Fall From Grace (backdated - rated for language)

Western Weyr - Deserted Island
Off-grid location; a beach on an island in the Western Archipelago.

The beach, one of the ones on an uninhabited Western Island, is deserted apart from Rou'x - it was her choice of location to meet following the disastrous attempt of a rescue that wrapped up only minutes earlier elsewhere on Pern. With the rest of small Archipelago force chosen for the job sent back home, Rou'x stands on her own beside Indianath, looking shellshocked and pressing a makeshift pad made from her torn shirt to a cut on her cheek that she sustained during the mission. With the sun almost touching down on the far horizon there isn't much more daylight left, and the brownrider watches its slow sinking as she waits for the Weyrsecond to appear.

It takes Ila'den a considerable amount of time to actually appear, but Teimyrth's open sails finally blot out the sinking sun as he slowly, slowly descends to the sandy beach below. When the bronze lands, Ila'den is on the ground moments later, and the Weyrsecond doesn't breathe a /word/ as he stares across the small distance separating him from one of his riders. There's no doubt that the bronzerider looks haggard; his hair has grown to his shoulders, there's dark circles underneath red, irritated eyes, and his usual smile is replaced by a scowl that never seems to ever really /leave/. He looks tired, and worn, and more renegade now than he'd looked even when he'd first come to stay at Western. The worst part is that all of that agitated ire is directed on the brownrider before him, and when Ila'den opens his mouth, there's not an ounce of gentleness in the growl of, "Speak." He doesn't seem to note the cut on her cheek, or her state of shellshock. There's no sympathy at all in this usually cheery man, but a furious anger that only seems to increase as seconds pass. "Now."

With her head cleared up of the befuddling booze by the events of the past hour or two, Rou'x looks at Ila'den with her bloodshot eyes wide as she shakes her head - not in defiance for his order, but for a simple lack of words. She does, at least, step toward him, dropping the cloth from her cheek and shoving it into her pocket; the cut isn't a bad one and isn't bleeding, but it stings enough to make her wince whenever the muscle there is pulled. When she finally finds her tongue, she has to clear her throat to begin again after a croaky false start. "I fucked up." A long breath is exhaled, scented with stale alcohol.

Rou'x steps forward, but Ila'den doesn't budge an inch. Those grey eyes focus on her with a relentless cold, never leaving her face despite each distracting movement that she makes. He can smell the alcohol on her breath, and it seems to only further fuel the wildfire spreading throughout the Weyrsecond's body, until that scowl has transformed itself into a sneer. "You did more than fuck up, Rou'x. You got a man killed." Teimyrth shifts then, a low, rumbling growl emitting from the beast before he moves away from his rider. "Now let's try this again, and try to answer with a little bit more common fucking sense. /Speak/."

"/I fucked up/." It's spoken with more conviction this time, and Rou'x's brow furrows as she shakes her head at Ila'den. It's not often she's quite as lost for words as she is now, and her head continues to shake as she drops her gaze to the sand-dusted toes of her boots, raising her hand to her forehead to brush back the sweat-dampened stray strands of her hair. She breathes in, out, slowly, then sniffs and shakes her head some more as she looks back up to the Weyrsecond. "It was a stupid—" She cuts herself off, running the back of her hand under her nose as she sniffs. "I needed more time to plan it, or better intel, or /something/, Ila!" Her hand dips down to her pocket, pulling out a small flask which she struggles to uncork with her trembling hands.

Ila'den watches, silent as death, right up until Rou'x is struggling with that flask. The man is moving only then, too large, and too fast, as he catches her by the crook of one elbow and fingers tear the flask away from her grip. "What you needed, rider," the bronzerider seethes, "was your head." And those hands are leaving Rou'x's person and tearing at the stopper of her drink, prying it open so that he can bring it just under his nose to smell. "And what is this?" he asks softly, each syllable laced with a sickeningly sweet venom. "Is this what made you lose it, Rou'x?"

Rou'x's frown deepens when the drink's torn away from her, her shoulders stiffening and fingers clenching by her sides. "Give it back." While not quite as venomous as the bronzerider's tone, hers is still barbed; she licks her lip in her rising ire, breathing more heavily through her nose. "It was /fucked up/. You can't have expected us to sweep in there n' flame our way through it all! Fuck's /sake/, it was almost like they fuckin' well /knew/ we were comin' - someone told them." She raises her hand, waggling her finger at Ila'den. "Some /fucker/ told them, an' that's why we lost—" A quivering breath catches in her throat, cutting her off. She takes a second to compose herself, as best she can. "I need a drink for Faranth's sake, just give me the damned flask back!"

Rou'x's first demand is ignored- not that Ila'den has to put much effort into pretending he never heard the request in the first place. The brownrider is spitting fire, and it's not until she makes the demand a second time that Ila'den slowly, finally, inexplicably smiles. This smile, however, is not the usual smile he wears. There is nothing warming, or humorous, or even remotely friendly about the way his lips curl up so mockingly. "Okay," he says softly, and the hand holding her flask rises just a bit higher, well beyond her reach as his other hand comes out between them, palm up. "I'll trade you. You give me that knot, and I'll give you back your flask. I don't have a need for a Wingleader who only knows how to make up excuses, Rou'x, nor do I have the time to waste on it."

The proposed trade has Rou'x's jaw dropping; her lips part and she stares up at the Weyrsecond with shock in her honey-coloured eyes. Her expression hardens gradually, brow furrowing and eyes snapping with fire as she reaches out to wallop Ila'den's hand from between them, before pushing at his chest and crying, "You cain't /do/ that!" The more upset she is, the thicker that 'Reachian brogue becomes - more like how it was when Ila'den first found her on Ista's beaches. On the beach behind them, Indianath rumbles in concern, half-spreading his wings before bellowing across the sand. "It weren't my fuckin' /fault/! It were your fuckin' fault for lettin' the bastards swipe your fuckin' sister in the first place - don't you go blamin' /me/ cos I cain't get her /back/."

Ila'den doesn't react to the way that Rou'x wallops his hand, nor does he react when she's pushing his arm into his chest. He doesn't resist, or restrain, merely allows her to express her every frustration with physical and emotional demonstrations. It's not until she says those /words/ that something within the bronzerider snaps, and the fury is there only a moment in his eyes before even the cruelty in his face washes away into nothing. The only insight that Rou'x will further get to the Weyrsecond's anger is the way that Teimyrth suddenly rears up, screaming across the sand before he takes to pacing back and forth, back and forth, one whirling red eye focused on Rou'x. "We didn't give you this position so that you could mock our judgment, rider, and I wasn't asking you. I was /telling/ you. The knot. /Now/." Each word comes out more harsh than the last, until the final is a scathing growl.

"I ain't mocking /shit/!" Rou'x's hand goes to the knot on her shoulder, fingers clutching with protective possessiveness around it. "It's mine! Mine fair n' square, given t'me by Zi'on n' I damed well /deserve/ it!" She steps back, stumbling a little when her bootheel catches in the sand and her whirling head can't quite get her balance right - her arms windmill, and she catches herself before she can fall. Indianath retorts to Teimyrth's pacing by rearing up himself, appearing bigger by stretching his wings as he roars back at the bronze, nostrils flared and eyes whirling crimson. Rou'x shakes her head with a new hint of near desperation at the Weyrsecond, holding up her hand between them, still clutching at her shoulder with the other. Her eyes become redder, the colour emphasised by tears that are beginning to well up in them. "You cain't," she says, voice cracking with the intensity of her emotions, "you /cain't/. It's all I've got left - you cain't take it from me, Ila, they /need/ me!"

And when Rou'x goes and nearly takes a tumble in the midst of her fervent disobedience, Ila'den is there again, too quick, to catch at her shoulders before she can actually fall- not that it would have mattered, as she would clearly have caught herself. He does not, however, relinquish his hold on her. Instead he jerks her in closer to his body as he leans down until they're nearly face-to-face, flask pressing hard into the flesh of her upper arm. "I can, Rou'x, and I am. I will not have more riders lost to your incompetence, nor will I subject them to your blatant disregard for their safety." Only now is the Weyrsecond straightening himself, though he's not so much of a child that he'll dive for her knot and take it by force. Instead, as his hands come away from her and drop to his sides, those grey eyes fix on the hand she's trying so desperately to protect her possession with. "It's too late to think about whether or not they need you, Rou'x. You gave them up with the decision that you made, and forfeited your knot as well. You've made enough mistakes tonight, and I am asking you not to make another. Give me your knot, rider, and go home."

Rou'x stares up at Ila'den when he's so close, trembling with anger in his grasp but not fighting it. Her bottom lip quivers, not with the tears that burn her eyes and threaten to fall, but with the pure level of emotion running rampant through her. When he lets go of her she rubs at her arm where the flask was pressed into it, her lips drawn in a thin, tight line as she shakes her head at him once more. "No. /No/. You /cain't/, Ila, it wasn't my fault, none of this was /my/ fault." Still shaking her head adamantly enough that her thick braid swings heavily against her back, she turns and begins half-marching, half-stumbling back to her lifemate, who drops heavily down onto all fours and crouches low, readying himself for her to climb up once she reaches him.

And Ila'den watches her /go/. In fact, he almost lets Rou'x get up and onto her dragon, but then he's crossing the distance as Teimyrth gives out another furious bellow, wings coming open, throwing sand everywhere as he snaps them down and snarls. Ila'den's hand comes around the brownrider's elbow, and he's jerking her back towards him, turning her halfway through the motion so that she's forced to face him and slam into the solid wall of his chest. Fingers twist around her knot, and he's giving a jerk that pulls the cord free and snaps the damn thing right off. "That's where you're /wrong/, Rou'x, and that's why you're no longer worthy of this knot. Your wing's failure is /your/ failure, and I have no room for a Wingleader who cannot fully accept the breadth of their responsibility." And just like that he's letting her go, taking a step away from her and her dragon as Teimyrth looms closer, preparing to collect his rider and depart. "You will report to the Weyrleader's office tomorrow morning, Rou'x, and we /will/ discuss the full scale of your punishment then. But for now, you are grounded, and I expect you to be sober the next time you show your face. Now get out of my sight."

When she's grabbed and finds herself pinned, Rou'x lashes out with her hands to smack at Ila'den's chest, writhing and squirming in an attempt to make it difficult for him to take that which she's protecting - only it doesn't work, and she wails with a primal sort of emotion when she's let go of. "You cain't take it from me," she chokes, hiccuping as she tries to hold back her sobbing. Behind her, her lifemate extends a protective foreleg towards her, his eyes now whirling with concerned yellow and white, tinged with red. "/Please/, Ila." Rou looks all set to charge after him as she pleads, held back only by her lifemate's paw as it curls around her. She thumps her fists off his dark toes, the sound of her sobbing growing as she loses control. "/Please!/ You can't!" The pair make no sign of moving, save for Indianath's eyes whirling in the night's light, his wings hunched forward as he reaches his head forward to alternate between watching Rou'x, and watching Ila'den and Teimyrth.

Ila'den doesn't even so much as flinch at the pummeling he takes, and Rou'x's attempts to protect her knot do fail so spectacularly. Even when the woman starts to wail and sob, even when Indy is reaching to protect her, there's not a flicker of pity or remorse in the bronzerider's eyes. He's seen too many things in his life to crumble so readily for one silly girl, and her words from before have planted a very ugly seed. "It's done. Sleep on it, Rou'x," is all that he offers, and Teimyrth is there, rumbling another low growl as his lifemate climbs to seat himself. Only from the top of his dragon does that useless flask find its way to the beachy floor, and there's dust being kicked up in every which direction as the massive bronze flaps his wings to gain air, emitting one last furious screech before he takes off in a low dive far and away from Rou'x. Towards home, perhaps? Or very far from it.

As for Rou'x? She doesn't move. Indianath curls around her, folding his wing over where he holds her delicately in his paw. They don't look like they're going anywhere soon; whether they make it home to the Weyr, or indeed to the meeting ordered for the morning, remains to be seen.

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