They've been gone less than a day. Not even one sleep has passed. Still Sanctuary is abuzz with talk of the expedition. Savvy going out! Another water source! New methods of dye making! Well, only one person is talking about the last point. Maylis is selling her wares. Cinder is too. Sitting beside her on a stool is technically Cinder For Sale and everyone knows this. Especially since he's also laying down his pitch to anyone who ventures near. "Hey! You look edgy. Let me...work on that?" He chirps to a Monitor pausing at Maylis' stall. Both women glare at Cinder before the Monitor takes a scarf.
Xavier has given up on tryng to Science. Timmy is off with the expodition, and the Proffessor has no one right there keeping them on task, and their worry about their oldest sister, Kitten the War Kid, and KissThisThen the reaper are making the Biochemist too nervous to play safely with chemicals, and so they have come to jitter about the market late in the day to save themselves fussing about the experimental plant beds.
Lyra has her smaller harp slung over her back, but has not, yet, settled in to play, instead strolling through the market looking at what's currently available. She gives Cinder an amused look at his... sales pitch. "Dear heart, what's going on? Usually, you're a little more... subtle. Not always a lot more subtle, but at least a little. Also, never someone they look on edge, even if they do."
Maylis speaks before Cinder has a chance. "He's bored! That what he tells me! He's not exactly wanting for Lux." She lowers her voice for the last sentence. Cinder rebuts quickly. "What if I have a big trade I want to make? What if something amazing comes from that haul and Lux is the only way? You have no idea what I want to do." Maylis sighs, rubbing her belly. She's well over the halfway point in her pregnancy. Her brow furrows. "How much did that mattress cost you?" Cinder pivots the topic to Lyra. "I'm really just bored. I'm still fighting off the stir crazy from the storm." Cinder smells lovely and clean. He's dressed in his near best and his come hither expressions are perfection. He's working it.
Zephyr emerges from one of the private areas Fortunate use to see their clients. He looks neat as a pin, his hair smoothed back, his clothing impeccable. He could have been in there having a conversation for all anyone would know to look at him. The Savvy that steps out after him, however, looks like he's been ridden hard and put away wet. He looks dazed. He's looking at Zephyr with amazement. Zephyr, however, has pocketed his token and is off to wander the market. The Savvy calls after, "Will I see you again?" Zephyr pauses, glances over his shoulder, and smiles as he says, "Probably." He winks, then continues into the bazaar.
Xavier drifts over in Lyra's wake, watching Cinder with a mixture of empathetic worry and scientific curiosity. "How are you feeling Cinder? Besides bored?" They eye Maylis with concern, "Is, um, everything all right? After the storm?" Professor Xavier is dressed as usual, though they did change into their turquois tunic once they gave up on trying to work. They have pulled the face loop down on their head wrap as the sun is nearly set. They eye Zephyr and ask softly, "who's that?"
Lyra laughs lightly and nods to Maylis and then Cinder. "Ah. Boredom is, indeed, a curse." She's wearing one of Maylis' shirts today in a deep red with pretty embroidery and has paired it with a dark blue skirt and gold jewelry. Then she blinks at Xavier. "Hmm? That's Zephyr, Cinder's younger brother." She gives Zephyr a wave and laughs at his comment to his client.
There's a bellowing from a nearby hallway that feeds into the area, it's a bit indistinct and echoing but certainly seems commanding. Then abruptly Drak walks briskly out from the hall's mouth with a half dozen people near him. They are a mix of the citadel. Three war kids, a couple fortunates and one squinting monitor. With a dramatic wave of his arm, Drak picks up where he must have left off, "It is not enough that we live our half lives and die here! All well will end in Valhalla, surely, but why must me wait for glory to know comfort? To know PLENTY!" He stops suddenly, near his brothers Zephyr and Cinder and he gets more intense, but a bit quieter, as he explains with energy and gusto to the cadre that came with him... and now everybody near the trio of red heads as well... "There is a /TRUTH/ burnt away like the old books. I have read it. I have seen it. I have smelt it and tasted it and bathed in it. I know its caress and the embrace of a field of grass growing on its own in the open. I have met Valhalla here, in our living lives... It is our Utopia of old, it is the place of water and reeds... and I promise you... all of you... that we can find it." He then closes a fist. "That we can have it." Then he waits another second and relaxes, briskly waving his other hand, "Go now and think and speak and know." Then he's turning towards his brothers as if he had just been doing his laundry. Which consists only of linen pants, one pair of which he is wearing. He's now also wearing chains on his forearms and legs, far more decorative than confining. Very chrome.
Maylis is about to respond to Xavier when Drak enters. All eyes on him. Cinder and Maylis look on in different degrees of horror. Maylis is embarrassed. Cinder is...not. As soon as Drak turns to him, he speaks softly but sharp and harsh. "There was a Monitor there! You are gonna get us called up to see the Trinity!" Beat. "Or just you. Do not get caste as Contaminated, Drak. Please?" He reaches for his current sketchbook. "There was something I wanted you to see..." He says, resigned. He's over it already.
So is Maylis, "Mmm. Fine, Professor. I can feel the little one now. That's always nice."
Zephyr smiles at Lyra, and he saunters up to his brothers. "You look imposing, Drak," he says, not without affection. Zephyr has been less prickly lately. Since he stopped fighting with Cinder, he has gradually become less guarded with his emotions. His smiles are more genuine, and there are more of them. He inclines his head to Cinder. "You look well," he says, and to Maylis, "You're positively glowing, dear." Xavier is given a polite but warm smile. There's a tentativeness to it. Zephyr is coming out of his shell, but only just.
Enlightenment hits Professor Xavier, "Ah! Right! I thought he looked vaguely familiar. That explains it. So he's Fortunate too?" Then they give an eep of alarm and try to dive behind Cinder and Maylis in case of Cock and preaching or worse yet hugs. They squat behind cinder on the grounds that even with the baby coming Cinder is the larger. They whisper, "I can NOT deal with naked today. Wait, What did he DO?" They take a breath, "Good, good. I'm glad you are both well." They hunch further down.
Lyra closes her eyes and winces at Drak's approach, but says nothing. She does shift a little so she and her harp are out of any likely scuffling range, then she gives Zephyr a warm smile, "You're looking well. I adore seeing you smile more."
"Ha!" Is the entire vocal side of Drak's reply to his little brother. With Xavier safely out of reach he goes in for a side, one armed bear of a hug with Cinder as he beams a smile at Zephyr, "We need tattoos, brothers! I feel enlightened today. Driven. Dedicated." He holds up a big fist and nods with a smile as he looks each person in their little circle in the eyes. To Lyra. "Hope is the thing with wings." To Maylis. "As you hold that baby, you hold its heart in yours and its future in yours." To Zephyr. "Every day I see you grow brighter and brighter... like a Quatzl firebird, immortal in your beauty." To Xavier. "Remember me, learned man. Remember my name. Remember my cause. Remember and write and read and speak. Without you, an entire culture would be mute." Then to the man he's trying to embrace if he is able, "And you, my brother. My guardian angel. My scribe and muse. My prophet. If what I say was wrong, then I would have already been pulled in front of the Tribune. In the end... all I'm preaching about is claiming more land for the citadel, after all!"
Cinder is left blushing and laughing once Drak is done. Cinder may fuss but he adores his elder brother. It's all in eyes. "True. It's not like any of us alone could gather the resources to manage Karyukai. The Citadel would lay claim, that much is true." He gives him one more admiring look before turning to his sketchbook. "I've been drawing an idea for a tattoo. It'd be large. A lot of sitting." Which bothers him more than any amount of poking. "But it's something I could wear on my body and it would have a clear meaning." He was so busy fawning at Drak that he barely noted Xavier's flight. He looks over his shoulder and startles. "Ecks, he'll keep his pants on. He's like a switch. Pants are off or they are on. It's an on day." He smirks. Is he telling the truth? To Zephyr, "Baby Zee. I love the way they look at you sometimes. I'm glad you've brightened up."
Zephyr arches a brow as Xavier dives for cover. Looking to Cinder and Drak, he asks, "Does he often do that?" They smile at Lyra, then. "Thank you. And thank Cinder. He's been a big help to me lately." At 'Baby Zee' Zephyr tries to look put upon, but he doesn't stop smiling. He has a nickname that isn't 'you rotten bastard!' "I'm glad you've been there for me, Cin."
Xavier starts and scurries away from the brother hugs to a haven behind Maylis and peeks out over her shoulder to nervously study Zephyr, all eide dark eyes and long lashes in that oddly androgynous face, a woman's soft skin stretched over a masculine bone structure. If there had still been such things as gazelles, the slender etherite might remind a person of one about to bound away from the watering hole in fright. They squeak, "No one could forget you Drak." Indeed, Drak haunts the Professor's dreams like a harbinger. They do not look entirely reassured by Cinder as far Drak's impulsiveness, but they don't make a run for it. They are blinking at Zephyr again as if trying to solve a puzzle. "Have you been ill?"
Lyra shrugs at Zephyr. "Not in my experience. I think Drak distressed him. Drak can be... unsettling." She drifts more towards Zephyr and leans in to kiss his cheek. "It's very nice seeing you get along. I'm glad things got straightened out." Cinder gets a warm smile there, too. And then she's blinking at Xavier in his spot behind Maylis. "Hmm? No, he's always been physically well. It was more in the nature of a change in attitude and circumstance."
Drak groans a bit, waving an arm with a loud jangling of his chrome chains, the silvery tattoos on his arms catching the light. "Please no more sex today. I literally hurt." He's being dead serious and he's very down about it and stares off as if at a long line of horrid memories. Though, after a moment, it seems some of the memories aren't quite so horrid. He brightens a bit and sighs loftily as he seems to be reaching far fairer memories and then he blinks and looks back to Maylis and Xavier, "Oh... oh you tiny genius." He seems to be focusing in on Xavier now when Zephyr draws attention to them. As Drak squats he pats Zee's thigh, maintaining that ultra-familiar and perhaps awkward body contact on the knee if not stopped. "Hey now, it's not as bad as you think. We all have our duties and do you really want to deprive those you care about the most from getting to know more of you? Every child is a vestige of your legacy. Every time your body breaks to give breath to another baby you perpetuate that which is right in you. You /make/ good." He nods firmly to Xavier, going to caress the outer bit of Maylis' convexed tumtums.
"Him?" Drak asks Lyra in a deep and rumbling surprise. He stands up again and then cocks a brow at Xavier, "Well, I won't lie... it's a /lot/ better for the men."
Maylis beams at Drak, spreading her arms to allow the belly rub. Only the redhaired brothers get to touch her belly without express permission. Cinder slips off his display--stool, rather, and closes in on Xavier, getting between Drak and the Savvy. He looms big and friendly. "It's fine Ecks. It's a sturdy switch." Beat. "He's probably all red and irritated down there. It's been a run on his bloodtype. Two have taken ill in the past fortnight. Can't give but now are in need." He explains, coolly. He nods to Zephyr. "As for Zee? I was the cause and cure of his ails. We're good now. That's your good work, Professor. You helped me and I will not forget." He reaches for his sketchpad again and leaves it open for all to see.
Wings. Wings and broken chains. It's sketched out to begin at his shoulder blade and stretch down his bicep. Only the left shoulder is a completed drawing. The right is in progress. "Drak? Too much?"
Zephyr nods to Lyra and tells Xavier, "I was suffering from a heartache that has been cured, but it was with me a long time." He holds perfectly still as Drak touches him, poised and pretty. Everything Zephyr does is poised and pretty. He looks to Cinder with warmth in his green eyes. "We found our way back to each other," he says, "but you led the way." He glances over at the drawing with interest.
Xavier nods his understanding to Lyra, "Attitude and context are incredibly important. Certainly they have been for me." They are still studying Zephyr with the seriousness they likely bring to a sample to analyze. Then they are retreating behind Cinder with relief as Drak comes in for the belly rub.
They explain carefully, "I haven't any seeds to plant, even if such a thing were allowed, but it is forbidden. My legacy is the notes I leave for those who come after me." They carefully don't look anywhere near drak's crotch, "I wish they'd let me give. I'm universal donor nd my health is excellent, but..." They shrug.
They blink and sound so terribly hopeful, "I helped? I do like to help." they are studying Zephyr again with that shy curiosity. "I am sorry about the, uh, heartbreak. I am glad you are more content."
Lyra edges a little way out of the group, though she does look at the design. "Very nice. It's a pretty effect." She glances towards the performance areas, then back towards the group. Xavier gets a little frown, but she nods after a moment.
Drak leans in to study the drawings intently, his eyes flitting about the page and he asks Cinder, "When did you think of the chains?" His own clatter a bit. He looks up, though, shifting his mind to Zephyr with a smile and a sage nod. The trio of genetically stellar redheaded whore-brothers seems tightly bonded at the heart. "You two. I never understood your arguments but I always understand your agreements." He listens to the others quietly and with a smile and then some child runs up and Daddy Drak is back to business as he picks the child up and rests them on a hip. Saluting those gathered as he carries the tike off.
"It was...I don't even know where it began, truly." Cinder says of his contention with Zepyhr. "I mean, when I was a little one, I was jealous of being usurped in bed beside Mama. I had to sleep /behind/ her. Not at her bosom. But why it continued this long? I have no good reason." He admits, picking up his sketchbook. "The broken chains are...wishful thinking." He says of that and then moves back to his stool. He waves as Drak and child leave. His eyes are big and sad. "Aloy and Porter are still avoiding me, as told. As if my bond will break with time." He grumbles. Since the storm, Cinder's been in little bits of trouble, back to back. More than in his whole life in Sanctuary. One issue was his favoring of Aloy and Porter.
Zephyr waves to Drak as he departs, and to Cinder, he says, "Sometimes we cling to what we have, good or bad, because it defines us, and we need to be ourselves." To Xavier, he says, "You really don't need to be afraid of Drak. He's a lot, but he can be managed." Lyra is given a glance. "What do you think if I asked the Patrons to breed? Most of my clients are men, but it's not like I'm incapable of the deed."
Xavier catches Lyra's eyes and cocks their head slightly. They blink at the child being lifted and carried off, then their eyes cut back to Cinder fast then more slowly to Zephyr. This all really does seem like a puzzle to them, still they step more fully out into the open, once Drak's oversharing is no longer a threat. They say slowly, "I maybe the way we grew up is different I'm having trouble.... I am not sure what to say or how to help." They are looking at Zephyr more boldly now, "He, uh, is definitely a lot. You and Cinder are, um, more..." They wave a gloved hand, at a loss for words.
Lyra heads over to Cinder to give him a quick kiss on the cheek and a hug. "I know. It will all come well in time." Then she beams at Zephyr. "I think that would be a marvelous idea. We can certainly use your genes, no matter how involved you end up being after the conception." She gives a little, amused snort at Xavier's description of Drak.
"Drak is our brother, Ecks." Cinder says with a shy smile and shrug. "I can't ask you how you deal with Faustina, can I? It'd be rude." His nose wrinkles at the thought. "We were raised together in the Dusts, loved dearly by our parents and tribe. We can get away with being a little odd, I think? He more than me. Me more than Zee. Zee doesn't remember it. Too little but our familial love shines through us, to him...I hope more brightly now." He sighs and takes that hug and kiss from Lyra. He bumps his head to hers. A loving little nudge. "And if you decide to ask about breeding, Zee, I'll back you up anyway I can. We do have remarkable genes. Drak and I's children are all Pure. I don't see why they would tell you no. Lyra's up soon. Isn't that like...a double cousin?" He snickers.
"I've only known Sanctuary," Zephyr says. "It's easier for me to fit in than it is perhaps for Drak and, to a lesser degree, Cinder, though Cinder does quite well for himself." He grins then at Lyra and Cinder. "It does seem like a waste to let good genes go unpassed, and we've been blessed."
Xavier flashes Lyra a smile, "He, uh, made a really big impression the first time we met. Uh, huge really." Without thinking about it, his hands signal the size in the 'impression.' "It was, um, something I wasn't ready for." A quick blink and they explain hurriedly to Zephyr, "I truly respect the work you all do, but it, um, isn't a, a... I'm not suited too... I think you'd make very pretty babies though and clearly your stock is a benefit to the sanctuary." Blink, blink, "So if you did start, um, Siring, it would be to the collective good."
They nod, "I'm sorry. I know how you feel bout... about things, Cinder. with Faustina. have I, um, insulted you? I'm really sorry if I did. I'll try to be more, um, ready. Next time. You tried, I owe you the same."
They giggle and duck their head, "I'm from here, but I'm pretty sure I'm very odd." The turn to Lyra, studying her face, "You're going to have a baby? I think... you'd be a kind and patient mother. And all of you are very blessed. Are you going to make the bay with Zephyr?"
Lyra smiles at Cinder. "More like three-quarter sibling, cousin on one side and half-sibling on the other." She laughs, "Very, very nice genes, yes." Then she blinks at Xavier. "It's more that it's about time I start trying to have another child. I've had two. Aloy and Sunil. Who my child will be with depends on what the Patrons decide, though. so far as I know that decision hasn't been made. I certainly wouldn't object to it being Zephyr."
"No, no. Not insulted. I was just making an example." Cinder explains. "I know Drak can be a lot. With the preaching and occasional lack of pants outside of the Cage..." He words that as if Drak's pantlessness is more common up there. He doesn't elaborate on that detail. "He is rutterless without a cause and when he finds one? Watch out. I handed him this one on a platter, sadly." He looks between Lyra and Zephyr. "I'll stay out of the paring off part. But Zee, just...consider how you would feel if you became attached to the child. I couldn't...help it. Some tend to just move on. Breeders have children to mind but a Companion like myself...I couldn't stop loving Lara. I can't stop..." He trails off and opens his sketchbook to a clean page.
Zephyr inclines his head to Lyra and says, "It would be an honor to be paired with you. I can only imagine our child would be beautiful and unique." To Xavier, he explains, "So far, my duties have been pleasure, as is my area of expertise. Breeding would be new." He claps Cinder on the shoulder. "I wouldn't worry about me growing attached. Children are loud, and while I understand they're our future, I have no idea what to do with them."
Xavier lightly touches Cinder's wrist with a single finger, "Of course you can't. You are very loving. It is your nature. I... Fausty's as much my mother as my sister. If anything happens to her..." They take a quick breath, "It's the closest I have to that. I really do believe they will know they were loved even with... restrictions." They flash Zephyr a smile, "I find the small ones loud and sticky, but they can pretty fun once they are old enough to reason and do simple experiments."
Lyra nods to Cinder and gives him a brief shoulder nudge. "Aloy knows you love her. But she's also busy learning things. It's okay to let go a little. One of the beautiful things about Sanctuary is that there are always more people to act in place of parents to raise and nurture all the children. I suspect Lara also still knows you love her." Then she beams at Zephyr. "All children are unique, but yes, I suspect one we had would be particularly pretty." She flashes Xavier another quick smile.
Cinder pokes Xavier's finger and smiles. "Before Lara, the only baby I had any experience with was Zee. Whom I hated. Childishly." He steals a quick squeeze from his younger brother. "But Maylis will tell you. My--" Maylis, who has been quietly working with lace and failing miserably, cuts Cinder off with, "His eyes were as big as the moon. He was so young and sweet."
"I couldn't hold her right away, so Cinder did. I watched him fall in love with my own eyes." Maylis must love to tell this story. She's sitting up, eyes on the gathered. "And he did it again when Porter was born. Lyra may have seen the show. It's beautiful. And I...have favored them too. Probably why it took a while for Cinder to be paired with me again...the healthy babies are worth the hassle of Cinder being a loving, sweet father as opposed to a donor. And the extra love and attention makes a healthier mind...but don't tell the Holy Three that. I've tried." She rolls her eyes.
Zephyr hugs Cinder, then he kisses Lyra on the cheek and says, "I need to return to the Cage for awhile. I think we're biologically programmed to prefer our own children, whether that's a useful adaptation now or not. We can't help our natures. Ex, it was nice to meet you." It's the only name he's heard for the Savvy, alas. With a small bow of his head, he turns to go.
Xavier returns Lyra's smile. Look at him interacting almost like a person! "I do think Lyra's right." They flash Cinder a quick grin at the poke. "I remember when Visa was a baby. I remember watching her head sort of pulse while she slept? It was weird but kind of cool. I didn't have much to do with the younger ones though. I was really busy by then with my work and studies. I just... Didn't think about siring when I was little and by the time I was... old enough to try to work out how I felt, it was clear I wouldn't." They look down, "I probably would have been really bad at it. At, um, all of it."
They listen to Mylis, trying to picture, "Was it like watching a flower open?" At that last bit they remark, "The hope I have for us and the world is that life often does find a way. Little plants will live in cracks in stone if they can get even a little moisture. Spores are often way sturdier than the mushrooms that birthed them." They call after Zephyr, "Xavier chemist! It was nice meeting you zephyr. Happy um... whatever." They say it cheerfully enough.
Lyra closes her eyes and smiles at the kiss from Zephyr. "Go rest. Feel free to stop by my little section later." Then she grins at Maylis. "It is something, yes. I'm not sure I could properly describe it, either. Though... I also had no real comparison when I saw it, but I do know what you mean." She considers Xavier's comparison. "A little maybe, but also not at all. Have you ever seen something clearly slot into place in someone's heart? As if they see something or someone and realize that that person or thing was something which had been missing from their life and they now can't imagine life without? It's like watching that happen."
Cinder frowns and pffts at Xavier. "You'd make a good parent. How do I know? You've been good to me. That's all there is to it. Having a good heart. The rest just comes. Not easily, mind you. But it comes." He watches his other brother leave and sighs. Maylis then looks to Xavier and nods. "Yes, I would say so. A flower in bloom and turning to the sun. Lara was the entire sky that day. And, you have a good point there. Life is unstoppable in that way. So fragile, yet...?" She shrugs a bit.
Cinder's red faced and blushing again. Lyra and Maylis did it. He says, stammering and rubbing his neck. "I-I worried because you were...new to me. I was s-scared I wouldn't love Aloy. It was stupid and irrational because she just fit. It made me think of gears and metal and that's when I suggested her name." He smiles at Maylis. "I hope it's a boy. It'll even my numbers but I'm...smitten already. It doesn't matter."
Xavier they really, really think about the question, and with a quick side glance at Cinder, they nod and blush, unaware f the wrong impression they've likely just given. "Maybe... maybe I have? I'm not sure. I'm... better with formulae than with people. I don't always know if I'm seeing what I think I'm seeing with them."
They protest earnestly, "But you're rational. By the time I get students they're rational. Babies are... bffling. I've know the formulae for, um... the cause and effect are chaotic because there are too many variables. And I think testing hypotheses would be accidentally cruel?"
They lift their chin, "I think love is like that. The same kind of stubborn life is. It grows in cracks fed by dew and given time and nourishment will break rock."
Lyra laughs and kisses Cinder's cheek, then she smiles almost conspiratorially at Maylis and nods to Xavier. "Love - powerful, stubborn, and occasionally destructive, though usually accidentally. That does seem to sum it up, yes. As far as rational... Babies aren't so bad. You hold them and you sing to them and you make sure they're fed and that their diaper is changed promptly. It's the two year olds who are a problem. You can't keep them still and if you turn your back for a moment they try to run off or climb something. And there's no reasoning with them."
Cinder listens. Watching Xavier and Lyra's exchange, he laughs. Maylis snorts, knowing why. "Once they start walking and making choices? They lose me a bit until they make words into sentences. It's a trying stage. Once you make it past that, it's smooth. You are granted patience you didn't know you had. Still, I think I ended up a Companion because I was an awful child-minder when I was seventeen. Two year olds walked all over me and I let them. I only wanted to talk to the other kids." He shrugs.
A nervous looking Scavenger girl is approaching, Lux in hand. It's a slow approach. Cinder's been keeping half an eye on her. When he seems certain she's looking at him with moon eyes, he gets off the stool. "Break's over. I'll come back after..." He nods to the Scav and then puts on his best friendly smile. "Hey you? I don't bite..." He calls to her. She laughs loudly, honking and snorting suddenly before covering her face. "This will be a fun one. Like a lesson." He mutters, waving.
Xavier blushes again, under the praise from Lyra. "I don't think two year olds would be safe in a lab, and I... have no idea how I'd manage if I wasn't. I don't know how not to be an Etherite. I'm not sure I could be an etherite and a parent even if I had the equipment for it and could... um, go through with the, uh, siring." They add hastily. "It's not about women. Or genitals. Okay the, um, siring is. I just...." They close their eyes, "I pretty much only pollinate for Kitten. I didn't know what was under their clothes and it would have been fine whatever they had. And I couldn't have made babies with Kitten even if we'd both been clean."
Their eyes fly open, "Oh! Do stop my later, Cin. I would like to here your, um, observations. About some things. When you aren't working."
Lyra's eyes have gone wider and wider as Xavier's monologue continues, then she looks to Cinder, but he's on his way off to work, now, so she ends up just blinking back at Xavier. "Mmmhmm. No. Two year olds should probably not be in a lab or the garage or... really anywhere dangerous. That's why we keep them in the cage."
"A cage is where they belong. Zee was two when we came here, you know?" Cinder says, probably explaining a lot with few words. "Ecks. Lyra. Pardon me?" He does hug Lyra and nods to Xavier. "I will come by soon. We'll talk." And off he goes to the now squeeing Scav. She's the luckiest girl in the world now, as far as she's concerned.
Xavier does that brief touch to Cinder's wrist again, expression warm. They turn back to Lyra, "The cage is safer. At least, it felt really safe when I was a Little." Their eyes drift away for a moment, sad, "Maybe they don't keep us in there long enough, but I was... hard to keep inside which is no one's fault."
They take a slow breath and meet Lyra's eyes, "I don't, i didn't. Talk about it much? But I've been... Since kitten having to explain things. To friends. Which meant, um, thinking things though in ways i mostly, um, didn't before. I like you, Lyra. I think you wouldn't hurt me and i want to be friends and i'm bad at that and also, um, different in ways people get curious about."
Lyra nods slowly, eyes still wide. She gives Cinder a distracted hug back. "I.. certainly wouldn't intend to hurt you, but... unless you were inclined to... hire me for those sorts of duties. I... don't really need to know the details of your ability to procreate or... Ummm... pollinate. So... please don't ever feel that you need to explain things about yourself to me if you don't want to."
Xavier winces, "I said things I shouldn't didn't I?" They look around nervously, then step close and whisper, "I know how imortant babies are. I really, really do. I worry about things like population diversity all the time. I just... I'm supposed to want children. Everyone's supposed to and nearly every one does. But I... I'm sorry the won't use my blood and that any traits I have that would have been good for collective survival are lost but if.... I didn't used to like my body and the way people look at me, but I think? I kind of like being me even though I'm really, really not supposed to. That it's selfish and wrong and bad for collective survival off humanity that I'm a mushroom instead of a man, but I... I don't want to be someone else. now that I'm...happy. Maybe for the first time since I was a Little in the cage."
Lyra blinks at Xavier and then softens, reaching out a hand to gently touch their arm. "Oh, oh no. You should enjoy being you. And you can still teach and you discover things and you help us. We don't all need to help in the same way. We don't all need to be the same. It would be a problem if we were all the same. We're better, as a whole, for having different people who are good at different things and who like different things. You're not a mushroom. And you don't need to want children. Even some of the people who sire or birth children aren't that good at handling them - but that's part of why we have the dedicated breeders who do enjoy taking care of the children and are good at it."
Xavier is startled enough at the touch that they almost flinch away, but they make a conscious decision to hold still. Softly they say, "Ecosystems with more types of things in them tend to be more robust." A shy smile, "I kind of like being a mushroom. Mushrooms are very useful and they... function incredibly well at being mushrooms. It's just no one expects them to be fish or... judges them by fish standards. Or expects them to be trees."
Professor X nods slowly, "I think it must be torture to be... assigned a role that doesn't fit. My Mother makes beautiful lace. It is wonderful to watch, really, the steady sure movements of her hands making an almost unreal beauty out of something mundane. Fausty is a hundred times the mother she was though, though she'll not have children of her own. I am a really excellent mushroom, but I've no idea where my mother would fit perfectly the way I fit my ecological niche. Maybe in the world before? i don't know."
Lyra pulls her hand back and nods. "Ahhh, yes. As long as the being a mushroom is metaphorical and not that you think you're not human." And the description of making the lace means she now knows who his mother is. "Yes. She's... She can be good at entertaining the more sedate of the older ones - teaching them how to do simple crafts or telling stories while she works, but... No, she's not very good with young children or anyone too energetic." Lyra scrunches her nose. "I... wouldn't have thought the Copper would be a good mother. She seems like she would be cold... and exacting. Not mean or cruel, just..." Lyra shrugs. "It's not a role I would have picked for her, though I am sure she would be conscientious if it were given her as a duty."
Xavier giggles and shakes their head, "I know the difference. I've also studied biology extensively. It helps to know both really well if you do the sorts of chemistry I do."The Biochemist studies Lyra, then says, "If you go down to the fungus farm there are a whole lot of different types. Some of them have really pretty shapes and colours. There's a kind that looks like it has on a lace skirt. Really easy to to notice. Some of them though? Are like my work caftan. Serviceable but, um, not very... stand outy? Most of the mushrooms we eat are like that. It just takes extra attention to notice the... variations when you look at a whole lot of them growing together. I've never really studied mushrooms. My specializations lie elsewhere. But KissThisThen has. He knows everything about them. He can tell from subtle changes if they aren't getting the right nutrients or water or whatever. He's trained his attention to watch for small changes I'd never see."
They cock their head, "Your attention and my attention and Kisses' attention are all trained to do entirely different things. My not seeing small changes in the fungus beads doesn't mean they aren't there, I just don't know how to look. I think my sister is best where she is, doing exactly what she's doing, but I also think she raised me in a way... I don't thin I'd have done nearly as well with anyone else. I am... odd. I know that, and I think... I would have been hurt badly if someone had tried to make me, um, not odd? Instead of just... working with what I am."
Lyra beams at Xavier. "I'm sure they're gorgeous, though I don't really get out of the Cage and the Bazaar, much. And I suppose there's a lesson there, as well. Sometimes the plain things are the most nourishing, no matter how pretty other things might be." She considers. "She probably is, but I can see how she could be good for the right kind of child, if not the typical one. Still, there are others who are capable of adjusting their nurturing style to the children instead of expecting the children to conform. After all, with the young children, we're trying to learn what they're good at so they can be placed in the right caste."
Xavier says, “I was... thinking about how Drak and Cinder were raised. I don't think... I can really understand it. I want to be a good friend to Cinder, but I find... lot of the things confusing and I worry I am not as... helpful as I could be." So very earnest, "I want to be helpful. To help him... do what he needs to do to be happy, but we are back to Mushroom and Fish.”
Lyra sighs. "I'm not sure any of us really understand it. And... I think you are a help by listening to him. I wish I knew how to make him happy where he is. I'm not sure what I am in that analogy. Maybe I'm the tree - pretty, but content where I am and with what comes rather than swimming in circles and looking for a way out." She smiles and shakes her head. "Anyway, I am supposed to go perform, now. I'll see you again, later. You're welcome to come listen."
Xavier says gently, "Trees used to feed mushrooms and things lived in them and ate their leaves and fruit and such. Trees soak up sun and water and they give back nourishment. Life. Shade from a hot and possibly toxic sun." The reach out and quickly touch her wrist with a single gloved finger, then bob their head, "I was... I'm at loose ends with all them gone. Might I sit and listen if I stay out of the way? I... don't think I'll sleep tonight and I'd like something pretty in my head to carry home."
Lyra smiles gently. "Of course, please do." And she leads off to one of the stages.