It Was Always You

Day 6 of Month 5 of Turn 2715
Half Moon Bay Weyr - Tiki Lounge
As one walks onto the wood panelled flooring of the patio, they are greeted with the scent of burning oil, the likely source the various torches burning along the perimeter of the flooring. The flooring is littered with tables shaded with umbrellas, matching chairs tucked beneath when not in use.
The inside of the Tiki Lounge seems far bigger inside than outside, even when full of relaxing weyrfolk and travelers. Towards the front, in the western corner, is a small stage, generally occupied by harpers. Several tables with chairs decorate the floor and a small area is open for dancing. The bar is rather long and well stocked, glasses of different shapes and sizes hanging suspended from a rack above the bar. Behind the bar is another open window that gives one a view of the forest behind the tavern. Turning around, one is greeted by a lovely view of the lagoon. A decent breeze helps to cool the room. Up above, rafters provide a perch for fire lizards and local avians. The thatch roof, made of straw, rarely lets in any rain.

A pervasively-warm, yet unseasonably-dry evening finds R'hyn not in the offices, not in his weyr, but instead perched upon a barstool near the entrance to the Tiki Lounge. He's been out of the active tending business for more turns than he was ever in it, but it still feels alien to frequent this side of the bar, a notion he expresses to the Tiki's current 'keep with a wry, twisted smile and a flex of his fingers around a dewy glass. A shrug relaxes him out of the gesture, body settling like hands in a half-curl, half-sprawl, one leg tucked high on the crossbar of his stool, the other spread wide to claim the same bar on the seat next to him. It's almost as if he owns the place, though company habitually kept has him forgoing his knot for relative (read: polite) anonymity for now.

And then there's Ila'den, who is sans his knot because he is always sans his knot; who is walking through the doors with a presence as pervasive as the warmth outside — in possession of a gait that seems more stalking-prowl than honest walk and heralds the understanding that here stands a man you don't want to fuck with. He brings the chill of predatory patience on the heels of his own shadows, feral intelligence and acute awareness punctuated by the raptorial glint in his remaining grey eye and the way he moves: all rippling muscle coiled taut, deceptively light on his feet despite the size that says he should be more brawn than athletic agility, and that dismissive air of a wolf as he stalks, unconcerned, through a sea of lambs awaiting death. The once-renegade, now dragonrider emanates the kind of confidence born to killers, forcing prey to withdraw on instinct, giving the man they once called 'Weyrleader' a wide berth if only because self-preservation commands they must without any real knowledge of why. And he doesn't stop. Ila'den navigates the spattering of patrons and furniture alike, wrapped in leathers that speak to a life immersed in civilization even if the rest of him screams outsider, and miscreant, and malefactor, and villain. It's a roguish complement to the man they call Weyrleader now, who occupies a stool at the bar and saturates the air with as much command as Ila'den does, demanding attention — earning it in a flash of wolfish grins that show too much teeth and threaten with the very real possibility of violence. And the bronzerider moves, to settle beside this man he's seen in passing as the bartender freezes and waits with bated breath to receive an order that comes on a husky growl of breath: "Whiskey." And he's released from his thrall. But Ila'den doesn't greet R'hyn despite the brush of shoulders as he leans forward against the bar; he doesn't say hello despite the fact that it would be polite to heed the presence of the man who holds the entirety of your livelihood in his hands. Ila'den says nothing as fingers riddled with calluses taptaptap against the top of the bar, and he waits.

The word you're looking for is 'magnetism'; it is the feeling that pervades the lounge in Ila's wake, his presence, his berth, that bids these heathens flee before their wrathful god. Those with sense enough to comprehend the intricacies of the dragonrider's presence develop sudden excuse to remove themselves from it, true lambs scenting danger in the air and responding with the single-mind herd mentality: There is the source of trouble. Do not tempt it. Alas, that R'hyn has never possessed what one might call 'good sense' where this man is involved, and despite interactions that by now must number in the tens if not hundreds of thousands, it would seem this is no exception - awareness six turns honed bid thundercloud eyes to rise, instincts reading the vibration of the crowd's mood, following the shock of nervous attention to its epicenter. Said eyes flicker with muted heat, distinct enjoyment, glittering with amusement before going cool because he sees you villain. He sees you with your fucking villain moustache, coming in with all the subtlety of a storm front, dragging along with him all the warm, tender familiarity of an icy rain. Very well. Two can play that game. Blue-greys shift to settle on the bartender instead, watching the effect the former renegade has on the man, edges of his lips pulling back in brittle little quirks that are not quite kind, raising the fingers of one hand to catch and keep his attention as he says, "Make it two." Despite words, R'hyn does not look likely to surrender his beverage. He seals it back between his hands, big body shifting but giving no ground, booted foot twisting on the rung of Ila'den's barstool, the shoulder brushing sleeve withdrawn but the sensation not quite abandoned - the present Weyrleader regards the former with a look that's nigh on physical, the slow, detatched trace of eyes marking a person they're noticing for the first time, and liking what they see. It's as heavy and indolent as his posture, all the hallmarks that label Ila'den as 'wolf' reading something felinic in R'hyn, easy confidence edged with the dangerous knowledge that he could rend that livelihood to shreds for the perceived insult if he wanted, but perhaps today he is feeling benevolent as he offers the olive branch first in the form of a low greeting. "Hello, handsome. Come here often?" Classic.

Some might say magnetism, others might deem the man those three infamous 'R's: reviled, repugnant, repulsive. Those someones might even go so far as to whisper in the ears of anybody intelligent enough to listen, breathing life into forgotten terran-myth, adopting rumors that Ila'den is a creation born of mythological nightmares; the recusant progeny of Nyx and Erebus: Phobetor in the flesh, Epiales escaped from the underworld, walking the mortal planes wearing a monstrous mask meant to inspire fear among sheep of flesh and blood, commanding obsequiousness from the very prey he stalks through the fields. There's no less heat, no less desire, no less solicitous bidding in that grey eye that meets blue-grey with alacrity, that communicates something in a language the only two men of import in this bar can translate to have meaning, but it's an expression as brittle and as fleeting as those quirks pushing at the borders of unkindness when R'hyn commands the attention of their innocuous barkeep for his own whiskey. Ila'den watches, listens, attentive to inflection and tone, eerily cognizant of the man beside him even before R'hyn draws his attention back with low spoken words; even as too many teeth accompany the pull of his lips and laughter that manifests in the depths of his remaining eye when Ila'den deigns to speak. "You don't strike me as the type of man who orders a whiskey," Ila'den rasps, testing the boundaries of pugnaciousness as he rakes Half Moon Bay's weyrleader from booted feet up, up, up to where that eye snags on leather-clad hips and the evidence of muscle-bound thighs in fitted leathers; until that grey eye is on blue-grey once more, low-greetings carrying compliments finally acknowledged with another smile that any intelligent man desiring tomorrow should read as, 'Run'. It's issued in tandem with a growl, one that carries too many implications in its wake about authority, and leather, and just how much he'd like to strip R'hyn of them both. "No," comes heavily accented with the thickness of a burr. "Only when I find myself in dire need of classic lines like, 'Hello, handsome. Come here often?'" A pause, as that whiskey is delivered and Ila'den shifts just enough to study R'hyn, as if he too is seeing somebody for the first time and deciding that he likes what he sees. "Though I prefer to get straight to the point." Another beat, as Ila'den downs his drink and replaces that empty glass on the bar, signaling for another without looking away from R'hyn. "So are you going to bore me with more lines, stranger, or are we going to skip all the niceties and fuck?"

Were this another time, another place, another sham, one might well craft poetic prose contending quite the opposite. Is Ila'den truly Oneiroi made flesh, animalistic nightmare given form in an attempt to understand the source of nighttime terror? One might just argue he is the living embodiment of the Erotes instead: Himeros, perhaps, feverish desire evidenced in a crackle of awareness that burns hot just below the skin, or worse, Anteros, love long requited threading the edges of R'hyn's gaze with careful, measured intimacy. One might trade those 'R's for ones more suitable to their perception of all Ila'den is: resilient, resplendent, revered. But alas. A predator the bronzerider wishes to appear, and as a predator he is thusly treated, a single brow notching high for rasped observations, lofty amusement ticking the corners of the weyrleader's eyes. "I never said it was for me," he replies in a low drawl, allowing Ila'den's eyes to rake as they will, allowing him his rasp-voiced answer, allowing the first drink to be finished and another to be ordered even as long fingers press against the very edges of his whiskey glass, applying just enough force to push it into the former renegade's range. He endures with with easy grace, matching attentiveness, encouraging it with muscles that shift and smirks that tug and glances that spike with lust, one eye flicking shut in a wink that asks if Ila'den likes what he sees even as the man answers without needing to say a word. It's the implication that they should skip niceties and fuck that threatens to break the facade, breath leaving him in a severed huff of a laugh, a wide, charmed smile that reads much less panther and much more R'hyn flashing across his features before his head can duck towards his chest, amusement quaking just once through his form as he schools his features behind a curtained swoop of hair. Three, two, one… "That's a dangerous game you're playing, dragonrider," is issued on a dulcet purr, blue-grey eyes gone dark as they raise over a slow, crooked smirk laced with promises. "You look more like the sort of man I'd punch in the face than one I'd let into my bed." Where he might normally soften the edge of harsh words with physical demonstration to the contrary, tracing the angles and planes of Ila'den's face with fingertips or the backs of knuckles, this R'hyn merely looks, gaze weighty as it slides a none-too-subtle line from jaw to collar to the apex of thighs, something not quite familiar enough to be possessive, but not quite distant enough to be lecherous in his gaze. "So I suppose that depends." Thundercloud eyes snap up to meet Ila's one, the foot tucked beneath him dropping to let him stand. Six and a quarter feet of leather-clad dragonrider leans into Ila'den's personal space, glass abandoned that hands might be used for balance, one dropping heavy to the bar on the far side of the older man's hands, the other taking possession of the back of his stool, pressing his presence into every inch of Ila's awareness, daring him to follow up on the implications encapsulated within that growl. "How dire is 'dire'," is murmured fractions of an inch from Ila'den's lips, R'hyn's mouth shifting from sultry delivery to something hard and feral, twitching up to bare canines with each mirth-ridden word, "and will it be your weyr or mine?"

But it’s not another time, nor another place, nor another sham; it’s now, the reality where-in two men who share a bed every night play at being strangers merely to pursue a game of dare that tests just how far one might follow the other. It’s a tradition to mark the beginning of their becoming a them — their anniversary, if you would; a kind of commemoratory event whimsically devised to celebrate a time long past, when a bronzerider challenged a candidate to a game of chicken that neither would back down from. Most couples have a romantic dinner and exchange presents. Ila’den reminds R’hyn that he’s Ila’den’s and Ila’den is R’hyn’s, and games like this are how this disastrous affair between them came to be. So those fingers Ila’den has committed to memory doing a thousand different things (pushing through his hair, stirring mugs of Klah, crafting teas and constructing letters to Lords and Ladies that didn’t want to take no for an answer) do garner Ila’den’s attention, if only so he can memorize how they look now, pushing whiskey across the bar in offering, so at odds with that day they sat at a table with a little girl between them. But that eye is back on grey-blue, watching R’hyn wink and understanding every single letter that reads between the lines because his weyrmate is too damn charming for his own good, and Ila’den is fluent in Herynese. Does he like what he sees? Does the sun always rise in the East and set in the West? Ila’den’s eye doesn’t answer, but it lingers – too long – pointedly studious of the one man he shares laughter, and nightmares, and late nights singing and reading with if only to keep the demons that lurk between them at bay. R’hyn’s facade crumbles enough for a hint of the man he loves to show underneath, and Ila’den’s predatory mask falls with it, eyes accusing for the CLEAR SABOTAGE OF THIS GAME as half-cocked grins pull at Ila’s lips and reveal a hint of boyishness; a hint that he utilizes and allows to diminish with each syllable spoken as he breathes out, “I walk on the wildside, sir. I laugh in the face of danger. Ha. Ha. Ha.” Each ‘ha’ brings Ila a little closer to his weyrmate, heedless of the familiar weight delivered by grey-blue eyes on his body, anticipating the fever rising somewhere beneath his skin, growing with each illicit second that sits, undisturbed, between them. “Why not both?” Ila’den inquires, showing teeth, baring them in a smile that makes more of those promises the aging bronzerider fully intends to keep. Then the game is resumed, and it’s Ila’den’s turn to drag his eyes up the length of his weyrmate’s body when R’hyn moves to stand, the journey slow, denoting muscle, and lines, and planes that he knows too well before locking on the younger man’s gaze. R’hyn leans in, but not enough, and Ila’den remains passive to the distance. Eyes catch a feral glint, expression going from appreciative to predatory in a manner that’s disconnected from the gentle way the former renegade speaks. “Once,” Ila’den breathes into the distance separating his mouth from Heryn’s lips, “I thought you were sand between my fingers, a glimpse of what my life could have been if I’d been a better man, leaving me little by little, piece by piece. I didn’t want you to go, Heryn, but I knew you shouldn’t stay. I didn’t understand why fate was cruel enough to give you to me when she did, when I couldn’t have you.” Now Ila’den is drawing back, closing the distance with a touch, calloused fingers delineating the length of R’hyn’s jaw with gentle pressure, backwards so that Ila’den can cup the back of R’hyn’s head in his hands. “When I shouldn’t have had you. But whoever’s sense of humor it was, I am glad. I have never wanted anything – or anyone – as much as I want you, and now I have the rest of my life to give you what I can. I’m only sorry I didn’t meet you sooner.” Perhaps, then, they could have saved each other. But the charade is not up just yet. The tenderness is gone, and Ila’den’s head is turning away without putting any distance between himself and R’hyn, hands retreating so that one might fall to his side while the other aims for those abandoned glasses, downing one shot of whiskey and then the other. “Keep the change,” comes that low, husky growl as Ila’den stands into what little space R’hyn has left him, perhaps exaggerating the brush of contact between their bodies as Ila’den’ shifts to the left while dropping marks and rasps, “Mine.” And there he goes, weaving his way back through the crowd, never once turning to see if R’hyn is keeping pace as he makes his way back towards dragons that await them for the journey home.

It hardly bears reminding - Ila'den is imprinted upon R'hyn's soul in a manner most indelible - but it is a confirmation, affirmation, rite to repeat this song and dance, to explore and rediscover it in so many iterations to make obvious to themselves the same truth: no matter what time, in what situation, no matter where they might have first met eyes and exchanged their own peculiar brand of friendly hostility, there will always be this, will always be them. For one like R'hyn, who never supposed to belong to someone, who did not dare dream of ever claiming another as his for fear of bringing it to ruin, there is a sort of comfort in the reoccurence, a giddiness inherent in the knowledge that in a bar, weyr, world full of other people, this impossible man is focusing that impossible grin upon him with everything that entails. The thought almost breaks R'hyn again, the telltale rising tide of pleasure surging behind blue-grey eyes, but he keeps it on lock, clings to the fragile strings holding this all together, brows lowering, lips pressing thin, consideration in exaggeration as he ponders the suggestion of doing both. "Maybe later," he decides, words dripping heavy from his tongue, slow-growing smile dark, evocative of silk knots and sharp slaps delivered to stinging flesh. "Will you be laughing then?" Or will you be making me beg, eyes suggest in response to unspoken promises, a silvery shiver of awareness snaking down the weyrleader's spine for the slow, repeated perusal of his person. He leans in challenge, and receives reality in return, this concentrated dose of truth drawing violent sexuality from him like a poultice, leaving only a deep-seated ache, a heartbreaking smile in its wake. "Foolish man," R'hyn all but whispers into that aggressive lack of distance, his own hands lifting, seeking the sides of Ila'den's face, finally tracing cheekbones, jaw, the corners of eyes with soft, reverent brushes of his thumbs. "It was always you. It was your sense of humor, your laughter, and your kindness, and your honesty when I did absolutely nothing to deserve any of them. It occurs to me, sometimes, how different my life would be if any one thing might have gone awry, if you'd actually heeded my warnings, if I hadn't… been curious, and impetuous, and maybe just a little rude," he says on a quiet, breathy little laugh, hands shifting to cup one of Ila'den's in his, pulling it down to press a raised middle finger into the man's palm, closing fingers in around it. "It keeps me humble. It makes me grateful. Grateful for you. Grateful for our family. Just…" He finally runs out of words, sighs, but it's light, untempered by frustration, accompanied by a crooked tug of his mouth, hands shifting to trace the backs of knuckles with the pads of his thumb before lifting his gaze again. "You found me precisely when I needed you to. Any sooner and who knows who we'd be. Who knows if there'd be this." A gentle uncurling of hands to press Ila's palm to his chest, big body swaying into it with enough pressure to put them right back into lethal proximity again, and though there's still play, still heat, his voice is gentle as he adds, "Thank you for sharing yourself with me. Thank you for showing me by example how to be the very best kind of man that there is." A smirk. A scrunching of lids. A sudden, sharp flicker of electricity through thundercloud eyes. "Now kindly answer the question, bronzerider." There's a spike of awareness that shoots through him for Ila'den's refusal to seek distance, a sharp sense of focus on drinks downed one after another, but Heryn does not speak again. He watches instead, intense with interest, smile muted but no less predatory in response to the indication of weyr. Ila'den might lead the way but by the rules of his own celebration, he will not make it far, nor fast, each and every space even vaguely resembling a nook occupied and explored with wicked intent, the bronzerider no sooner released than captured again. Alas, that there will be only one dragon to meet them, in the end - this is, after all, a charade, and loudmouthed dragons will not be denied their desire to broadcast deeds to the weyr. They are, summarily, dismissed into the wilds with the intent of providing a long, thorough distraction for what promises to be a long, thorough night.

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