Elora's lips twitched up into that wide grin again, happy to push her previous mindset to the side. "Seriously? The big ol' Black, a dozen times the size and more than powerful, is afraid of some small birds and their beaks?" Her eyes gleamed with amusement. "If I poke you too hard, will you fear me, too?"
She glanced back at N'kio, sharing the smile with him, before turning back. "Maybe they'll scare your Rider right off your back."
N’kio snorted at the absurdity of the idea. “It would take more than a few birds to scare me. All this talk of falling off, Elora, you sound very interested in the proposition. I think you’d like to see me on my back.”
Well, that certainly wasn’t shy of you, he told his Rider, then considered his response to the girl.
Birds are a minor inconvenience, at their worst, Metanath sniffed, and began once more to fly around the Weyr, choosing locations at random. The Weyr Heights were first. However, you, Elora, I do not fear. Not yet, at least. You have done much more good today than bad.
“There’s something about birds he doesn’t like, but he’s never told me what,” added N'kio with a shrug. “More than likely, we shall never know, unless he tells us.”
"Perhaps he was attacked by a rather large one when he Hatched and never got over it." Elora grinned. "Though I suppose you would know that, wouldn't you?"
The ride had been - fun. Very fun, and very informative, and more than what she had expected for today. But it was time to go, to leave, before she actually began to like N'kio as a person. Well, more than she already was.
And that was the problem, she supposed. As much as she wanted to connect to somebody or something or anything, she wanted to be alone. It was safer that way.
“I suppose I would know something about that,” N’kio said with a small, secretive smile. “But in truth, that Hatching went off without much of a problem. It was over before it really began, at least for me.”
And I’ll hear nothing out of you, thanks very much.
It is none of my business how you get things done.
Metanath snorted. The rest of their flight, he thought, was relatively calm and quiet. After circling around the Heights, he let the wind carry him over the weyrs, the Candidate barracks, the beach, the lake. All that was left now was the Weyr Bowl, and that meant the end of the flight. He let himself sink lower and lower in the air, making wide arcs as the ground slowly rose to meet them.
N’kio had been lost in his thoughts for the remainder of their flight, but once they began their descent, he leaned forward to Elora. “You know, I never wanted to Impress a dragon in the first place,” he began, voice soft as he spoke next to her ear. “I was to live out my life at the Hold with naught a care in the world. But…I am glad I did Impress. I don’t think I would have ever met you if I had not.”
"Metanath, would it be rude to tell your Rider that that may have been one of the cheesiest lines I have ever heard?" Elora's lips twitched in a corner, looking at N'kio out of the corner of her eye as they began to coast downards. "Because it is. And probably one of the worst, too."
The compliment was still there, and she accepted it with that smile, but she had faith in him that he could have come up with better.
I have faith? Oh eggs, it is time for me to get off this dragon.
Metanath rumbled in amusement. He tilted his head and looked back at Elora, eyes swirling indigo. Believe me, there have been worse, if you can imagine it.
“Easy now, I meant what I said,” N'kio replied, arms crossed over his chest, his smile undoing any sense of malcontent. “It wasn’t a line, either. I truly do mean that. Your company today has been a nice break in work.”
Gently setting himself down, Metanath grumbled to himself as the weight of the world pressed itself back on his shoulders. He much preferred flying to walking any day.
Hmm. Yes, I daresay that was one of the worst I’ve heard so far. Just you wait, Elora. I’m sure there will be more soon.
“Don’t get me started,” he chuckled and reached around her waist with his hands. With deft fingers, he unhooked Elora’s belt from their seat, then sat up and waited for her to disembark first. “Well, here we are again. I hope it was to your liking, cheesy lines aside.”
If N'kio really did mean it, part of Elora was flattered. She was a person, and a woman, and compliments were always nice. But there was that part of her that was now just wanting to get out of this situation.
Sex, yeah, she could handle. Words? Feelings? No, no, that was beyond her range of expertise.
"I did, thank you." Her lips twitched upwards as his fingers brushed against her, quickly unhooking the belt, and she disembarked with a small leap. "It was quite enjoyable."
“It was my pleasure, Elora. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it.” N’kio slid off Metanath after she had left her seat. He tugged up the top of his pants and leaned against the grounded dragon, but kept his eyes on her. “Flying with someone is always more fun when it’s not a rescue, so thank you as well.” He smiled.
I agree as well. I like flying with someone who appreciates it.
N’kio motioned to her waist, and then drew an arm across his chest to stretch out the muscle. “If you don’t mind, I will be needing that belt back before I leave. Good leather is not in much supply at the Hold. It wears down and cracks from the salt water. Most prefer other material, but Metanath and I are the few who need it.”
The quip about him taking it off of her nearly rolled off her tongue before she could stop it; she bit it back quickly. She wasn't sure if he would have taken the offer, and as much as part of her would have quite enjoyed that, she needed to get away from him.
He was too nice.
"I suppose, if I must give it back." She removed the belt with nimble fingers, stretching out her arm and handing it to him. "Hopefully I'll get one of my own someday anyway."
“Oh, I hope you do as well.” N’kio reached forward and, as he took back the belt, ghosted his fingers over the back of her hand, his eyes fixed on hers for any sort of sign. Then, acting as if that had never happened, he moved back to his original spot and cinched the belt around his hips. “Would make visits to and from the Hold a bit faster, I’d imagine. Though I’m sure Metanath could use the exercise” he joked, mostly to himself.
Upon hearing what he had said, Metanath turned his head and met his Rider’s eye, but said nothing aloud that could be heard by her.
N’kio looked to the dragon and remained still for a few moments, deep in conversation, though his face betrayed nothing of what had been discussed. Then, once Metanath had sighed and turned back around, N’kio raised his eyes once more to Elora.
“I don’t know how best to ask this, so I’ll be direct,” he started, hands at his side. “I’ve really enjoyed our time together, Elora, and I think you’re pretty interesting. Well, pretty and interesting, but that’s beside the point. I was wondering what your thoughts are on, say, me visiting you from time to time when I make these trips to the Weyr?”
He threw his hands up in mock defense, as if trying to calm her from what he had stated. “Now understand, when I say ‘visit’, I don’t mean…you know, ‘visit’. I just want to get to know you more. I won’t get a lot of time to visit this Weyr, with my work being back at the Hold, but when I am able to travel, I think I would like to see you again,” he said, hands lowered once more. “If you are interested, that is. I would not want to force you into anything.”
You never asked me if I wanted to hear your boring sea stories I was forced to listen to, Metanath teased aloud, trying to ease the pressure of deciding off of Elora.
Elora's eyebrows shot up; she didn't even bother to try to hide the surprise on her face. "You'd like to see me again?"
Oh no. Part of her wanted to squash that idea right away - getting close to somebody emotionally? She hadn't done that since her family, and maybe a few random friends, and they had all ditched her when she came into her, er, sexuality. And he sounded like he liked her in the way that somebody pursuing a relationship might like somebody, even if he didn't want to do any of that yet. No, no, that was not what she wanted.
But that would be rude, and she didn't really have a reason not to see him again, not one she was willing to explain - she had enjoyed herself, and he was kind and fun to look at. Metanath was nice, too.
She was stuck between a rock and a hard place - say no and risk ruining what she had had today by coming across as rude and insensitive, or say yes and possibly be stuck with having to deal with emotions and things.
But he still was a person. And he was a busy person. Maybe he'd just forget.
Maybe knowing him could be fun, part of her brain whispered.
"I can't say no to that, can I?" She wasn't aware she had smiled at him until after she had done so; not one of her flashy smiles but a softer one, a kinder one. "I'll look forward to it."
N’kio grinned at the surprise that lit up her face. Is it really that difficult to believe that I would like to see her again? He nodded in earnest at her question, though kept his comments to himself. He could see she was working this out for herself. Silence fell over them, and Metanath gently brushed his Rider’s back with the side of his wing.
It might be easy for you to understand, but women are more complex than you. Actually, most people are.
Very funny, replied N’kio, keeping a straight face as he nudged the dragon right back. I’m just curious as to why she was so surprised. I enjoyed her company today.
We could hear as much. That oiling of mine did you wonders. Metanath’s eyes glimmered ice blue. But yes, I enjoyed her company as well. Yet, your question…perhaps she does not see her own value as clearly as you do.
He leaned against Metanath, his hands clasped behind his back, and considered this idea while Elora considered his. He let his eyes wander over her body, but this time, he was not seeking out anything in particular. That would be a shame if so. There is certainly more to her than meets the eye. I hope, in time, we will get to...
He then realized two things: first, she had replied, and second, he had been holding his breath while he waited. Exhaling slowly so he did not draw attention to that fact, N’kio straightened up, hands now in his pockets, his eyes bright and attentive. “As will I, Elora.” A shy smile crept over his face and began to mirror her own.
Metanath decided to break the ice and turned to look down at Elora, long nose touching her shoulder. It has been a pleasure meeting you. I look forward to the next time, if it is to be. He remained there for a few more seconds, then straightened out, readying himself for the flight back to the Hold. Come along, he spoke to his Rider. We have work to do, and I am not letting you off so easily after this break.
He found he did not want to leave, but knew he was needed elsewhere. You are a bad influence on me, he remarked to Metanath. Uprooting himself from where he stood, N’kio turned and climbed up the black dragon. He began to tether himself to the riding straps, hands moving automatically as his thoughts were back on the ground. This is absolutely ridiculous…There’s work to be done. I need to focus.
You do. Being sweet on a girl won’t bring those ships in.
No, but the thought might pass the time.
As long as you don’t start spouting songs and poems like those harpers, I will be fine with it.
You and I both.
Ready to fly?
Not in the least.
Metanath sidestepped away from Elora, spread his wings, and shifted on his hind legs. N’kio waved his goodbye and leaned forward just as Metanath leapt into the air, wings ballooning as he pulled at the sky and rose higher and higher until she was just a small figure below them. They hovered together, and N’kio peered down at the Weyr Bowl.
Do not worry. I have a feeling you will see her again.
Who said anything about worrying?
Oh, Mine. You did. It’s alright, I won’t tell. It’s a bit refreshing, actually.
Remind me to worry more often.
I’ll keep you on your toes.
And without another word, in the blink of an eye, both dragon and rider disappeared, and the air was silent once more.