Who Fioreyla, Sohzen
What Fioreyla discovers one of Sohzen's secrets. He makes her cry.
When Summer of 2715.
Where Xanadu Weyr, Glade


Xanadu Weyr - Glade
Surrounded by majestic trees with their boughs spread outward in the ovalesque clearing so as to create a gentle filtering of the light on the glade floor, this little area of paradise located in the depths of the forest that surrounds Xanadu Weyr makes its debut. Tiny flowers with their upturned pistles of yellow, pink, red and blue scatter here and there, some of them with definitive petals that glisten in what light is supplied, and others appearing like tiny balls of fuzz or fluff, with stamen so fine that to distinguish between themselves and the petals is nearly impossible. Their leaves are of all different shapes and sizes, some coming up to shield the blooms during the day and thus only allowing their beauty to be seen at night.
One thing that makes this area of the weyr so popular with the residents and riders would be the small moon pool that is situated directly center of the glade where even the longest of the tree limbs cannot reach. The water is smooth as glass, as the trees cause such a wind break that nothing ever disturbs it. The reflection of the moonlight at night confuses the flowers around it, so they sleep all day, and then their magnificent blooms open during the night. Concrete benches have been situated about the pool for people to sit and enjoy these rare occurances in relaxation.

The evening draws late, and though Xanadu's summer grows warm and long, even the sky edges closer to dusk than true day. It might well be a busy hour, elsewhere; business is ending, dining is imminent, paths are taking the weyr's people to homes and families, but here — here is empty, here is silent, here is abandoned as small flowers slowly unfold, encouraged by the impending promise of their false dawn. It is the perfect place for a dark-cloaked to take up residence, a shadow seemingly separating from his brethren. It drifts towards the bench nearest the pond with the confidence of one assured they are alone by repetition, ritual, taking notice of nothing and yet everything at once in the manner of one who has done this before. This is familiar for Sohzen, enough that he sits without wariness, sets a dark casing at his side, pries it open with no regard for its contents, and it is no small wonder. What rests inside poses no danger, except perhaps to those destined to overhear it - a violin, unremarkable except for that who wields it. It is adjusted minutely, observed with a keen, trained eye, and though it is no weapon, he wields it in the creation of a song. There is little use in wasting words to describe it - it is patient and sad in the way of such things, the harbinger of its own inevitable demise, for though it gains passion, though it brings a spark of emotion to dark eyes that usually contain none, all good things must end. It is only a matter of time.

And there is Fioreyla, who was brought here at the behest of her malcontent journeyman; whose clumsiness had caused Marchisas embarrassment in front of patients and healcrafters alike and so inspired a cruel and contrived punishment in the form of search for an herb that Fioreyla would never find. Marchisas made the mistake of underestimating Fire's resilience, counting on her to give up before she got too far without pausing to consider that inner ember turned to flame, that quiet part that sometimes shows in the set of Fire's shoulders and the lift of her chin, that hidden self that allows her to be spoken down to and spoken ill of and still show up every day with a timid smile and a deep-seated desire to be of service to others. But while Fioreyla is a marked healer, she is certainly not a directional genius, and so here she is, with Rukbat heading towards the horizon, threatening to leave the world awash in muted greys and impenetrable blacks, in the middle of the forest, where creatures hide from the marksmanship of a hunter's bow and the snare of dragon's talons. Fire knows she's lost, she just doesn't know how to become unlost, and like any true heroine with a very bad idea, Fire's solution is to go further into the woods. It's the only reason why Fire's far enough in the enclosure of canopied trees to hear music, the kind of music that lures and demands an audience much like the moonlight captivates flowers from its bed in the pond. Fire moves slowly, caution in every step despite a predisposition for clumsy mishaps: snagging clothes on brush and branches, tripping over uprooted trees and wayward rocks (because she is an elephant at best), making her way towards the only hint of civilization and coming to a standstill at the edge of the enclosure when she sees just who it is drawing bow across string to make music that haunts. And so it's there, at the edge of the forest, violet eyes gone wide, that the little redhead stops to watch. To her credit, both hands stay put at her sides, but the senior apprentice is slightly slack-jawed, and she's… crying? At some point during that performance, tears start to run down her face without any sound to herald their arrival, but if Fioreyla is aware of them, she's making no efforts to strike them from her cheeks. She's simply watching, waiting with bated breath until that last note is coaxed from stringed instruments and the ensuing (wrong, so wrong) silence shatters chains of enthrallment long enough for Fioreyla to speak. "Sohzen." It's a whisper, a quiet breath released in Xanadu's waking summer with no clear direction or intent, but spoken nonetheless.

If Fioreyla is our brave, red-haired heroine, what does that make Sohzen? The occupation of big, bad wolf has already been taken; is there space and imagination enough for big, bad ghost, perhaps? Irrelevant. For once Sohzen does not notice Fire's approach, or, if he does, he chooses to ignore it. It could be any human passing through the area, lured to the origin of sound - it wouldn't be the first time, and certainly will not be the last. It does not give him cause to cease the song. Even were embarrassment something Sohzen could feel, it does not apply to his skill with the violin. He plays. He plays well. There's little cause to hide it. He is only so far removed because removal is his preference, and questions are his bane, and only too many of those follow music played with a modicum of skill in a public forum. One person, though - one he can manage. And so his song finishes, simple, soft, unfettered by myriad additions that could serve to make the song more complicated. It doesn't need it, not to express what the song is intended to express, and so he refrains, draws it to a close, breathes a moment into the silence, tensed in anticipation of input from his undesired audience when— SKKT. The sound is brief but grating, legitimate surprise bidding bow jerk across strings as his body turns, dark eyes flicking to where the young healer stands, watching and crying. In another time, another place, another situation, Sohzen might have inquired after the emotion, sought to reverse it with dry words and rough tones, but this Sohzen… this one's eyes soften, perhaps imperceptibly at the distance, because he understands and, instead of speaking, merely straightens his instrument, places the bow back to strings, and plays again. Differences between this song and the last are notable from inception - it is sweet, and soft, a slow build of sound, tempo, until suddenly it takes flight, bow working in quick, sharp motions that sway into long, singing notes again, body unusually mobile as it leans into the emotion of the music. It shifts with each lift and fall, eyes closed, seemingly unaware he's doing it until finally, he reaches the end. His bow drags, clings, curls about the very last note, and as it draws to a stop, so does he, pausing in the moment before making the decision to look back Fire's way with a low, "Hello, Fioreyla."

Their gazes meet, a moment in eternity that lasts mere seconds but somehow feels important, important because there's a glimpse of something else — something more that Fire can't pin down but resonates within her; something that speaks to the quietest parts of her soul - like she'd known Sohzen in another life and another time, like her very being is awakening to the fact that she's finding him here now, again, and seeing him for who he really is for the first time (even if the 'what' and the 'why' and the 'how' defies all logic). Fioreyla doesn't understand it, but she's drawing in her breath as her lips close, holding it in her lungs as Sohzen's eyes go soft and hers get more wet and she doesn't understand why but then it doesn't matter because Zen's playing music again and she's lost. Or found. Nothing matters when Sohzen's putting bow to string, inspiring goosebumps that raise across every inch of Fire's flesh in the physical manifestation of adulation. It's not just the music, either. It's Sohzen. It's watching Sohzen create music, participating in the surrender of his body to something greater (though this word fails to express on so many levels) by way of bearing witness. Every movement of Zen's body sings to Fire, gives the music lyric and meaning that it would have been void of in the hands of any other musician, making her head, and her heart, and her entire existence soar. It's every complicated placement of fingers on string and the pull of bow that translates sound into music and music into something evocative and transcending and beautiful. But the music takes her, and Fire closes her eyes to be part of it, to let it carry her far away from forests, and trees, and realities loitered with harsh truths and very little kindness. Why does it have to end? Somehow that last, lingering note feels pervasive and wrong, Sohzen's voice a stark contrast (though beautiful, in its own way) that has Fioreyla blinking violet eyes open slowly despite the fact that she's still crying. "I felt like I was flying," she whispers, finding Sohzen's eyes with her own. She doesn't say hello to him; she simply stands there for a long moment, watching him, afraid that if she moves it will somehow erase before. "You keep teaching me how." And there it is, a smile that tugs lightly at the corners of her lips as she exhales and then blinks, confusion marring her brow as she brings up a hand to wipe away tears and then looks embarrassed by the fact that she's been crying. Still, it doesn't stop her from putting her feet to use and moving towards the man and a bench. PLOP. FIGHT HER. Fire's tilting her head back, all that redhair shifting to reveal a freckled face and - "I s-scared you this time. Ha." SOMEHOW THE ATMOSPHERE IS HEAVY AND SHE NEEDS IT LESS THAT. "Y-your violin s-screamed." Did she just make a little VICTORIOUS FIST PUMP INTO THE AIR? She did. She's even punctuating it with, "Victory!" Drawing out 'Eeeeee' sound into oblivion because THIS IS FINE. NOT AWKWARD AT ALL. NOBODY PANIC.

Sohzen does not move, but something in the quality of his regard changes for those whispered words. It is acknowledgment of that infinite, indefinite sense of something more, that soul-deep understanding that goes so far past simple comprehension that there cease to be words enough to define it. It is a quiet, brilliant thing, a flickering, pervasive knowledge that connects them somewhere invisible, but undeniable. Without using words, he has spoken to her, and she, him, and it is so consuming that for a long moment the violinist does not answer at all. He merely meets her gaze for unfathomable gaze, lingering in this feeling that gives him reason, that keeps him leashed to this mortal plane, that turns his gaze away from the rapid approach of inevitable ends towards this unspeakable something that bids him keep going. The sheer ability for the human soul to meet and mingle and touch another in a manner both impersonal and intimate at once… he lives for this, because of this. This and more is there for her to read as she approaches, in his gaze, in his tone, fragile in a way that it usually isn't, despite its everpresent grit. "Yes," justifies her first observation, and, after a long moment in which he considers the wiseness of words and determines he will speak them anyways, "you keep reminding me what it is like." Physically, mentally, in her joie de vivre that asserts itself even now, infusing the moment with much needed levity. It sits Sohzen back on his heels, abject intensity fading into his usual stolid regard, gaze finally tearing from face to fist, watching it lift with the visual equivalent of an eyebrow raise. His physical brow stays right where it is, but the feeling is there, emphasized by brown eyes that flick back up to hers. A beat. Two. Far too many e's. And then one hand surrenders his bow to the other that it might lift and press a single finger to her lips. Shh. "You did." He is not so tough as to be unable to admit it, though it is tempered by his reasoning: "You are very far from home."

Fioreyla smiles around the finger pressed against her lips, oblivion-bound 'eeeeee's' effectively silenced by the touch of a man whom she unwittingly reminds what it once meant to fly, and whom teaches her how to spread her wings and leap. That smile falters, turns into something muted as the healer reaches up with both of her hands to catch Sohzen's between them and hold it in that minute space, violet eyes shifting away from brown to the trees where they settle as Fire thinks. She is far away from home, and in a place where she doesn't have a very good excuse to be. Not one that isn't a complaint, anyway, and complaining just… really isn't Fire's style. So instead, she does what she does best: recites nonsense (from a textbook, or rather, her memory) by turning her attention back onto his hands and saying, "D-did you know that our m-minds control our fingers?" A beat, a flush as she realizes how stupid that sounds, but then she shifts, keeping hold of his hand in hers as she uses her fingers to isolate one of his. "I m-mean, our brain c-controls everything in our bodies, but our fingers are d-different. There's no m-muscles in our fingers. All of the m-muscles that control them are located in the palm," to which she indicates by drawing with gentle pressure up the middle of Zen's, "and the m-mid forearm." Fioreyla indicates again, drawing a gentle line before she stops. "T-those muscles connect to tendons, w-which connect them to the bones, s-so you use those muscles to pull on them, w-which effectively moves the f-fingers. Kind of like a ma-marionette. A-and when you c-cut a nerve s-supplying feeling to an area of s-skin on the palm of your hand, it loses the ability to w-wrinkle when wet. It also loses the ability to sweat." WHAT IS SHE SAYING? WHY IS SHE LIKE THIS? DEFLECT, DEFLECT, DEFLECT. Now Fire's letting go of Sohzen's hand, curling her fingers against each other after she wipes at more insufferable tears and then tucks her hands away against her lap. "S-so that you play is all the m-more…" Impressive? What is Fioreyla trying to get at. She opens her mouth, closes it, draws her brows in and then says, "What's it c-called?" It's a squeak now, a sign that her own rambling is a sign of her nervousness and that's just making her more nervous. "T-The song, I mean. Did you w-write it?" SHE WILL START THERE. Questions about what he means when it comes to flying will have to wait for now. Maybe forever.

It is not the smile, but rather its faltering, that unravels a small portion of Sohzen's seemingly-infinite patience for Fioreyla's recitations. It is not the first time he has discovered her somewhere at a certain journeyman's bogus behest - not even the first time he has discovered her somewhere at a certain journeyman's bogus behest in Xanadu - and it does not take much for his mind to make connections. It's a veritable constellation, spelling out 'Marchisas' in damning lines and dots, but a man such as Sohzen does not make accusations lightly. So he focuses, as much to listen to what Fioreyla has to say as it is to snap dark eyes to their point of contact, watch the healer denote muscles and tendons with that eerie overattention characteristic to his interactions with her. "Fascinating," he says because it is, fingers shifting one by one in her grasp before his wrist twists, gently breaking whatever hold he might have to wrap one long-fingered hand about her forearm in turn. "Is that why, when you press here," a gentle but firm push of fingertips against her underarm, "your fingers curl?" Listen, all he knows is the trick, he could be missing the point by a mile. Still, it is participation, allowed to occur and also allowed to dissolve into tear-wiping and lap-folding, the passing of the moment allowing him to return to the real question at the heart of the matte— "It does not have a title, currently. I imagine it will have something to do with taking flight." As for its creation, "Write? No. It will never be written. It was meant for you, and only for you. Compose, however… yes. I did do that." He moves past the monumental nature of that admittance quickly, brushing aside her questions like one might a particularly pesky creature in order to return to his initial inquiry encapsulated in observation: "Fire. You are very far from home." Why?

And perhaps that is what drives Fioreyla to nervousness, the understanding that there have been numerous enough incidents for Sohzen to be able to pick out the pieces of a very small puzzle her life creates, putting them together in a manner so unerringly effortless. Marchisas. It's always Marchisas, but Fire is not the type to make accusations or complain, and so Fire deflects. She deflects, and distracts, and talks about everything except for why she's here, focusing on the application of her fingers to Zen's skin, and the grip he gets one her arm to make her fingers curl. And where. Stricken. Fioreyla looks inexplicably stricken by the gesture, and it's - "Faranth, I don't know." REALLY, FIOREYLA? YES, THAT IS FIRE FOR YOU. UPSET BECAUSE SHE DOES NOT HAVE THE ANSWER TO SOMETHING BIOLOGICAL IN NATURE AND NO TEXTBOOK ON HAND TO CONFIRM. "I m-mean, it would make sense, wouldn't it? Since… but I've n-never…" Read up on that? She hasn't, and it steals her curiosity enough for her to pursue touch once more in lieu of more tear-wiping and hands folding in her lap. She's catching at Sohzen's arm if he allows, brows drawn in concentration as she runs her fingers down along his forearm (assuming he doesn't draw away), aiming to hit that spot and make fingers curl and - she might have stabbed her fingers into his arm a little too hard, chin jerking up, violet eyes wide when they find brown again with lips parted in a surprise that has her eyebrows going up. "F-For m-me? S-Sohzen I-I c-can't a-accept t-that," LIKE HE IS GIVING HER SOME KIND OF PHYSICAL GIFT. "I d-don't h-have any t-talents t-to r-repay you w-with and I-I d-d-don't deserve a song like that." She's bewildered, startled, wanting to say and ask more, except that Sohzen is catching her off-guard again and making statements that the redheaded healer understands are a question and she should probably answer this time. It takes a moment for her to catch up to the shift in topics, to push her brain away from things so monumental in nature she isn't even sure how to process them except by CRYING. AGAIN. And looking very confused from the mental whiplash she's suffering. So Fire blinks once, twice, and then moves her mouth without formulating a single word. Wait for it… "I… In X-Xanadu?" Fire, we both know that's not what he means. "B-Because a g-gentlemen fell f-from one of the cliffs." A vague gesture made with her chin in directions that may or may not harbor a people-killing cliff. And then, quieter. "M-Marchisas said he i-isn't going to make it. I c-challenged him." A beat. "I-In front of the p-patient's family." Another beat. "A-And then I got lost." LOTS OF MISSING PIECES TO THAT PUZZLE, but the implication is probably pretty clear: she messed up, she was told to leave, and here she is now, running a fool's errand for a man who thinks her a fool while another person lay dying in the infirmary. "B-But then I heard music, and…" Brows furrow, Fire dropping her gaze to her hands, which only now relinquish their hold on Zen with startled realization if he hadn't drawn away yet. "S-Sorry." Back to brown those violet eyes go, and Fire's finishing, "I f-found you." QUICK, CHANGE THE TOPIC. "D-Do you think you would h-have time to go play for those in the i-infirmary?" Oh Fire, stupid girl. "Some people can't leave t-their beds, I mean. And we've n-never really had h-harpers come and play for them before. I don't know why, b-but…" A deep breath. "I f-fix peoples bodies, Sohzen. But y-you… you can heal their spirits. You can g-get them out of their own b-bodies and their own minds, and m-maybe…" Maybe it will help. Her brows are drawing in again, because she's thinking about this too hard. YOU GET WHERE SHE IS GOING WITH THIS. She means it, but it's also a good way to ABORT ABORT ABORT.

OOPS. HE BROKE FIRE. Sohzen blinks into that stricken expression, clearly not expecting this to have been such a revelation. He doesn't know how to immediately reply to this upset, can only watch on as he steals his hand back to experiment. Only then does he manage a quiet, "It is a trick from my youth, I am not surprised." It's not like that's something that would have been reviewed in studies, but whatever else he might have said on the matter is cut off by that sharp stab of fingertips into his skin. Sohzen doesn't react excepting the involuntary curl of long fingers into his palm, unbothered by potential pain or its source. Instead he focuses those dark eyes on hers, and did she not know him better, that look could be considered withering. Instead, it perhaps registers as something more like faint disbelief and wry patience, weathering her verbal stuttering, leaving a moment of silence ringing in its wake before he moves. The hand gripped in hers remains thus, but the other sets his violin aside, carefully resting it back in its case before he turns back and offers a low, "I apologize, but I believe I have robbed you of your choice in the matter." A solitary finger raises to tap between her temple and ear. "I cannot take it back." SILLY, unexpressed because this is Sohzen we're talking about here, and though the words are definitely a tease despite permanent deadpan tones, name-calling is much less his style. Instead he waits through her fish-facing, her prequel, the staggered rise and fall of her story. He interrupts only to say, "It is nothing," in the face of her apology, taking his hand back if only to rest it on his knee. His face remains neutral throughout, without even a flicker of eyes to betray him, and it is only when she reaches her end that something almost sad registers in the tension around his eyes. There is a short bout of silence, in which many, many iterations of phrasing come and go in his mind, but he settles upon, "You are wrong, concerning what it is you deserve. You gave me supplies, and your care. If anything, I am perhaps in your debt." Words he will fast come to regret, considering the request that follows. It gives him pause, entire body stilling in a manner that indicates one torn between personal desire (or lack thereof) and duty, honoring words freshly delivered or surrendering to qualms that feel selfish in the face of altruism. There goes that lengthy quiet again, stretching between them as it always does, far beyond what is the norm before, finally, he speaks slow, careful words. "My… relationship… to this instrument is… deeply personal. I don't… typically… play. For anyone. It is one thing to be… found… but another to perform." But before that can register as a denial, "But. If. You select something you would like to hear, that you think might help, I would make… considerations." It's the best he can offer, put on the spot like this, and it rudely places all the responsibility back on her but it's something.

Hello, my name is Fioreyla, and I have a propensity for inserting my foot into my mouth. I also fall a lot. And startle easily. And make more mistakes than is reasonable and sometimes possible to make. When I get nervous, I stuff my mouth full of food so that I can't talk or I recite textbooks verbatim. I am some form of permanently awkward chipmunk, and the only person I can call a friend just might actually be a murderer. But the good news is that I'm friendly, and I'm really good at - "T-they do have a way to make that go away," Fioreyla informs Sohzen as his finger taps, neither shying away or leaning into the touch. "I-It's called a lobotomy. R-Relatively p-painless, really, but even if it's b-botched and it is p-painful, the g-good news is you won't r-remember for v-very long." A beat. "O-of course, the side-effects are a p-permanent vegetative s-state and n-no memory of a-anything ever, b-but it might be worth it." Very, very bad a jokes. Fioreyla is REALLY GOOD at REALLY BAD JOKES. "I j-just need you to come a l-little closer," she beckons, curling a finger as if this just might convince him to lean in so that she can use a tool she doesn't have to do terrible things to his brain. But they're moving on, and Fiore's face is flushing to a shade that mimics her hair, lips pulled in a grimace of sorts as her teeth find her bottom lip and those violet eyes lock on brown for too long, and now it's getting awkward, and — FARANTH HELP HER — but she can't look away because — breathe, little Fire. She exhales, draws in another breath, and reaches out with both of her hands to catch Sohzen's and hold with gentle but firm pressure. "Y-You are…" violet eyes jump between brown as if she might find answers there, brows furrowing as she perhaps finds nothing, but strives to find the right words in her mind. "T-the only person who n-never…" A pause, a recalculation, another attempt that will inevitably fail. "You d-don't owe me anything, Sohzen," she settles on, speaking the words softly because everything else just doesn't seem right. But then she's quiet, listening, dropping her gaze and looking towards the trees and the sinking skyline because it seems the polite thing to do when Sohzen is admitting to things of a clearly personal nature. Idiot. She's an idiot, and the belief is momentarily broadcasted in her every expression and manner when she looks to her hands, and away. She waits for the no, but there's a compromise instead, and Fire has the good grace to look startled. "O-Oh, Sohzen, no. It's… I-It's really okay. F-Forget I said anything, p-please. I'm s-so… so honored t-that you shared - well, I s-stumbled on it, really - this with me, and I-I would n-never — " And there she goes, scrambling to get to her feet, hands out as if she can PHYSICALLY WARD AWAY THE AWKWARD, stumbling because of course she does and falling into the man with a squeak of sound and fingers that catch at robes to save her from the Herdbeast Undies Disaster of 2715 all over again. "I — look what's this here?" And THERE SHE GOES, awkwardly stumbling away to crouch down by the pond and stare at it REALLY HARD. Don't mind her, she's just trying not to explode. "I-It's all…" She's making circle motions with her hands. IT'S THE MOON, FIRE. IT'S THE MOON AND HE KNOWS YOU'RE NOT THAT STUPID. "Very round."

It's unfortunate, then, that her murderbaby bff does not appreciate her jokes, or at least, that is the act he puts on. Lids lower, lips flatten, and it should say something about him that 'you're the worst' is one of the few expressions he can pull off. It is safe to say if he did not find her some modicum of amusing, however, that he would simply not have reacted at all; the face, in and of itself, is a giveaway, as is the slow, obedient lean of his body into her space. Special delivery: one head, ready for lobotomization. "I should warn you, the last person who attempted this procedure on me did not come out the better for the experience." He's joking, right? Is he joking? It's impossible to tell, considering it's the same ding dang sotto voce delivery he uses for most everything, but if it's more of a comfort to assume it's a joke, then that's probably for the best. This is especially true given the shift in conversation, the sudden reapplication of nerves, and lip-biting, and awkwardly long stares, and were Sohzen not the crowned prince of Making It Weird Via Prolonged Silence, it might have gotten strange, but as it is he endures, returns her stare for stare, looking away only when she takes his hand in hers. Dark eyes drop to where long fingers curl to surround hers in turn, second hand slipping in to form a pile of palms, gaze twitching up when she finds words to speak again. "I do, Fire, if for no other reason than so you know your worth." Which makes his next words, her next reactions, elicit so much tension. This is just what he didn't want, evidenced in the twitch of regret around eyes, the apology encapsulated in hands that catch and steady her as she stumbles into him, mouth opening without managing to say anything at all before she is off again. There comes no verbal response to stuttered words, to her observations of the pond, not at first - instead, there is a rustle of dry fabric, the soft knock of wood, and then the quiet whisper of approaching footsteps as he draws to her side and sits. "There are stories, mostly trader-bred, that Belior and Timor were once brothers," he says as he rests the violin against his collar bone, making slight adjustments to pearlescent pegs. "Inseparable from birth, they went everywhere together, did everything together until one day, Timor fell in love with the sun. Belior did not understand why Timor would leave his side for Rukbat; what could he hope to gain from her that he could not find also in their brotherhood? But Timor, blinded by love, chased Rukbat into the sky, and Belior chased him in turn, and out of spite, the Red Star made it so they could never walk the planet together again," he says as deft fingers find, pluck strings in a slow rhythm. "But mother Pern took pity, for every once in a great while, when time and season conspire to align, their faces reflect together here, side by side again. Until then, these flowers bloom by their light, weeping for them nightly, as their mother weeps. If you listen close, you can sometimes hear her singing for them to come home." But alas, even should that be true, the only sound to break the quiet of the burgeoning night comes from Sohzen himself, bow pulling across strings in a slow, mournful melody that somehow fits with the story, with the scene, dark glassy waters and pale floral faces touched only by quiet moonlight.

Let's be realistic here: Fioreyla's murderbaby BFF is the only one who appreciates anything about her - the only who deigns to show kindness and patience on more than a mere superficial level meant to appease propriety as dictated by society on the topic of being a good person. Sohzen doesn't treat Fioreyla like she's stupid; he doesn't treat her like she's helpless, and weak, and a thing to be pitied. He certainly does not dismiss her because she takes too long to speak or shows too little grace in a profession that expects complete competency (for good reason) in all areas of simply being. No, Sohzen trusts her to pierce his flesh with needles and sew him back together; he trusts her find her courage to climb up walls and explore the world in a way she may never have dared to before, and he trusts her to find her wings when she leaps. And she trusts him, to be her wings, and to catch her when she inevitably fails. So in he leans for her poorly constructed joke with warnings that serve to do little more than make Fire smile at how ridiculous he is. Not because she doesn't believe Sohzen, but because maybe she does, and maybe there's humor to be found in facing people-eating ghouls that don't want to eat you. "I b-bet you the l-last person didn't know the arm trick," she whispers in a conspirator's tone, as if now knowing where to press on his arm to make his fingers curl inward is clearly enough to stop him. It's not. It's not even enough to stop the words he speaks when their hands are catching at each other's, the ones that make her face too hot and her eyes drop away. It's not enough to dissipate tension, or ease the regret she sees in his eyes because she is the one who should be sorry. So she does what she does best: does something outrageously awkward. And Sohzen does what he does best: somehow makes it better. Fire shifts when Sohzen settles beside her, knees pulling up to her chest as violet eyes watch her reflection stare back at her; as she observes the mirror image of Sohzen ripple as he speaks, acutely aware of his voice, and his words, and the pain that starts somewhere in her chest inexplicably. And gosh darn it, she's crying again, before he even puts bow to string and works through a melody that has her reaching out fingers towards the water as if she might somehow cup the reflections in her hands and keep them safe with her, as if she might become a conduit for star crossed lovers to finally find their Happily Ever After. The images ripple through her fingers, hazy and scattered, ruined in a way that somehow makes her cry more even though it's just a story and doesn't make sense. But then she's still, pulling her hands back with water clinging still, listening to Sohzen's song and closing her eyes while he plays, and she drips, and the music weaves through her very soul to tell the rest of the story in a way language simply cannot.

To be fair, there's no one else who appreciates Sohzen for the many things he is, either. Sarcastic, shallow, edgy bordering on rude, a spirit haunted by countless ghosts, most of his own making, she perseveres where many simply surrender. What is the point of such tenacity if it is not meant to be rewarded? In Fioreyla's case, it's not with grand gestures riddled with meaning, but instead the simple proximity of Zen's thin, catlike body, equally felinic personality finding something it likes in Fire and deciding it is worth losing a chink in the armor of his frigid exterior in exchange. "They did not," Sohzen replies of the arm trick, his own voice dropping into a similar whispered pitch that does nothing to ease its rasp. "More's the pity. It might have spared them." But the moment ends, and the slick razor's edge that defines dark humor eases into something else, something that is not soft by any means, but rather blunt, harmless in the literal sense of the word, a story meant to tame and tranquilize, turn Fire's awkwardness into something else. He does not intend for that other thing to be crying, perhaps - brows lower infinitesimally, watching her break the ethereal calm of silver water with the gentle cup of her hands, something unwelcome clenching a fist in the hollow of his chest. Dark eyes slide closed, denying its purchase, focusing himself upon the task at hand: expressing Pern's eternal lament, of loss and hope and a mother's sad understanding with each push and pull of bow across strings. Deeper Sohzen sinks into himself, pressing every inch of awareness into the physicality of the song, into fingers that quiver mournfully upon strings, on the rises and fall of his bow that become a rise and fall of himself, as though the music were taking hold of the husk that is his form and puppeting it like a marionette. Sorrow notches the space between Zen's brows, the spaces around his eyes, the press of his mouth; it sways through shoulders that curl about the instrument pressed against them, bids him press his jaw to cool wood as though needing the touch to arrest and reverse the sway of his body. Down, up, down again, mere minutes stretching into one small eternity, neverending yet somehow over far to soon as a final note stretches in one long, slow vibrato that fades until it's gone. Sohzen lingers in its absence, long hair swung forwards, concealing whatever expression might define his features when the song reaches finality. By the time he moves, violin lowered to his lap, hands sliding back through long dark locks to bind it back in a messy bun, he is composed once more, distant, calm, collected. "Come," he says, taking instrument and bow into the fingers of one hand as he rises, offering the other to Fioreyla with the intent to draw her to her feet. "That is story enough for one night. Let us put this instrument to rest, and then we might find food, if you are of a mood." He is leaving regardless, returning to stow his violin in its case, carefully clasped closed before he moves to the edge of the glade, waiting for her to follow or not as is her preference, but waiting nevertheless before melding into the shadows of the path towards the weyr.

Something happens in that moment, something unprecedented, and irrevocable, and inexplicable; it's something that Fire can't name, that she doesn't have words to describe because there are not enough words in the failings of spoken (and written) language to convey what it is that grips her. But she feels it. She feels it in the tumult of her heart beating a suddenly frantic rhymth against her chest, in the tips of her fingers and the points of her toes that bid her move even as she wills them be still; she hears it in the way Sohzen plays his song, sees in every shift of body that draws bow across strings and echoes in the lines of Sohzen's face. It's as mesmerizing as it is polarizing, violet eyes riveted in a manner seeking to capture every detail of this moment — a moment that somehow seems so very much at odds with the world because it's their moment, and Timor's, and Belior's, and Rukbat's. Fioreyla is so lost to the extension of tale that Sohzen weaves with skilled hands that she's surprised to realize it's over, that she was holding her breath waiting for the impossible to happen, willing Pern to find some way through Zen's music to grant her children happiness. Perhaps Fire waits out Zen's silence without disturbing him because every part of her feels silent, empty with some kind of hollow ache that doesn't make any sense but persists long after that final, lingering note is produced and Sohzen regains his compure. It honestly startles Fioreyla when he moves, that tiny body jerking as eyes lift to his hands and watch him tie his hair back into place before he speaks. "O-okay," Fire whispers, wiping her eyes dry on the backs of her forearms before catching Zen's hand between both of hers and utilizing his assistance to regain her footing. There's only a moment's hesitation as she watches him put away his instrument, as violet eyes find dark hues waiting for her at the edge of the glade, and it's not until he turns away that Fire moves to join him on clumsy feet. She is silent, mostly, until she catches a sleeve between fingers, eyes on her feet before they lift to his for a softly spoken, "S-Sohzen, I… thank you." But she doesn't elaborate on what. She lets him go, and she walks on ahead with mild conversation about herbs that don't exist and whether or not he's seen them. SHE'S ASKING FOR A FRIEND.

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