Only Human
Who A'ster, Sygni, Thys
What Babies cause breakdowns, and candidates make good babysitters.
When Summer, Turn 2711
Where Scenic Overlook, Fort Weyr

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Fort Weyr - Scenic Overlook * Sheltered Cavern
To get to this room first you must walk up a long and perilous staircase, and move through a sturdy wooden door. Once you do that, however…
Distinct bands of deep brown and black work their way across the low ceiling, and act almost like columns along the sides of this room. The stone has been polished to a high sheen, perfectly smooth as it follows the natural contours of this cavern. Thin gauzy panels of fabric have been hung from ceiling to floor in cascading complementary colors. The fabrics roll and flutter beneath the invisible air currents which occasionally push their way into the cavern. Nestled coves of curving benches and pillow piles can be found stashed in the semi-private coves between the waving fabrics. Light filters through the thin fabrics, creating a surreal if peaceful daytime scene while lit from a few spots unobtrusive along the ceiling at night. At the back of the cavern are two heavy wooden doors while farther forward it looks like there is a larger opening.


Daylight is slowly draining from the world, as Rukbat sinks over the rim of the horizon. The Weyr itself is not quite dark enough for lights to be required yet, and anyone eagle-eyed may spot a certain junior goldrider climbing the perilous spire with a bundle on her hip. They're more likely to hear it, actually, because the toddler will not shut up. And anyone who's seen Thys will know that not only is the goldrider tired, but she's starting to act a little… well, off. The constant noise and the unwanted responsibility have been taking their toll, from her unkempt appearance to her bloodshot, puffy eyes that tell a tale of no sleep, and possibly even tears. Up in the overlook, she's leaning against one of the balcony barriers, looking out at the Weyr and the world and jiggling the little girl on her hip in an inexperienced attempt to get her to stop wailing. There's even quiet, desperate pleading.

Considering his usual early morning foot patrols, the end of early to-bed A'ster's day has hit the point where it's starting to draaag. Which is why the guard-corps' brownrider spends more than a few minutes at the foot of the spire's stairs, arms crossed over his chest and debate playing out clear on his even-featured, square-jawed face. It's hard to tell what prompts him to finally propel himself upward: it could be a particularly poingantly piercing wail that carries; a prodding from without, from stubborn-minded Stumpy alert in the bowl; his own resolution to his internal drama-debate. Whatever the reason, the brownrider climbs.

It truly doesn't take an eagle-eye to notice Thys, thanks to her noisy charge - recognizing the child's crying from at least one long night of Ibreily's attempted babysitting, Sygni's eyes swivel up to observe the junior weyrwoman ascending the stairs towards the overlook. Lips press, eyes lower to her work, carefully shaking black powder into a large, thick tube - not her monkeys, not her circus, she has work to do - but… Sigh. Up go her eyes again, watching A'ster watch the stairs, and no, now she definitely shouldn't interrupt. Shouldn't. Busy. Them. Implicit possession in words the last time she'd seen the pair of them together. But— the crying. Who could possibly have romantic notions when there's that. Shoulders slump, the half-filled firework is set aside, and the candidate sways to her feet to follow A'ster up the stairs, steps pointedly noisy to announce her arrival just in case. You never know! "Boss? Blondie? Baby?" Peek!

The fact that Rhenesath is calming watching from the rim of the Weyr should allay any worries that Thys is about to do something stupid. The brown-gold dragon is still visible in the fading light, eyes whirling blue-green. Thys just happens to look less than happy as she jiggles the tot, paces, jiggles some more, leans against the barrier… then hoists the toddler off her hip to hold her out in front of her - thankfully away from the actual drop-side of the barrier. "What in Faranth's name do you want?" A desperate plea made in a cracked voice. She gives the little girl a shake, then sets her down on the floor. So she can step away and have her arms to herself. Thys wraps them around herself in a hug, then sinks down to the floor beside her urchin ward, dropping her forehead to her knees. She might be crying. She certainly sobs aloud when the toddler makes it way to her side and clings to her hair and jacket, screaming in her ear.

A'ster looks relieved to have the backup, actually — he shoots Sygni a two-fingered flick of a salute that does not fall into the rude gestures category, and scrubs a hand over his face before announcing, "Honestly, she probably doesn't know herself," to answer the goldrider's desperate question. He doesn't do a swoop-and-scoop — swooping is bad, y'all — but he does drop to one knee so that he can brace his weight against the other, and call out, "Hey. Hey, kiddo," while very deliberately and obviously starting to rifle through his flight-jacket's pockets. "You got any siblings?" he asks Sygni, tilting his head so it's clear he's addressing her, all without breaking his attempts at making eye contact with the unhappy toddler, or, that failing, the overwhelmed junior weyrwoman.

Sygni's shoulders slump further for the tableau the frustrated goldrider and her lofted charge create, lips twitching off to one side in sympathy for vexed questions and the equally frustrating lack of coherent response. She leans one shoulder against the entrance to the overlook, grinning faintly for A'ster's salute, though the expression is faint, brief, a shadow of its usual glory. She returns the gesture a tad sloppily, recognizing acknowledgment rather than a formality before she shakes her head and then nods in rapid succession. Helpful. "I do, but I've only met him a handful of times. I'd left home before he was born," comes her reply, watching brownrider and goldrider with a certain sense of discomfort, unsurety before: "But experience enough with other kids. Cousins, mostly. They don't tend to like me, though." But in the face of tears, she'll try, ambling over to drop into a squat and peer at the clutching toddler. "Hey, Baby. What's got you in a fuss today, hmm?" Because that worked so well for Thys. "Maybe let's let Boss's hair go and we can play a game?" Hands cover her eyes. Lift. "Peekaboo?"

Sorry, A'ster, but you're not winning here: the little girl screams louder when the brownrider kneels down beside her and Thys, whose forehead is still firmly pressed to her knees. She knows A'ster is there and she even makes a blind grabby-hand for him, trying to latch onto his jacket because he's an anchor to sanity, but Sygni is a surprise and she looks up to confirm who exactly the voice belongs to, squinting through slightly puffy, certainly wet eyes. "Sygni?" And now she's embarrassed, because people shouldn't see her like this. "Kids hate me, too. This one hates me." The little one is more receptive to Sygni, and while she doesn't let go of Thys' hair, she does reach out for the candidate's blonde tresses to knot a snotty hand into them and pull.

"Hates you, hates being separated from you — good call on letting her spend some time in the barracks, though, that idea's a keeper," A'ster answers, voice kept carefully conversationally pitched, outside of his normal speaking rhythm — it's definitely not baby talk, but it's in the soothing-patter and rolling almost sing-song range that has, apparently, proved effective before. "I'm the third of seven, and my older brother's oldest came along when the baby was three; lean into the grab if you can, sorry, that's going to need washing later." In the process of his rifling, he holds out his jacket's edge so that Thys can get a secure hold on it; when he pulls his hands out of his pockets its to frown at his bounty and hold it in one hand while picking through with the other: notepad, stubby writing instrument, eye-catching but choking-hazard rank pin, slightly fuzzy suc— aha. "Here," he offers to whoever cares to grab it first, rather than offering it to the unreceptive kidbot himself, "this might help if you can get her to pay attention to it." Yes, it's a fuzzy pocket-sucker. No, he was not expecting to be on kid-wrangling duty today.

Sygni winces when puffy eyes lift in her direction, but she tries for a brave face, ending up with something scrooched and not entirely pleasant, a horrible facial hybrid of comfort and unease. "Hey, yeah. In the flesh. It's—" Good to see you? A lovely evening? A breath, and then she gets it all out in the open because something something tearing off the bandaid, "I'm not good at this, so let's skip past the part where it's weird to see your superiors cry and get to the part where I chuck you on the shoulder and praise you for your stick-to-it-ive-ness and say something cliche like, 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try again,' yeah?" It's… a poor attempt at joking, but it's what she's got to work with - we can't all have magic pockets like A'ster, whose rummaging she watches with amusement. "The many were happy to sacrifice their sleep for the needs of the few," Syg says much more sagely of the child residing in the barracks before her head shakes in mild amazement for his number of siblings. "Seven. Shells. Well, you've a seasoned history of manipulating littles, then. You're next on Baby-duty." Twinkle. But it's her hair being snot-handed and yanked, and Syg can only yelp, clap her hand over her mouth to cut off the noise, and then point a needly look down at the toddler before issuing a huffed laugh. "If you were my sibling, I'd wrestle you right now." As it is, she goes with creeping tickle-monster hands, grab-grabbing at the air between her and the wee girl, leaving the delectably fuzzy sucker to Thys to decide what to do with. Mmmmm.

Thys's hand closes around the offered jacket edge with death-grip tightness. Link to sanity, secured. Not letting go. Ever. She manages a weak smile at Sygni for her humour, which flickers into something more hopeful when the candidate's distractions are actually working to stop the little one from wailing. At least she's not doing it at the top of her lungs any more - now it's softer sobbing, interspersed with hiccups and air-gulps. Not trusting herself to speak just yet she nods encouragingly at Sygni, giving the baby a gentle nudge in an attempt to send it tottering towards her. Anything to get it away from her. That sucker, that A'ster has to offer? Thys takes it. She doesn't give it to the intended recipient, though; it goes straight itno her mouth, fluff and all, while she looks up at him with an 'I need this more' look. He also gets a tug on his jacket, where she holds it so tightly.

"Or the one," A'ster sing-songs on a sigh, his second refrain of it — because he does repeat himself, almost like a reassurance — complete with eye contact with Sygni and eyebrow-involvement that somehow conveys both an exclamation point and a conclusive full-stop. "I'm pretty sure I'm the only one here who'd know what to do with actual human emotional contact — and oh, no, I'll wrangle for a couple of hours if she lets me, but I'm on the dawn shift for foot-patrol, baby-nights are not my thing." Speaking of human emotional contact — he answers Thys's tug with a reach, and a squeeze of her elbow that's both high-key affectionate/steadying and low-key overtly demonstrative. "You know," still keeps up the same vocal rhythm, and he clearly does not feel guilt for the fact that it's technically directed at the junior weyrwoman, "I do have ones without the fuzz." Just not in his magic pockets.

"Or the one," Sygni concedes, matching sing-song tones before her expression goes wonky again when the child is pushed her way, a mix of panic and protest that she swallows like a bitter citrus. This is fine. This is okay. This couldn't possibly end poorly. She's an adult. It's all good. Where A'ster's look is all eyebrows and punctuation, Sygni's is more daggers and wheel-of-death-promising, tongue flicking out immaturely, though she somehow manages to refrain from proving his point by punching him on the arm or something equally damning. See. She's grown. "Don't insult the only person currently available to deal with Snothands McBoogerface tonight, then, Blondie. It isn't nice." And then, just to prove she knows what loving human contact is like thank you very much, she smoothes one hand over the toddler's hair, selecting a little lock to use to tease at the babe's teary cheeks with a crooned, "Uncle Blondie's a big ol' meany-face, isn't he? He is." A beat, a faintly amused look pointed from sucker-stealing goldrider to brownrider to their points of contact before she drops her gaze to the kidlet again, "And that'd better not be a euphemism he just uttered. No it had better not."

If Thys didn't feel like she'd been steamrolled by a screaming snot-and-poop machine she'd probably smack A'ster's shoulder for his emotional contact comment… but as it is, she's got a sucker and she's not got a child and things are tolerable, if only for a moment. "It better not be a euphemism," she echoes Sygni, looking from the candidate - who is doing so well with unnamed toddler! - to the brownrider, with a brow quirked. She actually smiles, then, and maybe that snorted breath was actually a laugh. With the sucker clenched between her teeth, Thys scrubs at her puffy, red eyes, then smoothes her hand over her ruffled cropped hair, at least trying to straighten herself up a little bit, given that she's supposed to actually look like a boss in front of candidates. "Sygni?" Her voice tired-cracks, which makes her wince a little. "I'd appreciate if you don't mention this to anyone, please." A tug on A'ster's jacket, which she's not yet let go of, reminds him of the same, too. What happens on the spire, stays on the spire.

"Thaa-aat is definitey not a euphamism." A'ster slightly horrifiedly sing-songs a little bit extra, while making exaggeratedly ridiculous faces at the sticky-fingered snot-monster currently giving them all a much-needed break. Uncle Blondie has a ridiculously elastic-mobile face for belonging to such a meanie-poophead. "That wasn't an insult, that was a clear statement of facts," is definitely shading cheekier than he was allowing himself earlier. "But I'll put a note in your file." Of course there's a file. Nerd. "Managed toddler-inflicted overwhelmed superior with dignity, aplomb," he's definitely reaching, but deliberately, "and most importantly, discretion." If only they had letter grades or sticker-based rewards systems, he could end a little more pithily than, "Well done," with amusement encroaching.

Sygni snorts for A'ster's trilled denial, sassing a quiet 'mmhmm' as though she doesn't quite believe him, shooting Thys a crooked-browed 'men, right?' kind of glance meant to keep the humor going before she gently pulls the toddler closer to herself, if only to maneuver the girl so she can point at A'ster's ridiculous faces. "Look at him. Isn't he silly? Can you make that face? Try it. Blehhh," and crooked goes her own features in an attempt to match the brownie, going through rote motions of child entertainment. At least it's sort of working, right? Sygni's gaze shifts to Thys when her name is spoken, and there's a second of vascillation, a choice being made before the candidate's expression softens, gaze not-quite serious (can she even be completely serious?) but as close as it's ever been as she replies with a low, "You're allowed to be human, Thys." Ah! So she does know the woman's name! But as quick as the mood comes on, it flees again, chased away by an over-bright grin and a drawled, "Sounds like you'll need it if A'ster's gonna teach you a thing about emotional contact." Browwaggle. So much for dignity and aplomb. At least discretion is secured with a nod and a twist of fingers in front of her mouth, a mimed key thrown away with a promised, "But of course. Mum's the word. Isn't that right? Auntie Syggie is the most discreet. Yes she is. She's going to discreet you right on out of here so they can make with the face-smooshing and get it over with already, aren't I? You bet I am! And if anybody asks, I'll say I stole you and Uncle Blondie can store that in his file along with his other terrible reports about how bad Auntie Syggie is, can't he." Wink. And up she swoops the little girl into one arm, free hand gently pat-patting Thys's shoulder if the goldrider will have it before she makes like a tree and gets the heck out of there before anyone can think twice about letting the weyr's perhaps-slightly-less-insane-than-imagined pyro making off with the baby.

Thys is absolutely ok with anyone taking the kid right now if it means she doesn't have to deal with it. She gives Sygni a thankful look - then looks at A'ster, as if checking that what she's doing is actually ok - then, whatever look he gives her, she gives the candidate a tired little 'go on while you can' wave of her hand. Once Sygni's out of earshot, Thys looks back at A'ster, squeezing on his jacket and shifting her sucker around in her mouth so she can talk while keeping it in there. "I'm an awful person, aren't I?" Her gaze drifts back to the path Sygni took when she left, and she bites her lip. "I am an awful person."

"You're an awful human beee-iiing," caroled at the departing candidate, but there's either genuine affection as well as gratitude in the sing-sung parting missive or a good fascimile of it. Once the junior crowd has parted, his whole body sags, and he coughs into his hand to adjust his vocal cadence before even trying to talk. "No," warms with equally (or actually) genuine affection, as he reaches to sling his near arm around the goldrider's shoulders. "You're an over-worked under-pa— actually, I don't know if you get paid for being a goldrider —id definitely under-slept goldrider who is clearly bad with kids," aw, it's tired, but he's laughing. "Or at least with ones who are a little bit traumatized and clingy but also inconsolable — which, let me tell you, just about everyone'd have trouble with by this point. The awful cheek-monster," Sygni, presumably, "is right: you're only human."

Thys sinks against A'ster's side, letting her head drop against his shoulder. There's no-one here to see now, so she lets her weight fall against him, even bent-up knees and all. "I get paid," she replies quietly, giving a little shrug to brush it off. She's tired, and having someone to lean on means she has to do less work - which means her mind can actually drift. As her thoughts do whatever they're doing, she sits quietly, still clinging onto the corner of his jacket but less tightly now. In fact, she runs her thumb over it idly - a little action so that A'ster knows she hasn't just fallen asleep. "Am I not good with… what did you say? Emotional contact?"

A'ster reaches up to scritch his fingers into the goldrider's hair at the nape of her neck once Thys allows herself leave to lean against him. "Under-paid," he repeats, then laughs. It's quiet, and not enough force to jar her, but it's definitely laughter. "Ames, you wouldn't know what to do with unexpected, un-scripted public emotional displays if one walked up and bit/ you," he says, then amends that to, "no, nevermind, //that you'd know what to do with, and I'm pretty sure slapping would be involved. You're plenty good with it on your terms, where and when it's the time and the place." He jostles his shoulder slightly after a little while, and says, "Come on. Just because you can fall asleep out here doesn't mean you should."
"I just don't want people thinking I'm soft." It's a level of honesty Thys would normally not allow, but right now? She couldn't care less. She was yawning when he jostles her, and she grunts tiredly, making a noise of protest. "But it's summer. It's warm. You've got a nice shoulder." Nice for a pillow! She nestles herself in, letting go of his jacket to pat his knee. "Just one more minute. Then I might ask for a hand down the stairs, because I'm so tired that everything is sort of spinning. You can come back for tea, if you-" YAWN "-want."

"I've already gotten calls about corpses-" A'ster starts to protest again, then gives up and gives in: the affectionate finger-scritch turns into a ruffle of short-cut hair from the bottom up, and he finishes the job of tucking Thys against him. "Fine. But just a m- no more than five," he says, both to her and to the air in front of him, "Got that, 'Kle?" oh, that makes more sense. Whatever answer he receives from his lifemate is clearly in the affirmative, because he turns his head to tuck his face against the top of the goldrider's head, and stifles a yawn of his own. "We'll get you home, safe. And settled," he assures, without further comment on her offer of tea. Is there a little bit of shushing? There's a little bit of shushing. He doesn't look entirely aware that he's doing it, at least.

"Ssh-ssh," Thys murmurs, echoing the guard's shushing. She's tucked in comfortably, with the warmth of A'ster beside her, and her breathing starts to slow. Before she's fully asleep, in that fuzzy-warm somewhere between waking and dreaming, she makes a mumbly little noise, gently clears her throat, and shifts the position of her head on his shoulder so it's just so. "Anchor," she whispers, squeezing her grip on his knee with just the briefest of pressure. Moments later her breathing grows heavier… and then she snores softly, loose and relaxed and content and asleep.


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