Who: Arlet and J’kson
When: Month 7, 205 AT
Where: Court of Shadows, Honshu Territory
What: Except neither of them really want to escape.
It’s taken time, but Arlet has seemed to gradually settle in properly to life at the Court and stopped merely being a waif of a figure that haunts the corridors and empty rooms, intent on being left alone. Even Akaynth’s temper seems to have cooled enough to make him a tolerable, if still somewhat unpredictable presence. This evening finds her huddled by the hearth in the living area of her quarters, the shards of a shell dotted along the rug beneath her the only clue as to her purpose in remaining there. It’s plain to see that she’s not quite made the rooms her own yet, for while they’re pleasingly decorated, there appears to be very little by way of personal possessions dotted about, save for the strings of lights that adorn the walls that don’t seem in keeping with the décor.
J’kson and Malynth both still feel like guests at the Court – and unwanted ones at that. It never helps his cause that J’kson spends some of his time, when not on duties (even those, he’d admit to Arlet, often involve drink) finding himself losing a battle against the bottle. Surprisingly, when he enters Arlet’s quarters, he seems freshly bathed and possibly… oh-so-very-possibly… sober. He has never apologized to Arlet for his drinking and the flowers that he brings to her are not so common as to seem as a gesture of apology. He’s got a fond smile in place as he draws near to her chair, the flowers vibrant hues and small enough that they are not likely to have come from Southern. “I went to Igen today,” he tells her, “and there were these most interesting flowers to be found in the desert,” he offers them towards her and then pauses as he considers the shells. “Where is it?” he asks, looking around for the fledging he assumes has hatched.
Arlet looks up at J’kson approaches, a small smile briefly lighting her gaze. “They’re beautiful,” she murmurs, accepting the flowers and drawing them close to study them. “Thank you.” She rises from her chair, exploring the edges of the blooms with the back of one finger while she locates a suitable glass vase and arranges them, only to momentarily vanish to fill said vase with water. “Oh, he’s beneath the chair,” she calls back. “He seems to like it there and I don’t want to wake him yet.” Indeed, underneath the chair she’s vacated sleeps a small bronze firelizard, curled nose to tail and letting the warmth from the fire wash over him. “I met Southern’s Weyrwoman and… I suppose she couldn’t believe I didn’t have one. She insisted I take the egg.” Settling the vase on a table, she returns to J’kson and reclaims her seat. “You look good,” she tells him with another twitch of a smile.
J’kson’s hunched down and peering at the sleeping firelizard with a soft smile when Arlet returns to the room. He looks up at her, the same softness still in his gaze as he shrugs and flicks his hands through his hair. “It was a good day,” he tells her, rising from his crouch to shove his hands into his jacket pockets. “What did you think of Southern’s Weyrwoman?” he asks, looking down again at the chair. “She must have enjoyed your company if she gave you a firelizard egg. I think… in Southern… they may be more common? They seem to be almost handled like currency at some of the poker games I fall into.” He finds a chair and hovers near it, looking to her for a moment. “You don’t mind if I stay, do you?” He hesitates, “I wanted to see you most of the day.”
“She seems more reasonable than some of the Weyrwomen from the north. Then, she could have been one of those who voted against my being allowed to continue as Weyrleader and trying to make amends.” Arlet shrugs her shoulders and looks down at her knees. “I can’t say that I trust anyone who was in that room, but at least some of them are gone now.” She slides forward to the edge of her chair and peers beneath it to needlessly check on the firelizard there, buying herself a few moments to better compose herself. “You can be here whenever you want,” she tells J’kson when she looks back up, settling her hands in her lap. “And you don’t have to keep staying in taverns. You’re always welcome.”
“You may never know who voted what. I have the sense that those who voted against you have already met an untimely end,” J’kson drawls, too long in the Court now to not suspect the means of which is benefactors might deal with unwanted dealings. He watches Arlet with a small smile as she once more checks on the slumbering bronze. He settles into the chair once his acceptance into her home has been granted. That he is less nervous when in the cloud of alcohol is obvious – but his nerves are more like an eager, younger man, trying to make sure he makes no missteps with a girl of his affections. “I don’t stay in taverns,” he tells her with a laugh and then sobers as his hands flick through his hair and he shifts uncomfortably in his chair. “Sometimes a man has to… sleep some things off.” He shrugs, eager to move past the conversation focusing on himself.
Arlet dips her head in a shallow nod a couple of times, trying to plaster a smile in place that looks anything but sad, but her effort is rather unsuccessful, even as she manages to keep her voice bright enough that it would have otherwise been convincing. “I’m glad you’ve made some good… friends,” she replies, assumptions all too easily made now as they have been before. “You deserve to have that with people.” Her fingers knot together of their own accord and she glances down to acknowledge their betrayal, but they don’t loosen. “I’m sorry I’m not… That I…” She takes a deep breath. “I know we said about helping each other, but I’m not really any use to anyone. I’m happy you have better company. I wouldn’t have been good for you. I’m not good enough for you, or… anyone, really. I know that now.”
J’kson looks sharply at Arlet and blinks as he gathers her assumptions and then shakes his head. “No! Goodness, no. That’s not what I meant,” he tells her, lifting a hand to stop her from saying anything further. “I meant that I, you know,” he looks embarrassed as he drops his gaze and shuffles his fingers against the back of his neck, “am sometimes too drunk to leave. So I sleep, er, I’ve passed out- or,” he shakes his head and puffs out a breath. “I don’t want to go into it.” He looks up at Arlet and rises from his chair. He moves carefully down to his knees, checking to see if he disturbs the sleeping firelizard before he reaches to take her hands. “Please don’t do this,” he tells her as he squeezes her hands. “Don’t make assumptions that you are not enough for me,” he pauses, looking up at her, “when we both know very well that it’s me who isn’t good enough for you. I can //feel// your mothers anger when I have to walk by her. I wouldn’t doubt for a moment that she’d knife me if she could get away with it.” He cracks a smile and kisses her fingers. “You’re my friend and more, Arlet. You have to know that. You’re the only one who… ,” he shrugs, “can see past my fuck ups.”
Arlet observes J’kson’s approach somewhat warily, though she doesn’t draw her hands away from his. “…It’s not an assumption if it’s true,” she murmurs, idly running her thumbs across his knuckles. “Even my kid sister knows I’m such a wreck that she thinks it’s her job to try and fix me.” She closes her eyes and takes a series of slow, steady breaths, during which any intention of trying to look back at him evaporates and she keeps her eyes firmly shut. “I know I said I like… being physical, and I do. And maybe that’s all people will ever want from me. You deserve better than that. You and Malynth… You could be free. Leave here. Get your own cothold and find a nice girl.” Finally, she lifts her lashes and blinks her focus back to him. “I mess things up. Caring for you… and letting you care for me will just make it worse when you grow bored of me. Find someone else. Love her. Marry her. Escape //this//.”
“Why do you want me to find someone else?” J’kson asks, furrowing his brow as he looks up at her. “You talk of messing things up? Arlet,” he gives her hands a firm squeeze in a plea for her to look at him. “I’m a drunk. You know it. Everyone knows it. I do not think I can change that.” He takes a breath, “Though I try. Who is to say you shouldn’t be asking for someone else? Someone who isn’t sloppy sometimes… who doesn’t cause you grief? I promise not to push you away. If you want to be near me, befriend me, care for me… I won’t list the million reasons we shouldn’t do that. All I ask of you,” again the squeeze to her hands, “is that you don’t do that to me. I don’t want to marry a ‘her’. I don’t want to escape ‘this’. I wanted to be here all day with you. And now I’m here, you’re wanting me to go off and find another girl?” He shakes his head. “I have no interest in that. Please understand.”
“I’m trying to do what’s best for you,” Arlet insists, the heat of frustration beginning to colour her words. “I couldn’t do that for you as your Weyrleader. I can’t stop M’tan sending you where he does and asking you to do what you do. I’m trying to protect you. How can this life be fulfilling for you? It isn’t fair.” She ducks her head again, leaning forward now to press her forehead to his. “You’re a fucking idiot,” she murmurs, settling her hands on his shoulders. “And so am I for not doing a better job of driving you off.” Eyes closed, she leans there, one hand securing a grip on J’kson’s collar. “I don’t want to hurt you. And loving you is selfish.” What she’s said doesn’t register with her until a instant later, which is when she winces and moves to draw away.
“//Arlet//,” J’kson’s voice is firm – likely, it’s the first time she’s ever heard this tone from him. “I am not the sort who seeks fulfillment in my duties. I don’t //mind// what M’tan asks me to do. I’m //good// at it, that’s why he’s having me do it. There is nothing wrong with that. Do you truly see me settling down somewhere else? Where would Malynth go? Destined to be shamed by a Weyr? Or we take up residence as cothold owners and what– farmers?” he shakes his head. He catches his breath as she tips her forehead against his and he laughs softly, “Yes, I am a fucking idiot.” J’kson’s hand is already there, behind Arlet’s head, to keep her against him. “Don’t run away now,” he tells her softly, a smile in his voice as he presses a soft kiss to her lips. “I find loving you to be selfish too. And here I am, the selfish bastard.”
Arlet bumps her nose against his and lowers her head further, to tuck her face into the crook of J’kson’s neck to try and conceal what tears slip free, her fingers curling in the fabric of his shirt. She stays just like that for a little while, unwilling to move, simply breathing steadily in and out. When she finally moves, it’s to brush her lips just below his ear and lift her head to look back up at him. “If anyone tries to knife you, I’ll protect you,” is a quiet and poor attempt at humour, but she tries, lifting a hand to thread her fingers through his hair. “You can go and win me shiny things and I’ll look menacing in the shadows. I can do menacing. Really.” She touches her lips to his. “Well… maybe not yet.”
J’kson moves easily up enough to cradle her against him in a hug. He soothes his hand along her back, waiting until she finds composure to move. He smiles at her as their eyes meet and he brushes a finger along her cheek. He’s serious, bypassing her attempt at humour, in his reply. “I’m glad to have you protecting me. Who’s to say what mischief I may get into without a stalwart companion to guard me?” He tilts his head as her hand threads through his far-too-long hair for an average dragonrider. “That sounds like a lot of fun,” he tells her, grinning at her. “To have you menacing them as I swipe their money from beneath their noses.” He waits a moment after their kiss before he frames her face with the warmth of his palms. “You can do and be anything you want. Now, Arlet. Not later. You are strong and beautiful and important to me. I’m glad to have you watching my back.”
It takes Arlet more than a moment to be able to meet J’kson’s gaze when his palms frame her face, but she manages if, if only for a matter of seconds until she moves to burrow her head against his shoulder again and hold on, unable to do anything more by way of suggesting that she’s able to believe him just yet. When she eventually move again, it’s to lift her head and reach for one of his hands to tug him after her as she rises, leaving the little bronze firelizard to continue sleeping beneath the chair in his warm shadow. “I know what I want to do now and not later,” she murmurs, drawing J’kson along with her until she can close the door to her bedroom firmly behind her and bring him to her bed where she might better show him what he means to her without words.