Fort Weyr - Zhirayr's Room
For all that Zhirayr has had a room to himself for Turns, now, he's done very little to make it say 'hello, I'm Zhirayr's room!' — Probably just as well, as talking rooms would be somewhat frightening. There's a bed, a desk, a chest, a chair, a somewhat abstract painting hung on the wall, and even (gasp) a bookshelf: apply to the room at random.

Zhirayr is supposed to be at work, of course, but — but if ever he's going to take an unannounced day off, or at least an unannounced late morning, it's going to be the morning after Steward Lycander — well — dies, isn't it? Murdered foully in his prime (okay, slightly — moderately — past it, a lot, by a few decades), with no witnesses to the fatal poisoning, because everyone who'd seen him keel over has agreed that there wasn't enough blood for him to have actually been assaulted. Zhirayr has ears in the Lower Caverns. He knows everything anybody else knows, if it's something he knows about enough to find out about. And nobody's been claiming responsibility for the murder. And he doesn't know how he's supposed to just — calmly go about his work when this is the person who's been killed, even if he knows, already, that more than ever the fact that the Steward has been killed means his assistants absolutely need to be about their work as quickly and as calmly as possible, to keep the entire Weyr from falling apart at the seams. He just… doesn't care, yet. It isn't as if people are pounding at his door begging him to come fix things, anyway. So he stares at the wall, instead, and tries to make things make sense, and mostly fails.

Until, that is, one part of that illusion breaks. The part where no one's pounding at his door, anyway, because now someone is — it's just not someone trying to get him to do something. It's a harried, tired, and uncomfortable Mirinda, who when (if!) he opens the door he will find looks like she hasn't slept since yesterday morning, hair tousled, eyes surrounded by bags and dark circles. That's because she hasn't, and her face is also lined with the sort of combined exhaustion and dread that indicates she really doesn't want to be doing any of this at all. She doesn't want to be here. (Part of her does; it's the part that wants to provide comfort, not the rest.)

So he opens the door, because that's what you do, eventually, when someone doesn't stop knocking at it, and quite frankly he looks terrible. The level of terrible where he's wearing an old, stained, grey shirt that was actually his grandfather's (because it's not like he could possibly have asked for a non-black shirt, let's be real here). He looks hungover, and that would have been a lot more enjoyable if it had actually come from an alcohol-infused bender instead of the wracking sobs of grief. "Mirinda," he recognizes, and starts to feel a little, tiny bit hopeful, as he pulls the door open wider so she can come in.

"Hi," she says, instead of yes, which was the first impulse; it's a better greeting and might lessen some of the tension. No. It doesn't. Who is she kidding. Mirinda looks ashen and fully drawn-in as she steps inside, body language and expression all professional and no personal, no matter how much it hurts her to be that way. This entire thing is hurting her, and it's hurting her in a way where she isn't letting herself think about how it's hurting him. A mistake, surely. A mistake she'll realize later. "I wanted to — deliver my condolences and ask a few questions." Formality, surely?

"… questions?" He's baffled, hurt, already — where's the girlfriend he's expecting? Who the hell is this woman who looks like her and is being such a — yes. Well. Anyway. "Yeah. Sure. About as well as can be expected. No, I didn't really, all night. Just couldn't, for some reason."

"Sleep," Mirinda fills in, after taking a couple of seconds to try to get her bearings on what he just said. She's standing awkwardly, not sure if she should sit, not sure where, because the last time here it was on relatively intimate terms, and now it's — work, and it's uncomfortable, and she's trying to reconcile Zhirayr with potentially being a murderer. "If you need a draught for it, you know where to go. You also," straight to work, don't think too hard! "knew him better than most anyone else. There was nothing in the records, but no health conditions I wouldn't have known about that could have caused ..? Possible complaints?"

Zhirayr looks very drawn, as Mirinda continues to fail to be Girlfriend Mirinda and is, instead, asking questions. Weird questions, for that matter. "I don't know — I wasn't exactly one of his contemporaries," he bites back at her. "He's been tired more, the last decade, than he was the decade before that. We've been doing almost all of his work for — I don't even know how long, although I have it recorded somewhere. He should have retired a long time ago, but he just — wouldn't."

Mirinda hates asking this question, but as there's no formal inquest and it's ruling out a homicide more than assuming one, it falls to her and not a Harper to do it: "Did that bother you?" At least she asks it gently, rather than in an accusatory fashion. She does genuinely want to know. It never seemed to, but so many people are saying … it can't hurt to look into.

"Of course it did!" Zhirayr, of course, is oblivious to the fact that he's even being considered as a suspect — potential suspect — because he knows that he didn't kill his mentor, so he's not thinking that someone else might think he did. Could have done. Whatever. "It's not even that I necessarily thought I should take his place, but — whoever's the Steward is supposed to actually do the job, not spend all his time napping or hitting on the Old Aunties. The only time he did try to do his job, it was completely destroying the plans we'd already put in place for whatever it was — and then we were left scrambling to fix things while also doing what he'd announced would happen, and would always get yelled at for doing such a messy job and leaving things until the last moment." Scowl, mixed with half-hiccuped sob.

That is not what Mirinda's heard from others, though it's just as feasible that Talica thought Lycander was doing just fine, and the others she's spoken to were none the wiser because the rest of the Steward's direct line of command were actively involved in trying to cover things up. She hasn't asked any of the other assistants, yet. She came straight to the one lower caverns whispers were implicating, because he was the seniormost and because he'd been waiting forever for that promotion … "Well," she says in his defense, "he was in his eighties, I think? But it can be hard to let go."

"It's not — it's not as if I even really minded that he wanted to stay the Steward," Zhirayr mumbles, still oblivious to the State of Inquest he's in. "Sitting around and hitting on the Old Aunties wasn't in our way. It was a little bit gross to watch, but we were pretty good at ignoring it, you know? And most of the time it didn't really make a difference if he thought he was in charge or wasn't paying any attention at all."

"Mm," says Mirinda, and the problem is that she believes it. She's biased and she knows it, and maybe she shouldn't be the one doing this? But no one else is; there is no one else, and it's her problem, and even she found herself suspecting him a little, or at least finding it suspicious enough. Not that the fact he's involved with the Weyrhealer hasn't just made him look more suspicious. Like he could've gotten something to kill with from her. Like she wouldn't have noticed. Like there wouldn't have been signs on an autopsy — an autopsy that showed nothing. But this is Fort Weyr, it's not nothing. Everyone knows it was a murder. "Some people just can't stand to retire. I'm sure I'll be sympathetic in my day." They made her Weyrhealer when Emray quasi-retired, they can keep her there. "I — hate to ask, but I have to — where were you yesterday morning?" Just in case he saw anything, or — well.

"The cellars," Zhirayr answers, still not quite getting it — but getting suspicious. "Why are you asking?"

"I have to." Mirinda sighs; it's a long sigh, and she doesn't actually get did anyone see you there out. Surely at this point he is figuring out where this is going, and she even has to admit her own involvement: "There are some. Concerns. About your long wait for promotion and access to and frequent time spent in the infirmary —" because of her, she doesn't say, but she swallows hard, and it's not like she's outright admitted to people that the reason he's always there is because of their relationship (some may actually be unaware, though it's been the better part of a turn that they've been official) "I'm doing my job."

"You —" Zhirayr stares. Wait for it — "You think," he begins, completely run-down and looking like a dragon landed on him earlier this week, "that I," thumping himself in the chest and taking a sudden step closer to her (and reminding her, whether he means to or not, that he's a good bit taller than she is), "poisoned him?!" And full-on scary looming. Yep. Very innocent-looking, our Zhirayr.

Maybe this is why some people were actually willing to think he did it. He had been yelling at a weyrwoman, after all, even though he's rarely if ever known to lose his temper … when he does, Zhirayr is pretty impressively frightening. And Mirinda's a little on the tall side for a female. But he's still taller than she is, by a good three inches, and so she … contracts, slightly, folding inward on herself before she can help it. "I didn't," she starts, swallows, "It wasn't exactly my suggestion —" There's no good way to end that.

"Oh. Of course. But you're just the one who's stuck accusing me, because whoever it is who thinks I actually did do it is too much of a coward to actually say it to my face." So maybe Zhirayr's a little bit bitter over this. Understandably, right? Surely?

"I'm. Doing. My. Job." Mirinda is also trying to hold herself together and not either cower or cry, despite the fact she wants to do both, for different reasons. "And what my job indicates is that I can't figure out how he died, and that you do have the best motive —" A long sigh, as she cuts herself off and for the first time looks as sad as she feels. "I mean," she says weakly, "can you suggest anyone else?"

"Sure," Zhirayr says bitterly, opening the door again and giving it a pointed glance. "Check out his sordid love triangle for the jealousy angle. Now would be a good time."

"… What?" Both the fact she's being dismissed and the fact that there was such a thing are completely eluding Mirinda, and she is also entirely uncertain as to whether Zhirayr is telling her the truth or being dramatically sarcastic.

"I think you should leave. Now." Zhirayr isn't even looking at her anymore. He's also crying, but that's kind of par for the course for the last day.

That just makes Mirinda feel even worse; this is the first time she's noticed, and all she wants to do is actually ask him why he's crying, try to figure out what she really thinks independent of everyone else, try to straighten things out. She can't do any of that. Her position with the Weyr has to come before her personal feelings, and anyway, he wouldn't listen if she tried. "I —" She swallows, she exhales, she tries to come up with something better, but she doesn't … neither does she leave yet, frozen in that space trying to collect her thoughts. That got way too overwhelming too quickly.

"And," Zhirayr continues more quietly — all too audible, in the otherwise-silent room — "I don't really think you should come back."

That is the point where Mirinda pulls herself to her full height, presses her lips tight resolutely, lets that long-awaited longer sigh come out, and — leaves, without another word. Where's she going? Good question, one she doesn't even have an answer to yet. Probably to the infirmary, not to the Hall to check in on her corpse but to her infirmary, to do her normal job and heal some people, something life-affirming in a series of gory deaths and devastating losses.

And as for Zhirayr? He shuts the door — and, a few hours later, just after lunch, is seen doing his job with his usual efficiency — looking a little bit paler than normal, a little more red-eyed, a little bit quicker to bite at people getting in his way. He's definitely still wearing the knot that claims he's the assistant to the Steward — no impromptu promotions here — and he isn't really engaging in conversations with anyone. But he's working, and taking care of the morning's catastrophes by dinner time. So that's … something, in the wake of losing so much both professionally and personally. It's something.