Who: Arlet and J’kson
When: Month 8, 204 AT
Where: Court of Shadows, Honshu Territory
What: J’kson visits the Court.

The only way J’kson was going to finally answer the summons he had received for the last number of months would come by way of Malynth agreeing to keep Eosyth company. He couldn’t exactly explain an absence to Isolwyn, fearing that his work outside of Fort might have drawn her into things she shouldn’t be concerned about. His habit of disappearing and finding himself in the bottle has escalated in the week leading up to his leaving Malynth, so his friend should not be surprised that his blue is curled with her gold and J’kson is nowhere to be seen. He had to leave Fort and walk a fair distance to await the escort sent for him. A blue dragon with two good wings ascends into the skies outside of Fort and blinks Between before any can register the foreign dragon’s presence. J’kson is delivered into the center of the Court, left to his own company, and he finds himself wandering a hallway and delaying his visit to M’tan’s office. He may have had more than a few nips of whiskey as he goes along, a hum on his lips, and seemingly careless to those who may see him.

Arlet’s days are spent roaming the halls and corridors of the Court without any real intention of getting anywhere or seeing anyone, empty rooms and quiet corners often commandeered for curling up with books and taking long naps that never seem to ease her tiredness. As long as she doesn’t have to be where her son or the other children or the Court are, the relentless onslaught of day after boring day seems good enough for her. It’s as she heads down a corridor, cringing away from the distant cries of a baby that may well be hers, that her gaze fixes on J’kson and she stops, the blanket she’s dragging behind her pooling at her feet. “Akanyth spies no little blue, precocious and one-winged or otherwise,” she remarks. “You’re far from home.”

“Malynth has no ability to fly,” J’kson answers hollowly, his gaze not lifting to Arlet as he instead focuses on the silver flask in his hand. “Despite his gold friend’s assurances that he will find a way to travel it has yet to become true.” He swigs from the flask and pockets it, no shudder or cough to follow the fire of the liquer he’s consumed. He eventually looks to Arlet, noting her blanket, and the dullness of her being. “You look like you need out of here,” he notes, flicking his hands to the blanket. “Do they not let you leave?” he asks, believing that a possibility. “My letter to your mother has required me to come forth and deliver more news to M’tan. I had to come,” a shrug, “for I am bound to do such things.” He considers her. “Will you take me up on an offer for a drink?”

“None of your class are yet grown. None of them have the ability to fly.” Perhaps Arlet means to offer reassurance with such a statement, but it might be that she simply sounds pedantic. She shrugs, glancing down at herself with no real interest in what a state she might look, presentable though she is, save for being far too thin. “I can leave whenever I want,” she claims. “Where would I go? Back to Fort?” The sound she summons is more dull bark than laughter. “Or Honshu, equally failed by me? What Weyr would have me when they must believe I’m responsible for the death of a queen and bronzes?” As for the matter of a drink, she begins to shake her head, only to sigh and concede, “I suppose so. If you’re going to tell me the rest of your class are interlopers and we missed the lot of you, I might as well be half-cut for it.”

“I don’t know what you expect to say in all of this,” J’kson tells her with a rumble of a laugh, his step quick for him to offer that flask only seconds before he delivers it to her. “The rest of my class is fine,” he tells her, knowing it is what she needs to hear, “Esoyth has control of most of the young ones. That’s where Malynth is contented with while I am here.” He draws a hand along his grizzled chin, a brow lifted as he thinks of her options. “Why settle for any of them? You and your brown can go anywhere in Pern. Leave here, leave them, as you left Fort and Honshu both.” He tugs at his ear and then finds the comfort of the wall and it’s weight to hold him as he slides down to the floor. “You have options,” he tells her with a dull stare, “where others do not.”

Arlet accepts the flask and pauses for long enough to take a long drink before she makes to hand it back, rolling her shoulders into a shrug. “Why bother? Aside from some small attempts at conversation, they leave me well enough alone here. Why go to a Weyr and follow their rules and start to trust anyone again? They only exist to wield and twist the knife.” She hikes her blanket up from the floor and drags it to hang about her shoulders like a cape, wrapping herself up in it as she slumps to the ground and sits herself down next to J’kson, her back to the wall. “Dragons can go Between whether they’re in flight or not,” she claims. “Akanyth barely got off the ground when he escaped Fort. I saw him. Your weyrlingmasters probably won’t let you entertain the idea because they think it’s dangerous.”

J’kson keeps his gaze leveled away from Arlet’s face as she settles beside him, having found the flask once more in his grasp he takes a long swig as he listens. He’s comfortable with silences and staring, so he doesn’t rush to pressure her to have any sort of conversation. No tension rides his person as he leans loose-limbed on the ground. “Perhaps Akanyth will find himself reason to teach Malynth then,” he tells Arlet eventually, “for from what I understand of our weyrlingmasters we should never try to do more than use Malynth as one would a wher. Which is utter bullshit.” He grins at her, making side-long eye contact. “See?” he tells they agree on the point of the weyrlingmasters, “It’s them that holds us back.” He lets silence fall for a spell and then asks, looking back out across the room, “Is Akanyth well to be here? From what I know, Lady Jet and M’tan…, well,” he shrugs, “they’re good people, but you can’t cross them.”

There’s a choking sound from Arlet, her disgust enough that it rushes so to be given voice and doesn’t let her form words, the shove she gives back against the wall to better position herself to study J’kson the most animated she’s been since they crossed paths. “I’m sorry, ‘use’ Malynth?” she echoes, anger twisting her pale features. “Like a wher?” She clamps her jaw shut before anything else can escape, her hands forming fists in the blanket. “…That thought would’ve made my mother sick. Well… It would make both of them sick, I’d think. Don’t go telling Jet they said that if you want them to live much longer.” Swallowing hard, she manages to get her fingers to unhook, leading her to prop herself against the wall again. “Akanyth is mindful of their dragons. No-one will afford me the luxury of a flask to drink my days away, and no-one will touch me because of my connection to the Lord and Lady, so there’s no danger of getting myself into the trouble that got me the baby. So, Akanyth is well and I’m left alone, and that is that.”

“You want me to be lying about that, don’t you?” J’kson asks Arlet dourly as her reaction barely registers more than a sad, if flippant, smile, “But I’ve heard what they’ve said about us when they didn’t think I was listening.” He taps his temples, “Slow wits, you see.” He grows somber at the mention of Jet and her quickness to an anger he sees on Arlet’s features. “I don’t plan on telling Lady Jet,” he tells Arlet with a shrug, “don’t see a purpose. Once Eosyth rises, we’ll have a new Weyrleader. Isolwyn’s on my side. We both feel the ineptitudes of the weyrlingmasters. Just taking our time showing others, right?” He’s absolutely silent in Arlet’s self-deprecating statement, his frown there in a flash and then gone as he finds himself with that flask once more. He hands it to Arlet. “My failure at sobriety didn’t keep me from earning M’tan’s trust and my placement at Fort. I am who I am. And if I’m a drunk, that’s the way it is. We all have our struggles.” He waits, eyes soft and kind, as he offers it to her. “Don’t drink your days away. It’s wasted effort. You wake up with a dry mouth, a sore head, and panic of what you did or said when you couldn’t be present.” At the mention of a baby he pauses, leaning his head back against the wall to tip up towards the ceiling, “We aren’t always ready for a baby.”

“I should’ve ripped out every rotting root in that Weyr while I had the chance,” Arlet mutters bitterly. “All it did was take. It took //everything//.” Whether she should or not, she accepts the flask from J’kson again and unscrews the cap to take a drink. “I figure if you can tell someone not to do what you’re doing, it means you can’t truly want to be doing it to yourself. Then, want and need are different things.” She gives the flask an idle tilt. “You seem all right to me.” Contemplation of the baby finds her unable to look at him, her gaze cast down. “I guess I didn’t think that I would be the only one to raise him,” she murmurs, following up that declaration with another sip from the flask that she abruptly offers back. “I kept him because he meant more to them than to me. That’s how it feels now, anyway.” She closes her eyes and knots her arms around her middle. “Whether it was a bad way of dealing with hurting or not, I’d still rather have someone in my bed and not sleep alone than… The days are fine. I don’t want company. Nights are… different.”

“I’ve been drunk for a long time, ma’am,” J’kson can’t quite call his former Weyrleader and his patron’s daughter by name without permission, “Doesn’t mean I worship it. It’s a struggle and I wish it wasn’t one. But I’m one of few, I suppose. You’ll drink tonight and wake up tomorrow regretting it and not seek it out tomorrow.” He isn’t forcing eye contact with Arlet, choosing to keep his own focus on the ceiling as he listens to her. “If they meant more to them, and now they aren’t able, what will you do?” He isn’t the sort to offer advice for her decisions so none comes forth. He reaches for that flask again, taking a swig, passing it back. “I left the barracks to shack up with Isolwyn. People chat that we’re sleeping together. We aren’t,” he turns his intense gaze towards hers, even with the drink fueling him, his gaze seems momentarily clear. “Solace in someone’s bed helps,” he acknowledges, “so long as they help you heal.”

Arlet grimaces, muttering, “No-one answers to me anymore. You don’t need to call me that.” She flexes her shoulders, flattening them out against the wall so that she can slip down further to the floor. “You could try to stop. For Malynth. You’re as good as dead if you try and take him Between when you can’t walk straight. Focus on something else for as long as it takes to know you //could// go Between if you wanted to.” Eyeing the flask, she might be about to refuse it, only it turns out she needs it if she wants to speak again, confined to a sip though she keeps herself. “He’s got several months behind him now. It seems he’ll live. …Until I hold him or something and what happens to him is what’s happened to everything and everyone since I got here.” She takes a deep breath, dragging herself up from the verge of tears to meet J’kson’s gaze with a low, self-deprecating note. “Is that an offer?”

“So you’re saying if you hold someone they die?” J’kson asks her in true confusion, the pale-brown brows of his furrowing and creasing his forehead in premature wrinkles that spot his eyes as he considers Arlet. “That’s not how the world works,” he tells her, knowing it’s not likely to be the right thing to say but too laced with his alcohol to stop himself. “When and if they let Malynth go Between, I will be sober,” he tells her with a confidence he feels though may be doubted by the next swig of his flask he takes once he’s drawn it out of Arlet’s grasp. He hands it back to her and sighs as he slouches against the wall. “If I pass out here, M’tan will kick me and yell at me, but he’ll give me a chance to sober up and tell him what’s what at Fort.” Another sigh as he looks sidelong at Arlet and lifts a brow, “Why would you want to even entertain me as an offer?” he sits himself up and blinks a few times at her. “You’d easily do better. It’s the drink talking.” It’s always the drink talking to him, “But if you need it, sure.” He looks down at his rumpled clothes and back to his former Weyrleader. “Do better,” he tries to reason. “You can get out of this.”

“No-one knows how the world works.” Arlet closes her eyes again and huddles down in her blanket. “Anyway, it’s not like you’re in a position to judge me and I’m hardly in one to judge you. I’m tired of people moralising at me all the time, so don’t you start on it too. Do this, do that, stop doing this, stop doing that. Everyone’s got a lecture going spare.” She passes the flask back without taking another drink, the gesture a blind one that has her shoving it in the general direction of J’kson’s hands. “No-one is ever going to look at me twice again. Not when they know who I am. I’m no great beauty or worthy prize. Do better? You could do much better than me, believe me.” Planting one hand down on the floor, she shoves herself to her feet, gathering up her book on the way. “Thanks for the drink. Come and find me when you’re here again if you want to give other distractions a go.” Her progress down the corridor is not exactly steady, but she keeps on going, regardless, until she rounds the corner and makes it out of sight.

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