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Cracks

Location: North Weyr
Time: Afternoon on Day 4, Month 2, Turn 4
Players: Penny and Roa
Scene: Penny goes to visit Roa, but things that happen before she visited Roa make that visit an unhappy one.



Late afternoon brings a momentary reprieve from the bleak grey of a High Reaches midwinter, with thin sunlight streaming down over the edge of the bowl, lighting the snow as the wind tosses about the top layers. Penny is just another figure among many, trudging through the snow, though she becomes a bit more recognizable as she veers off the path made by so many marching feet, in order to head towards the Weyrwoman's ledge. For a moment she's silhouetted in the sun as she climbs the steps, and then she steps higher and tilts her head in an attempt to peer past the heavy curtains shielding the place from the cold. "Uh." She stops, clears her throat. "Roa?" Winter's never very kind to Penny, and she looks particularly tired -- though, of course, the cold makes everyone look a bit peaky.

The first thing to greet Penny with a observant and quizzical eye is the pale and lounging gold that's settled on the snowy ledge, watching the bowl below. She was watching the bowl, rather, until she started watching Penny. As the curtain is nudged open, Roa is there to meet her. "Hey," she smiles. If the weyrwoman looks a bit tired herself, she has a one-month-old excuse. "Come on in. Just...quietly," she whispers stepping back. "Sleeping." And, indeed, there is a small and black-haired little shape settled in the crib near the bed, swathed in the brightly colored blankets that Kelar sent as a gift to mark the 'little imp's' arrival.

"Hey." Roa's appearance, there to greet her, draws a smile. But then, automatically, perhaps operating a little bit on autopilot, Penny lowers her voice and repeats. "Oh. Hey." She spares a quick glance for the gold, edging around the curtain into the weyr. "You look good," she murmurs to the weyrwoman. Yeah, all things considered. Unspoken, the fact that their visits over tea grew less and less frequent as Roa grew more and more visibly pregnant, but apparently, Penny's ready now to jump back in. "It's so cold today," she murmurs, shutting her eyes a moment. "I thought we... we could have..." But the meaning behind Roa's request for quiet has sunk in, and her eyes have made it round the room to that cradle, and Penny loses track of herself.

For the looking good, Roa just rolls her eyes. "I look like I got stepped on," she replies with another small smile. "It's nice to see you. I..." But by then, the weyrwoman seems to have noticed that her guest is a bit distracted. She bites her bottom lip lightly and then ventures a careful, "...Are you all right?"

Penny hasn't even gotten far enough in to take her coat off, the ends of her scarf trailing just a little, as she stares. It's a few moments before she swallows, and says shortly, "Yeah." She blinks, swallows again in an attempt to rid her voice of the little rattle that marred that first attempt. "Yeah, I'm fine." The last doesn't make it out as a word, as her traitorous voice catches again, and she turns her head away with an effort. Instead she looks at Roa -- which, in the end turns out to be a bad idea. Facing the little weyrwoman, seeing her biting her lip, concerned, Penny's face twitches, and she presses her lips together tightly, the effort of keeping calm causing them to tremble. She's never all that proficient at hiding things even in the best of situations; now, only someone blind and deaf would be unable to sense what's behind the way her expression crumples, just a little.

"Oh shells," Roa murmurs, the worry in her features increasing as Penny begins to crumple. "Come in, sit down. Let me get you something hot to drink. Is it just...is he..." She reaches for Penny's hand, to take it and guide the other woman over to the couch, her other hand moving to nudge off Penny's scarf.

Penny manages to shake her head, denying either Roa's sympathy or the request to sit down, but that's as far as she gets before she suddenly lets out a rather heartbreaking sound, half a sob as she lifts her hand to her face as she bows her head, trailing along behind Roa as she takes her hand. Silence, while she hides her face, until she manages to get some air into her lungs with a shuddering gasp.

"Penny..." Roa glances around the room as if backup might suddenly appear. "What's happened? What's the matter?" The scarf is pulled away and set on the corner of the couch. The weyrwoman seats herself near it and tugs lightly on Penny's hand to suggest she do the same.

Penny is quite biddable at the moment, knees buckling to let her drop down onto the edge of the couch as soon as that tug on her hand comes. "We were--" The words are muffled, nearly unintelligible from the combined effects of her tears and her hands, both of which now cover her face as if she somehow thought she could hide the fact that she was crying. "Someone almost-- and he-- he said-- I--" She gives up, unable to recount even part of the previous day's disaster, and crumples further, shaking. "Oh, Roa. I'm not happy," she wails. "I say I am but I'm not, I should be but I'm-- I'm not-- I can't--" She's all coherency. From normal, smiling conversation to shuddering gasps for breath in less than five minutes -- this, alone, should say more about her current state of mind than any sobbed confession. But as if admitting this cost something, she just curls in on herself, crying harder. No hysterics this time, not like the last time Roa saw a meltdown from her; she just wraps her arms around her ribs as if recoiling from a physical blow, and sobs.

"Someone almost..." Roa's brows dip together as she struggles to make sense of Penny's words despite the fact that, even strung all together, they don't offer enough information. "Did somebody hurt you? Are you...?" No. She isn't. The weyrwoman settles a hand on the smith's back and falls quiet. She leaves talking alone for a moment and just lets Penny cry, her fingers offering slow circles up and down the other woman's spine.

"No," Penny manages, something like a laugh mixed in with the tears that only leads to crying harder. "No one hurt me, that'd be a good reason to cr--" But she can't get the word out and just buries her face in her hands again. "I have to watch her, you know," she groans into her hands, shuddering under her friend's hand. "All the time, sneaking back in, middle of the night." Her fingers curl against her head, rake into her hair, white-knuckled. "I want to-- I want to -kill- her." More crying. She's well on the way to making herself ill, in the way a small child might with a temper tantrum, though she seems genuinely incapable of stemming the flood.

"You..." Roa shakes her head as her thoughts scramble to catch up. There's more nibbling of her lip and a quick look towards where Jashin sleeps to make sure he keeps on doing that. And then...snap. Penny's words fall into the right places and Roa's eyes widen. "Oh. Oh no. Oh, Penny."

For someone who was all too aware of the infant's presence moments before, Penny's certainly not now. "And she's allowed," she goes on, fingers curling in her hair, no doubt tangling it. "She's-- -I'm- the other woman. I'm the--" A pause here, as she chokes something back, coughs, loses the ability to speak for a moment. "And even he-- even he--" Her voice climbs a little, growing quieter and thinner and higher as she tries to force the words out. "Even he says that I'm--" her voice is lost again, then, as she concentrates on making the breath continue in and out.

She shakes her head, "I don't think there's anybody in the world that thinks more highly of you than he does," Roa murmurs. "I can see that every time I get glimpses of you together. Things aren't...I know they're not...I know it's a mess. I don't know what I can say to make it not a mess, but whatever he did, he didn't mean to hurt you. I don't think he could ever do that intentionally."

"Course he wouldn't." It's a glimpse of some sort of light at the end of the tunnel, a bit of a hiccup marking a slowdown in the tears. "He wouldn't. That's the problem. He thinks I ought to-- ought to be somewhere away, behind glass, to look at but not to touch--" Penny draws in a shuddering breath. "He-- doesn't-- he doesn't want to ruin me anymore, he says he doesn't want me--" But she can't quite finish that sentence, lifting her head enough to peer at Roa with red-rimmed eyes, her face splotchy despite her dark complexion. "But he can't-- he can't take it back, he can't just stop now that I-- I'm not his doll to be put aside, I'm not-- I'm not his--" Her mouth shapes a word, an unkind word, the word she's danced around this whole time. But while she's staring so earnestly at Roa, her face crumples again, and she wails, "Why does Bailie have to be so pretty?" Maybe it's not really what she intended to say, but it sets her off again, as bad as before.

She listens, leaning forward and watching Penny intently, though the wail causes a visible wince. "Shh..." then another at the request. "This is such a mess. Why won't he just..." but if there are words Penny won't say, there are also some words Roa won't say either. "I'm sorry," she offers quietly instead. "She's not his type."

"It doesn't matter if she's his type!" Penny snaps, not at Roa but at the room at large, quiet but intense. And then the tension leaves in a flood, and Penny sags and turns into the smaller woman, seeking comfort. "What--What am I going to do? What I am I..." The second repetition is muffled as she ducks her head. And then, "Roa, what am I going to do?" Given that her only suggestion for herself thus far has been murder, it's a safe bet that she's genuinely lost.

The weyrwoman's arms come up and around the other girl as she curls forward, her eyes closing. "You're going to take a few deep breaths and maybe have a stuff drink, first thing," she murmurs. "And then you're going to tell me what happened so that I can understand. And then we'll figure it out together, okay?"

A muffled sound, something with amusement in it, something that is almost a laugh. "You've got alcohol again," she mutters, nonsensically. Her face threatens more tears as she pulls back again, no doubt as the last moments of her confrontation with Sefton come flooding back, her competition with his collection of alcoholic beverages. But she nods, and tries a deeper breath. It results in a brief spate of coughing, at which Penny grabs up her discarded scarf to press to her mouth and muffle the sound. No desire to add a second wailing person to the mix, after all.

"Easy," Roa murmurs, inching forward and into a stand. "Ashwin has some. Comes in handy now and again." She walks over to a row of shelves, pushing up onto her toes to get the bottle from a higher one. She splashes a bit of something amber into a glass and sets the bottle down again. "It's strong," she warns as she returns to hand it over.

Penny ignores Roa's kindly warning, taking the glass and knocking it back in a smooth movement, lifting the hand with the now-empty glass to her lips as she swallows. "Thank you. I just--" But then the burn of the liquor hits her, and she's robbed of words, giving a wheezing sort of cough. She holds the glass back out wordlessly, not looking up for a while as she recovers herself. When she does lift her eyes and speak, her voice is still unsteady. "I didn't come here for this, Roa." It's an apology, of sorts.

The weyrwoman curls her hand around the now-empty glass as she nods and sinks down onto the couch again. "I know," she agrees gently, "but I'm glad you're here anyhow. Tell me what happened."

Penny takes a slow breath, obviously trying to steady herself around the false warmth of a shot of liquor in her belly. She looks down at the scarf now balled in her lap. "We were... in his office." She hesitates, but does not elaborate, saying simply, "Someone -- a student -- almost walked in on us." She reaches for the scarf to curl her fingers into the weave of it, staring resolutely down. "We hadn't locked the door."

Roa moves from watching the scarf to watching her own hands. her brows twitch upwards a little bit, but she only nods. "Then what?"

"The guy had no idea, he just-- got a book and left." Penny moves back on the couch, away from the edge, so she can draw her legs up. A brief glance for Roa, and then back to her own lap. "He says I make him reckless, and I do. I should be trying to keep him from risking Fort, but-- but I don't care when I'm with him, it's so hard to care about anything else." For a moment her voice wobbles, but she doesn't fall into tears again, taking another slow breath. "We were both-- frustrated. But what he said were things he'd been trying to say from the start, and I wouldn't listen. He-- he says I have no restraint, and I don't, and so it's for him to keep us from falling into this, I make it so that it has to be his decision, and he's tired of failing that, and I--" She swallows, now staring at some point beyond the rugs beneath their feet. "I think-- I think we're not-- I think our--" She can't quite summon the words, though, looking rather transfixed -- for all her wailing, it seems she hadn't quite thought through everything that was said, until its logical finish as the end of their affair.

There is a long stretch of quiet then as Roa says nothing and Penny stares at nothing, the silence only punctuated by occasional shush-shushing noises of the gold dragon on the ledge shifting her weight and the faint stuttery snuffling of an infant dreaming. And then, quietly, "May I ask you something?"

Penny closes her eyes just briefly, banishing whatever memory or vision had been in front of her unfocused gaze. "Go ahead," she replies, taking Roa's cue and speaking quietly as well. "Ask."

"How would you have it?" comes the weyrwoman's question. "If there was nothing else to consider but your own happiness?"

Penny listens, and her only immediate reaction is a little exhalation of breath, a quirk of the corner of her mouth that is almost a gesture of weary laughter, but it's not really a merry sort of expression. She turns her head enough that she can look at Roa out of the corner of her eye, watching for a moment, and then swallows, head nodding just slightly. She looks away again, nodding again, not trusting words. Eventually, she allows herself a whisper, perhaps to avoid disturbing the baby, but more likely, not wanting to risk saying the words loudly enough that they become real. "I'd marry him," is the answer. And then there's a moment where she stares fixedly through the floor again; she's likely never even said those words to herself before. There's something of shock in her expression.

There is just the smallest of nods again as Roa studies her hands. "Does he know that?"

A slight shake of Penny's head, as if she's just a little bit too drained after everything to do much more. "No." There must be something fascinating on the floor -- her eyelashes don't even blink.

There's another small nod from Roa. "Okay," she says quietly before straightening and leaning back to close her eyes. "Do you want to go home for a couple days, or would that make you feel worse?"

Penny shuts her eyes too, giving a brisk shake of her head, perhaps not realizing Roa can't see her. "I can't go there without him," she says, evening her voice out with an effort. "Everywhere I go, I look over my shoulder and he's not there." Another shake of her head as her eyes open again. "Can't go there without him." She takes a long, slow breath in, and lets it out only after several counts of silence. "I'll be okay," she says, now glancing up at the roof of the chamber. "It's only because this happened yesterday."

"You sound like me," the weyrwoman chides gently, "which isn't really a good thing. I think you need to give yourself a little time to make sure everything's straight in your head. Likely, he could do with the same. Then you should talk. Honestly."

That brings a bit of a smile, and Penny glances at Roa again. "You wouldn't be sitting on my couch, sobbing because a boy decided he didn't want you anymore." Her voice is a little dry, reducing her situation to something small and easy with a few words. She lifts a hand to wipe at her face, the lines of moisture still there after her flood. "Nothing is straight in my head, with him." Her hand drops again and curls around the scarf in her lap. "I ought to go. It's amazing your-- son didn't wake up already."

"You're right. I don't sob. I just shatter." Roa shakes her head. "Maybe the only thing straight in your head is him," she offers softly, though at the mention of her son one brow quirks. She glances over towards the cradle and then back towards Penny. Jay isn't so much sleeping, anymore, as watching, wide-eyed and quiet.

There's a flicker in Penny's expression there, at the mention of shattering, and her gaze drops a little. "Maybe." Though precisely which part of Roa's words she's replying to, it's hard to say. When the weyrwoman turns, Penny follows her gaze until her eyes find the baby as he continues watching. She's silent a moment, and then murmurs, distractedly, "Everybody always says, 'Oh, he looks like you...'" She gives a quirk of a smile at the cliché. "But him... I know that look." Her gaze shifts back to Roa, wry for a moment, acknowledgment of something shared. Silence for a few seconds, and then, "Thank you. You shouldn't have--" She stops herself. "Thank you." She gets to her feet, runs a hand through her hair, lifts her hand to wind her scarf around her neck again.

Roa's small smile deepens as Penny talks, and she rises to a stand. "You should know by now just how much stock I put into should and shouldn't. I'm glad you came by. I hope you will again." She walks with Penny to the curtain, to see her out, waiting until the smith heads off before moving over to the cradle to blink down at Jay, who blinks right back. "What's he waiting for, do you think?" But Jashin only kicks out his legs and yawns.

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