Though the story had distracted Saphireth, and while she thought it was a good story indeed, the matter of Elora was more pressing.
We are not mistreated. Mine was disliked for how Mine got to the Weyr. But that is not my story to tell. It is beginning to get better. But Mine has few friends. If any, outside of Metanath and N'kio. Maybe that nice older Weyrling that rode Chatorth.
Black dragons seemed to be a good omen for them.
It is good to know Yours likes Mine. I do not want to see Mine get hurt. Saphireth's tail tapped against the ground. I do not know if how Mine feels about Yours will end without Yours getting hurt. I am sorry.
The DarkBlue turned her attention back to Kashpa. Thank you. You play beautifully.
Elora had the distinct feeling that Saphireth was talking about her but, focused on Erol in front of her, chose to ignore it for the moment. She was listening to him up until the moment that shirtless N'kio swung a crate up over his head.
Then her attention was solely on the flexing muscles in his back. If she looked like she was appreciating the view, it was because she was. Nothing could catch her attention like the back of a well-muscled man.
She noted his hesitancy in speaking about the mutual acquaintance - Isbel? - but started laughing as he made his motions to leave. She swung her head back to him, eyes gleaming with amusement. "Miss Elora? No need for that; just call me Elora. And if you need help with anything, I'm stronger than I look."
And N'kio wasn't the only one who could show off some muscle.
Metanath had to agree – the song and playing was fantastic. Yes, thank you for playing. I shall remember that song in particular. It reminds me of N’kio. His eyes whirled with amusement.
But now, those comments demanded his attention. He tilted his head and watched Saphrieth. We do not know how Yours arrived at the Weyr, though I won’t pry. He filed this interesting fact away for later. There would be a time when all was revealed; he could feel it.
I do not think Mine would ever intentionally hurt Yours. He is not like that. But if Yours does not feel the same way, well… Metanath paused. What could he say? He rolled his shoulders in an impersonation of a shrug. He is old enough and can handle what comes at him. But I thank you for the concern for Mine.
Erol turned on his heel and shrugged his shoulders. “Well, if you’re that keen on work, you’re more than welcome to help bring these crates down to the dock,” he said, and gestured to the numerous boxes lined along the portside of the ship.
“Putting her to work already?” N’kio walked up the gangplank and back onto the swaying ship, one hand tugging up the top of his pants. He moved over to Erol and clasped his friend on the shoulder. “Have you no shame?” he teased.
“Hey, it was she who offered the help, not the other way around. Says she’s stronger than she looks. If she’s shadowing you, why not give her some experience?”
“Really now? Stronger than she looks? Huh.”
With an arched eyebrow, N’kio turned his focus on Elora. His lips twitched with faint amusement as he gave her an appraising look. With nonchalance, he crossed his arms against his chest and his smile turned into a devious grin.
Don't you dare. Whatever do you mean? You are like a Queen. You always have to prove you're right. The crates aren't a problem. I'm in fine shape, finer for lifting your butt around. The crates are not the thought I was worried about. Don't worry. I won't do anything I can't handle. Nobody here will touch a Rider, or somebody under N'kio's watch. Plus I can defend myself. Did I ever tell you the story about how I broke this guy's nose? I worry about you. But Saphireth went quiet on her end, so Elora reached into her pocket and whipped out a hair tie, throwing her hair into a messy bun before returning N'kio's grin with a wolfish one of her own.
"You might get more than you bargained for, sailor-boy." And in one swift move, she had peeled off her shirt, revealing the half-tank clinging to her chest underneath and revealing a set of abs smoothed into a four-pack. "And you're not the only one who gets hot in this heat."
Aware of the eyes of the other sailors on her, and her own eyes sparkling mischievously, bounced over to the crates and hoisted one up, turning to look at Erol with a small smile on her face. "Now pardon me, but where did you say you wanted this?"
Far away from her Rider, Saphireth was shaking her head. Mine will not intentionally hurt Yours. It will only happen if Mine thinks Mine needs protecting from him. Or for herself. I do not know. She is strange. Her eyes whirled as she stared at Metanath. Tell me about Yours and you. I have talked too often for my comfort.
For the second time today, N’kio’s jaw dropped. He stared. He couldn’t help it. His eyes followed the sleek curves of her body all the way over to the crates and back, his head tilting to the side as she picked one up. If this was getting more than he bargained for, perhaps he should tempt fate a little more often.
N’kio, your mouth is open again.
He blinked at the sudden intrusion in his mind and shut his mouth, but not long after doing so, his smile resurfaced. It was a cross between absolute wonder and complete mischief. She looked fantastic. More than fantastic, even. He let his gaze wander over her toned body and that tight, clinging tank. It would be even better if she had gotten wet. Maybe she should go for a swim before she leaves…
Erol, meanwhile, was just as flabbergasted by the sudden change that came over Elora. “I, uh, well…It-it’s supposed to go…”
Wait, why was he taking so long to respond?
Eyes narrowed in suspicion, N’kio glanced over to Erol and found him staring just as much as he had been. He couldn’t do that! N’kio jabbed him in the side with his elbow.
“Ah! Right, set it down…down along the docks,” recovered Erol, “if you please.”
That was better.
Metanath, all too-aware by what had just occurred, joined Saphireth in the head-shaking. Oh, he is a mess sometimes. Take now, for instance. Unable to think one clear thought in his head. He snorted and looked out to sea. The winds had begun to pick up.
What is there to say about him and I? This was a question he was rarely asked. He thought over her request for a minute. What was interesting that he could tell her? What would you like to know, exactly?
The ability to ask Metenath anything left Saphireth pondering several questions before deciding on one that she knew he and her Mine had talked briefly about.
Why did you choose him?
She tilted her head to the side again, gazing up at her with curiousity. I know why I chose Mine and I know we are drawn to them, but I knew why. Why Yours?
The reactions of both men had gone completely noticed by Elora and it was with pure contentedness that she moved herself down the plank and onto the docks, careful of where she was placing her feet.
She had forgotten how much she loved that. Making them stare. Taking pride in what she looked like. She had tried to completely cut herself off of that once she got to the Weyr, feeling guilty for enjoying it when she had indulged, and - it wasn't a bad thing. Wasn't a bad thing at all. It needed its limits, as did everything, but there was nothing wrong with this.
Well, except for the few tormented souls she'd leave behind. But that was their own fault.
The wolfish grin was still dancing on her face as she put the crate down and practically skipped back up the ramp to rejoin them, letting her hands rest casually on her hips as she looked at N'kio. Her tank remained where she had tucked it in her pants pockets, along with the Marks he had given her. "I'm sorry, have I proven it? Or are you going to stop staring and get back to work?"
The urge to tell her that no, she didn’t, but maybe he’d be convinced otherwise if she bent over and picked up another crate was extremely tempting. So tempting.
“Well, I mean…you know, I think…” He nodded slowly, his eyes focused on her hips.
Those are not her eyes.
Still flustered, N’kio looked up and slid his hands in his front pockets as he leaned back against the mast. In a controlled voice, he replied, “I suppose…you’ve proven yourself.”
He wasn’t as embarrassed as he thought he would be at his staring – she clearly enjoyed the attention. He just wished it was alright to keep staring. Preferably not in the company of the other sailors, but hey, he wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity.
Unfortunately, it appeared he had other plans. Confusion shone in N’kio’s eyes.
“I, um…Yeah, work. Right.”
If he hadn’t already been back in the mindset of work, Erol made certain of it. With a loud voice, he ushered his crewmen toward the remaining cargo and announced, “Alright, you’ve seen plenty enough. Back to work with you!”
That means you as well, N’kio.
With a shake of his head, he made sure he stepped closer to Elora as he moved to retrieve a crate. “You are one of the best distractions I’ve seen all day,” he murmured and, watching her face for a reaction, he blindly grabbed at the crate and hoisted it up into his arms.
I chose Mine because he never expected to Impress, and because I was curious to see what sort of man he would grow into. I could see that he was a good person and that he needed me. He didn’t know it at the time, but he did. He and I could achieve much more together than he was used to doing alone. This was a good question she had decided on. Metanath met her gaze.
He had such interesting images in his mind of his home. I wanted to see it for myself. His eyes spun with amusement. I also wanted to get to him before another did. He would have been a BlueRider if I did not Impress him first.
At N'kio's comment, Elora's wolfish grin faded into a pleased smile as a rush of heat snaked its way up her spine. She could imagine Saphireth scolding her to stop acting like a dragon in heat and to get to the work she had agreed to help with.
So, eyes glittering and resisting the urge to distract him more, she moved over to a crate and hoisted it up, motioning for N'kio to go ahead of her. The weight of the crate took the edge off of her feelings and she finally managed to come up with a sentence that didn't involve an invitation for more... distractions.
"You know, if you get distracted this easily, I'm surprised you get any work done."
She was a Rider. A Weyrling, at that. He was a full out Rider. It was against all protocol to engage in those sorts of distractions. Still... it was fun to think about.
And it was even more fun to tease him.
Though Saphireth didn't actually scold Elora for putting Metanath's Rider - and, undoubtedly, a boat full of sailors - into a very distracted setting, she didn't fully approve. But only because Elora was probably going to get herself into a situation she couldn't get out of. Or end up losing her shirt.
It is strange to think that another would have wanted Yours. He is Yours and you are His. Anything else would have been a wrong fit.
At her request he walked ahead, minding his footing as he trudged down the plank. “It’s a wonder, isn’t it?” he laughed.
“Usually Metanath keeps us all in line with his rigid adhering to rules, but…” N’kio maneuvered around the crowd gathered on the wet dock and set his crate on top of a larger, sturdier one, then moved to the side in wait for Elora.
“It seems he’s been distracted this morning. Having a nice little chat with Saphireth, if I’m not mistaken. I’m glad to know they’re getting along. Metanath doesn’t encounter many other dragons here.”
Metanath turned back to the scene below and scanned over the crowd. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary, by his standards. With a sigh, he stretched his wings and rolled his shoulders.
Yes, I suppose you’re right. It would have been quite different if it were anything else but what it is now. He is a good choice, Metanath hummed, gazing out at the sea. But don’t let him hear you say that, or else he – Oh! He sat up, wings at the ready and eyes spinning. At last, they had come close enough to see.
He looked over to Saphireth. If you’ll excuse me for a moment, I need to take care of this. Touching minds with his Rider, Metanath wasted no time taking to the air and finding The Jeanneau. N’kio, the three ships are ready to come in now. I do not recognize their marks. He landed not far from the cargo crates and ignored the creaking planks.
N’kio turned and spotted his dragon down the way from where he and Elora stood, clearly anxious to fly out to the ships and take care of protocol. He shifted his gaze back to Elora, trying his utmost to keep his eyes above her shoulders. Well… her waist would do.
“Want to fly out with us to collect the docking papers from the ships?”
Saphireth watched Metanath push off the ground and fly off, studying how he flew as he left.
Soon, she would fly, too.
"I - I'd assume that's against all sorts of protocol." Without missing a beat, she reached up and put two fingers on his chin, slowly pushing his head up until his downward-angled eyes were meeting her face. "But I'd never say no to flying, assuming it's agreeable with Metanath."
She dropped her hand down from his face, the feel of the rough beard against her skin lingering for a few moments. "So you'll have to ask him first. I know he's big on rules and what not."
N’kio smirked as he felt her fingers tilt his head back up. “Apologies. And aye, it could be,” he nodded, eyes gleaming. “Then again, you are shadowing me today.” With a shrug, he strolled his way down to his dragon and mounted smoothly.
Well...yes, there are rules...But I like you, and I know you will be safe with me, Elora. It’s my job as Watch. But if you think you will get in trouble at the Weyr, then maybe it is best not to go. Wings aloft, he looked from Elora to the approaching ships. He could not wait for much longer.
With a tilt of his head, N’kio winked and patted the open seat in front of him. “Your choice,” he called out.
N’kio, you will try to take things slow, yes?
What do you mean?
They are still Weyrlings, even if they don’t look it. Remember, you even said you would avoid coming between them.
Yes, I remember. I wouldn’t push her to try anything, either. You know that. If she or Saphireth weren’t comfortable with anything I was doing, then they’d tell me. Right?
Metanath watched Elora. I would think so…Perhaps you should talk to her after.
Elora tilted her head to the side, a dramatic studious expression on her face. "As far as I know, there are no rules restricting me from flying with other dragons. If there were..." Any semblance of studious was wiped away with a grin. "I'd do it anyway. I don't like rules."
She bounced forward, pausing next to Metanath's leg for a moment as Saphireth dropped in a comment on her behavior.
Oh, do try to behave. It's in my nature! I flirt, you eat herdbeasts. You don't need flirting to survive. Shows how much you know.
She grinned at N'kio before smoothly leaping up, resting on Metanath's front leg just for a moment before swinging herself up, nestling herself back into N'kio. She turned her head over her shoulder to grin at him.
A surge of heat coursed down his body as Elora leaned back, her skin warm as she pressed against him. Oh, this was certainly an improvement from the last time they had flown together. Not that the last time they had flown together was bad, there were just...too many clothes. Trying not to appear too pleased with himself, N’kio reached forward and tugged free the leather strap near her thigh, his chin and beard rubbing against her left shoulder. The strap was no more than a simple handhold, but seeing as how neither of them were properly strapped in, it was better than nothing.
Metanath launched off the dock a moment later, eyes whirring with annoyance as the wooden dock groaned with the effort it took. It’s muscle, he announced.
The cold, ocean wind flooded his wings and pushed him higher; he gained the proper altitude within a matter of seconds. Metanath sailed ever closer to the approaching schooners, drifting right and left as he angled his wings to the appropriate current of air. It was not long before they flew along the portside of the first ship.
Shifting his hips in his seat, N’kio leaned to the side, one hand on a riding strap, in order to keep from shouting in Elora’s ear. “Well met, sailor! I’ll need your documents and purpose of visit. What port are you from?”
“Zaran, WatchRider!” answered the young man resting over the side of the ship, his clothes and hair pale and bleached from the sun. He offered a bound scroll. “My crew and I have come to trade in the goods and hearsay we’ve acquired from Nerat and Southern!”
Metanath gave the man a once-over and moved closer so his Rider could retrieve the scroll. What do you think?
Opening the documents, N’kio scanned the parchment with an expert eye. Seems his story checks out. They’ve been all over the north and south. He slid the paper into his saddlebag and straightened up. “Far from home, Captain Thuran.”
“Sea’s the only home I’ll ever need!”
“I can appreciate that,” N’kio smiled. He liked this newcomer already.
“Tell me, is this how everyone gets welcomed in at Cliffside?” The man gestured to Elora and grinned. “I think I might enjoy this stop after all.”
With a bark of laughter, he shook his head and unconsciously moved his right hand to rest on the curve of her hips. “I’m sure you’ll find everything you need here. I’ll ask you to dock your ship third to last, Captain.”
With a nod and a wave, the young man returned to sailing and Metanath moved on to the next two ships. They were more uneventful than the last, but the salt air was nice and the sun was warm on his hide as they flew around. Directions given and papers acquired for the records, they had nothing more to do now but return to the Watch. Metanath lazily circled around and began the flight back to his post, content for now that they had taken care of business.
N’kio sighed and stretched in his seat, taking care not to move too far – he didn’t want to change the fact that she was resting against him.
A shiver ran up her back as his beard rubbed against her left shoulder, the feeling lingering just as it had on her hand. A moment later they were up in the air, the wind whipping past where it had been. The feeling still lingered.
I could get used to his beard.
As the introductions and exchanging of paperwork and such went on, N'kio accidentally shifted closer to her to get the paperwork and Elora found herself quite unable to think of anything else. Though she was quick with a wink and a smile for Captain Thuran, her thoughts quickly spiraled off into another direction as N'kio's hand rested on her thigh. It would only take a little wiggling for that hand to-
Elora! Sometimes I think you'd be better off if you were a Green rider!
From her spot back at Cliffside, Saphireth had curled herself up into a ball like a cat, choosing to bask in the sun near the violin player rather than explore her surroundings. She had been quite contented, too, until her Rider's thoughts infiltrated her own.
I'm sorry, my love. It's been a while, that's all, and you know how I was before. I miss... that. But worth it. And you know it, too. Now, do try to behave? You are on Metanath's back, after all.
The reminder that she was on a living, breathing dragon was unneeded as they swirled around the ships. Elora was content to remain silent and cozied up against N'kio, watching him do his work with a small smile on his face. He was efficient; she'd give him that. And while it was interesting, it wasn't something she would want to do every day.
"You're right. I haven't. It's entirely your fault, you know. You put me to work." Elora turned her head slightly to catch a glimpse of him out of the corner of her eye before refocusing her attentions on the ocean around them. "And there's not much to eat up here."
N’kio chuckled and rest his chin against the crown of her head, settling more into the saddle as they banked to the left. “Hey, I did warn you about the possibility,” he smiled, his eyes lingering on the position of his hand on her thigh. Sure, he knew it was against the rules to even express interest in a Weyrling – and true, he had told her that he would put her and Saphireth first. But if Elora didn't seem to mind it, did it still count?
“How was I supposed to know you’d be so eager to shadow me? You know what I think? I think you just wanted to watch me.” He shrugged to himself, his shoulders moving against her back. “Which is entirely understandable. I’d watch me, too, if I had the time of day.”
You are so full of yourself,harrumphed Metanath to them both, circling above the cliffside knoll where he had left JourneyWoman Kashpa and Saphireth. With a backwards thrust of his wings, he landed feet-first beside Saphireth and hunkered down into the grass. He looked over at the small, curled dragon next to him and made a soft, contented sound in his throat.
Oh, N’kio…once you and Elora get off, could you take off the saddle and straps? It’s getting warm out here and I want to cool off in the ocean.
Resisting the desire to laugh at the unintended euphemism, N’kio leaned back in his seat and waited for Elora to dismount first. “Of course, yeah, that’s not a problem. Need oiled?”
No, I think I will be fine for now. Later in the day, perhaps.
“Fine by me,” he noted. “So, Elora, have anything in mind that you’d like to try while you're here?"
There was something strangely pleasant about the way they were sitting. She was literally tucked into him, wrapped in his arms and the heat of his skin against hers. It was attractive. And comforting. And in a strange way, secure.
And that put her a bit on edge, even as N'kio joked and made er laugh and Metanath teased his Rider. So part of her was relieved when they landed next to Saphireth. As he asked what she wanted to do, Elora made an active effort to keep her thoughts on the clean path.
"Food seems like a pretty top priority." She flashed a smile at him as she leaned forward, swinging her leg over Metanath's neck and sliding herself off, landing a few feet away from Saphireth. A smile flashed over her face at the sight of the sleepy dragonet. "And since she's resting, now seems like a good time to do it."
If you wanted to leave, I could. I simply enjoy resting here. Saphireth cracked open an eye and looked at her Rider sleepily. Elora just smiled and mentally waved off the comment, watching as Saphireth's eye closed once more.