Past the hot part of the day with the sun getting low, it's the perfect time to be out and about. A portion of the field is… moving? No, no, never mind. That's just a girl in a dress that happens to be blue. She's tall, and curvy, and her blond hair is short and held back with a white flower clip behind her ear. The basket over her arm is already half-full of blueberries, and more are being added as her quick fingers evade thorns and pluck the ripest of them from the bush. Zapallie, berry picking master!

This berry-picking fiend is, therefore, right on cue to be interrupted — not that the interrupting party is aware of the chaos he's causing. No, it's just that there are a series of crashing sounds, a fair amount of splashing, and then a very thorough stream of cursing coming from off creek-wards. Judging by the vocabulary, the culprit is a guard. Judging by actually getting close enough to look, it's Kazulen, thoroughly soaked, starting to get bruised, and pissily picking through the stream to re-gather what's been lost.

Zapallie turns around at the first hint of commotion, a small frown on her face. Unfortunately, nothing the man is saying hasn't also come out of her mouth at some point. Well, not now, because she's pretending to be nice, but… in the past. The blond girl stops picking and walks towards the river, basket balanced in the crook of her arm while she plants her hands on her hips and watches Kazulen flounder with a hint of amusement quirking her lips upwards. "Lost your manhood?" she teases.

Kazulen looks up, squinting, and then scowls at her as her words actually process. And, maturely, he … splashes water toward her. "The stupid rock upended under me!" he complains, and keeps grubbing in the water without a better explanation.

Zapallie yelps when he splashes at her, falling back away from the shore and pouting just a bit. "So you're…searching for the rock?" she hazards, raising her pale eyebrows. "In order to…punish it severely?"

"That," Kazulen answers sardonically, "would be stupid." No arguments, eh, Zapallie? "I'm looking for my onions. I dropped them." He keeps scowling.

It starts as a snort, but it quickly turns into a giggle, one that can't be repressed. Zap stands there, looking far more ridiculous than usual (but also far more pretty), and folds her arms. "Oh, onions. Of course. That makes much more sense."

"Nobody else has them!" Kazulen is, apparently, feeling moved to defend himself — or is just feeling defensive. Six of one, half dozen of the other, right? "I'm tired of asking and being told nobody has them!"

Zapallie lifts her eyebrows. "Has…what? Onions?" Now she has to squint at him, as if perhaps me might actually be insane, and nobody's caught on before. "I thought you said they were in the river. Why would somebody else have them if they're in the river?"

Kazulen stares at her, not entirely certain if she's pulling his leg. "Because," he says, very carefully, and slowly, "they taste good, and I'm not the only person in the weyr who likes them. So usually, someone else has grown some, and they're available in the kitchens, without requiring me to come pull them up for myself." Duh, says his tone.

No. Not convinced. She continues to stare at him a moment longer and then shrugs her shoulders and turns around, flouncing back to the bush. "Have fun with that!" Zapallie calls over her shoulder, sing-song, and resumings plucking berries. So helpful!

From behind her, in the river, there are more clunking and quiet-splashing sounds, and then… well, somewhere, beneath the guard uniform he isn't currently wearing, Kazulen is, still, at heart, a barely-not-a-teenager-anymore. So he uses the basket that was supposed to be helpfully carrying his onions in a few inches of water to … scoop up a full complement of water, plus two or three spring onions, and slings the whole wet mess in Zapallie's direction. Fortunately, he doesn't let go of the basket. It is, maybe, only slightly fortunate.

Suddenly, Zapallie's back is very wet. Her head snaps around over her shoulder to give Kazulen a hard look. And then her nose wrinkles and she lets out a slow breath. Wiggling up to her full height, she holds herself ramrod straight and goes back to what she was doing. She will not rise to the bait!

Eventually — several minutes later, as the sun persists in lowering in the sky — Kazulen, equally soaked (which is to say, halfway), looms up behind her, casting her in shadow yet more. He's also dripping on her slightly. "Blueberries, huh?" he comments abruptly.

Zapallie twitches unhappily as his shadow comes to rest on her already wet back. As if she wasn't cold enough, now he's dripping on her as well. "Yes. Blueberries." She's fighting hard to keep a civil tone, but he's not making it easy. "There's an onion in my dress," she adds.

"They're better together," Kazulen insists staunchly.

Zapallie rams herself backwards towards Kazulen, intent on driving him out of her personal space, rather than hurting him. Not yet, at least. "Blueberries and onions, or onions and my dress?"

Kazulen is lucky she doesn't end up stepping on his already-injured-by-the-rock foot, for all that he doesn't seem to realize that. "I don't know," he answers dryly — in tone alone, what with how he's still dripping. "Do you make a habit of eating your dresses?"

Zapallie turns now to look up at him, not scowling, just… staring fixedly. "No, but I might be inclined to stuff it in your mouth so you could let me know if it was a good idea."

"Are you in the habit of stripping in public?" Kazulen counters, smirking slightly down at her, apparently completely oblivious to how thoroughly he's toeing the line of provoking her into actions he's liable to regret.

"I'm comfortable with my body," responds the blond with a shrug. She sets her basket down and saunters a few steps towards him, a smirk on her face and her hands on her hips. "You hardly count as public, anyway."

And now, because Kazulen didn't really back up all /that/ far when she shoved back at him, she's pretty much right in his face! How exciting. "That's very true," he answers solemnly, eyes on her face, completely devoid of even a hint of a blush. Or discomfort. (Sorry?) "I might be willing to defend you in large groups, but that doesn't entirely count me as a member of your adoring public. Why does Khy hate you so much, anyway?"

Zapallie is quite good at being in other people's space. "Who knows. I don't think he hates me…" she smirks. "He certainly didn't seem to hate me the other day on the beach." Folding her hands behind her back she looks up at him, just the slightest space between them. Not touching him, that much is clear. "I don't need to be defended, anyway."

"Very true," he agreed, smirking at her more. "You were obviously very capable of defending yourself when you were curling up like a trundlebug on the floor. In public. Just saying." That he's a jerk. "On the other hand, I might have been thinking that Khy needed to be reminded that guards aren't supposed to attack other people unless they're on duty."

"I was being nice," responds the girl, head tilted just so. "I'm still being nice." To prove it, Zap backs off a step again, still meeting his gaze. "Otherwise, you'd be in the river."

"And seeing as how it would be far from the first time that's happened today, I'm assuming your niceness doesn't actually have anything to do with me," Kazulen observes. "So I'm left to wonder — why? Why are you being nice, Zapallie, and why are you admitting to it?"

"I'm being nice to everyone," agrees Zapallie, dipping her head in concession. "As to why…" Her eyes do flick sideways now, past him briefly as her mouth mashes together towards one side of her face. "I'm trying to decide if it's worth it…if anyone's actually going to treat me differently if I look nice and act nice. So far the answer is no."

"It might work out better for you if you actually feel like being nice, instead of just acting nice," Kazulen points out (bravely). And astonishingly gently, for a 20-turn-old young man, for that matter. "Graciousness and kindness and all sorts of crap like that, going out of your way to do nice things, instead of just not doing the not-nice things you want to do ordinarily. Also, maybe try to try it out on people who don't already know you. Just a thought."

"I've done both," replies the girl, now squinting at him. She shrugs though, reaches behind her and digs one of his onions out of the back of her dress. It is held out to him with a smile. "I don't recall you knowing me particularly well anyway. And I have no particular desire to be nice, I'm afraid. But I also have no particular desire to be locked in closets, drenched with water in the middle of the night, or have my clothing thrown in midden piles, so if it prevents that, it might be worth it."

Kazulen stares at her for a moment before remembering to take said onion, and asks — dubious and irritable — "People have actually done all that to you?"

Zapallie gives him a strange look. "Of course. They also trip me in bars." Really, she's not feeling sorry for herself, she seems to actually believe these are things she deserves. (And really, perhaps she does.) "I can handle those things… I'm just trying to prevent the escalation to violence. I did get klah dumped on me this morning, that was not pleasant, but it's still not a broken bone."

"Wait, Khyonai did this?" Now Kazulen just looks pissed off. Even if she did deserve it, the kid should have known better than that!

"No, Khyonai tripped me. Other people have done the other things." Zapallie gives him a look that says 'keep up now, Kaz!'

Kazulen closes his eyes long enough to take a deep, calming, semi-meditative breath, and then fixes her with a look that says Hello, I Am Inscrutable. "Have they all been individual — as in, one person does one thing only? Or have you had individual people doing more than one of these things to you?"

"Oh, no, it's a group of people. You see, this one guy was bragging about growing a beard, and well, I helpfully informed him that I'd seen more peach fuzz on a baby's ass. He and his friends have made it their mission to do anything they can to make me miserable. I'd report them, but, well, I'd hate to let them know they'd actually succeeded." This is perfectly logical, in some twisted realm of Zap's creation.

Kazulen looks very thoughtful as he listens to Zapallie's report— er, recitation. "That wouldn't happen to be Migorkin, would it?" he hazards.

Zapallie twitches faintly at the name, and then smiles and shrugs at him. "Told you I wasn't going to tell." Which is as close as she'll get to lying.

"No, of course you're not," Kazulen agrees mildly, his guard-trained eyes noting her twitch-and-smile as a blatant tell. "And it's not like you actually look all that miserable, anyway, do you." He hesitates, hefting his last onion, and then tosses it back into his basket, picking his way back to the riverbank to scoop up the rest of his pile. He ducks it quickly underwater for a rinse before shoving it into the basket, too, and then tucks the basket over his elbow, picking his way back to the path back to the weyr. He's almost to the path, and theoretically therefore beyond line-of-sight, as he twists around to shout back at her: "Oh, shards, Zap, I forgot my blanket on the other side of the creek! Can you grab it for me? I'm sure you'll find some time to bring it back!" And off he tromps toward the weyr. (It's a very warm wool blanket, too, good at keeping someone warm even when soaking wet.)

'The World of Pern(tm)' and 'The Dragonriders of Pern(r)' are copyright to Anne McCaffrey (c) l967, 2000. This is a recorded online session, by permission of the author but generated on PernWorld MUSH for the benefit of people unable to attend.