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We Have to Stick Together (Ay'shen/Ambrelli)


TrueTricia
 

It was another crappy day.  Most days were crappy around here.  Her recent return to Arolos wasn't the happy homecoming she'd envisioned when she'd left here, over a decade ago.  She'd been what, 17 or so when she'd left to join the Resistance at Fort, her family recently murdered.  It had seemed like a good idea at the time, throwing herself into a rebellion against the tyranny of Fortian leadership.  The reality had been quite different.  She could never quite seem to rid herself of the feelings from that time.  She hadn't been back to Fort in Turns, finally leaving there and going to Igen Weyr for the last few Turns.  She'd left with riders, those she'd trusted during even the darkest of times.  Back then, she would have sworn to you that their was a bond forged in fire, unbreakable and lasting.

But a new Weyr and more normalized circumstances seemed to be all it took.  It wasn't quick, but slowly, those bonds deteriorated and withered, until Ambrelli once again felt adrift.  Her anger, ever present since her parent's death, still there like a death shroud she'd never taken off.  She'd requested a transfer to Arolos, and a short time ago, received it.  She'd returned home, and found that just like her ideals of rebellion, the reality of home could never live up to the ideal.

No one at Arolos knew exactly what her role had been.  Very few people ever truly had.  She'd been a lowly player in the Resistance, and her skills meant she'd been a spy with little contact with the main body of the group.  So when everything had gone to shards, there were few on Pern who truly knew what she had and hadn't done.  There were rumors, of course.  At Igen, she'd been one of many.  But here... Here it was just her, and it was lonely.  She wasn't trusted, not that she blamed them, and most nights were spent in her quarters, in solitude, buried in a hide of her notes, reviewing techniques, or simple playing a board game.  She played against her father, dead so long now that his face was just a blurry memory.  But her conscious often spoke in a voice she remembered as his.  They'd played this game together, and so she played it now for the both of them.

And then the other day, she'd seen him at the Dining Hall.  She hadn't said anything to him then, but she followed him to his weyr.  Which is where she found herself now, standing outside the door.  She knew his face.  He'd been at Fort, and he'd been part of the Resistance.  She'd delivered information to him once.  She remembered him as nice, but back then, her standards for nice were very different.  Fort was very different.  So she was cautious.  She couldn't say exactly why she was so excited for a pieces of a life she'd determined should be left alone, but she was, and he was it.  "Rider Ay'shen?" 


Aaron
 

Ay'shen noticed her. He had never stopped watching, not one single day since running away from Fort. Some of them had to have found out what he did. There had been too many empty weyrs where there should have been sleeping bronzers, and all where he was supposed to be watching. And then he disappeared.

Ay'shen knew they would find him someday. And by then, he was not sure he did not deserve it. So when one of his fellow spies tracked him down at Arolos Weyr and showed up at his weyr, he was not afraid to open the door. If this was the end, then it was the end, and maybe it would go some small way to further paying back what he had enabled those Turns ago, half a world away.

"Ambrelli, right?" he asked with a soft smile. "It's been a long time. Have you been looking for me?"

***

And then the other day, she'd seen him at the Dining Hall.  She hadn't said anything to him then, but she followed him to his weyr.  Which is where she found herself now, standing outside the door.  She knew his face.  He'd been at Fort, and he'd been part of the Resistance.  She'd delivered information to him once.  She remembered him as nice, but back then, her standards for nice were very different.  Fort was very different.  So she was cautious.  She couldn't say exactly why she was so excited for a pieces of a life she'd determined should be left alone, but she was, and he was it.  "Rider Ay'shen?" 


TrueTricia
 

OOC: Happy to do this on a google doc if you'd prefer!

IC:
There was something in the look he gave her, along with his words that took her aback slightly.  "Looking for you?" she said, it coming out as a question.  There had been rumors about him, after he disappeared, that he'd betrayed the Resistance.  He thought she was here because of that, didn't he?  Truth be told, she wished there had been more like him.  One of the bronzeriders killed had been one of her lovers, a mark for the Resistance and a safety net for her, but still.  He'd been decent towards her, for Fort, and his bronze... she'd cried so hard that night, when she was finally alone and after the Chaos.  Oh, she'd pretended to be happy as her role required her to be, but she died slightly inside that day.  She'd played a part in the death of dragons that she'd sworn to protect.  It hadn't been an active role, but rather one by association.  But Ay'shen, he'd done what was right, he'd saved people.  She'd saved dragons, but it hadn't saved their riders from terrible things being done to them.  

"You did the right thing, Rider Ay'shen.  I am not here on behalf of the Resistance."  She said it bluntly to reassure him and dissolve his anxiety over her arrival.  Her slate blue eyes closed for a moment, as if to steel herself against the dark memories that were rising.  "But I am here because of Fort.  Because we were both there..."  She held up a wine skin.  "May I come in?"


Aaron
 

It always stirred something inside Ay'shen to hear someone say he had done the right thing. After such a long time of trying to do the right thing the wrong way, it was a relief of sorts to hear that he had turned himself around.

But he was not sure whether he was happy or sad that Ambrelli was not there to make him pay. He did not want to die, that was sure. But at the same time, it was hard to shake the feeling that he deserved to. That Ohselth did not deserve to die with him was always what kept him going. He had always tried to do what duty, honor, and justice demanded.

"You're the first person who's come up to my weyr in all the Turns since I got here," he said. "You can come in if you like."

The weyr was austerely furnished. Ay'shen had kept his dwelling stark as a sort of self-inflicted punishment. He did not deserve comfortable things, even if he was allowed to have them. There was a bed with a mattress, but it was unclothed and unused. Ay'shen slept on a cot that he put away when he was not using it. There was small table but only one chair.

"Please, have a seat," he offered. He opened his cupboard and retrieved two stoneware cups and set them on the table. "You must have a long story to tell."

Maybe there was poison in the wine after all. But he did not care overmuch.

***

"You did the right thing, Rider Ay'shen.  I am not here on behalf of the Resistance."  She said it bluntly to reassure him and dissolve his anxiety over her arrival.  Her slate blue eyes closed for a moment, as if to steel herself against the dark memories that were rising.  "But I am here because of Fort.  Because we were both there..."  She held up a wine skin.  "May I come in?"

ooc: No worries! The next one we can do there, but since we've already started here, this works.


TrueTricia
 

It struck her that they led opposite truths.  He'd done the right thing and been punished for it; she'd done the wrong and got off easier.  She supposed it was because she wasn't a rider herself, that she had saved lives by staying, and that few knew what she had done in the Resistance.  Ay'shen had confessed and he'd paid the price for that confession.  But if anyone should be locked up between the two of them, it should be her.  And that he'd had no visitors to his weyr in all his time here was an ominous sign of what she could expect.  And walking into his weyr, seeing his self-punishment, she felt guilt wash over her all over again.  She had her own guilt, she reminded herself.  It just manifested differently than his.  She was living in her dead parents' weyr after all, so that the ghosts of their memories could remind her how much she'd failed them.  She slept on a bed, but that assumed she slept at all.  

She poured them both wine out of the skin, taking her cup and sitting down.  It was a mediocre wine, but then, she drank enough rum nowadays to ease her sorrows that her marks were hard pressed to make it to the end of the Turn without supplementation.  She took a sip first to ease his fears that she might have put anything in there.

"It is a long story, and one I'll need a bit more liquid courage to tell," she said, taking a big sip of the wine as if to jump start that process.  "When I saw you today... I don't know how to explain it.  I want to forget that part of my life so bad, but it haunts me," she looked around again, "as I think it does you.  And who else can understand that.  So when I saw you, I just..." she shrugged.  Now that she could talk about it, the numerous monologues in her head all seemed to vanish.

"How have you been?"  It was perhaps an odd question, given that she could see the evidence of his penance and guilt around her.  "How is Ohselth?" she asked.  She never forgot a dragon.  Riders yes, but not dragons.  


Aaron
 

"I've been better," said Ay'shen with a sad smile. "But I think I'm content to wait until you're feeling courageous enough to tell me your story. Ohselth is always sad. He doesn't understand. He has a few friends, but it's not the same as before. Most of the dragons who won't talk to him don't even remember why, but... It's hard to reason with a dragon who doesn't remember why he's made up his mind."

***

"It is a long story, and one I'll need a bit more liquid courage to tell," she said, taking a big sip of the wine as if to jump start that process.  "When I saw you today... I don't know how to explain it.  I want to forget that part of my life so bad, but it haunts me," she looked around again, "as I think it does you.  And who else can understand that.  So when I saw you, I just..." she shrugged.  Now that she could talk about it, the numerous monologues in her head all seemed to vanish.

"How have you been?"  It was perhaps an odd question, given that she could see the evidence of his penance and guilt around her.  "How is Ohselth?" she asked.  She never forgot a dragon.  Riders yes, but not dragons.


TrueTricia
 

OOC: Filling in the details as best I can since I wasn't around for after the R took everything down.

IC:
"That's got to be hard on him.  Dragons are not meant to be on their own."  She shook her head.  Dragons were not cruel on their own, but they fed off of their riders, and poor Ohselth was suffering because of that.  That was not fair...and not a situation she could heal or remedy in any way.  She took a deep swig of her wine, draining the cup and pouring herself a second.  It took her a minute to compose herself, absently playing with a brown curl as she thought about where to start.

At the beginning she guessed.

"You only knew me as a dragonhealer at Fort, but I was born here.  Loving parents, good memories.  My father was a bronzerider, and I grew up playing on Ranth.  So I didn't grow up hating bronzeriders or golds at all.  Quite the opposite.  I saw how amazing leadership could be, how great and noble my father was, how Ranth was.  Until there was a raid on Arolos and they were killed.  My mother too, dying to protect a weyrling.  They died heroes.  But they died.  After they died, I was so...angry at the world, at everything and everyone.  I railed against the injustice of it all."  She stopped for a moment, the memories flooding over her and she shuddered before taking another sip.  

"I learned about Fort, about how terrible it was up there for those who were seen as lesser, and the injustice of that was something I could understand and believe in.  My parents died protecting those who were lesser than them like a weyrling.  They gave their lives to protect others.  So I gave myself to the Resistance.  And I was so angry, and at least that gave me something, somewhere, to put that anger.  I knew someone there, and they got me into the Weyr.  I was already a dragonhealer here, so it wasn't hard to put my skills to use up there.  I learned the Fortian accent a little, so I wouldn't stick out as Arolosian at the least.  And I joined a cause that I thought was going to protect people.  That's still what I thought when I had my missions with you, that we were on the side of the heroes.  I gave so much to the cause, and gave up so much for it, because I thought I was avenging my parents and making them proud."  Another long sip of wine.  She needed it, because up until that point, she was the idealistic child playing at wooden swords.  She couldn't escape what followed.

"They didn't tell me about the Massacre.  I had become lovers with a bronzerider, one that I could get information out of that was useful.  He was decent, kind enough to me, even if he thought he owned me.  I was good at playing roles you see, I still am.  It's a hard habit to break...." another sip.  The words were coming more freely now.  "There was a dragon emergency I got called down to the Infirmary for, and I'd been there for candlemarks.  That's when the killing started."  She looked at her hands, tears streaming down her face.  "I had just spent candlemarks working on a Scored bronze, trying to save his wing so he could fly again when they killed his rider.  The panic, I could see it in his eyes before I knew what was going on.  And that sound, that keening he made as he realized what was happening.  He tried...." she was openly crying now.  "He tried to get up, to go to his rider, but he couldn't.  He broke his wing trying, like a twig snapping in the wind.  Ichor was everywhere from the wounds he inflicted on himself trying to get up; i was covered in it.  He eventually took himself between, but he would have died from his wounds even if his rider had lived.  I hear those screams.  Every night I hear them and a thousand others."  She wiped her cheeks with her sleeve, touching a small scar on her forehead.  The dragon had hit her accidentally in the process, and this was her reminder of his pain.

Another long sip and the cup was empty.  She poured more.  "After that, my job was to patch up the dragons or to keep them sedated while their riders were tortured.  I wasn't drugged or locked up like the other Healers, but I couldn't leave either.  If I refused, I would have been no better off than the healers or killed because I had been Resistance.  So I chose to work willingly, I chose to help them because it made my life easier and I got to live.  I did what I could for the dragons.  I eased their suffering as much as I was able.  I saved a few of them even.  There was still Threadfall, still scoring to be healed, even on the dragons of the worst of the torturers.  I couldn't let the dragons suffer because their humans were terrible.  I did what I thought was the best I could do then.  And because I played complacent, I could do more than I could have otherwise.  At least, that's what I tell myself when the nightmares flood over me."  She looked up at Ay'shen, anger and hatred filling her eyes, the hazel flecks in the blue fields flashing.  "I hate the Resistance with every fiber of my being.  They took what was supposed to be noble cause, what should have been a fight to protect others and turned it into something dark and twisted.  And I became something dark and twisted along with it."  She didn't wipe away the tears this time. 

"I stayed even after the Hall ransomed the other Healers back.  There were still dragons, still a need for them to be healed.  At that point, I think I stayed because I was more scared of leaving then of staying.  Eventually, some of the riders I still respected left for Igen and I went with them.  The Hall asked a lot of questions, and I lost Turns off my rank.  But they couldn't prove I'd done anything really other than stay and heal dragons.  And there were people who spoke up for me, whose dragons were alive because I was there.  That counted for something I think."  There was a weak smile, as if the last sentence was to reassure herself and not him.  "I stayed there for some Turns, stayed around the only people I knew anymore.  Until eventually I ran out of excuses."

She looked up at him again.  "And I finally came home."  


Aaron
 

Ay'shen could not stop the tears from welling up in his eyes, so he let them fall silently with some sad, strange smile tugging at his lips. Ambrelli understood. She really understood. She believed in all of the good and noble things he once believed in when the Resistance lured him in.

"They didn't tell me, either," he said. "About the Massacre. I found out the same way I learned the secrets I passed on to them. Ohselth heard it. They knew I would try to save..." Ay'shen's voice caught in his throat.

"To save the ones I knew were good. I tried to... But I only had so much time." And I didn't dare stay long enough for them to catch me.

"You know, Igen was my first home. Not the weyr, but..." Ay'shen wiped away his tears. "It's funny that you fled there while I came here to your home. Ohselth took his coordinates from the ones I warned, so... this is where I ended up. I think in my heart, I thought they would forgive me here. This is the place the Fort riders – the bad ones – always held up as the example of danger... So I thought... If they thought this place was dangerous, it would be safe for me."

"And, to be fair, they didn't stake me out for Thread. But... I didn't stay and fight like you did. I ran away that night. I'm no hero. I don't think I have a home any more."

***

"I stayed even after the Hall ransomed the other Healers back.  There were still dragons, still a need for them to be healed.  At that point, I think I stayed because I was more scared of leaving then of staying.  Eventually, some of the riders I still respected left for Igen and I went with them.  The Hall asked a lot of questions, and I lost Turns off my rank.  But they couldn't prove I'd done anything really other than stay and heal dragons.  And there were people who spoke up for me, whose dragons were alive because I was there.  That counted for something I think."  There was a weak smile, as if the last sentence was to reassure herself and not him.  "I stayed there for some Turns, stayed around the only people I knew anymore.  Until eventually I ran out of excuses."

She looked up at him again.  "And I finally came home."  


TrueTricia
 

Ambrelli listened to him, to his story, so similar to her own.  That feeling of betrayal, of being used, and then being alone.  She reached up and put a hand on his arm.  "You did what you could, Ay'shen.  Everyone else thinks they would have done something different, but we did the best we could.  And you saved riders and dragons, as many as you could.  There is a honor in that."  She sighed heavily.  "They lied to us; they lied to us and they made us into the opposites of what we wanted to be.  It was a terrible kind of cruelty that we have to live with and bear the guilt of."  

She listened to him describe being homelessness.  "I'm back here, but this isn't the home I left.  I don't know what I expected, but I felt like I was hiding at Igen.  Arolos is where my parents loved me, where I grew up.  But most importantly, it's the last place I can be truly proud of who I was.  I think coming back here was about confronting the difference between who I used to be and who I am now."

She looked at him.  "How have you survived by yourself this whole time?"  The strength of character that took...she didn't have that.  


Aaron
 

"Well, I haven't been all by myself. I've had Ohselth. And I've been allowed to go out and do as I please as much as any rider for a while now. My wingmates haven't fed me to Thread yet." Ay'shen grinned softly. "It's been a rough little while. And maybe if I'd tried harder to make friends... I just haven't felt much like I've deserved a friend."

"Have you been by yourself?"

***

She listened to him describe being homelessness.  "I'm back here, but this isn't the home I left.  I don't know what I expected, but I felt like I was hiding at Igen.  Arolos is where my parents loved me, where I grew up.  But most importantly, it's the last place I can be truly proud of who I was.  I think coming back here was about confronting the difference between who I used to be and who I am now."

She looked at him.  "How have you survived by yourself this whole time?"  The strength of character that took...she didn't have that.  


TrueTricia
 
Edited

She looked at him sadly.  She understood that feeling of not deserving people, of not feeling worthy of anyone else.  She tended to hide behind the masks she wore, but deep down at her core, she felt exactly the same way.  Ambrelli could see that her and Ay'shen were two sides of the same coin.  She dressed up her pain and guilt a little better, pretended as if all was well and hid behind her professionalism in her Craft, but you could paint a wherry gold and it still wouldn't be a dragon.  Ay'shen just lived more openly with his than she did.  Others might tell him he needed to try harder, to just put on a smile and try, but not her.  That was her approach, and where had it gotten her?  An empty weyr filled with the ghosts of her dead family and nightmares that kept her awake at night.  Her life was no better than his and she knew it.

"I'm starting to realize that I can't expect forgiveness of others until I forgive myself.  And unfortunately, I seem to be stuck at that step in the process," she said ruefully.  She sighed a bit at his question.  "I have my Craft, and, like your wingmates, they haven't staked me.  But I think that's partially because I'm good at what I do and I'm driven to try to prove myself in the only way that's always mattered to me, saving dragons.  I dunno, maybe I think if they see how dedicated at it I am they will understand my choices more.  But actual friends here," she shook her head no.  "At Igen, there were a couple of us," she named a couple blue and greenriders he might have known.  "They were good people, a few having never been Resistance either, that like us, just got caught in the swell of the tide.  It was less lonely being with them..."

She looked at him again, her eyes calmer now.  "I think when I saw you, I'd hoped that I could finally meet someone here who could both know me and not hate me at the same time.  Because right now, I feel like those are the only options with everyone else."


Aaron
 

"I'm glad they all got away, too," Ay'shen said of the names he recognized. "I thought when I first got here that I should keep my distance from the ones I saved. I was grounded and on home arrest for a little while as punishment for my part in it, and the other riders all knew it."

"So when I was allowed to start eating in the dining cavern and start training with my new wing, I didn't try to talk to my old friends again. And... well, since I pushed them away to try to protect them from my reputation, I can't really complain that we haven't been the best of friends any more."

"I guess what I'm trying to say is, I think I understand how you feel. And if you want someone to talk to, I won't push you away, too."

***

"At Igen, there were a couple of us," she named a coupl blue and greenriders he might have known.  "They were good people, a few having never been Resistance either, that like us, just got caught in the swell of the tide.  It was less lonely being with them..."

She looked at him again, her eyes calmer now.  "I think when I saw you, I'd hoped that I could finally meet someone here who could both know me and not hate me at the same time.  Because right now, I feel like those are the only options with everyone else."


TrueTricia
 

Ambrelli shrugged.  "They left when it all started to fall apart, right about when the gold flight happened.  It was less of getting away than surviving."  She listened to him describe his time at the Weyr.  She felt guilty listening to it in some ways.  He'd done so much less than she had, yet he had been more harshly punished.  "It's hard to rebuild those friendships.  We both lost so much.  I was willing to give everything, everything except what they took in the end."

She smiled at him, her lips drawn back in a sad smile.  "I'd like that very much, for us to be friends.  You're probably one of the few people on this continent that will ever understand how I feel, and I you."


Aaron
 

"Then, I suppose, we're friends now." And if it was all an elaborate ruse to lure him away to kill him where no one would notice Ohselth go between, well. Then so be it. It was less a feeling of distrust and more a resignation to the consequences of his trust, one way or the other.

"You're still healing dragons, then. I take it the Infirmary crowd has found out where you've been and the like..." Or else she would not still feel the way he felt. "Well. It's been a while since I had company. But I'll get another chair so we can both sit down. And maybe we can have dinner together every now and again."

***

Ambrelli shrugged.  "They left when it all started to fall apart, right about when the gold flight happened.  It was less of getting away than surviving."  She listened to him describe his time at the Weyr.  She felt guilty listening to it in some ways.  He'd done so much less than she had, yet he had been more harshly punished.  "It's hard to rebuild those friendships.  We both lost so much.  I was willing to give everything, everything except what they took in the end."

She smiled at him, her lips drawn back in a sad smile.  "I'd like that very much, for us to be friends.  You're probably one of the few people on this continent that will ever understand how I feel, and I you."


TrueTricia
 

She shook her head.  "Master Larsin knows, of course.  As long as I do my job and he can find no fault with it, I don't think it matters to him.  I'm sure the Master Healer does as well, but I've not interacted there much.  I honestly have been keeping my head down.  I have food delivered to me on shift, I work long candlemarks.  That's my penance I guess.  I've eaten in the Dining Hall a few times, but I feel like everyone is staring at me, whispering behind my back."  In truth, she had no idea how many people knew that she'd been at Fort during that time.  Likely, they wouldn't actually know more than that, since only Ay'shen knew something even approaching the full truth, but actual knowledge had never stopped rumors.  

"I'd like that very much, to see a friend every day or as often as able.  And you're welcome at mine.  It's a bit of a ruin, like a literal ruin.  It was my family's weyr, so it used to be quite large.  But an earthquake collapsed parts of it.  The ledge might be passable for a dragon to drop you off, but not to fully land.  Inside, there are still rock piles.  I haven't bothered to clean those out.  But there's still usable space in the three rooms ((two bedrooms and main)), just probably in total the whole thing is slightly bigger than a normal room.  And it's high up, so I get my exercise every day climbing the stairs."  Why had her parents picked that one?  It made no sense with her mother not being a rider, but then, the sunsets were incredible, so maybe it was just that.  


Aaron
 

"Sounds dangerous," Ay'shen said, though he smiled. He understood the desire for a familiar place to shelter in. He did wonder whether it was strictly allowed for her to use the place, as it might be danger of further collapse, but... better to ask forgiveness, as they said.

"I'll climb up," he said. "Ohselth would definitely believe he could manage a pickup and dropoff, but I'll avoid the possibility of a fall."

***

"I'd like that very much, to see a friend every day or as often as able.  And you're welcome at mine.  It's a bit of a ruin, like a literal ruin.  It was my family's weyr, so it used to be quite large.  But an earthquake collapsed parts of it.  The ledge might be passable for a dragon to drop you off, but not to fully land.  Inside, there are still rock piles.  I haven't bothered to clean those out.  But there's still usable space in the three rooms ((two bedrooms and main)), just probably in total the whole thing is slightly bigger than a normal room.  And it's high up, so I get my exercise every day climbing the stairs."  Why had her parents picked that one?  It made no sense with her mother not being a rider, but then, the sunsets were incredible, so maybe it was just that.


TrueTricia
 

"Oh it's not now, or so they told me.  It's been that way for awhile from what I gather.  But because the dragon ledge was damaged, it wasn't cleared out, and most sane non-riders aren't going to want a weyr so far up.  I apparently, based on the look I got when I asked for it regardless, am not sane."  She shrugged.  "It's nostalgic for me more than anything."

She smiled, standing then.  "Dinner tomorrow night then?  I should be done a little late, but I can grab some food on my way back.  It would be wonderful to spend the evening talking to someone..."  She looked at Ay'shen with somber eyes.  "I'm glad yo're here.  It's not much, but I think you're as much a hero as anyone..." she said before leaving...