums a few notes. "If you're not going to answer honest questions put to you, you might as well dance with me, don't you think?" Speaking about Will… Not something she wants to do. If Kaskan even suspected how Rocio fought, and how she was subdued… She'd never have his attention this evening. And this night is not about Will, or what was. It is about Kaskan and Rio, and what is, and what might be.

"Dance, O' Southern Boll guard, gardener's son, and whatever else you might be. Actions, instead of words. Show me. Let go of the rest."

Kaskan is relieved, though not enough for humor, after she describes her bond and makes a light-hearted jest. Muscles tighten beneath her hand as he tenses with restraint. Someday - he swears - he'll be able to sweep her slight frame into his arms without holding back. Blue eyes spark as their pale hue is flooded with sudden light. He'll not release his hold on her to shield his gaze but rugged features scrunch as he turns his head away, using the sway of over-long bangs to provide some cover. Then he feels her move closer, framed by his arms and thighs, her wandering hands raising shivers up his spine. As his sidelong squint slowly widens to a normal regard his lips silently part. Reality shifts. His dreams come haunting. With the light gilding her figure and obscuring the rest in deeper shadow she is a vision from his darkest nights, those that left him in either a sweat of anguish or emptied of lost passion.

Suddenly needing to confirm she is real he moves his hands up her back, fingers spread to catch every curved nuance, and down again. His thighs press lightly on either side of hers, his focus intense as it starts to adjust enough to make out details within those shadows. A soft sigh escapes. No, he isn't going to wake up and find her gone again, leaving him with a tortuous emptiness.

Dance? He blinks. Did he hear her right? His mind follows hers into the past easily. That last night is a memory he's revisited more than most. At her tug he laughs, a low husky rumble tinged with true humor. His chin dips, glance cast askance in a little-boy look of wry chagrin, tousled wayward layers adding to the effect. "I… haven't had much chance to dance since then," he says, knowing she'll know to 'when' he refers. He isn't immune to trying, however, now that he has reason again.

At her invitation he rises, sliding against her with a sensual slowness as he keeps her close within his hold, then stepping aside with an exaggerated twist that keeps one arm around her waist while the other flings outward in the opposite direction. Unable to keep amusement confined he cocks a cheeky grin, saying, "If you're willing to risk your precious toes then let us dance, O' My Werywoman."

I’ll kick you in the family jewels, good man, should you harm my toes o’ermuch. Be wary and take care.” She’s had practice with that, and not just Will, thank you.
Many months of wearing that veil, and having had to exaggerate her very reactions to every little thing so that her intentions could be read, have lost Rio the privacy of much of her own body language. Warring now is the unfamiliar, long-ago stirrings of passion’s heat with the pleasure that he has agreed to dance with her, and perhaps a touch of flattery that his attentions remain so constant and so physical.

She falls back into a once habitual banter, when she was the daughter of a minor holder, and he, naught but a gardener’s son: “You know, if I’m Weyrwoman and you, now, let-us-see,” Rio’s eyes sparkle and she’ll relax enough to let him lead her in whatever dance he might remember, “A guard – Then I think I outrank you, good man. And so, you’d have to do what I say, wouldn’t you?” Rio does what Rocio once did, step in neatly and leave a quick kiss, flirty and fleeting, on his lips, before she’s right back where she was, and speaks again. “Like answer questions put to you. Yes. I think so.” Crom’s accent back, full force.

Her fingers twine with his, in that hand that was first outstretched, so that they remain kissing-palms, while her other hand slides up his chest with feathery touch.

As an afterthought, she murmurs, with another quick grin, “I should try that line on Eovarijath and see how far –that- gets me.”

There is joy in her movements, and yet she’s not immune to his physical charms, to the remembered sound of his beloved voice, and to his rapt desire. Perhaps he won’t see her girlish glances at his unfamiliar-new brawn, that Rio had not appreciated before. She’d always been drowning in blue eyes. “You know, Kaskan.” Rio intones, then hesitates before speaking, “There have been no others.” Other than the obvious now-dead abusive husband-figure. “I wanted no others.” That’s quietly spoken, whispered with the barest of voice. Then Rio will hum, perhaps to forestall a response.

Tension flees with the onset of playful amusement, the easy banter and confident movements giving Kaskan a more familiar outlet. That his sparring partner is Rio only adds to the enjoyment. A sordid chuckle rumbles from his chest at her initial threat, voice dropping to mumble, "You'd regret that. Can't use'm if you crush'm," his own accent gathering strength bouncing off hers.

Keeping her fingers twined with his he raises their joined hands and releases her waist nudging her into a twirl if she will. His free hand hovers near as she moves, tapered fingers taking every opportunity to seek her true form beneath the deceptive swathes of cloth. The quickly laid kiss nearly costs him his footing, but when he regains it the look on his face bodes trouble for the little temptress. When she turns her back to him in passing he bends his head to the side of hers briefly, breath warmly caressing her ear as he plays her words back to her, "Anything you say."

He'll try for a few other turns and passes with a bit of space between them, not trusting his footwork overly much at first. As it is several near misses loose a fit of low laughter and string of apologies. "You were warned," he drawls. The muscles she admires come into full play as they curl strongly about her, supporting when she leans, and provide a solid backdrop when he can draw her near enough to his chest.

The longer they dance the more he wants her close. His attention is both focused on every move she makes while distracted by thoughts of what he'd like to do as well. So when she drops the last comment he is wholly thrown off guard. He does trip then, arms tightening around her instantly to keep from knocking her over, and once they're straightened he'll manage a choked, "Never?" Guilt rides his back like a hungry dragon eyeing a wherry. Again the past overlaps the present in a brief daze - that the vivacious flirt he used to know, who could confidently have her pick of any man, would not only never know the depths of lovemaking nor even /want/ to simply tears him in two.

Her sensual development simply ended on Rocio's wedding night. For the most part, she was treated respectfully, while in prison; after all, she was the mother of potentially one of Crom's future lords or ladies. It wasn't until after her child was taken, that she was cut, and branded; no one had dared harm her, while she carried the babe, lest there be damage to Will's only recognized offspring.

So other than her sparse fantasies and visceral experience, Rio has managed to mostly ignore all but the basest urges that her body would bring on her, from time to time, and her admission, even, would have revealed a flush had they not already been dancing.

Kaskan's quick grab of Rio, though, might better answer his question than any words she might come up with. Within his arms, she stiffens and jerks, instinct trying to free her, move her away from him until the cognitive portion of her brain overrules the primative. Just as fast as she's tried to escape, she's caught ahold of him, but her body betrays the war between mind and instinct. His earthy whispered flirtations only add the proverbial flame to the proverbial fire.

"Never." Rio intones. "Have issues, remember?"

Kaskan nearly lets her go when she tightens and tries to move away from him, but then the sudden switch elicits just as swift a change in him as well. He holds her still, the play of muscles taut to support without crushing. The fathoms to which his shock and anger dives throws a dark flush under his tan skin, breath coming short from more than exertion.

Words fail him, though his thoughts do not. Automatically he remembers her descriptions of earlier - two years till her gold rises. He has that long then, to not only find his own way of acceptance but to help her as well. One thing is sure, and the certainty of it solidifies in his gut like Rukbat itself, she will not go into that flight unknowing or unprepared. Pale blue gaze intent on hers he says with a Crom-lit softness, "I'm sorry for that. You asked me to help you, Ro, and I will." With her body to his and strong arms around her the fervent conviction he feels is nearly palpable, vibrating the very air.

Rio sees a common future in those eyes, and whatever words she might have been about to say — they were flippant and engineered to lighten the mood — die a strangled death that sounds instead much like verbalization of wanton lust, and anxiety. She will not look away, instead searches his blue gaze as if, if she looks hard enough, she will find answers writ there. By increments, she'll force herself to breathe normally, to relax, but there is naught she can do about the tremors, involuntary, that shiver through her. Finally, the woman unclaws one of her hands from around his shoulder, where she'd clung, and slides it over his cheek. Another truth, this one with breaking voice: "If I have another child… I want it to be yours, Kaskan." Her heart beats wildly, "But I do not need one. Or even -want- one. But if I did…. Only… Would like to know its name. And see it grow up." One child cannot replace another. There were supposed to be children. But not Will's. That wasn't the Plan they'd agreed on.

Rio's eyes, pitch, leak a tear now, that traces down over her cheek. "I'm so sorry, Kaskan. If—No. Shhhh." And that's cut off. No 'if's'. The 'shhhh' may have been for him as well as herself. Rio shakes her head, blinking suddenly. When she feels the damp of more moisture, she'll pull herself into Kaskan, to let his shirt take that wetness that seeps unbidden. She'll just stand there for a long few moments, pulling herself together, her head pressed against his chest and her arms looped around him, clasping her own wrist with her own hand. When she relaxes, she will rub his back, seek the tension that seems to writhe through him when he's around her. And inhale his scent, to let it out with another subaudible groan. No wonder Rio has not involved herself with lovers.

At length, Rio's mind reels back to his words and their implication. She moves her head so that her cheek lays against his chest. "Hold me. Whenever you can, Kaskan. Whenever we can. When… We can, I want you…To…" Another tremor, but Rio's voice comes back clear after a swallow, "We will replace those thoughts that I have never welcomed, with new memories. You and I, Kaskan." The tears were short-lived, and now Rio looks back up at him, staring at those pale blue pools, "Yes. New memories. Floods of new memories. And we'll help each other. You need to let things go, Kaskan. Maybe I can help you."

A vivid thrill rushes through Kaskan as he feels her start to relax, the fear of her breaking like finely spun glass having kept every nerve and muscle on edge. Feeling the tremors go through her slight frame he dares to close his arms… slightly, slowly, testing… but needing to feel as much of her as possible within his protective hold.

Child. The word drops like a stone in his gut. That was a dream so far beyond possibility that he hadn't even given it any thought since those first elusive plans they'd made. Though he'd not wanted any either, he also hadn't been as reclusive as Rio so was just lucky that none of his trysts had resulted in offspring. Now, however… a tiny glimmer cracks yet another solid wall he'd built around the hopes and dreams of his old life.

The glisten of a tear yanks his heart through his throat, choking his own breath away. Bending his head he catches that droplet with a kiss and presses his cheek to hers. Her shush keeps him from speaking, but actions speak volumes as he slides a hand up into her hair to cup the back of her head and hold her to him. As she moves into his embrace he tucks his chin to her hair, closing his eyes to savor the softness, the scent, grasping the bliss of holding her to stave off the ache of seeing her pain. His solid presence is there for her, projecting a secure protectiveness in both muscle and conviction.

It's been too long since he gave such deep emotions such free reign. When she tips her head back to look at him his return gaze holds the intensity of a thousand words. His fingers gently toy with the strands of her hair. With her face so close he can't resist, brushing her cheek with a hovering kiss then sliding down to her jaw for another. He's listening too, struggling inside to sort and deal with everything this woman has wrought in him. Her offer elicits a pause, a soft sigh, then his lips brush lightly over hers and he says in a voice so soft it barely reaches her ears. "You're right." Then just a shade stronger, " I want all those things too. But… but there's so much - what if they don't let /me/ go?" There's a hitch in his inflection, a nuance barely noticable. Something specific weighs on his mind with the wording of that question.

"Who is 'they'?" Rio lets herself be comforted, and at length will have relaxed some in Kaskan's arms. "And what hold do 'they' have on you, Kaskan?" Rio asks. His every touch is relished; she steps into him, so more of her length touches his, and her hands loop now around his neck, fingers idly playing with his raven hair. No more questions. Not until that one is answered.

A long, long, heavy sigh. Kaskan still hesitates, mind juggling what to say and what not to say. The moment stretches, their tender embrace filling the quiet space. Guilt, embarrassment, and anger boil together in the low tone of his voice, clipped Crom accent more prevalent than ever. "I used t'run with some really bad people… " Pause. "To be honest, I /was/ one of the really bad people." Another pause as he sifts through how much detail to go into there, finally opting on going with the most recent. "In th'end I helped steal something… and then I stole it from those I helped and left them t'answer for it. And it turned out the item was much more valuable than we'd realized."

Another expelled breath and he wets his lips, fingers still idly caressing her back and playing with her hair. "I ran, and found a safe haven at Southern Boll. The men involved are the type that don't forget though. I'm sure someday they'll find out I'm at Boll and…" Broad shoulders twitch with a quick shrug. "I thought it'd give me a chance t'be ready, but I don't think I really cared either way." A soft kiss is pressed to her forehead. "Now though… I have something t'live for again."

She'll consider that. She, on the other hand, has no martial skills to fall back on, so had been scrupulous with those she dealt with, no matter which side of the law their morals lay toward. Rio finally nods. "Give it back?" —Or is it too late for that? "And where did you leave them? Might they find you here? Doesn't that put your charge at risk, Kaskan?" Like… What -were- you thinking? She speaks the words into his cheeks, lightly, and brushes her chin along the line of his neck, from jaw to clavicle, just enjoying the tactile sensation of the action. "Could you buy them off?"

Muscles ripple as a deep chuckle rumbles softly through Kaskan's chest, vibrating against the brush of her wandering touch. "That's my Ro," he drawls, fingers pressing an affectionate squeeze. "Is it possible you've gotten even more quick and calculating over time?"

Sobering follows swift as he ponders her questions, his responses slow with thoughtful consideration. "I don't think I'd survive trying to return it. They… take their grudges out rather violently." He'd been leery of them before, having seen what havoc they could wreak when in a good mood, let alone a bad one. A quick image of where the item is hidden flashes through his mind and is just as quickly discarded. Not that he doesn't trust her but knowing could put her in added danger.

The next thought draws lines of shadow across his brow as he frowns. "I hope they don't find me, but they could. I don't think the big guys would bother, but the ones I used to know…" The ones he double-crossed. "They might try. After this long I just don't know. I've tried not to draw attention so connecting me to Boll, let alone as a guard, would be the hard part. After that… well, most everyone knows I was sent with Jhorn to Landing. If they did track me down now they would be looking for more than just the item." Revenge. He leaves the ugly word hanging unspoken. Not that he has any means to even consider bribing their anger anyway. He sighs once for the constant, tiring vigil of watching over his shoulder and keeping his distance from any sort of relationship, friend or otherwise. A stab of guilt strikes thinking of young Jhorn. "I didn't ask for this assignment, but I couldn't tell them no without explaining why." His body tightens up the more he thinks about the situation, tension seeping back into wiry frame.

"Perhaps," Rio intones on a helpful note, "They will get themselves killed before they have a chance to find you." And extract revenge. "It's something of a treacherous journey here, if you don't have a ship or a dragon." That said, Holdless Rocio made it here, exactly here, but … "I do have friends. If you want to give me their descriptions," names are too malleable in that subculture, "I can send word out that I might be notified. And Jaya has contacts." Rio adds. "Different from mine, and probably better with information. Have you put those feelers out?" Jaya is certainly looking for Crom-speaking degenerates who might be looking for Rocio, anyway. She'll consider, "These fellows you don't want to see…Where were they from?"

She's relaxed again, in Kaskan's arms, though her girlish explorations seem more attuned to updating her memories to the current, new version of this man. Light fingertips move over his skin, distractedly, replacing what was remembered with what is, now.

Kaskan frowns at the negative thoughts crowding in on his attention to Rio. He holds her close, a little tighter than he'd dared before, simply soaking in the very real feel of her small frame within the circle of his arms pressed against his chest, one hand buried in her hair so cup the back of her head. The sensation is all the more precious for having been lost and found again.

The calm it brings is like a balm against the tension of unknown dangers, allowing him to answer in a low, tired monotone, "If only it were that simple. They're probably too stubborn t'die." At mention of Jaya his lips thin, chagrin tweaking his conscience. "I never told Jaya about m'past." Why hadn't he? Looking back now he can admit that even though he was drawn to the feisty barkeep more than usual he still hadn't been able to let his guard down completely. With time, perhaps, but now the point was moot anyway. The barrier had been breeched. It would take time and effort if it was ever to be dismantled completely but with Rio's help it was possible.

"Max knows…. something is wrong but not what," he adds, remembering the drunken fight the two had and the bonding over numbweed and whiskey that occurred afterward. Yet another opportunity had been squashed then too by Kaskan's inability to trust. As for Rio's last question, he shrugs, breadth of shoulder shifting in a quick rise and fall. "They never said where they were from. People aren't very chatty in those circles."

Then tell her. She can help. She knows those circles. Jaya." Rio nods against his chest, seeming to alternately tense, then relax, within his embrace. "And we still need to have you meet Eovarijath, so that you two can…Get along. I'm not sure when that will be. In the meantime, we should meet while she sleeps, so she does not create issues again." Rio falls silent for a few long moments, before she'll exhale deeply. A sigh. "And maybe once she calms down, we can take walks. And go places, once she can go between. Once she'll trust you. Realize that you're not taking me away from her."

Kaskan doesn't respond aloud as he listens, though he finds the idea easier to consider than previously. Deep down a part of him had fought from behind that protective barrier, wanting to reach out to Jaya and to Max, but it was too weak. Now having an excuse gives that voice more force. Worries still hover though - not wanting to draw attention by virtue of inquires when staying silent might keep him hidden better.

The latter of her topics is easier to agree with. He snorts softly when she mentions the gold's issues. "That's putting it mildly," is murmured. Thanks to Rio's explanations he understands the dragon's possessive streak, but that doesn't mean he has to like it one bit. Kissing her temple he brushes his cheek against her hair. His body starts to sway side to side, slowly, as if to some softly unheard melody. The motion makes their contact even more distinct; the brush of curve to muscle, hip to hip. His breath quickens again within his chest, seeming to pound in his ears. "I'd like that a lot," he says quietly. Then, with a whisper of humor, "Not that I mind having you all to myself in a semi-lit room…" His fingers press lightly in emphasis, "… but it will be nice to be with you freely in the open."

"Yes." Rio agrees. "Though, you've only her to contend with. Neythan is a friend of mine, but I haven't seen him in a while, and we've never…We're friends. He makes me laugh." Rio speaks of the kilt-wearing Smith that she Stood with. "There were two eggs that were crushed by intruders. They never found the intruders, but the eggs were green and bronze. I often wonder if Neythan didn't Impress, because someone killed his bronze." Then, with a quick grin, "I thought … Was hoping for a blue, when Eovarijath hatched, and she was so insane — tried to fly straight out of the shell — that we were all just trying to stay out of her way." Rio had been taken completely unawares when the gold came up to her. "But it's given me a home, having Impressed a queen, and she is, in her own odd way, marvelous. All she really wants to do is fly, and she is happiest doing so. Have you flown on a dragon yet, Kaskan?" Rio shifts enough that she can tilt her study back up to his features.

Kaskan barely stops himself from repeating the name, surprise setting it in bold amidst the growing list of names in his mental files. Mention of the crushed eggs squashes that twinge of jealousy with an even stronger flash of panicked concern, every Pernese knowing from childhood the importance of dragonkind. A frown returns that the culprits were never caught, unbearable that such a crime was left unpunished. Her impressions of the hatching stay his thoughts along those lines, the opportunity rare to hear such an intimate view. The swaying motion of Kaskan's hold continues, albeit with muted distraction. His lead is firm but easy, allowing her to relax and be carried if she will. Dark brows perk at her question and he nods. "Boll's watchdragon brought us to Landing." The slightest quiver in his voice betrays the terrified thrill of that ride, his first, and the effort it took to remain calmly aloof under the scrutiny of so many eyes, not the least of which was his estatic charge.

A few more stolen hours, remembering and relearning, tender and touching, and then the pair part; more confident and more hopeful in a future for them both.

** Scene faded due to RL **.


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