==== December 2013
==== Nora, V'dean
==== The dance of two Southerners at a Northern Gather.

Who Nora, V'dean
What The dance of two Southerners at a Northern Gather.
When The Last Summer of the Interval
Where Summer Gather, Nabol Hold
Named NPCs SW bluerider B'nari, SW greenrider Kayisa, Mirren, Annis, Harper Gustev

i22_nuzzle.jpg Nora2.png

Summer is a beautiful time in the foothills of Nabol, the orchards ripe and fragrant and the grasses still verdant from late season rains. Wildflowers burst in pockets amongst field and stone alike, bright color found in the small lobes of delicate petals. Near the border of Fort and Reaches, its Gather is perhaps the homier cousin to the pomp that surrounds Ruatha’s traditional runner races — still drawing a large crowd from both territories but serving up more pie and cider than betting and bubbly.

This year, with predictions of Thread looming close on the horizon, it has proven to be a large gather indeed — bursting with finished goods and agricultural supplies alike. The tread of many steps has turned the pathways through the bright canvas stalls a little dusty by the third day, but the scents of stonefruit and musky mountain livestock rise above the grit of earth and the press of all those bodies. Night time brings a cool breeze up from the little river tributary, just a distant memory of the brine of Big Bay far to the east. Vendors serve up sweet sausage and savory dumplings to the lines that grow beneath the rising tide of bobbing glow lamps. Upon the stage, the first group of musicians is starting to assemble and test their strings.

It is near the dancing square that one particular family has claimed a small table upon which is scattered the remains of their early supper. A bottle of Tillek white now serves as centerpiece and two women at the opposite ends of their 50s seem to hold court. The younger is attended by her husband, a somewhat weather-worn man who most fits in with the natives. Two younger couples, late into their twenties, seem on the move - the elder pair handing an infant off to grandma to focus on a fussing toddler while the younger two have the starry-eyed look of budding love.

If he weren’t so besotted, this youngest of the men may have served as a better companion for V’dean. As it is, the bluerider is being abandoned at the table with his glass of wine and the family matrons. Aside from wearing the worry of impending boredom, he at least appears to fit in with his well dressed relations. Hair neatly brushed back, he’s buttoned and laced and shined to far greater extent than is typical when he’s within Southern’s walls. His knot is the only place where a stitch of green may be found, for otherwise he’s attired in blue and brown over the moonstone white of his fine shirt.

For so many, the evening caps a day in the fresh, festive air — hours spent wandering stalls of colorful little treasures, watching feats of various skills, sampling pies and other tasty treats — but not everyone has had the pleasure of such leisurely free time. Perhaps there were greetings exchanged between Southern dragons when blue Tinsrath and company arrived, delivering their riders and passengers to Nabol's soil as the light started to wane from the sky. Now, with the musicians completing the last of their tuning and striking up the lively chords of the opening number, Nora and B'nari are among the first to step out onto the square.

Some women may be wearing their Gather best, decked out for the occasion, but the lithe headwoman's usual attire is hardly out of place among them, the white dress trimly tailored about her waist, the skirt alive as her white heels trot out with eager steps. Touches of pink are found in the thin belt about her waist, a ribbon tied at her neck, a frilly flower pinned at her temple amid artfully coiled braids. She leads the way for her brother, a taunting smile tossed over her shoulder to encourage his more reluctant steps. There's discussion between them as the dancing continues, whirling about, frequent attention to sidelines where their other companions linger yet with glasses in hand.

There is likely enough to be some exchange between Southern blues, though Ekerth isn’t exactly known at the chatty sort. Perhaps the implications are lost in translation, or perhaps V’dean is merely too glossed over by whatever conversation has the eldest of the women petting at his hair and neatening the fold of a lapel. In any case, it takes him a minute to notice the swirl of familiar siblings passing nearby upon the parquet dance floor. And, really, surely it’s the trot of heels that takes precedence over B’nari. Another brush of his mother’s hand seems required to remind him that his glass never quite made it to his lips. The bluerider sets it back upon the table instead, a palm smoothing down the buttoned front of his vest as he rises to beg leave with a flash of dimpled smile. Navigating smoothly through the thin layer of crowd between table and floor, green eyes shift between the float of white skirt and the other Southerners stationed with their glasses at the floor’s edge.

Perhaps it’s not so much that the arrival of the party from Southern is lost, but that it’s intentionally misplaced, given Ekerth’s feelings about that woman dressed in white. There’s little doubt that her eyes pass over the blue’s rider as Nora winds nearer on the dance floor, but no recognition flares in her expression, no hitch finds her step despite looking right at him. She and B’nari twist away again, a grin and a wave tossed towards their companions who look on between their own conversation. A flourish is added to her step for her brother to mimic poorly, her laugh ringing out after and a point of her chin aiming toward the edge of the crowd, the teasing shape of her expression looking rather like some kind of set-up, even from a distance. But it falls as a glance aimed for a friend finds V’dean instead, cheeks going flat before a turn of her heel hides her face from view. B’nari, it would seem, has his attention on the greenider who lifts a glass to him, rather than finding anything worthy of note in Nora’s reaction.

There’s little deterrent taken in being initially passed over, smile still lingering and dimple fit into place as one bluerider inserts himself at the edge of the other’s companions. While cool green eyes may detour briefly to the stage where the opening act Harpers are providing the notes for white heels, for the most part they’re fixed upon Nora. It’s a formal kind of patience V’dean adopts, one forearm folding crisply at the small of his back while his other fingers occupy themselves in a loose curl about the buttons of his jacket. His brows start their way up when blue eyes are finally caught, though their eventual shape ends up fitted to the glance aside to the toasting greenrider. There perhaps is something pensive in the slim edge of tongue that presses briefly at his lip, some calculation swiftly made that equals. When he gives another swaying twist to watch the musicians for a time, it comes with a subtle shift of feet a little closer to the other rider who has claimed B’nari’s attention. Picking the right spot is so crucial for an ambush, after all.

Of course he'd wait to ambush, position himself like a practical joke ready to fall on her path, but Nora is not about to halt the wheels she's set in motion just because V'dean lurks nearby. Perhaps her brother is more cowed than bolstered by her encouragement, the side to side sway of his head implying only mild interest in the task she's set before him, but a nod seems to finalize the favor and their path maneuvers back through the other dancers, breaking apart when they reach the perimeter. She walks right past V'dean with only a quick smile of acknowledgement and a flick of her eyes for his polished clothes while B'nari invites the greenrider to join him. Meanwhile, Nora's request for a new partner is a rather more open affair, meant to tempt one of the two men who make up the rest of their party. "Come on," she urges, looking down to draw attention to her quick dancing step, heels clacking on the edge of the parquet in time with the beat. But the two men, smile though they might, appear more interested in their brewing political discussion. The first song morphs into a second and she turns a glance over her shoulder to see how her brother fares on the floor.

Perhaps it keeps him from being more a boor, that flickered moment of regard, for V’dean turns a breath into a pleasantly curved smile instead of words. There’s another turn of his step, a glance that has him lifting his chin in acknowledgement of someone near the stage while he gives space for the small drama of unsure B’nari and the greenrider to play out, a thing watched from the side of his gaze. And while he may tip an ear to that budding political discourse of the men, surely it’s the clack of Nora’s heels and flirt of white hemline that claims his attention. It gives cause for his eyes to drop, anyhow, a dip of his chin that masks the full flare of a briefly wider grin. He’s back to more chivalrous expression as he edges between her and her companions, though his first comments are aimed at the pair of men. “Such quick feet deserve quick answer. If you’ll permit me?” He may ask, but of course the bluerider is already in motion, his bow to the headwoman dipping with smooth precision as the flourish of his hand reaches for hers. “My lady,” is the address he offers Nora, knowing glint only a whisper’s edge to the open supplication of green eyes. “Grant me the honor of this dance?”

The interruption of the other Southerner gives the two men a moment's pause. The shorter one sweeps a dubious look over the interloper, reputations being what they are, before his glance checks toward B'nari, even if her brother is oblivious to the goings on now that the greenrider has him out in the middle of the floor. The other man, meanwhile, appears rather inspired by V'dean's interest to give the headwoman a second look, more serious consideration. But with the bluerider offering no pause before he reaches for Nora's hand, perhaps their reactions go entirely unregistered. She may have been ready to refuse him the moment he stepped into view, but the formality of his approach — the bowing and flourishing, the gratuitous soliciting — is enough of a surprise to halt Nora's expression before it really takes hold. Instead, it's a wary look she gives him and her answer comes before either of her preferred partners can reply. "Pretending to be a gentleman tonight?" she arches lightly with the guise of a cool smile that doesn't soften the flint of her eyes. And though her hand is hardly eager to be claimed by his, it doesn't pull away. Knowing V'dean, the lack of outright rejection might as well be compliance — but then what isn't?

“And all afternoon,” V’dean replies smoothly upon the heels of her question, his winsome smile canted to include dubious shorty over there. No, eagerness is not required. As he straightens, he’s already shifting to lay his forearm along Nora’s for the escort out to the broader floor. “Do you mean to claim the next dance?” is his aside to the taller man as he cuts between them and the headwoman as he turns her away from her edge dwelling companions. It’s only barely a question, though his smug humor is well buried, given that he’s not exactly lingering to hear the man answer. Instead, as he tests the lay of his cravat with a touch of his hand, cool green eyes are swiveling back to take in the white clad woman at his side. “I must not be doing very well,” is a continuation of his answer to her, his smile a light self mockery. “You disbelieve.” Once the static spectators are clear from their elbows, the bluerider sweeps again before her to slide his arms into the proper hold for the light spirited dance, the curve of his palm soft but confident at her waist. He picks up the rhythm with a quickening backward trip of his own leatherclad feet, a step that’s just off the most basic as he watches with a small lift of brows to see if she follows.

Nora has only dull disinterest for how he’s spent his afternoon but decorum allows him to lead her away from her acquaintances and toward the dance. After that check of his cravat, his glance aside may catch her smoothing a light hand at the front of her dress, an unnecessary touch that could just as easily mean to match his finery as to be sure her own remains unsullied. Certainly, the lofty pitch of her chin hasn't relented. "Disbelieve?" she echoes with doubt, taking up the perfunctory stance of a dancing partner but still only walking to keep up with his backward steps. There's a hint of amusement on her lips for the way he starts without her, reflected darkly in her eyes. It makes the last strolling strides obstinate ones, before she relents. "I know better." Even if there's a lack of enthusiasm as her feet pick up the rhythm, it hardly mars her adept glide through the paces, her seamless follow of his lead. A surveying eye sweeps over his chest, to chin, to the top of his head, before she's ready to meet his gaze. "Why do you do this, V'dean? What do you want?"

There’s a slight drop of his chin and brief flattening of his gaze, subtle acknowledgement of the position she puts him in, dancing on his own. It doesn’t stop V’dean, however, nor sour his disposition. Once she sways so easily into step, his lead picks up an additional level of complexity. She knows better. His sighing breath is a thing of regrouping rather than resignation. “Why do I do what?” He might mistake the rove of Nora’s gaze over his tidied appearance. But, typically, he carries on: “I want to dance with a pretty girl. It makes a nice picture for mother.” He can’t expect this motivation to be accepted as his reason entire, though perhaps the fancier twist out of hold that he leads Nora into lends credence to the claim, particularly as it occurs near the table he came from — but then again, maybe she really didn’t notice him there. “Even with your ankles,” he’ll murmur through a quieter smile as he tugs her back into his arms, ending the brief opportunity for his gaze to run down towards the clever step of those white heels. “I’m glad you didn’t wear your green belt. You look beautiful tonight, Nora.” Now it’s the artful coiling of her braids his gaze picks over as they continue to travel the floor’s perimeter.

She keeps up without effort, falling into easy time with the music, comfortably twisting a step here, turning a hip there, tossing the flare of her skirt about her nimble legs, all without thinking. It probably does make a nice show for mother, even with the naked calves flagrantly exposed by the flip of the headwoman's hem — as long as mother doesn't pay too much attention to Nora's face, where her expression has gone flat again. "Your mother's here?" She doesn't believe that either, and there's no glance toward that table to suggest she saw him sitting with his family earlier. The tug has her stiffening — as if she has any power to maintain a chilly distance between them — steps growing stilted when he draws her close. Her shoulders writhe uncomfortably. "Stop that," she tells him for the earnest-sounding flattery that pinches at her brow. Confusion shadows in her eyes before she turns her face aside, casts her gaze low and shielded. A quiet growl leaks into her voice: "There are plenty of pretty girls here." It comes with the clear implication he should find one of them to pester. And then her chin lifts again, and she asks, "What about my belt?" as if begrudgingly grasping for the only interesting thread of conversation. Resolutely unaffected, no matter what he's just seen.

“I brought her,” is his confirmation of his mother’s presence, a slight weave of their joined hands making vague indication of the table’s direction. Her protest, her growl — they flicker the slight tension of a reaction across his own brows. Not that Nora is likely to see, with her gaze turned away. The exposed line it makes of her neck has the near perfection of his frame cracking as V’dean leans closer with a quiet inhale. It means he’s a touch nearer when she looks back, only the soft suggestion of a smile upon his lips. Well, until her begrudging question presses his dimple briefly deeper. “She’s quite superstitious.” There’s slight pause, a turn in the run they make across the floor that lends him a moment to consider the need for clarity. “Mother,” the superstitious one, who brings a subtle note of perhaps more familiar wry humor back into his voice. “She finds herself in quandary, whether I ought to wear my knot. And why would those women choose such an ill-fated color for their badge?” There’s humor, too, in the light mimicry with which he adds haughtiness to his tone. “So you see, I’m glad it’s pink today.” It’s the first wander of his hand at her waist, and comes as a small thing — just the slight flex of two knuckles that drags fingertips fractionally along the thin belt settled over her tailored dress.

Perhaps there's something to this tale of his mother and the gesture of their hands draws Nora's eyes in the direction of the table, though without enough time to catch a clear sight of the women in question. Besides, when she turns her head back to find V'dean leaning closer, there's that dimple laughing at her. "Perhaps it's for all those ill-fated jungles," she replies dryly, though her own penchant for the bad-luck color is proof enough of how she feels about superstitions. And then the wheels start to turn, the quick calculation behind her eyes only briefly interrupted by the flex of his belt-tracing fingers. "So… what? You want your mother to believe I'm the kind of girl you see? At least that answers my question." Her feet stop and she pulls at his grasp, no matter how the crowd around them continues to swirl about, or if the seated woman is looking on. "Let me go, V'dean. Don't make me lie to your mother." Weary, all of it.

“It makes sense. And what primary color was left? We could have had purple.” But his musing is trailing off as her calculations click and her feet draw to a halt. This time he’s not left dancing alone, though the hand at her waist is reluctant to let go even if the flex of his elbow opens. “I wasn’t…” Careless laughter, twisted smirks — they’re all fallen from his expression as he looks on helplessly as she pulls away, green eyes darker under the drawing knit of his brow. “Nora.” Maybe she does already have her answer; he doesn’t seem to have a better one readily on offer. Frustration pulls his lips thinner, his jaw tensing as he bites down against the escape of any of the troubled thoughts brewing, but he’s not so completely passive as to let her go that simply. Shocking, surely. His steps follow the backing lean of her weight, his fingers curling to grippier purchase against the light material of her frock and lean muscle of her back. He edges out a little lick of his lips that loosens his tongue and frees the low of his voice. “I wanted to dance with you. Nora.” The fixed weight of his gaze starts to break with a little shake of his head. “I just wanted to dance with you.” Except they’re not, and his hand starts to relent as his other lifts to rub smooth the rumple of his brow as his gaze drops down between them to the flutter of her skirt and bright toes of her shoes.

"Who?" Like Nora doesn't recognize her own name. "Did you just realize that you're using me?" She laughs at him during his moment of helplessness, a mirthless little huff of breath. "So used to manipulating people you don't even notice you're doing it. That's a charming habit. I'm sure mother would be proud." And what does she see now, if mother watches? Nora leaning away, bowed back against V'dean's hold, his hand wound possessively into the fabric of her white dress, the assistant headwoman's palm pressed to his chest to hold him away. And just because the bit about his mother being present may happen to have been true, that doesn't mean Nora is any more convinced by his claims about wanting to dance with her specifically. A backward step balances her weight with the easing of his grip, her smile frostily amused. She even tips her head as if to bolster him, or so it might look from afar, since her words are hardly encouragement. "Are you sure you don't have me confused with someone else?" Closer, quieter and darker: "You've had me already, V'dean. Or did you forget." She could spin away from him, take advantage of his slackened hold, but instead her fingers lift to cup gently at his cheek, a sigh softening the venom from her tongue and the tense resistance in her spine. "Don't make that face."

These mirthless observations of hers are surely a contribution to the tension lacing, quiet and unspoken, throughout his posture. It serves a purpose, somewhat, as the tight line of his shoulders holds steady against the jostle of a still twirling couple as the dance continues around them. Is V’dean confused, forgetful? The questions, her slackening along with his grip, they start his eyes tipping back upward even before the brush of her fingers reach his neatly groomed cheek. “I’m not making a face,” is mostly smooth assertion, with only a touch of quarrelsomeness. Chin still a little low, he’s brought his gaze back to level upon blue eyes. “You said I could wear you.” His voice is a murmur, his hand slow as it reaches to reclaim her hand, brushing a thumb first in soft glide over the fine bone of her wrist. “Like silk.” His hold may remain loose, but it slides to return towards the small of her back. “I remember. Dance with me, Nora.” It’s a softer request, twitching light at his brows. “If only to make your tall friend realize he’s an idiot for not jumping at the chance to be out here with you.”

Her mouth purses in a pretty pout for this face he's not wearing, the stroke of her fingers whispering over his neatened cheek, drawing to land their delicate pads on his chin. "Like a sad puppy." That's the face. "You got what you wanted," she reminds him. But as for wearing her, the recalled words steal the breath from her throat — not a laugh or a scoff, but a spasm at her stomach. Aside from the retreating curl of her fingers, Nora goes motionless as his touch comes to life again, the tendril of it breezing over her wrist, creeping at the small of her back. But then she slips beneath it, weight swaying toward him. "That wasn't me," she claims quietly, barely audible over the new chords of the latest song. "That was some fool." The rock of her body becomes a step, not pulling from him, but shifting into the curve of his arm, finding a beat of the music as she fits in against him. He did ask for her to dance. "You jumped. And you're an idiot." So there's some kind of failure in his argument. "Why would-" But it clips off there, the puzzle shaping at her brow, the question failing and starting again. "Why would you say that, say it like that, 'if only'."

Did he get what he wanted? A slight arch of a brow is the only subtle brush at posing the question. Maybe it doesn’t matter anymore — maybe the answer changes, right then, as the words he does say still her so. If V’dean looked sad, the return of her into his arms evaporates the traces. Puppiness, perhaps, is harder to shake given the lingering angle of his chin and the soft quiet of his features. While he may have tried to match the talent of Nora’s feet before, now form is somewhat sacrificed in favor of fitting to the hushed conversation. There’s warmth in his exhale over her claim; it touches a gentle curve to his mouth. The cool of green eyes runs across her expression then, but the necessities of navigating a filling dance floor pull his attention away. “I found myself quite partial to that fool,” he’ll note in brief avoidance of her later question. “Perhaps,” begins a more frank disclosure, “I thought that ‘because I’d like you to’ wasn’t going to be a particularly compelling argument.” The outward scan of his gaze has found the spot at the edge of the floor where he made his jump. “Who are they? Tinsrath’s rider is your brother,” he knows, which must leave the others in question.

Nora gives him an arched look right back, another dose of skepticism in her eyes, resignation on her lips. Perhaps her expression is softened a little by they way they dance more closely now, or by the warmth and quiet she finds on his face, but it lingers anyway as they wind across the floor — stubborn distrust despite her hand wrapped airily in his, the curve of her back supple between his palm and the thoughtless drift of her feet. She leaves the navigating to V'dean, paying no mind to where they go, nor expending any thought on lively flourishes. The critique behind her gaze thinks not of the dance or anyone around them, at least not until he asks so plainly about the party she's come with. A look hunts them out on the sideline; her brother and the greenrider have finished their turn on the floor and all of them are now more interested in talk and drink than the music in the air. "Kayisa is in his wing. The shorter one too, I think. I don't know. I'm sure I've met them all before," she caps it off with an unconcerned shrug. "B'nari, my brother." There's a little more life in her step, an observable shift as she's distracted from more her conflicted musings. Not that her doubts are forgotten. "Is your mother really here?" A bit of something wry finds her mouth — maybe it's just the idea of him hanging out with his mother.

“So they are his friends,” V’dean surmises. If she’s so unconcerned, he’s not going to pay them much more mind. He leads the circling travel of their steps onward, making a well designed frame for the flair of her enlivened footwork. The sounds of strings and woodwind are sweetly louder as they near the stage, the time-keeping vibration of the drum making greater claim over pulses from closer proximity. Again his eye catches briefly near the side of the stage, a flicker of an easier smile offered towards the loose gathering of the next batch of musicians. It’s after this acknowledgement is made that his gaze falls more fully back to Nora, a quick scan finding the shape of her expression. “I suppose you are surprised I have a mother,” he replies as an echoing twist forms at the edge of his mouth. “She is a lovely woman. With an amazing ability to believe the best of her family.” And here, surely, the cut of humor’s edge is turned inward. “It wasn’t my intention to trot you out and puppet you before her,” murmurs droll, further assurance against her worry of being asked to lie.

"I guess," comes Nora's noncommittal answer for her relationship with those people she came with. Amusement hitches one corner of her mouth into a smirk. "Afraid you'll have to fight the tall one if you don't return me?" There's a hop and lift of her foot behind her, hips twisting to leave the hem of her dress sweeping about her legs. She catches only the tail end of that smile he sends toward the musicians, and the curiosity it lights in her eyes doesn't last long, not as he picks up the subject of his mother. Surprised? Her mouth curves smugly before she even delivers the line they've volleyed back and forth before: "Something like that. But I'm done insulting you for now. And I doubt your mother deserves it." She lets her weight bump against him, adding teasing levity to her words. Or it might, if she didn't bump again and stay there, her chin lifted for her lashes to sink low as her arm winds further over his shoulder — very close. If his mother believes the best of him… "Who does she think you are?" Nora purrs the words, but the way she tries to pull back afterwards might paint them as little more than taunting, at least until less tormenting motives present themselves: "Spin me." Her fingers firm on his as she asks for the space to twirl. Better, perhaps, than acknowledging the trotting and puppeting.

“For now.” V’dean, perhaps, is remarking upon the promise rather than the threat of such a statement. His lips hold a private curve, green eyes scanning from the shape of her mouth to the dip of her lashes as he holds in firm scaffold against the lean of her slim weight. The slight splay of his hand at her back does give some resistance to her pulling away. “A dragonrider.” There’s a quirk of rue touched at one edge of his mouth. But she asks to spin, and spin her he shall — a lift of his hand gives her fulcrum and the curve of his palm at her waist helps add momentum to the twirl that will flare her skirt and twist Nora under his arm as his continued step leads to the side. When he reaches to catch her back into modified hold, it’s with her shoulder to his chest where his words can more easily dip towards her ear as they rock to the drum’s beat. “Would you like that? Seeing me fight for you. Bleed for you.” The count ends, and as the next begins the hand that holds near her hip firms into a light push that would spin her back out again along the length of arm where their hands still clasp. “I’m no champion,” is laugh-tinged disclosure of what a match’s conclusion is likely to mean for him.

Nora doesn't miss a step, executing the spin with swift aplomb to be caught again by his hand, her skirt finishing its orbit with a flutter around her calves. It's a pristine profile he speaks to, her flat cheek with just a hint of color, chin unimpeachably lifted, shoulder hiked up in its press against his chest. She doesn't favor V’dean with an answer until he's turned her out to the length of their arms, her fingers gripping tightly as she leans her weight away, using him as anchor for the pitch of her posture. "There's no blood, the way you fight." Her free hand reaches for his with her wrists crossed, heel turning to revolve the tug of her weight around him. More spinning, different spinning, asking for the dizzying ride of centrifugal force. But blue eyes are on him, a static point amid the flow of dancers, parted lips readying a breath for the peak of their turning. "And why fight?" she asks before her arms flex to draw herself toward him again. "You've had me. What else is left?" That reminder again, surely a sore point.

V’dean gives his hand over readily enough to her reach, the flex of biceps adding counterweight without his shoulders pitching much past vertical. His spin is a tight thing, centered, a quick turn of shinily shod feet. Her observation has an eyebrow ticking up, his chin turning a bit coyly to the side as his smile flashes briefly deeper. But, “you haven’t seen me fight,” is what he says of blood or the lack thereof. When would he have occasion? As Nora pitches towards him, his hold drops from her hands to catch at her waist. The song is winding slower towards its conclusion and his feet shift in a subtler rock that somewhat fits to the base notes. “I don’t know,” is quiet. Too honest. His grin spreads as if to break it, offering more flippantly: “Dancing.” But the quiet lingers, his voice stuck in a murmur amidst the surround of music and slowing motion of revelers. “Was it so terrible, for you? Did you not have me?” The shift of his brows emphasizes his inquiry, the cool green of his eyes waiting and steady. “What else is left?”

Dancing. Perhaps it is the most encouraging thing yet, that as that they sink in close and slow, as the music winds to a more intimate number, Nora looks over towards her brother and their companions, a jerk of her chin releasing them to other entertainments. Leaving her alone with V'dean — aside from the other dancers, though surely the shift in tempo has a few people leaving the floor. "Do you want me to?" she asks, a pass of her eyes over his face. "Do you want me to watch you fight? Do you want to fight?" A dip of her chin and a look says all there is to say about how she perceives that likelihood. A whole slew of question that expect the same answer. But the pace of the song has her curving both arms over V'dean's shoulders, or perhaps she just wants to keep her comments private. "I don't think about it," she says, whether it was terrible or not. "And who hasn't?" Had him. Her eyes take another pass, down to his mouth, his throat and back up again. "Or who has?" she offers as alternative, a fine brow cocking up. But in the end, she shakes her head. "I haven't." Perhaps there's enough in that to answer his last question, but Nora drags her gaze away to note a couple drifting past them instead.

There’s a turn of his head that follows her wordless release of her group, his gaze lingering for a moment’s thought upon the quartet that has chosen drink as the accompaniment to their discussions. The shadows of his reaction to this further muddle the shape of specters that make silent answer to Nora’s question. It doesn’t come immediately, but surely it’s what she expects: a slow turn of his head to the negative. And then his chin is lifting, starting a long ripple of his posture that has little to do with the music as her arms wrap high. It’s as if V’dean is not quite sure where to put his hands, other than the loose encircling of her waist, though perhaps her words strike discomfort more deeply than that. Still, the drop of her eyes will find his mouth twisting into a shape akin to smug before her alternative wording sweeps the expression away. The turn of her gaze releases his; he’s quick to lift a glance across the width of the floor towards the table his family had claimed. His shoulder shifts underneath the sling of her arms, a hand reaching up to trace along one thin forearm in soft reach for her hand.

Maybe it's the way his hold fumbles at her, those uncertain hands, but Nora is hardly so distracted that his shifting goes unnoticed and as her eyes snap back to watch the shape of his smirk vacating his mouth, feeling that preliminary shrug of his shoulder, a hand tightens behind his neck, wrapping at the crisp collar of his shirt. "Don't," comes her quiet command. "Don't run away." Perhaps V'dean had no such intention, but the words are out anyway, and they leave something sober on the shape of her mouth. But the other hand, the one not making some paltry effort to keep him, eases down to meet his fingers, her own taking gentle play along his skin, a light graze over knuckles. She waits, watching with shallow breath, the mild sway of her feet forgotten and falling still.

It brings green eyes back swiftly to find blue, that command, along with a small stitch knitting between his brows. The brush of his touch slows a moment, but it’s meant to find the fingers that come to play across his knuckles. The shift of them is gradual, the press of his thumb finding the pocket of her palm before drawing her arm out again towards a more formal hold, despite the stall of their progress across the floor. It takes a moment, in which he searches the sobriety of her features, before a curve takes shape upon his lips. “I’m not,” are words warmed by unvoiced laughter, though there’s a quiet depth of watchfulness still lurking within his gaze. “We don’t dance like that,” is likewise quietly murmured. “Not out here. I imagine,” now bemusement lightens at his edges, “that, too, may have been different.”

Her eyes drop to watch that warmth on his mouth. "Good," Nora answers with a little stretch of her chin, an affected twitch of praise for him following her orders. When it lifts again, her gaze asks questions before her voice can. It could be that the confusion dragging her delicate brows together is the same that makes her hand so easy to pull to a less intimate distance, that draws her step back likewise, V'dean's collar released. "Like what?" she asks with enough honesty that it's entirely possible she found nothing so immodest about the position she'd struck. "What…" It makes lashes flicker until her head does the same, a jerked little shake that has the petals in her hair trembling. It's a gesture that questions all of it, refusing to ask one thing lest the rest go unanswered.

“Like your arms around my neck,” V’dean answers with that lighter curl still in place at one edge of his mouth. “Like,” for that matter, “this is the third song that’s played and I’ve kept you from your party.” The slow rock of his step, however, is meant to tilt her back into rhythm with the music. It may mostly serve the purpose of aiming them for the near edge of the parquet floor. “We are Weyr folk,” and thus are held to different standards, the wry flat of the statement might imply. “But I’m pretending to be a gentleman tonight.” Pretending may be the operative word. “I think it might ruin my guise,” he leans in to murmur more closely to her ear, “if I were to kiss you in the center of the square. Never mind wrapping you into my arms to drag you off home.” This is no gloat over the past, but rather sounds a confession of current impulses.

Her arms around his neck… Nora gives a quick roll of her eyes. "Nowtimers." For surely that's the only explanation. She might have another interjection for how long they've been dancing, but his leading step has her drawn back into neglectful swaying, a hint of uncertainty left behind instead. She must suspect V'dean's motive as the edge of the floor nears, as something wary drifts in behind the hesitation of her gaze and firms the line of her back, particularly when the operative word strikes its chord. She stiffens faintly as he leans, ready for something — ready for something else. For what comes instead, there's a blink, a softness that shows up first in her hand and the light drift of her fingers over his, and then shape of her mouth before it finds a quiet smirk. "And in front of your mother." The tone tsks at him; it buys a second for the wheels to turn with consideration. "What will you do instead?" a tiny lilt beneath it, warmly playful. "Or do I get to choose?" She may tip her head, like she knows better, but the thoughts continue to play out as her eyes take a lingering search of his face.

Yes, and in front of his mother. “I’d rather not give her too large a chasm over which to suspend her disbelief,” V’dean agrees mildly while her mental gears work and their steps drift with the ending notes. As for what he will do: “I might offer to secure you a drink. To help you safely back to your brother’s side in the crowd.” His smile plays small across his lips, but it’s more present now in his eyes as they hold upon Nora. The conclusion of the song has him stepping more broadly back to sweep into a bow, his hand warm under the light play of hers and turning to capture her fingers over the flat of his and gently graze his thumb down towards pale nail beds. As he rises, he’ll bring the back of her hand up between them — it’s an odd way to buy distance, the soft press of a kiss to her upturned knuckles while he stands near enough for returning her question with a low quiet of voice. “What would you choose?” Which, perhaps, is not quite the same as promising she gets to make the choice.

The light bounce of her brows might welcome the drink, if such a proposal is actually on the table. She still hesitates, though, aware — as her eyes intently watch the lift of her hand, the press of a kiss that has her fingers rising to brush the smooth backs of her nails at his chin — of the potential parting finality of so gentlemanly a behavior. "And you could introduce me. Proper, perhaps, after three songs." Nora's mouth curves wide and wry, maybe more than it has so far, and there's a playful narrowing of lashes, as if she's carefully humming through the extrapolations of such a thing on V'dean's behalf. "Escort me through the stalls," is another option. "If any of them are still open." She casts a glance away from him, toward the bevy of booths off to the side. Perhaps her thoughts aren't there with the trinkets and baubles, not with the way her mouth presses enough to tighten a tendon beneath the pink ribbon at her throat. There's something else unspoken in her eyes when they find him again, honest and unsure. She tucks it away with a sweet smile. Mostly. A second later it almost finds a voice, breath taken and lips parting, only nothing comes.

V’dean notes it all, the suggestive bounce and the play of her lashes, the widening wry and tauter uncertainty. His own smile remains private, just a teased edge of filtered thoughts surfacing. It may have made for a clean parting, the gallant motions that fit his professed gentlemanly script, but the bluerider doesn’t release her hand. Instead he undergoes a shift of arms and feet, transferring her fingers to the offered fold of his arm as he swivels hip to hip at her side. “What is it Nora?” Patient curiosity seeks after the words she meant to fit to that breath, his gaze less insistent for the way he must glance to assure their path from the dance floor as other couples move on and off in a roiling current of bodies. The perimeter of spectators and tables beyond makes for a similar need to scout out their path, though which path that might be perhaps is yet undecided.

It might not be visible, the release of some tiny tension from her shoulders as the bluerider rotates a step to fall in beside her, but perhaps V'dean can feel it in the deference of her arm curving neatly through his, the hand laid so easily on his sleeve. Such a pretty pair they are. But for his question, Nora can only shake her head, the words coming no more readily for his prompting. "Let me think on it," she counters instead, asking for more of his patience with a little squeeze of her arm for apology or encouragement. There's a quick search of his profile before she turns her attention towards the route he finds through the spotty interruption of dancers about the floor's edge and the row of watchers, her gaze hunting out the tables, likely for some older woman who might bear resemblance to the man at her side. "You said you brought her?" she wonders, only a vague memory of that detail, possibly imagined.

“Well that sounds ominous,” V’dean murmurs for her request of time, but his voice holds a lilt of humor. His one arm is static for how he wears her, but the rustle of motion catching his other perhaps betrays the submerged hum of his nerves. He straightens the fall of his jacket, he smooths at the wrap of her hand over his sleeve, and he lifts that often fussing comb of fingers through the slicked back wave of his hair. “I did say that,” is the sort of infuriating answer that offers nothing definite. But they are winding their way through tables, and while the one ahead may be large enough for a party of ten, it is currently occupied by a pair of older women who certainly bear a resemblance to each other. Light complected, their blonde hair is giving way to grey. The younger, still with an infant grandchild caught over her blanket-protected shoulder, wears a more refined version of the features they share. To call the elder a handsome woman might be overly generous, but there are the angular planes of the bluerider’s face to be found within the age-softened lines of hers. What she lacks in natural beauty may be compensated for by sophistication — the artful style of her hair worked around a stylish hat and the richly tailored lines of her dress and short jacket luxurious despite their modesty. “Will white wine suit?” Because that’s what’s in the bottle that’s still upon the table as they draw near.

She tosses a sly look his way, the tempting tease of a bounced brow made warm with shared humor for his response. It might be his uneasy checking of his clothes that prompts Nora to lift a hand to her own hair, smoothing over neat braids for barely-there flyaways and fingering the flower that droops a little now but is still in place. "So, you'd rather I not mention the silk," she checks with a light facetious innocence, or it would be if she didn't hit 'silk' with a more suggestive note. "Or how you pawed at me on my desk?" She could let his absence of a real answer go unremarked, but as a hip swings to round a shoved-out chair in her path, she bumps in closer to request at least one bit of preparatory information. "From?" And meanwhile her eyes are ahead, wondering if it's this table or that, because that table has more than just a mother at it. A smile starts to bloom, wide and friendly, as she picks over the unexpected collection of people, and perhaps mostly that clear matriarch with her striking hat. Maybe it's for the woman's benefit that she turns her head toward V'dean's with a hint of unnecessary familiarity, a soft show in her smile. "Of course."

“It may be best not to mention,” silk and desks, V’dean agrees a bit dryly, though the sway of her hips keeps a smile painted across his features. Or perhaps that’s just for the sake of the women they approach. “I’ll introduce you,” is his murmured promise for her softly made request. Not only does the table hold more than a mother, but there’s also the detritus of the remainder of the scattered party. Additional wine glasses, two beer (or would that be ale, here?) steins, a lady’s shawl and a man’s well-worn jacket, a few wrapped parcels of small things purchased at booths that may have closed… that sort of thing. The bluerider pushes in a chair to better lead them within greeting distance of the seated pair. “Nora,” he begins in more formalized tones, “I’d like to introduce you to the daughters of the late Master Harper Emir. Mirren, my mother, and Annis, now of Nabol’s Fogtrace Ridge. Ladies,” he slips half away with a twist, lifting Nora’s hand back into his in order to make better presentation, “allow me present Nora, formerly of oldtime Telgar, now serving as the Headman’s assistant at Southern Weyr.” The edge of smile turned towards her holds a bit more twist — encouragement, self-consciousness… or perhaps apology, since he’s about to leave her standing on her own so that he may tug a handkerchief free from his pocket and move to pick up his discarded glass. As there’s not an unused one waiting, he clearly means to polish it clean so he can make offer from the table’s winebottle.

Meanwhile, this gives leave for the older women’s attention to fix upon Nora. His mother is first to stretch out a delicate reach of fingers, rocking ever so slightly forward upon her chair in order to make survey of the bare-ankled girl before her. “Oldtime Telgar,” is novel enough to bear her remark and a slight lift of brows. “A pleasure,” nonetheless, she’ll at least claim as she offers a perfected smile.

"It sounds wanting when you say it," Nora quips at him for the way he presents her, a bright aside happy to be overheard by the women who claim her attention directly afterwards. It's an easy smile she wears, broad and pleased, and she starts with her own introduction, done the way she likes it. "Nora." Isn't that enough? She eases her arm from V'dean's, a little something too amused in her eye as she catches his glance. Perhaps he should be wary of leaving her alone with his family. "It's lovely to meet both of you, Mirren," as she begins with his mother, leaning forward to take the woman's hand. "Annis," next. "Oldtime, yes. We're not all like the stories," she assures with a warm laugh as she straightens again and her hand lays on the back of a neighboring chair. "I didn't know that V'dean had Harper blood. Too modest, I suppose." Flattery, check. "I apologize for monopolizing him. My brother isn't much of a dancer." There, she's pleased enough with that, and can spare a moment to glance after the bluerider, just keeping tabs.

“Charmed,” is Annis’s contribution, the younger sister’s greeting perhaps a touch stilted for the child she’s burdened with. Or perhaps it’s just deference to her elder sibling.

“One does best to not put too much credence in rumors,” Mirren replies regarding oldtime stories, though perhaps the mossier green of her gaze drifts again towards Nora’s ankles. “You’ve quite a talent, my dear, and we’ve done well enough.” Despite the monopoly made of the bluerider who she, too, now looks towards. “Darling, don’t let her get her own chair.” She’s noticed the set of the headwoman’s hand. “Nora, will you sit with us? I see my son is already fetching your wine… a little more for me as well, dear, if you’d be so kind.”

Whether it’s through modesty or something else, V’dean is perhaps avoiding Nora’s eye. He is rather occupied with the glass, neatly rubbed back to a sparkle before he sets in within her reach before lifting the bottle. A survey is made of it’s level within the greened glass. “Of course, mother.” Nora’s glass is filled first, a neat twist of his wrist catching drips on the bottle’s mouth before he rounds behind her to pour for Mirren. The motion gives him cause for touching a light brush to the small of Nora’s back, the flickering lift of his gaze searching for blue eyes as his smile is kept under tight rein. “Do you need to find your brother?” is his offer of exit before he draws out the chair.

About the rumors, "I have to agree," Nora answers in reply, a step sweeping her skirt with the shift of her weight, probably just encouraging that offer of a seat. But first it's followed with a bow of her head in prim acceptance of the praise, a grateful smile. "Thank you, ma'am. That's very kind. I love to dance." As for how well she's done, that's a grin she flashes at V'dean, knowing light in her eyes whether he wants to catch it or not. And maybe they're put on for his mother's benefit, the tiny touches of infatuation she displays, the shy way her teeth find her lip as he sets the shined glass on the table and fills it. "I do," she says of finding her brother, though there's lingering eye contact that might let V'dean in on it only being a convenient escape. Plus she's slipping into the chair he pulls out. "But I'm happy to sit for a moment, thank you." That is turned to his mother as well, since it's her invitation that gives Nora a moment off her feet, and she does stretch an ankle as though she appreciates the relief. "You've been enjoying the gather?" she asks politely of the women, bringing the glass to her lips. "And your family?"

V’dean might be perfectly happy to make that escape right now, though there’s no particular demand in the calm search he makes of her gaze as green eyes settle upon blue. He nods. With Nora taking her chair, he may as well pull out a seat for himself. He chooses the one beyond her, leaving no buffer between the assistant headwoman and his mother as he returns the bottle to the table and arranges himself against his chair’s back. There’s fussing to be done — a button to free to let his jacket fall more neatly and the brush at a pant leg to straighten the lay of the cuff.

Meanwhile his mother has a smile for Nora’s love of dance and attentive eyes for the small tells of partiality. “Nabol does put on a charming gather.”

“And quite an exceptional one, this turn,” Annis adds.

“As it should be.” There’s a touch of strain, perhaps, to the neat smile Mirren makes around her sip. “And family — always a joy. We find ourselves somewhat far flung, but we are fortunate that our reunions are not so infrequent.” Owing, no doubt, to the rider that sits with them. “Though perhaps,” there’s a touch of shared humor slanted towards her sister, “my nephew would prefer to have less company to distract from his new wife.”

Annis shakes off this concern, though it sets her gaze flicking briefly towards her nephew.

“And what of your family, Nora?” the elder sister continues. “Keeping a Weyr’s caverns must leave you little time for your own household.” This, it seems, may be cause for a light moue of sympathy. “Are your relatives in residence at Southern? Or perhaps they have found the Telgar of our time to feel closer to home?”

The cross of her legs might be a touch scandalous outside the Weyr, and here with her well-coifed hostess, but there's no thought of it from Nora as she fits one over the other and leaves her exposed ankle out there for all to see. Instead, her attention is on the interchange between the two women, the question that follows. "I'm afraid we were a little far flung as well," she says with a touch of apology, whether that's for Mirren or her own parents. But she has to correct her word choice: "Are. I just have my brother. The rest of them stayed behind." A glance flicks off toward the dancers, past them, a quick check to see if said brother still lingers there, though the party appears to have moved on to other amusements. Her smile is seamless when it returns to the older woman. "But the caverns are my household." And she appears satisfied with that, and with another mouthful of wine — a drink she takes with her eyes slipped toward V'dean, just in case he's counting the sips to the bottom of her glass. "Your nephew is newly married? How lovely," she remarks to Mirren, attention shifting halfway through to Annis, presuming its her son who is due congratulations. She lets her eyes settle on the sleeping child strewn over the woman's shoulder, applying that enchanted expression that is expected wherever babies are concerned. "And who is this?"

If Mirren is scandalized, she’s at least well mannered enough to keep it from showing. “What a terrible decision that must have been,” leaving family, she sympathizes with a soft look and slight shake of her head. As for the caverns Nora has adopted: “I’m sure they’re better for having you, dear.” It’s a generous little nothing, and while Nora looks to the bluerider his mother will turn a little look to her sister. “At least there’s a brother,” though the knowing look that passes between the siblings may suggest that brothers are perhaps not what they commonly regard as the best of guardians.

And, well, how well has B’nari guarded against V’dean? He’s not counting sips, and instead proves to be less mannered than his mother when it comes to noting the airborne exposure of that fine ankle framed in white. It’s a stolen glance, however, for he is attending Nora’s answers with carefully muted interest. The slip of blue eyes that joins their gazes prompts a slight spread of smile. “She takes good care of us,” is his small contribution to the conversation.

It hardly detracts from the evidence of the extent of his family and the shared caretaking his aunt provides. “This is Darvin,” Annis introduces as she pets down the sleeping bundle’s back. “He belongs to my eldest daughter. It’s my middle son Hedrick who is newly married, after he returned to us from the Farmcraft hall. They’ve been enjoying the floor as well.” Her smile is soft as she nods towards the dance square. “Though I dare say my nephew makes the better dance partner.”

Considering that tonight is the first B'nari has learned anything about Nora and V'dean, and his reaction has been to leave her to the bluerider's charge, it's probably proof that he's not the best of guardians. And if Nora recognizes the concern passed between the two women, the implications of it, she doesn't let on. Or at least not in any way they'd recognize. She nods that, yes, it was a terrible decision, but, "I couldn't let him go alone," she supplies with a modest dip of her head that doesn't quite match the life in her smile. Anyway, there's talk of the baby and isn't that always a safe topic? "All boys?" Nephews, grandsons… "My youngest niece was about that old the last time I saw her." Maybe the faint sigh of her breath is a show, but who knows. When she looks again toward the dancefloor, it's some empty attempt to spot this faceless couple she'd not recognize even if she saw them, and then to V'dean. "He's not bad," she says lightly, teasing plainly enough that even two old ladies should be able to pick upon the humor. There's something, though, as her eyes meet green, that sharpens privately for only him to see, a warning perhaps. With one more swallow wine, she sets the glass aside, bashful apology on her face as she nudges it away. "That's probably all I should have," a hand laid high on her diaphragm. "So much dancing, not enough dinner. I wouldn't want it to go to my head." It wouldn't be very ladylike to get smashed and very much so to have such a delicate tolerance, right? Precipitously, she uncrosses her legs, both feet finding the ground and readying.

There’s surely some murmurings, isn’t that sweet, for her sacrificial dedication to her brother. V’dean doesn’t seem much chastised by her look — of course, he rather seems to be making an effort to not look much of anything beyond benignly pleasant. He accepts the teasing as if it is as fine a compliment as he could hope for, head bowing a touch.

“Oh, no dear. We’ve plenty of girls in the family,” Mirren answers with humor that might be lighter were it not for the mention of the niece left behind. “I suppose it’s a comfort, to know that V’dean doesn’t complain overmuch of his sisters. Annis does not have the abundance of granddaughters that I do,” she supposes with a glimmer eyed smile shared over with her sister, “but that’s sure to be amended soon enough.” Given the newlyweds, presumably.

In any case — it does seem a good time to make a departure, doesn’t it? V’dean may be downright hasty in his rise to his feet, given the way his chair scrapes. “We can get you something as we find your brother,” he offers along with his hand in assistance for her to stand. “Shall I bring something back?” is posed to the ladies.

His aunt gives a shake of her head, more focused on farewells that seem needed — “Such a pleasure to meet you, Nora.” — but his mother is more considering of the offer. “Perhaps some turnovers. We can always take them back. I hope you enjoy the remainder of your evening, dear,” her smile turns to the assistant headwoman as she stretches her hand out for a squeeze. “So lovely to make your acquaintance.”

"Complain?" Nora says as though she couldn't imagine such a thing from the silent bluerider at her side. "Perhaps he only hesitates to speak of them to avoid bragging. Distance does help us forgot the little squabbles, doesn't it. Remember what's important." She has to try not to laugh, the way the contact of her heels to the floor has V'dean's chair making so immediate a sound. The assistant headwoman pulls a little face, this time just for the two women: a guilty little pout. "I hope I haven't embarrassed him," she murmurs to the sisters, wry enough to make fun of V'dean's eagerness, but perhaps only if they're sharp enough to follow. It doesn't seem to worry her whether they get the joke or not; she just takes the bluerider's offered hand to get to her feet, a hold that lingers on unless he makes a point of dropping it. She has another hand for taking Mirren's squeeze, smiling warmly at her. "It was so very nice to meet both of you. I promise not to keep him too long." Turnovers to deliver, after all. "And congratulations for the happy couple," she adds for Annis before she turns with sweet expectancy to V'dean.

“Nonsense,” Mirren has to say for Nora’s worry of her son’s embarrassment. She wears a quietly knowing smile — remembrances, perhaps, or simply accord with the younger woman’s wryness.

“Thank you,” Annis accepts congratulations with pleasure.

“Ladies,” is all V’dean will say as he’s surrounded by the trio (because Darvin — he’s surely no help), making his own little bow before drawing away. Nora’s sweetness is met by a placidly polite smile. He intends to keep her hand, if she allows, adjusting again to fit the lay of her fingers across the obliging fold of his arm. “This way,” he’ll gesture in lead with a slight turn of his other hand, posture straight perfection as he starts the thread through the field of small tables and chairs that have been left in disarray by the comings and goings of gatherers. “Are you hungry?” he’ll wonder once they’re more safely away, an inward tip of his head allowing the words to remain relatively low-spoken despite the cacophony of cheer swirling about them.

It's only once they're away from the women that Nora lets her bright smile fade, pensive quiet left behind, keeping her gaze low and allowing once again for V'dean to do the leading as her thoughts linger elsewhere. His question brings her out of her head with a long intake of breath, humor in her eyes when they lift to meet his, though her smile may offer no real answer, and perhaps nor does the reminder: "You have to bring them turnovers." She lets a step cross toward him, to bump toyingly against his side. "I shouldn't have done that," she admits, though the twist of her subdued grin promises she won't be losing any sleep over it. "Will you hear about it later?" The notion does seem to amuse her, at least.

“My evening has been committed,” V’dean agrees with a wan curl of smile as the slight turn of his gaze finds hers. “And sweeps in the morning. My life is perhaps not quite as debauched as you might imagine,” though he’ll of course sound regretful for it — and maybe it’s all a little disingenuous. The bump of her weight prompts a dip of his lashes though it doesn’t put much weave in his step, the firm of his side a solid shore for her to wash up against. “Oh, sure,” he sounds careless. “Though my unfamiliar station lends me quite a bit of immunity from my mother’s meddling. The waters are too uncharted for her to spend much time upon.” The shift of tongue and teeth worries lightly at the shape of his mouth a moment, but his expression is smoothed to curiosity as he turns more fully to Nora. “You were fine; what shouldn’t you have done?”

"How disappointing," comes Nora's dry reply for his lack of debauchery, another touch to her hair and her flower to make sure it's all still in place, though perhaps it's just to create a vaguely supercilious air. "You don't actually have to escort me, you know. I can find them on my own. And do have your commitments." Some passing though tweaks at the corner of her mouth as her glance drops again over the tailoring of his clothes, the tuck of her arm that remains in his. "It's nice that you spend time with her." And she means it, even if… there's something else. "You're the only rider?" It's like V'dean didn't ask a question at all, the way she glosses right past it. Perhaps the return of an entertained smile can trump his curiosity.

“I know I don’t have to,” V’dean answers with rather conceited assurance. And yet he’s not looking to disengage himself, even as ‘away’ is achieved and his progress slows to a more aimless drift about the edge of the music square. They’re moving no farther from the stage, it seems, though the path he chooses circuits them further away from the table claimed by his relatives. “When people talk of it being an honor of having a dragonrider in the family,” he makes oblique answer with a note of dry humor, in addition to the long nod given for his singular identity within his family, “I think they’re just constructing an obligation to serve as ready transport.” Of course, he’ll grant Nora an exception with an impishly lopsided grin: “I’m sure your brother appreciates the help to his confidence, so he can manage to take his greenrider for a turn on the dancefloor.”

Nora doesn't seem to object to their purposeless wandering, content enough to take in the sights of the gather, the strings of glowlights, music in the air. Maybe she watches a passerby with a nice warm pie, or maybe she's just watching the way he fumbles at both eating and walking — either way, she has no more real attention for the man than the casual stroll of her own feet. "They're trying to look on the bright side. It's slim pickings in their eyes." There's a press of her lips over an expansion of thoughts probably less suited to idle party chatter, but present in the shadow that passes over her eyes. And so, in turn, there's gratitude when her glance catches that impish grin instead, for the lighter turn of topics. "It's good for him," she'll say of her brother. Then, rueful but warm, "I should have left you out there." The smile she wears is hesitant as her chin lifts and her lashes fall. "Remind me again."

Her insight brings his keener interest, for all that Nora seems eager to leave behind that trail of her thoughts. And yet, with her gratefulness for the change, V’dean readily maintains his easier air. “Sister knows best,” he teases of her answer. Except that’s not quite right, is it? “Better.” The set of his teeth sharpens a fraction as the shining crinkle of his gaze remains heavy upon Nora at his side. The flux of a larger group moving out towards one of those booths selling pie serves as excuse to draw to a halt, his angle turning in a little more towards her. “At which point?” Should she have left him? He manages to summon some affront into his voice, but mostly his gaze is drifting distractedly across the fine planes of her cheeks, the delicacy of those petals at the edge of her hair, and the way the dark of her lashes fall against pale skin. There’s a pause, the quiet of his breath heavy and slow. And then the mannerly fold of his arm is gone from beneath her fingers as his hand presses more demandingly at her back instead, no hesitation in the lean that claims her mouth with his.

Better. Maybe that's the start of a reminder, the way it pinches at the corner of her eye. "Any point," Nora claims, a hint of effort on her brow, trying more earnestly to drum up whatever it is she's asking for. There's barely time, though, when his pause comes, when his arm disappears, for her to sneak a sideways look at V'dean. There's only a low flick of lashes and then his hand finds her back and his mouth… It's greeted with a quiet whimper, a straining shudder beneath his palm as her lips soften for his and her limply curled hands unfold over the neat front of his shirt. She kisses him back, there's no denying it, slow, barely restrained thing that it is. And there's presence enough to draw her head away after a beat, eyes still closed and mouth still lifted, but with her tongue pressing testingly at her lip before she murmurs, "No, the other stuff. The never, never again stuff." But it's a weak demand. Her eyes peel open languidly and the request solidifies behind the open uncertainty in her gaze. "Tell me the truth."

It will be her presence of mind that saves them from greater impropriety, for his restraint shreds more rapidly than hers. His fingers have strained against the neat seams of her white dress as they curled into a tighter grip. Under the press of her palm his breath heaves in a heated huff as the opening narrow of his gaze falls upon the test she makes of her lips. The edge of his own tongue makes jealous echo. “The… what?” An unsure chuckle catches on his breath. He forces his fingers open, but that only lets his arm curl more fully about her waist, the close press losing the pretense of necessity as the flow of the crowd wanes somewhat. Maybe they’re being avoided — those weyrfolk. V’dean only seems to see blue eyes. “The truth.” It lifts at a brow. “Truth… is never simple.” Perhaps there are her nevers? “Did I ever say never?” His confusion, at least, is truthful.

She sinks a little closer within the circle of his arm — maybe they are those weyrfolk to the people who pass by, but she just doesn't remember they exist just now. And maybe, with the way they stare at each other, it doesn't matter how far apart they stand. "Tell me you…" Nora starts to say, but the impulse to issue commands is barred by the sharper crease between her eyebrows. "Are you just trying to prove a point?" Her eyes take a quick hunt across his face, looking for answers in the shape of his confusion, but they just come back to the hold of his gaze. He can claim whatever he wants to about the truth, but it doesn't seem like a lack of simplicity is any kind of deterrent. A hand sneaks higher, wanting to reach for his face but hanging in the air instead, so perhaps she's not entirely unaware of the prude Holder crowd that mills around them, the harpers still playing, the fact that his mother is waiting for turnovers. It can all wait a moment longer. "Which part is the act, V'dean? The man who cares or the man who doesn't?"

If there is a point he’s trying to make, V’dean is extremely adept at feigning innocence. Or, rather, further confusion. His hand, still free, lifts in shadow of hers, turning into a light catch of fingertips about her wrist that perhaps proves needless as her own reach stalls out. Instead, it turns into a slow slide of his thumb into the wrap of her palm. His search is a contained thing, traveling the unknowable reaches behind the guard in his eyes as much as it looks for the motives within hers, leaving his features fallen along lines of unfiltered intensity. Eventually a smirk is summoned. “Yes.” Though dark, it’s a shared amusement, maybe somewhat cajoling. “You would know something about acts, wouldn’t you, Nora?” He’ll make to continue the lift of her hand, to linger a damp kiss at the inside of her wrist while holding fixed within her gaze. “You didn’t say much of caring before. I think it was wanting. And that is no act.”

If the smirk succeeds in one thing, it's to pull the plug on whatever warmth was laid exposed in her eyes. It drains slowly, but it's going just the same, despite his kiss to her wrist, despite the continuation of his gaze. It would seem the amusement is not as shared as V'dean might hope. "Don't flatter yourself," Nora tells him dryly, ready to draw her hand back. "We tried it your way; there's nothing in it for me, the way you 'want'. If that's all, I'm sure you can find someone better suited to being ignored, used and cast aside." She remembers now, and with the scab torn off, the rest of her is ready to pull away from him, stiffening inch by inch under the hold of his arm.

“Nothing.” V’dean nods a little, his mouth flattening into a satisfied curve. She stiffens, he loosens — his arm unwinding from her waist and his fingers dropping hers back towards the returning bend of his elbow. Not that this is an insistent move; she’d find him resigned if her away-ward pull doesn’t just stop once she’s clear of the circle of his hold. “If I cared,” he posits as a hypothetical, “that might wound me.” But as he’s so clearly unaffected, maybe that makes answer to her earlier question. “Ekerth says they’re around by the stand with the caramel,” in case she’s intent upon quitting his company immediately — or he’s just explaining the direction he’s willing to set them off upon.

No, she doesn't have any interest in linking arms with him, but as removing it comes with the rise of his resignation, Nora opts just to leave her hand there and look away with disgust. It winds tight across her shoulders. "What can I say," she begins starchly, a moment before looking ahead again, out any any number of paths that they might take now. With her profile in his view, a faint flush is still visible on her pale skin. "If I'm going to slide naked on top of someone, I don't want to spend the whole time waiting for the other shoe to drop." There's a dark glint at the corner of her eye as her glance aims aside without ever quite reaching V'dean. "It's a buzzkill." As for Ekerth's addition, there's strain in the meted way she draws her breath, firming along her jaw to throw that tendon up beneath the pink ribbon once more.

V’dean is nearly as crisp, his spine rigidly straight and a palm smoothing down his shirtfront against the largely imagined rumples left behind by the press of her hand. He might just be looking past her towards the changing of musicians upon the stage as he leads the way around towards a stripe-canvased booth near the front corner. Yet with her words, his pretense proves thinner than her darkly glinting resolve, quick to crumble and leave him starting at the pale of her profile. At least he manages to keep his expression neutral and his voice under cool control. “A buzzkill.” A shallow breath catches quietly into a swallow as green eyes run over her and then fix stubbornly away at a low cast. “You were just…” His head gives a little shake. “Waiting. For a shoe.” Perhaps a bitter edge of tension has laced into his tone. Fingers stretch up to rub between his brows before lifting away into a small bladed gesture in front of his forehead. “What does that even mean,” his voice quickens more a sharply. “What did you think was going to happen?”

"No," Nora answers quickly, hardly any voice in it, but at least there's the weak shake of her own head for confirmation, or maybe it was just a peek toward him as he rubs his troubled brow. "It dropped anyway. Again, and again. Who doesn't start to see it coming after a while?" Or imagining it. Or thinking you're imagining it only to have it happen again. But the sudden stir in his voice wins a proper look, brief, but there: a meeting of eyes. She's looking forward again when she speaks. "I thought you would bring me to the bowl." Does he remember that part? "I thought I'd ride you in my underwear." He certainly remembers that. "I thought you wouldn't want take your hands off of me. I thought we'd have drink after and wait for my dress to dry and you could braid my damn hair. I thought a lot of things. You weren't interested. You got what you wanted. And I let you, over and over, thinking you'd put the shoe down and it would all be worth it. But you had me and you were done. And now here we are again." Her eyes find him once more, honest but careful. "I want you, but why would it be any different?"

No. It primes him to be more receptive of the look in her eyes and the reminders that follow. The first closes his teeth on any objection he might start. The second drops his eyes closed for a moment long enough to recommend another slowing of progress. His neck stretches, shaping to a bow that brings him closer more in posture than in fact. The weight of his fingers is lighter as they drop back to his face, just two tips stroking along the inner bridge of his nose before leading up to the rake of nails back through his hair. A glance peeks back aside at Nora while the broad knuckled cage of his hand spiders at the back of his head. “I’m done, I’m here again,” he makes pointed observation after study of her features. A long breath lifts his eyes towards the stage again where the next group assembles about a violinist. His step abruptly turns, his palm dropping to hold her hand at his arm as he may come close to dragging her through a weave about small tables that ends up dead ended in a jumble of half pulled out chairs. It’s a little closer to the parquet floor, though, and perhaps they’re both tall enough to see over the spectators lined at the edge. “I don’t braid hair,” not that he believes she literally meant that part, “but you could have stayed until your dress was dry.” His mouth thins on the words, dissatisfied. “You’re not boring, Nora,” thus slips out, colored by this tension. “And perhaps,” darker scorn leaks in, “my tastes aren’t as base, inconstant, and undiscerning as you seem to believe them to be.”

Perhaps it's a negligible thing — with the reminders, with the uneasy rubbing at his face and his hair — but Nora's arm has grown more comfortably settled in his. Or it was, until the sudden urgency that changes their course and has him securing her hand to pull her along. There's a surprised trip of a step before she adjusts to the new pace, the congestion of their path. V'dean can make all the pointed observations he likes, but hers remains: "For more of the same. Used and discarded like a handkerchief, until your nose tickles again." Maybe it sounds more huffed than it needs to, but only because of the interruption of a chair in her way, a body to squeeze past, the jostle as their steps fall out of sync. And the hint of confusion on her brow, as she checks on his attention to this new destination, lasts only until her eyes follow his to the stage. "Family?" she guesses, eyeing the violinist first. She can see the performers, yes, if she tips a little toward V'dean. As for staying for her dress, "Why? For target practice?" And there's a dull lift of her brows when he tells her she's not boring, because that much she already knows, and the rest she receives with sniff to help mask her hesitation, the empty beat of thought before she asks: "What are you saying?"

Maybe his nose is tickling now, part of the general sideways tug of his expression as he drops a glance to the woman in handkerchief white. No, not family, V’dean answers with a curt shake of his head as he fixes his gaze forward. There is maybe a bit of a break in this deliberate avoidance of eye contact, if she’ll tip that little bit. His mouth is still held tight, jaw wound tensely. He doesn’t answer at first, letting the music start instead — perhaps it’s all unfamiliar to Nora, but the changing composition of the dance floor from full of younger couples to sparse and older likely marks the style as something a little more antiquated and out of fashion than the first set. It could be taken as relaxing, but there’s little change to the stiff line of the bluerider’s shoulders. “Gustev was a student of my grandfather’s,” her first question is given his first answer. The firm control of his voice has left it rather hard and cold, if more evenly paced. “There are certain promises ladies are looking for, few of which I can, or have the inclination, to make. But I’m not…” Not doing so well, probably, and it presses his mouth to an irritable line as he drops his gaze. “I’m saying I want more of you,” comes more loosely as he tips a look back up in aside. “I’d like to know what I might do to make…” the brief tap of his tongue to the sharp of his teeth catches the phrasing, turns it against the momentum of instinct, “to be worth your while.”

Not family. Nora might be surprised to be wrong in her guess, and all the more curious for it, settling in at V'dean's side with her attention — at least as far as an onlooker might be concerned — on the changing flavor of the performance. she does lean a bit, head canted and her free arm settled across her middle, eyes avid on shifting age of the dancers, the difference in tone; perhaps it strikes a chord with her, one antiquated thing to another. But his eventual explanation pulls her eye to the harpers again, though there isn't all that much chance for her to ask for more of the story with him returning to the denser threat of their conversation. Instead, a bit of begrudging patience finds its place on her features, pressing her lips over impulses brought up by his commentary on promises. Her eye turns him, the look he tips up at her, considering. "Well good," she says, smile starting small and repressed but slowly breaking through the barriers, until it's warmly smug and satisfied and her slim weight bumps against him in playful encouragement. Perhaps it's not the answer he's looking for, no outline of steps or hurdles to overcome. She nudges her chin at the stage. "So what's the deal?"

V’dean probably was looking for something more concrete, yes. He continues to look for it, his gaze leveling as her smile spreads. That nothing else comes in explanation leaves his molars pressed a little tight, but the sway of her weight seems to jostle something loose along his spine. He takes a long breath, a slow blink dropping his eyes briefly downward again. There’s something a little bit softer, more open, about the set of his features as his attention turns not to the stage but diagonally towards where they table they’ve left is obscured by the crowds. “There aren’t so many opportunities to hear his pieces played.” His shrug is a small thing, but it still ripples against her. “Perhaps Gustev is a little like family. A friend of the family, in any case. I used to know him better.” The explanation is little better than absent. Warmer than that — unfettered, perhaps, relatively free of the tugs of deeper currents which have clutched at their other words to hold them in stomach bound knots. “You are maddening.” You know. Just so she knows. This disclosure is pitched as if he expects her to take it as a compliment.

She's satisfied by that too, the flex at his jaw, but there's some reward for him: the lift of her hand from his forearm to a more possessive curl about his bicep, the casual hug of his arm to her side. Nora might not know all the nuances of Gustev and the family and V'dean's history, but it's easy enough to understand that this piece of music is special. And so there's no reply from her, just the quiet pass of her eye over his profile as she takes this rare opportunity to look at him without the necessity of warning glares or furtively stolen glances. The slow, careful study passes with some tiny remnant of pleasure still lingering on her lips before a more distant expression is turned back to the dancefloor to watch the older people reliving their younger days. She might be content just to let the piece play out, to not interrupt the bluerider's appreciation of it any more than she already has, but his last comment quirks that smug grin into life again and she slips a sideward glance at him. "I'm sure the time will come when we go back to your weyr and stab each other." In other words, he's no picnic himself, though there's no doubt the suggestion in it is intentional as well, the way the corner of her mouth curls so slyly. "But tonight," she paints an alternative with a lighter tone. "Maybe after turnovers and seeing everyone home, you could stop by." She doesn't look at him when she says it, just continues to watch the gray heads bobbing across the open dance space, a little sway of her own posture in time with the music.

There’s a small shift that her possessiveness gradually yields, most apparent in the fractional tilt of his chin towards her. It doesn’t change his eyeline, rather serving as a manifestation of quiet tension that’s starting to unlace as he stands with one arm in hers and the other a looser fold capped by a pocketed hand. V’dean may not look for the twist that shapes to her mouth with that first prediction of their future, but an uncanny mirror of it appears upon his lips. It’s tonight that resettles his curiosity upon Nora, first just the tipped edge of his gaze from the shadow of lightly lifting brows and then a fuller study that leaves his lips parting with a long drawn breath. “Your room.” The obvious statement is just a purchase of time. An outward doge of cool green eyes finds him clear to lean in further press against her side with a light scuff of polished shoes. It closes the angle of his shoulders in towards her, making a more private pocket for the low murmur of his voice. “I need to wake up early, in my weyr, ready to get his work harness on.” Which really isn’t her problem, true, but it means: “I’ll leave.” His eyes are still making close survey of her features, and by now, he has his own shoes he’s wary of. “Will you be naked?” is nevertheless wondered with a deepening slide of smile.

"You remember where it is." It's not a question, nor any more necessary than his repetition, but Nora does him the favor of filling the space, providing him just a moment longer to process her invitation, or a moment to prolong his proximity when he angles toward her. She listens to his requirements for the following day, the patient nod of her head belied by the burgeoning smile playing at her lips. "I have Renalde in the morning," she counters with the faint arch of a brow, surely believing she's won the contest of who will start their day with more tedium. And were her mouth closed, the lift of her chin beneath his final question might have a more imperious air, but as it is, with the low drift of her lashes, parted lips only accentuate a sense of luxuriating consideration, the release of breath between them audible. It's his mouth she speaks to, "No promises," before her glance lifts to meet his eye, to remind him of his own more fumbling declarations. Her hand flexes on his arm, "If you want more…" and her eyes cut away, toward the dancefloor again. "You have to start with some." Perhaps her pause leaves him room to reconsider, weigh the worth of her proposal, but when she lifts her mouth toward his ear, it is to whisper, "You're missing the song."

Alright, she wins, he chuckles a huff of quiet breath for her morning’s prospects. His smile twitches under Nora’s close attentions, her own mouth transfixing his gaze so that he barely catches the lift of blue eyes. Her words turn the edges of his expression a touch tart — nothing as full as distaste, particularly as he recognizes the return of foresworn promises. There is a trace of reluctance that dwells within the granted pause. His bicep is firm within the curl of her arm, pulsed through by strummed cords of unrest as the idle press of his fingertips against each other whisper hints of poorly contained impulse. Between the neat groom of his hair and crisp starch of his collar, can she see the lift of chills that the near brush of her mouth puts at the nape of his neck? Lashes dipped while she neared now lift to let his gaze slant stage-ward again. His smile is quieter, darker… more sure. “No,” his certainty is dark velvet. “I’m not.” Drawing straighter with a breath, V’dean tips his head towards that stripey booth as the low-lidded slant of his gaze falls back to Nora. “We have places to be,” however. Shall they get to them?

It's entirely likely that Nora's watched the perk of those little hairs, the way her eyes linger at his neck when she draws away from her whispering, the hover of a pleased smile on her lips. She doesn't, however, get all that far. The velvet dissent has her grin curling deeper, a sly shape that borders on eager giddiness when paired with the light in her eyes. "Wait," she murmurs, something slow in the way her lips part to utter the word. Again her mouth nears his ear, but whatever she was going to say evaporates before he has a chance to hear it. "No, another time. When you need it." Enigmatic as her change of mind might be, that's all there is. Her free hand comes up as she settles her weight back, resting at his shoulder, perhaps to still any attempt to keep the hand she slips away from its hold on his arm. "Stay," she tells him. "Enjoy the song while you can. And bring me a turnover when you come." There's a breathless kind of exhale and for a moment, instead of pulling away directly, she just looks at V'dean, blue eyes to green, the sweetness of shared anticipation. Her hand twists on his shoulder, the back of one extended finger lifted to drag over his collar, at the smooth skin low on his neck. And as it trails away, so her step starts to carry her.

There’s something liquid to his motion, a fluid grace of bearing when he’s not fitted fast to shrugged-on propriety, that defies static stillness. V’dean may turn, an edge of eye and tilt of ear, but he’s rapt. Waiting.The quirk of his mouth and flinch of his brow sketch intrigue rather than resignation. “When I need it.” There’s no particular demand in the repetition, but the novelty of the phrase is turned over upon his tongue with a particular balance of emphasis placed on those middle words. He won’t try to keep her, though in those moments while their eyes are met, perhaps his lean drifts closer. Or perhaps it’s just, in those moments, perspective simply proves that little bit elusive. In any case, he holds his ground as her touch flickers at his lashes and chases prickles across his skin. “No promises.” It’s a terribly convenient phrase. Maddening. No other words are offered, just the smouldered smirk that follows as she drifts away upon the sweet sounds of violin strings.

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