"You ask me like I'm supposed to know? This was your idea." She laughed, the amusement with N'kio's happiness winning over the feeling that she had done something she hadn't meant to. "I don't know your schedule or what you're doing or... anything, actually."
It wasn't like she had a schedule. Or anything to do, really, except for Candidate things.
Looking at N'kio was beginning to make her head hurt -- too many conflicting thoughts, all of which she wanted to ignore -- so she turned her attention to the big Black dragon beside him.
And I suppose, Metanath, you can expect another massage at some point, perhaps, if your leg acts up again. Elora grinned, the expression lighting up her entire face in the way the earlier laugh hadn't. She liked Metanath almost as much as she did his Rider, and her relationship with him was much less complicated.
"Yes, I suppose knowing my schedule might help," beamed N'kio. "Hmm. Let me think...Well, for the most part --"
Metanath wasted no time interrupting, absolutely pleased as punch by Elora's offer. And in return, you can fly with me whenever you are able to. You will have to fly with N'kio, just to be safe...Does that sound fair, Elora?
"As I was saying," he continued, elbowing Metanath in his side, "For the most part, everything follows the same routine at the Hold, weather permitting. There are two breaks for food, one before midday and the other in the evening. At midday itself, it becomes much too hot for any proper work, so the Hold takes an hour or so to rest. I suppose you could consider that free time."
"After that, work resumes as normal. So...I have two opportunities during the day to myself. Or three, depending on whose turn it is to watch at midday. Incoming ships and swimmers in the bay, that sort of thing," he nodded. Then, as if an afterthought, he added, "Evenings and nights are open as well, but...we'll cross that bridge if we get there." He smiled politely.
It is my turn to watch at midday, you know, announced Metanath with a hint of pride.
"I think I'll join you today, if you don't mind."
Oh, not at all. Feel free. Now, what else were you going to tell her?
He chuckled. "Right," and moved a few steps closer to Elora. Just to see if she would do anything. "Well, Elora,I suppose this schedule of ours just depends on how often you could stand to see me." That smile turned into a cheeky grin and his eyes glittered with mischief. "It's your call."
Me too! You get to see me as well. Most of the time, at least. Metanath lifted his lips in a draconic equivalent of a smile.
N'kio hadn't the heart to tell him or think that it was perhaps one of the most intimidating smiles he had ever seen, so he bit his lip and tried to remain quiet and professional. He looked back to Elora for her answer.
Their enthusiasm was far more terrifying than Metanath's smile.
The thought of being able to fly more was exciting - though she hoped she'd have a dragon of her own to do that on one day, weird Candidateship and all - and seeing him seemed, well, nice. He was nice.
But he clearly cared for her, or liked her, or was just generally far more into this than she was. His enthusiasm, his looking towards the future, how he always seemed to be stepping nearer to her...
She looked at N'kio, forcing herself to meet his eyes.
"N'kio, I'm not looking for a relationship. I probably won't ever be looking for a relationship. I don't want you to go into this thinking it's going to end like that, because it won't."
She wouldn't lead him on. Life here wasn't a game, or if it was, it wasn't like the ones she used to play; here, she needed to start taking feelings into consideration. His and hers both.
He stopped moving forward as soon as she looked him straight in the eyes; yes, that was what he hoped would happen.
“I understand what you’re saying, Elora,” he nodded, “I really do. I know very well the possible outcomes of a relationship, perhaps more than most. And as much as I have entertained the idea of a relationship, it…Well, anything normal by Hold standards I don’t see working out for either of us, for a number of reasons.”
Metanath’s smile regressed as he re-adopted a more serious expression, his head tilting as he listened to the both of them. What he couldn’t understand was how complicated the whole conversation was getting. They both liked each other, didn’t they? What was left to talk about? Even Flights were not as complex as this.
“However,” continued N’kio, “I still think we should try it and see how things work out. No set rules – that is what you want, yes?” He took a couple steps back. “Seems more than fair to me, and with the new Thoroughfare…Actually, how about you tell me what you would be comfortable with. Give me some idea to go on. You aren’t looking for a relationship, you say. What are you looking for, then? Could I help?”
Elora's voice floated through the air, a quiet acceptance infusing every word. For a number of reasons. Did he know about her past, then, and was avoiding it out of politeness? She couldn't ask for fear of letting him know, and she couldn't know for fear of asking.
This was different. He couldn't remember the last time something like this had happened. Not that it was a bad occurence, just...more proof that she wasn't like other women.
But was that fear, nerves, or both talking? What could she be worried about? Still just as intrigued, but old enough to know he could go no further, N'kio let his questioning drop. "Sure, yeah, of course we can wait. Whatever you think would be best, Elora."
Metanath held Elora's gaze longer than usual, though anything he had to say or speculate on he kept to himself. He, like N'kio, knew there was no more to be said. They would simply have to wait it out. Still...she did seem more hesitant now. He wondered...
He got up and stretched his wings out, his jaw cracking as he yawned idly. Come now, N'kio, we shall have to examine that leather and then return to Cliffside. Work does not stop because we are here. He walked over to Elora's side and, ignoring the surprise he felt from his Rider, gently nuzzled the top of her head.
Do not think too badly of us after today, Metanath hummed to Elora. Despite his newfound enthusiasm, N'kio does understand you require your space. He likes you quite a lot, and would never knowingly try to upset you or force you into anything. He knows well enough what happens then...perhaps you should ask him about it, one day.
He pulled his head back. Take care, Elora, he said out loud, eyes a happy blue.
You hardly ever do that to other people. How un-like you. And what did you say to her? Something good?
But he nodded in agreement with his dragon's statement. "And if you tire of this scenery of yours, you are more than welcome to visit Cliffside."
Something personal, Metanath sighed pleasantly. Yes, yes, of course she is welcome to visit, but she shall have time to think on it, N'kio. These Candidates don't have as much free time as you. Now come along! Oh, and it was very nice to see you again, Elora.
Yet again, he found he didn't want to leave, but work -- and the end of their conversation -- made it difficult to remain here. "It really was nice to see you," N'kio added. "I hope we meet again soon."
Thank you, Metanath. But I will do him the decency of not prying into his past if he does me the decency of not prying into mine. Elora absently ran a hand through her hair as Metanath pulled back, smiling up at the dragon with bright eyes. And you take care as well. Try not to hurt that leg too much, okay?
Her smile faded slightly as she shifted her gaze back to N'kio - not because she liked him any less, but because he caused infinitely more stress than his beautiful Black did. "I'm sure we will. Perhaps you can do something interesting this week and bring back a story or two?"
She flashed him a smile, half of her brain scolding her for being too encouraging, too forthcoming, too ready for him to come back - even as the other half began to enjoy the idea of actually having somebody to talk to. (Somebody to do more than talk to, perhaps? A question she would dwell on another day. Because that wasn't what she wanted. Right?)
You are kind to say so, Elora. Thank you. I'll be careful.
It certainly wasn't his place, or his business, but Metanath took note of that other comment -- about prying into her own past. He couldn't figure it out. What could she mean by it? Her own past surely didn't need covering up. He decided to keep it from N'kio; what he didn't know wouldn't worry him. Or distract him from work.
"You want a story? Shouldn't be too difficult, I think," smiled N'kio, already contemplating a few of his own.
She said an interesting story, not an inappropriate one.
"Wha -- That's like trying to sail without water!"
Metanath smacked N'kio's leg with the tip of his tail.
"Hey now, alright!" he laughed. "Those will be saved for another day. But we'll find something interesting to get into, I'm sure," he said to Elora, glad to be leaving on a good note. "Cliffside can be exciting, you know. Maybe we'll get a storm. Storms are good," he mused.
They are not!
Crossing his arms, he looked up at Metanath. "Only because you do all the work, right?"
Yes, exactly, he grumbled. Glad you're admitting the truth.
"I'm just there to make you look good," N'kio teased, and before Metanath could object and say he didn't do anything at all (which was not true), he shrugged and returned his attention to Elora.
"Thank you, by the way, for the well-wishes," he said, brightening. "I'll do my best. You take care as well, Elora. Try not to get into too much trouble with your superiors -- blame it on me for keeping you, if you want," smiled N'kio. And now that their conversation was really over, he wasn't sure what to do now -- should he just walk away? Would a hug be too soon? A handshake was too business-like.
Be seeing you, Elora. Take care, Metanath added, giving his Rider an out as he then turned and began to meander off, head high and thoughts elsewhere.
N'kio nodded to Elora. "Well...Bye, then," he waved. "Have a story for me as well!" Without further ado, he hurried off after his dragon.