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Nightwatch Weyr > Weyrfolk Quarters > A good idea at the time

Posted by: Tawny May 10 2012, 01:57 PM
((Set a couple of months after the death of Bersk))

It had seemed like a good idea at the time, the night at the Drunken Dragon. Drown sorrows that were still all too sharp, raw, and immediate. Spend time with Aleck. Forget, or try to forget. It hadn't worked, in fact if anything he'd thought about her more than usual; trying not to think about things always made you think about them even more. At least he hadn't cried, at least not until he had got back into his quarters - alone - and her absence had stabbed him all over again.

Waking up had been torture, a pounding head and churning stomach. How much had he drunk in the end? He remembered what had happened - more or less - but not that detail. Once he'd been sick a few times he felt slightly better, as in something at least approaching human, and managed to get washed and dressed without incident. After some thought however he decided against shaving; his hands were a little shaky and he didn't fancy slicing his face open on top of everything else.

He thought about trying to get down to some work then, and even attempted it, but trying to focus on paperwork made him feel sick again and so he gave up. He ought to make sure Aleck was still alive anyway, he was pretty sure the boy - young man even - had been about as drunk as he had been by the end of the night. Avoiding the gazes of his fellow handlers in the corridors, Bereck set out slowly towards Aleck's quarters.

About half way there he sped up considerably, having been passed some information by one of Aleck's fellow techcrafters. When he reached the right room he felt just about as bad as he had when he'd awoken again, but he had nothing left to be sick with so he just lent against the wall for a few moments before straightening up and hammering on the door. "Aleck, open that damn door this instant!" If his son hadn't died of acute alcohol poisoning he was going to kill him.

Posted by: Tinn May 10 2012, 02:40 PM
His tongue had been stuck to the roof of his mouth when he woke up.

Last night had been a Bad Idea.

He didn't frequent the Dragon, though he occasioned it. He didn't make a habit of drinking to excess; one or two with the other crafters or his father when he manged to see him, enough to lubricate the flow of conversation. He certainly didn't fill and refill his tumbler, as if he'd find something at the bottom if he emptied it enough. But last night had been different, leaden and pressing, and few words had passed as the time moved on, unrolling forever leaving nothing behind..

It had seemed the best way.

Now there were bits and pieces of memory floating back, and still alive and well though not as urgent, that creeping feeling of unrest..

He'd rolled out of bed - a literal description - and lain there until he got up to be sick. Which.. made him feel better, in an extremely marginal way, but it was enough to wash and slump down in a chair, fumbling for a gear from his small table and knocking over his books in the process. He'd get those later.

For now he sat, feeling tiny teeth press into the pad of his thumb. Small and sharp, like the little ridges above her ey-


Someone groaned; it was him. After a moment of bright spots exploding behind his eyes it occurred to him the pounding at his temples was also at the door. Which he opened in a fumbling sort of fashion, blearily musing that once he answered whoever it was things would get a lot better or at least not hurt so much..


Maybe not then.

Aleck looked down at his visitor, a study in rumpled clothes, smudged glasses and a struggling focused look. They didn't look so good either.

"Hi Dad."

Posted by: Tawny May 10 2012, 02:51 PM
Aleck was indeed alive. He looked awful, and under any other circumstances Bereck would have instructed him to sit down somewhere comfortable and applied tea. Today though there were things to discuss. Lifting his chin slightly he subjected the blond to a glare of stern paternal disapproval, which somehow didn't quite fit with his own pallor and no doubt generally disheveled appearance.

Stepping past the taller man he stalked (ish) inside and turned to face the techcrafter. "Have you completely lost your mind, Aleck?" he demanded, pushing his fingers through his hair as his brow creased in a combination of anger and worry. How could he have done something so stupid, even if he had been drunk? Was there any way to back out of the commitment? He knew very little about the details of how dragonriders handled things like that, hadn't especially cared to ask. He wished he'd investigated now of course, but how could he have known Aleck would go off and do something like this?

Posted by: Tinn May 10 2012, 03:39 PM
That was a good question. He didn't feel anywhere near himself, it was true; his insides were a mess of unfamiliar feelings and a pulling sensation that urged him to go somewhere, do something. But it weakened his hands and destroyed his focus; he'd pulled out half a dozen unfinished projects and done none of them, pacing the length of the room until he left it, left the blueprints and parts in a disorganized heap. He was a disorganized heap, not so easily tidied as objects, and the feeling had fed on some unspoken source until it grew so large it forced out his calm.

"Maybe. Probably," he mumbled, pinching the bridge of his nose as he moved aside for his father, squinting his eyes shut. He thought a bit more. Had he really-?


There were more eloquent responses gathering inside him, but they would have to queue up until his train of thought was running.

Posted by: Tawny May 10 2012, 03:54 PM
So he really had done it.

This was a different kind of sick feeling, much worse than the nausea of the hangover. Aleck had signed up to be a Second, to fly into the Dusk with some rider and fight the Deep Ones. No guarantee of when he would be called upon, or of what rider would take him on any given raid. He could end up with a blighted madman who charged headlong into a pack of the monsters, or an inexperienced rider who got them killed in some kind of stupid blunder.

"Are you insane?" Bereck asked with shocked incredulity. "What on Pern possessed you to do it?"

Aleck fighting Deep Ones.

He looked at the blond again and saw a five year old with huge glasses and a huge excited grin clutching a book almost as big as he was. Aleck might not be a child anymore but he would always be his child, and the thought of his boy going somewhere dangerous where he couldn't follow to protect him made the healer feel cold and panicked. There had to be a way to get out of it, didn't there?

Posted by: Tinn May 10 2012, 04:57 PM
Another good question.

The blond's opened his mouth to deliver a rebuttal, but only got as far as an "I-" before his throat locked fast and the words piled up, tangled, too big, too close, too much.

After a long moment he looked down at his long-fingered hands, features tense, and closed his mouth again.

Posted by: Tawny May 10 2012, 05:11 PM

Nothing had been said, but he suddenly understood perfectly.

Bereck closed his eyes and raised a hand to his thumping head, his face tensing much as Aleck's had. The idiot.

His anger ebbed away, leaving behind fear and growing guilt. This was his fault. If he had only been a better healer so much would be different now. Maybe if he'd just been a better father he could have prevented this much at least. Maybe if he'd been able to talk about it, about her, then... then.... But he hadn't been able to, still couldn't. There was little point wishing all of that in any case; he wasn't a better anything, he was just an ordinary person failing to be quite enough for the extraordinary world they lived in. Maybe he was good at his job sometimes, a good parent sometimes but at other times he fell short of what the situation required and he couldn't stand it!

Sinking down into a chair Bereck took off his glasses and covered his face with his hands. "I'm sorry." He should have done more.

Posted by: Tinn May 11 2012, 12:52 PM
"S'not your fault," the man muttered reflexively and shut his eyes again; glows seemed to have escaped his vision to crawl over the back of his eyelids, but they were better than the rest of the room, which smarted.

The only chair taken he leaned his weight on the table, which creaked, so he slumped into a sit against the wall instead.

After a moment he looked up to see if Bereck had been listening.

"Dad. Really. You're not responsible for this."

Posted by: Tawny May 11 2012, 01:13 PM
It was his fault, and he was responsible. Maybe he couldn't have foreseen it, but it was. He should have saved her, or not put her in danger to begin with or... something. Looking at it logically maybe there wasn't a lot he could have done differently to save Bersk, but while he usually was logical, did think in terms of reason he just couldn't do it in this case. The guilt remained, and always would. She had died saving him. Her last thoughts had been that she hadn't done enough, and he had been so busy trying to keep her breathing that he hadn't been able to tell her that she had done enough, more than enough.

Even so, he should have prevented Aleck from volunteering to be a Second at least. He didn't know how he should have done that either, but that was more or less the point because if he had known he would have done it and so this wouldn't have happened and he wouldn't be thinking this right now. He wasn't sure he'd even followed his own train of thought there, but once again guilt and responsibility weighed heavily.

Eventually Bereck took in and let out a deep breath and lifted his head out of his hands, looking over at Aleck sitting on the floor with worry, regret, and guilt still etched deeply into his face. This was a mess. This wasn't what Aleck should be doing, he was far too valuable to throw into the dangerous role of a Second, plus the fact that he would be around dragons more and somebody might decide that he should go around touching eggs and getting Tapped and things. He didn't want Aleck to be a rider. After losing Bersk he didn't think he wanted him to be a handler either though, and so there was no escape route that way.

After a rather long silence he managed to say; "Are you planning to go through with it, now that you're sober? It's a volunteer position... might still be able to get you out of it."

Posted by: Tinn May 11 2012, 06:07 PM
Aleck didn't answer for a while. Instead he carefully pulled his glasses off and rubbed at his face, which didn't do anything for the headache but distracted him for a moment. Without the thick lenses the only object in focus was his hand - smooth, lightly callused, with a long palm and fingers that tapered to clipped-back nails stained with residual gear grease and ink.

Sure, why not? Haven't been able to craft anything for shards lately. Thought I'd try something new.

He couldn't say that to Bereck, whose lined face was a blur in his peripheral vision. For one thing, it wasn't true, and for another, he.. couldn't. Such a flip response would suit an inquisitive crafter, but his father? Not him.

So how to explain something he couldn't explain to himself? The blond let his hand flop over his knees and gazed hard at some invisible point past the leg of the chair, as if some complex schematic he was trying to decipher hovered there.

"I think I might," he said quietly.

Then he shifted and looked up, absently cleaning his glasses on the tail of his shirt. "You're always talking about idiots with guns. Might as well have someone intelligent up there."

Posted by: Tawny May 11 2012, 06:21 PM
That was that then. He could shout and rave but... Aleck was twenty-three. He had never imagined this problem, he had thought that they older the got the easier parenting would be but it was harder, so much harder, because they grew apart wanted wanted things for themselves. He had never thought any of them would want something so frightening. Would it be different if one went into battle as a handler? Maybe, at least he would be around them in the clash.... Would have been, before he lost his wher. He didn't do anything like that now, and how many people had died because of it?

Aleck though, in the Dusk. He had heard it was not hot, or cold, or really... anything. Between was freezing and choking and Dusk was just... blank, blank save for the monsters in there.

He leaned his elbow on the arm of the chair, closed his eyes, and rested his head in his hand. He remembered Aleck learning to walk, leaning on Bersk for support. He remembered him learning to write, and to read. He still had his first pair of glasses; he knew exactly where they box they were in rested, and that he had wrapped them up in soft fur scraps to keep them safe.

Aleck was an adult now. It was his choice. "I think your intelligence is better used down here, far better," he muttered tightly. "Your brains are too valuable to risk out there. All of you is. It's... it's your life but I wish you wouldn't."

Posted by: Tinn May 12 2012, 02:42 PM
"I know," said Aleck.

I'm sorry. Except he wasn't. He should be. He was, for the defeated slump of the man's frame, the premature grief tightening his voice. For the horrible sick feeling, yes, and for suggesting one of the bottles off the top shelf, certainly - he would never, ever do that again - but for the decision itself.. no. Odd; it was what stood to affect him most of all.

The pounding in his head intensified as he pushed himself to his feet and unsteadily laid a hand on his father's shoulder.

"I know," he repeated instead.

I just wanted to do something.

Posted by: Tawny May 12 2012, 02:54 PM
He wished he could do something. No wonder dragonriders had used their ability to fly through time so often, you could just go back and make things unhappen. Ironic really, that had been their attempts to make the world a better place with less pain in it that had brought the Deep Ones down upon them all and brought about things like this.

When Aleck touched his shoulder his throat tightened, and it took every scrap of self control he had not to cry. He couldn't lose anyone else, especially not one of his precious children. Getting to his feet he pulled Aleck into a tight embrace and lent his head against his son's shoulder, because the little blond boy with a endless questions was taller than him now. "Just promise me you'll be careful."

Posted by: Tinn May 12 2012, 03:58 PM
That wasn't up to him, was it? It was the dragon and its rider who'd decide where they'd go, what horror with too many eyes and legs they would target. He'd be a support, a secondary addition, destination ultimately out of his control. But if he had a-

No. That was the memory of the alcohol talking.

He'd been the taller one for years now, but it still felt strange; Bereck had been a giant, occasionally booming and green-eyed, charging from one case to the next with his solid green shadow, but now he seemed.. small, dejectedly human, mass shifted more to his middle. Aleck wrapped one arm around his shoulders, then the other, rested his nose in the receding henna-bright hair and lowered his eyes. They were throbbing; he was fairly sure eyes weren't supposed to throb, or feel like they'd been replaced with hot stones. "I promise," he whispered roughly.

Posted by: Tawny May 12 2012, 04:13 PM
That was really all he could ask. There was really nothing else he could do. Aleck was going to do this and... and he just had to hope that he would be alright. Delegation had never been his forte, and delegating the safety of one of his children was too enormous to comprehend. All he'd be able to do was wait for the dragons to come back, and hope that Aleck was still alive and riding with them.

Eventually he gave his son a slightly tighter squeeze and stepped back, giving Aleck a tired strained smile. "Sit down, you look awful. Have you got any fruit juice in here? Sugar? Salt? Baking soda?" Rehydrate, and then tea. Food, at least for the present, sounded like a remarkably bad idea.

Posted by: Tinn May 12 2012, 04:43 PM
The blond made a noise like 'mnuh?' at the change of topic and ran a hand through his rumpled hair, stepping back. "Sure, right under the stack of Rec-" Wait. "You want to mix all of those?" he blinked, starting to wonder if the cure was worse than the disease.

Rather than sit, Aleck crouched down and stayed there a moment until his head cleared and he could gather the knocked-over books. They were thick technical volumes mostly, stuffed with bookmarks and scraps of paper. He frowned at one that had been knocked loose - it read 'THIS' in excited handwriting, with a big downward-pointing arrow at.. well, who knew what now. "Have to start marking these.."

Posted by: Tawny May 12 2012, 04:59 PM
"Naturally," Bereck almost smiled properly; it was always nice to tell Aleck things he didn't know. After a moment of searching he realized that sarcasm had been present in large quantities, because nothing he was looking for was around. He shook his head at himself; why would Aleck have things like that lying around? "Nevermind, I'll get Dawn to fetch some. Anyway," his tones brightened up slightly, as they always did when he was passing on something interesting or useful, "in the correct proportions a solution of salt, sugar, and baking soda are excellent for dehydration. It doesn't taste as bad as you might think either, a bit odd perhaps but not really unpleasant in my opinion at any rate."

A moment later a small white firelizard appeared clutching a scoop filled with what careful inspection determined to be salt. As she disappeared again Bereck put a careful amount into the water jug he had been able to locate. As he waited for the flitt to come back he thought to ask; "Making what?"

Posted by: Tinn May 12 2012, 06:04 PM
Indeed, the most plentiful thing to be found in the crafter's quarters was paper, either rolled into blueprints, clipped together as notes, or bound as books, followed by miscellaneous bits of metal and clothing. It was the sort of room that had housed the same occupant for quite some time, and over the years molded itself to their personality, saying as much about him as five minutes' conversation. And what it said was this: here was entirely too distracted by most of the universe to remember the less important parts of it all the time, like eating. Or sleep. It may have been the place his body inhabited, but where Aleck arguably lived was his head.

The blond looked up from a worn-edged volume to listen, and - salts, bicarbonate salts he reminded himself through the pressure at his temples - nodded thoughtfully (and doubtfully at Bereck's comment about the taste) and glanced down at the paper in his hand. "Oh, uh. Marking. D'nno what this went to but it looks important.." He pushed his glasses up and squinted at a hastily done doodle on the other side. "No.. I finished this last winter." Relief.

Posted by: Tawny May 12 2012, 06:11 PM
"Good," Bereck glanced up from adding sugar to the mix; losing track of things, an important note or train of thought or suchlike was just about the most frustrating thing in the world. He then looked back down again, because Dawn had brought the bicarbonate, and added that too before stirring the with long glass rod the white flitt also helpfully provided. Very useful things firelizards, if you trained them right.

Giving a happy cheep Dawn settled on her human's shoulder and started grooming his disheveled hair; he was usually so good and tidy, silly thing!

Ignoring the gentle admonishment Bereck cast around for cups or glasses or something to pour the isotonic concoction into. He also cast around for something else to say. Usually they could chat about their work, or something interesting one of them had read, or something, but right now Aleck's decision to Second was still weighing too heavily on his mind to come up with anything. Eventually he said; "Cups?"

Posted by: Tinn May 12 2012, 06:36 PM
There were four of them in the room now - himself, Bereck, Dawn and the decision, slowly expanding to fill the room with silence that drove other conversation into the corners.

Or no; five. How could he forget.

Aleck set about rearranging his books while his father worked, which largely consisted of tucking bits of paper more securely between the pages and checking the corners for damage more by touch than sight before they all went back in the little patch of clear space where they'd been.

So, Dad, know any good treatises on Deep Ones?

Assuming I even filled the forms out legibly, think of it as field research.

Think we could give learning how to shoot another go? I'll hold the rifle right way 'round this time.

How about prescription flight goggles?

He said: "On the table." There were two, one full of writing utensils and the other gears, miscellaneous bits of wire, and some sort of measuring gauge. "Er. Don't use those."

Posted by: Tawny May 12 2012, 06:49 PM
Bereck peered into the mugs and nearly smiled again; some things never changed, and were also apparently hereditary. Luckily however he did have things for drinking out of, as well as receptacles for writing implements and 'misc'. Once again Dawn dutifully took wing and vanished between. A moment later she was back, struggling with a large white mug with a happy feline painted on it; Bereck relieved her of it, and then of the one with a design of fat firelizards flying around the rim. Finding an empty place to put them both down he filled them from the jug and picked up the one with the firelizards on.


He sipped the not too terrible drink.

"...Would you like to get in some rifle practice?"

Posted by: Tinn May 12 2012, 08:12 PM
"Thanks." Aleck took the other and took a swig of the cloudy mixture before he could think about how it tasted. Nevertheless, he made a slight face as it went down, leaning his weight partially against the table again.

"Yeah. In a bit. Feel like a dragon sat on my head.." he muttered, holding the mug in a slightly shaking hand while he geared up for another mouthful and glanced over at his father. He seemed to be faring better, though that was probably thanks in part to bustling around being knowledgeable; sometimes it seemed he was at his happiest then.

Don't worry? No, that was asking the impossible. It'll be- that was an insult and a lie.

"It'll be like old times, right?"

Posted by: Tawny May 12 2012, 08:27 PM
As Aleck hadn't taken the chair, Bereck did. Rubbing his head he took another careful sip of the enhanced water as Dawn continued her attempt to groom his disheveled hair. "Tomorrow," he suggested, "give us both a chance to get over last night." Drink or no drink he was going to spend the rest of the day feeling very delicate, even if he went back to bed after this. Getting older was hard, he just didn't bounce back like he used to... like he used to back in old times. He smiled faintly into his cup, seeing nostalgia swimming in the water. "Heh, yes, just like old times." He missed old times, any time that had still had Bersk in it.

What mattered though was that he would see to it that Aleck was shooting straight by the time he was called up to Second. "I can clear a few things out of tomorrow afternoon if you're free then," he offered. Clearing out was more relocating than clearing, but he would manage; klah was a wonderful thing.

Posted by: Tinn May 13 2012, 07:25 PM
"Mmh," nodded Aleck, who was in the middle of another mouthful. It really wasn't bad, it just.. tasted like it had missed its true calling as wall plaster. Once he finished off the mug he felt marginally better, or at least a different sort of 'blurgh.' He counted it as an improvement.

"Sounds good. D'you have time, or will you make time?" This was said with a sidelong glance and an unspoken question as he set down the mug: you're not going to stay up all night finishing projects to make space for this, are you? Some things never changed, and were definitely hereditary.

Posted by: Tawny May 13 2012, 07:32 PM
He'd make time. Some recreational things could be pushed aside, some things compressed, maybe a bit of delegation, or more likely a bit less sleep. Bereck smiled, his eyes creasing in long worn lines. "I have time, I just have to work out where it is with a bit of juggling. No problem."

Refilling his cup he pondered what he could cut out where, and what he might be able to cut out but then paste back in at other times. This was important, very important. Aleck had to at least be able to shoot right when some rider with twirly knots marched up and ordered he risk his life in the Dusk. He didn't want that; he wanted to be able to forbid Aleck, to keep him safe! No more deaths, he couldn't go on with more deaths... and yet he would, because he had a job to do. He might not be perfect, might not always be as good as he needed to be, but he did right where he could and he liked to think he made a difference. So long as he was making even a small difference, he would keep fighting.

Posted by: Tinn May 15 2012, 04:46 AM
Aleck made a quiet 'huh' of amusement, "Just remember to sleep." He'd be disagreed with, he knew, but in his opinion how many bandage lengths were in the supply rooms was much less important than knowing the healer wasn't about to keel over from caffeine poisoning and fatigue. Anyway, this was tropical Nightwatch. If the bandages ran low someone could donate their shirt.

And still, things needed to be said. This too felt unfamiliar; he had grown up in their companionable silence, broken when one of them wanted to say something or check the definition of a word. This silence felt like a void. It hummed and it pulled, leaving him restless while it winched words from his throat. Say something, anything. Speak. Fill it up.

Were the blond a less thoughtful sort he would have babbled, throwing thoughts out whether they had substance or not. I'll be fine. Please don't worry. Weren't there two mugs with firelizards like this? I read that paper on bonesetting you gave me. Please don't worry. Please don't.

He frowned into his cup for a while, then raised his eyes. "Dad-"

"I love you."

Yes, that was it.

Posted by: Tawny May 15 2012, 05:22 AM
He knew, of course he knew, but it was always nice to hear it said.

Smiling softly Bereck got to his feet and crossed the room to give Aleck another hug, this one warm and affectionate rather than desperate and miserable. "Love you too Aleck, and I will remember." He was privileged to have such a bright and wonderful son, and fortunate to have such a good relationship with him. Don't think about losing him, don't think about the things that happen in the Dusk, or in the air during Incursions.... Of course now he was thinking about all of those things again. He understood why though, and he knew Aleck wasn't stupid or rash; if he was still determined to do this now he was sober it must mean a lot to him. How could he disapprove of wanting to help in the constant struggle against the Deep Ones? He could fear it - did fear it - but he couldn't condemn it.

"I'm very proud of you, you know."

Posted by: Tinn May 20 2012, 06:07 PM
Something eased, moved aside enough for a genuine smile to suffuse the blond's expression and lift the corners of his mouth and eyes. He set the mug on the table and let himself be drawn into another hug. "I know." He did. He did, but.. it was still nice to hear it said. In this context it was.. acceptance, support. A strange sort of closure.

"I know, yeah." He clapped a hand on his father's shoulder and exhaled. "Thanks."

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