His eyes widened as Saphireth was quick to interject her opinion on the matter.
“No, well, I only meant –"
At her command to get on her back, N’kio nodded once and backed up as she spread her wings wide. He would have laughed again, were it not for Saphireth’s moody glare in his direction; he decided then that it was best for all involved if he kept his amusement to himself. Quickly following Elora to her dragon’s side, he waited, arms at his side and not at all close to Saphireth's body, only slightly out of fear of touching her accidentally and upsetting her more.
No wonder Metanath liked her.
As Elora moved on top of Saphireth, he tried to keep from tilting his head to the side too much – but it was her dragon’s tapping tail that kept him and his thoughts in check. Though she was small – well, anyone else could be smaller than Metanath – he wasn’t about to test her patience.
”You comin’, sailor-boy?”
He climbed aboard the little dragon without another thought, trying his best to be as light as he could, and he settled in comfortably behind Elora. A smile curled his lips upward. Those couple of months were definitely worth this.
“Our place is at the top of the hill, so it shouldn’t be hard to find. Fly whenever you’re ready,” he advised, more to Saphireth this time than Elora.
Fly whenever you're ready, Saphireth mocked, wiggling her head from side to side as she turned to face the hills. Of course I'll fly whenever I'm ready.
"She must have decided to like you when I wasn't paying attention. She's normally not so cheeky with other Riders."
Most other Riders aren't so stupid.
"Yeah, she definitely decided to like you."
Elora turned her head towards N'kio, smiling back at him with glittering eyes - and leaning back into him only a little. Just a little. And with her own seat firmly in place, despite the lack of saddle or ropes, she glanced at Saphireth's face.
Whenever I'm ready.
Eyes whirling indignantly, Saphireth pushed off of the ground and into the sky.
The first breeze of the flight slammed into Elora's chest, but she kept herself firmly in place, N'kio's arms wrapped around her wait. She could feel the heat of his skin against her back, through the shirt - or perhaps she was just imagining his heat.
She'd like to - and then Saphireth veered sharply to the right, away from the hills and towards the ocean, and a grin flickered across Elora's face and vanished the thoughts from her mind.
"I suggest you hold on tight. That's the advice you would give in this situation, right?"
And it was with a giggle from Elora that Saphireth dived towards the water, tilting her wings to spray both Riders on her back with water.
His smile deepened as Elora explained Saphireth’s mood, as she turned to face him, as she pressed herself against his chest just so. He felt the subtle shift in her body as she locked her legs around her dragon, but he was distracted by the heat of her body and the thought of Elora with her legs around –
The sudden push-off from the ground made him lurch forward in his seat and he threw out his hand to stop his momentum. His face heated up when he noticed it had landed squarely between Elora’s legs. Clearing his throat, he straightened up and adjusted his grip on Saphireth, holding on just a bit tighter and removing his hand from its spot when he righted himself.
He could almost hear Metanath’s amused bugle in his ear.
Another sharp turn to the right had him holding onto Elora’s waist for balance. At her frank suggestion, he laughed and nodded his head in agreement. “Aye, more than tight in this case,” he replied in her ear. “She’s not Metanath, that’s a certainty.”
Then came Elora’s giggle, and he knew he was in for a ride. They dove fast over the ocean, the wind whipping by as Saphireth had maneuvered her wings to spray them both.
"Sorry for doubting you," he called out to Saphireth, knowing it wouldn't make any difference in the world right now. He held on tighter to both rider and dragon, preparing for more of a ride than he expected.
He had anticipated an easy glide over the square and up the hill toward his weyr.
N'kio's voice reached her ears - light, amused, even excited - before being whipped away again by the wind. It was near impossible to talk, between the sounds of the ocean and the beating of Saphireth's wings as she brought them tightly around a corner, arcing more water up towards them. It coated her lightly, salt water dripping down her face, and she let out a laugh as N'kio tightened his arms around her.
She could get used to this. Flying with them both. Racing would be fun; Metanath was larger, true, but Saphireth had plenty of heart. Just... there was something abut him.
She still didn't know what it was. She could pick out the little things, but objectively, she could find them on somebody else. And it wasn't just because he was the first person who had shown her affection outside of looking for a physical relationship - because she could tell he wanted that, too.
She didn't know.
It was nice.
Saphireth pushed up against the water, spraying them both - well, less spray, more soaking - them before soaring back up towards the hillside. At least slightly able to hear now, Elora wiggled to the side so she could turn her head towards N'kio. Aware of her Rider's shift in position, Saphireth accommodated with a slight tilt to the side.
Wiping his face against his arm, N’kio brushed the water out of his eyes and looked for their destination. As Saphireth coasted along the wind toward the hillside, he had a feeling that she could figure out where she was going - after all, all she really needed to do was look out for the large Black dragon trudging up the way. They’d be fine, as long as they avoided the water again. His clothes were thoroughly soaked and the wind was doing nothing to warm him up.
He would have to change either before or after he oiled Metanath.
As Elora moved to the side to talk, N’kio tried not to notice the friction of her body against his, and instead watched the docks and waited for her to settle down. It just wouldn’t be right thinking those thoughts on top of Saphireth, as much as he wanted to. Didn’t feel right.
His own dragon was another story, however.
“Oh aye, well,” he nodded, brushing a hand over his mustache and beard, “bragging doesn’t really suit –- wait, what?” Arching an eyebrow in response, he lowered his hand. “I’m very good at being wrong? Hmm. Well, I suppose I’ll agree to that - maybe on certain occasions. Usually when I’m distracted by…something.”
Then he found his opportunity and went for it.
“You know…I’m also quite good at some other things as well, and not at just being wrong. Some say.” He grinned. “But I’d imagine that’s neither here nor there. Another story for another time.”
Oh, there were a dozen things she could say to that. To challenge him to prove it to her. To ask him to clarify, and watch for a blush - or better, for actual clarification. To silence him with a kiss, and watch just how good he could be at that.
But Elora merely grinned, relaxing her hand to brush his knee, thumb stroking circles against the soaked cloth.
She was pretty sure there were some things he could teach him still.
Saphrireth, more than taking the cue that it was time for the riders to get off of her back, landed on the hillside gracefully, carefully folding her wings against her as she glided to a stop. There were a dozen things the blue dragon could say - and instead, settled on glancing at Metanath. You really ought to stay out of the sun if you burn so easy.
Elora turned her head back to N'kio, smile flashing over her face. "You first." And slowly, very slowly, with fingers dragging along his leg, she swung her head back around.
Her attentions to his leg were not going unnoticed, and as soon as Saphireth touched down on the hill, N’kio leaned forward and wrapped his arms around Elora’s waist.
“Oh, is that so?” With a light laugh, he kissed her cheek, grabbed her under her knees and around her waist with a practiced ease, and slid down with her in his arms. “Should’ve gotten off first, love,” he grinned. “Now you’re coming with me!”
Hoisting her up, he held her over his shoulder with one arm and patted her thigh with his free hand. Normally it wouldn’t have even been a big deal; he had saved people from the water like this. But because it was Elora…it was different. More intimate. And despite the fact that they were both soaked through to the bone, Elora was light and warm in his arms. N’kio smiled to himself. The last time they were like this they were in the water. He made a mental note to himself that they needed to try that again.
“Comfortable up there?” he asked, glancing to his right and knowing full well that it wasn’t her face he was admiring. He turned his attentions back to the path and trudged up the rest of the hill to his house. On the outside, it looked just like any of the other houses nestled around Cliffside - save for the added, external room large enough for a dragon to retreat into.
Metanath turned his neck and looked down at Saphireth from his long nose. He rolled his shoulders in a dragon equivalent of a shrug. It’s my job to be out here. I can’t avoid it, even if I burn a lot and it gets uncomfortable. Wouldn’t be a job if I had fun all the time. It was at that time that he noticed exactly what N’kio was doing. The colors in his eyes rolled and he shook his head as he moved to his usual oiling spot outside of the weyr-home.
“Want to go inside?” he asked, standing before the threshold. “Or should I drop you on the doorstep? I can bring you a towel if you want to dry off out here, though I cannae guarantee you’ll be hidden from sight.”
What - suddenly there were lips on her cheek, and a grin spread over her face as he scooped her up and slid down Saphireth's side.
And then she was being hoisted over her shoulder, and she could kill him, because it was undignified and not gentlemanly at all and - and - and - it was adorable.
She couldn't avoid that, as much as she wanted to be mad at him. (And if that was, in part, due to his casual use of the word love, she didn't have to acknowledge it.) He was adorable, and trying very hard to keep her happy, and he did care for her.
Despite what she had told him.
Grin spreading farther, she took advantage of her position to take a better look at his back, to where the cloth clung and muscles rippled underneath. Eggs, there were advantages to working on the docks, weren't there? Her fingers danced along his shoulders.
"What?" She turned his head at his question, just in time to catch him looking at something that was decidedly not her face. Her grin grew wider, and before she had the chance to answer properly, they were at his house.
Saphireth watched the pair of Riders with amusement, turning her head back towards Metanath as he answered. Elora believes that people should only do jobs they love all of the time. That was why she worked so hard on her plans, Saphireth wanted to add, but that wasn't a conversation for now.
N'kio's question, meanwhile, seemed silly to Elora. "Since when have I hidden from people? Plus I can't talk to you while you oil Metanath if I'm inside." She wiggled down from his shoulder, giving him a peck on the cheek as she dropped down to the ground free of his grasp.
And then she had kissed him, right where he had kissed her, and she was sliding down from his shoulder and grinning up at him and waiting for him to continue. N’kio instinctually reached up to his cheek where her lips had just been a second ago. Though overall he tried to appear as if the kiss didn’t catch him by surprise, the corner of his mouth turned up in a smile.
He shook his head and turned to fiddle with the lock. "What am I going to do with you…"
(Though it wasn't a question, he could think of a few good answers to it, if he was being honest.) A couple of seconds later, he pushed open the door to his house and stepped inside without further ado.
First thing first, he wanted to dry off and change. Wet clothes just weren't comfortable.
He stepped inside the mud room and peeled his wet shirt off, but in the process he couldn't help but feel…anxious. What would she think about the place? Would it be what she imagined? Lowering his arms, trying to imagine what the place would look like from someone else's eyes, though he felt ridiculous just thinking about it.
"Come on in, don't be shy. Not that you'd be, anyway," he laughed.
With a sigh, he sat down on the small bench against the wall and began to unlace his boots, setting his wet shirt aside on the floor. There were nets that needed mending lying in the corner of the room, Metanath's saddle and flying straps close to the door, bottles of oil, coils of rope, spare boots and wet, sandy clothing in a pile. With a slight frown, he made a mental note to wash everything later.
"Do you just want a towel, or can I get you some different clothes?"
While he waited for Elora's answer, he stood and began to wander over to his room just across the way. It was modeled after the rider's rooms in the Weyr and had the basic necessities - bed, dresser, writing desk. All around the room were little bits and pieces of his life - collected shells lining the windowsills, bits of sea glass, wherry featherfur and bits of old eggshells. Netting covering the writing desk, along with leather strips and sewing needles and a couple of large, polished deck prisms.
He began to pick through the drawers for some suitable clothing. With a glance toward her, N'kio pulled out a few shirts - they would be big on her small frame - and retrieved a pair of pants for himself. Pushing the small, rope octopus Noila had made out of the way, he laid the clothes on the dresser top and leaned against the drawers, hands in his pockets.
He decided it was best to wait to change until she had been taken care of.
Outside, Metanath set his great bulk down on the grass and stretched out his wings, relaxing with a lazy sigh. It's good to do have a job you love, but sometimes that doesn't happen. Like this job, for example. I never knew I was to be a Watch dragon here, but it made N'kio happy, and him being happy made me happy. Most of the time it's easy work, and only some of the time is it dangerous. It's not anything that I love, but it has to be done either way. And at the end of the day…it is satisfying enough.
I suppose that makes sense. I do not know if I will enjoy what Elora wants to do yet, but it makes her happy, and that will make me happy, and she will do her best to make me happy as well. Saphireth twitched her tail to the side, tapping it lightly against the ground.
And while Saphireth tried to conceptualize the future, Elora was busy enjoying the present, a smile twitching on her face as N'kio grinned and slipped into the house. She liked him, all soaking wet and shirt pressing tight to his back. If Saphireth was okay with-
- no, Metanath had to be oiled.
Pushing that particular train of thoughts far off its tracks, Elora walked into the house at his invitation. She tried to keep the delight from her eyes - it was quaint, it was charming, it was simple, and was that an octopus?! - but she didn't think she could stop the smile stretching across her face.
Then he froze with his clothes on his dresser, and she tilted her head to the side. "You know, you can change in front of me. I really won't mind." She really wouldn't.
N'kio blushed to the tips of his ears as Elora smiled and encouraged him to strip further. It was a refreshing to have someone express an interest like this - it had been a long time since Isbel had been in his life, and nothing else had really compared until now.
"You don't mind...How about that, now," he chuckled to himself.
Bending forward, he retrieved his towel and ran it briskly over his head to dry off. When he pulled the towel away, his hair looked as wild as if he had just woken up - not that he minded too much. He tried to smooth down his unruly hair as much as he could, and then moved on to dry his chest off. After he had dried off as much as he could without taking his pants off, he tossed the cloth onto his shoulder and turned back to Elora.
He ran a hand over his beard and eyed Elora - standing there in her wet, dripping clothes - just as much as she watched him in return. His lips moved into an appreciative smile.
"Oh aye, I could do that. But somethin' tells me that if I do, Metanath might not get oiled for a while."
He bit his lower lip and then laughed at himself and his thoughts. Technically, all he really needed was a few minutes - especially around her. But he didn't want to rush things with Elora; that was not the sort of impression he wanted to make. He shrugged those thoughts away, if only for a moment. He had to focus on the task at hand.
"Ahh, I'll never hear the end of it if I don't take care of him now. Any time after that is a different story, just so you know."
Just then, N'kio made a twirling motion with his finger for Elora to turn her back to him. "If you would be so kind…" He grabbed for his towel and clothes and prepared to strip and dress as quick as he could.
"Besides," he said over his shoulder, for he had turned his back as well, "if you wanted a fly-by-night, all you had to do was ask. You might've plied your trade on your own, but...I've picked up a few tricks you might not know."
Metanath was privy to the entire discussion that was going on inside the house, but since N'kio had sworn to take care of his itchy hide first, he chose to ignore the remainder of the comments and paid attention to Saphireth instead. Their conversation was much more appropriate, anyway.
You have a lot of time to figure everything out. I would not rush into something you are not certain about. It's not as if Thread will fall tomorrow. But if you are happy, then that is what matters. His eyes spun a momentary, nervous yellow. You being happy would make me happy. You deserve to be happy, after all.
She wanted to protest when N'kio smoothed down his hair - she liked the wild look, like she could run her fingers through it, tug on it, and it wouldn't matter in the slightest. And then he bit his lower lip, and she tore her gaze away from him as a flush ran through her body.
Outside, Saphireth picked up her head and glanced at the house. Elora! I'm not thinking about it. Thinking about what you're not thinking about is still thinking about it. ... sorry.
She turned around at his request, though she glanced over her shoulder once or twice - not that he noticed. "Besides," N'kio said as he changed, "if you wanted a fly-by-night, all you had to do was ask. You might've plied your trade on your own, but...I've picked up a few tricks you might not know."
"If we keep talking about this, I think Saphireth will destroy your house as protest. You do need to get Metanath's oiling done, and I can't stay all day, but if you keep talking in this direction..." Elora's smile curled over her face as she twisted her head to look at him again.
Saphireth turned her head away from the house and back towards Metanath. It wasn't that she minded Elora's libido - how could she? It was Elora, and Elora was her Mine - but this particular moment was ill-timed.
You being happy would make me happy. You deserve to be happy, after all. Metanath's comment finally processed, and it was her turn to flush, color rising into her face and her eyes whirling. I - thank you.
With a light laugh, N'kio adjusted his pants and tied them shut in one, swift motion. He turned back around to face Elora, his thumbs hooked through the front belt loops. "Oh no, in that case, I'd rather not have to entirely rebuild this place again. Watching one dragon destroy my house is enough for a lifetime - even if the alternative sounds much more appealing."
Meanwhile, Metanath's tail swished harder as he saw Saphireth's reaction to his compliment. His eyes whirled and matched the color of her own eyes. He was happy that she was happy. You are welcome, Saphireth.
N'kio moved then to his bedside and retrieved a couple of half-full oil bottles and spare, cloth rags. As he picked up one of the cloths, however, he pulled a slight face as soon as he realized it was…not clean. He felt a blush slowly creep up on his face, but after a quick glance to Elora to see if she was looking, he nudged them under his bed with his foot and decided to leave it at that.
"Ever heard that story before?" he asked, shifting both the potential topic and the bottles in his arms. "To be honest, it's kind of a bad one. Metanath's fault, though."
A cranky bugle outside sounded as protest. It was your fault, not mine! You started all of it! I was merely a victim!
Despite his full hands, he still managed to motion toward the open door. "Come on. I'll tell you outside. And maybe after, if there's some time…" With a mischievous grin, N'kio padded barefoot out of his house and over to the Black dragon. Setting down the bottles and rags, he held his hands out. "I cannae get to those wings if you don't help me, so spread 'em out. Sun's only getting hotter."
Yes, yes. With a discontented grumble, Metanath obliged and stretched out one wing for his hands. He curled up his tail and tucked his head against his chest and waited for the inevitable story.
"Thank you," N'kio replied, uncorking one of the bottles and dousing a cloth in oil. More oil was better, in this case. He moved underneath the wing, feeling along the membrane with his free hand. As he washed the cloth over the dry, flaking patches of hide, he began his story.
"So as I was sayin', it's kind of a bad story. I'll try and keep it short. There was this young captain, right, and he and his crew had just gotten off for shore leave. Not from here, from Half Circle - you can see where I'm goin' with this already. Proud, arrogant lot they are. They were boasting about their expeditions and yelling about how they had been all over the Eastern Ring and Southern seas, and by Faranth, that captain was a cocky little lagan. I'm sure you've seen his type in…in your line of work. So he started talking about Cliffside, right, and going on about how we were all grifters and cheats, that he was better than all of us put together, that the Lady of the Hold was, well...seen in company she shouldn't have been. Rumors, as it were. But it was then that I realized…he needed to go down. So I challenged him to a little contest."
Metanath stretched out in the sandy grass and sighed, Oh, here we go…
Elora, being Elora, was exceptionally curious as to this story - and to the fact that N'kio had chosen to remain shirtless. She shamelessly tracked the muscles on his back, on his chest, the red hair that curled off of it in tufts. She'd happily run her hands through that-
I swear, Elora- Would you be mad if I stayed the night? Or do you want to go back to the Weyr?
Saphireth nearly missed Metanath's comment as the DarkBlue swung her head towards the house, staring at the door with slowly whirling eyes.
I would not be mad. If you are happy, I am happy. But are you ready for that? You know it doesn't mean what it did before.
Elora smiled as N'kio tugged the dirty cloth under his bed, turning back to her with an almost sheepish grin on his face.
I know what it means, heart.
"To be honest, it's kind of a bad one. Metanath's fault, though." Elora's smile twitched wider as N'kio wiggled his fingers towards the door, slipping past her and towards Metanath. Elora admired the view from behind as she followed him.
As Metanath spread his wings, Saphireth wandered away from him, curling up nearby. Elora settled herself against the crook of her front legs, leaning her head against the DarkBlue's hide as N'kio climbed up and set to work. Saphireth turned to nuzzle Elora's arm affectionately before placing her head on her claws.
N'kio began to tell his story, and Elora thought about interrupting him to let him know that the Lady of the Hold did keep company she shouldn't have, and that she was also very good at keeping that company - but he didn't need to know the details of her former work. (And it was former, no matter how he had just addressed it.)
Metanath, being Metanath (and exceptionally observant at that), had not missed the looks Elora was throwing at N'kio as he moved around. He had worked with enough people to be a fair judge of that. If she had been a dragon, her eyes would have said all there needed to be said. But she was not, and he was not about to say anything to N'kio - he needed to finish oiling him, after all - but the thought was still nice.
N'kio, being N'kio, was entirely unaware of this knowledge, and more preoccupied with not getting oil in his eyes, but the happiness radiating off his grumpy dragon was enough to put him in a very good mood. And when Elora prompted him to continue his story, he chuckled, moved his attentions to Metanath's wing joints, and continued.
"Right, so as I was saying, he needed to learn his place. Now I don't know if you've noticed, but Cliffside isn't the most…well, the most exciting place there is to be stationed at if you're not from around here. I mean, I don't mean to brag - it's the largest port in the Southern continent - but if you look past all that, it's no Weyr in terms of entertainment. So me and a few mates challenged him to the one thing we all were familiar with - a drinking contest."
This is, in part, why he's not allowed to drink any mo-- "--Hey now, who's tellin' the story here?" I merely wanted to add a little bit of -- "We'll get to that, you great lizard! Let me finish and then you can gloat all y'want. Now, stretch out the third and forth digit, please."
Metanath grumbled but obliged all the same, for the sun was feeling hotter and he wanted nothing more than to retreat to one of the caves until some cloud cover came.
Glancing over to Elora, who had since curled up with Saphireth, N'kio smiled again and continued working, re-wetting the rag with oil when necessary.
"As I was saying, there was a drinking contest. Now, I umm…I don't…exactly remember much of what happened. It was a bit of a free-for-all, to be honest. I do remember that the Lord and Lady had turned in early, so there was no one to sanction the thing. There was a lot of name calling, a few fights, bad singing, and even worse dancing…"
He laughed and shrugged, "I think the girls were okay, though - if they really were girls. Can't remember now. Everything looks better drunk, anyway. You get the general idea - lots of noise, lots of drinking. It was fun for a while."
Bending down to pick up the oil bottle, N'kio pulled out a fresh cloth and moved to Metanath's other wing, speaking louder as he moved further away.
"Anyway, we all got so drunk that we forgot why we had even started in the first place, and everyone was hurting, so I was told we left it as a draw until the next day. Now, you remember how they tell you in Weyrling lessons that you can't - or shouldn't - drink as a Weyrling? That it would affect your dragon as well and the effects would be doubled? Well…we put that to the test. Here, Metanath, you can tell this part, I need to get under here for a moment..."
The Black dragon rumbled, extended his wing further, and swung his head around toward Elora and Saphireth. They warn you not to drink as Weyrlings because it's very disorienting - you have two consciousnesses instead of one, and like N'kio said, the effects are doubled. You can imagine what a disaster that would be if you were flying the Watch. I hadn't been flying straight that entire night, but I had judged that I would be able to make the landing without a problem. I…I had miscalculated.
N'kio reappeared from underneath Metanath's wing, wiping his hands off on his pants. "Nearly took my house clean off the hill. He thought he was aiming for this exact spot we're standing on, but smashed right into the house. Broke down the walls, knocked everything around…needless to say, when the Lord and Lady came to, I was not allowed to hold drinking contests anymore. Wasn't appropriate for a WatchRider, they said."
Serves you right. See, Elora, I told you it wasn't funny. "It was funny at the time!" You were drunk!
He patted Metanath's neck and moved back around to his front. "Anyway, I rebuilt it and it's a thing of the past. Now you're free to go, you great beastie. Off with you."