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First Things First (jp: Cremsden, Cuylar) #medhunt

Laura Walker
 

Cuylar had a lot on his mind. First and most importantly, none on the trip had noticed just how little water Megin had been drinking. And now she was suffering from heat exhaustion. That aside, she had tried to chew quickwort leaves for an easy fix. And that led into the second problem. It was going to be commonly known that he had been near the plants himself. Someone would surely assume he had hidden some to keep for himself.


He would be lying if he said he was not tempted.


“Ah, there you are.” Cuylar blinked as he saw Cremsden. “Are you all right?” He looked exhausted.


More to the point he looked as though he had tried to dress that morning with his eyes closed and possibly while still asleep. Rumpled wasn’t exactly the word for it - his shirt was creased and buttoned wrong and hanging loosely over his trousers, his hair was standing on end -- oh, and he was smiling. He was smiling as though he’d forgotten how not to, even if he was looking somewhat heavy-eyed and yawning.


“We’re getting married,” he told Cuylar brightly because that was clearly the most important thing that this particular conversation was going to contain.


Cuylar stared for a moment and then said, “Did you just get some phenomenal tail?” He was almost jealous. If not for the seriousness of his own situation, he would be, most definitely. “Aren't we a little busy for that?” he asked, frustratedly.


((Congratulations,)) Elphith reminded him.


“Congratulations, too, I guess.”


“Relax, it was after clocking-off time last night, I got up to do my job like a grown-up this morning.” Cremsden reached to pat his shoulder -- and from a man who usually liked his personal space as much as Cremsden did that in itself was notable.


It also meant that he’d likely been wandering around like this since he got up to do his job that morning.


“One of the numbweed pots seems to be turning into soup or something,” he said mildly. “I’m thinking we shouldn’t let riders watch them next time.”


“... Soup?” Cuylar blinked. He shook his head. What on Pern…? Perhaps he should have stuck closer to the camp instead of striking out to look for the plant, but that had not been his assignment.


“You look like you just boffed in the bushes five minutes ago. Fix your shirt before someone important sees you.” Cuylar folded his arms. Now he definitely was jealous.


“Soup,” Cremsden confirmed. “Or stew maybe. Either way it smells edible which.. Numbweed really should not.” He glanced down at his shirt as though noticing it for the first time and obediently went to fix it. And struggled. Undoing buttons was a delicate task which his fingers seemed too clumsy to complete right now.


“Did they mistake cabbage for numbweed?” asked Cuylar, his eyes going to Cremsden's undeft attempt to move his fingers. “Are you sure you're all right?” he asked. Then again, Cremsden never had answered the first time.


“Kregg reckons there was something -- passionberries or something, maybe a prank.” The last time Cremsden even thought someone might have spiked something he’d drank he’d had a nervous breakdown. By contrast he relayed that with the calmness of someone discussing the weather. “He’s looking into it. This shirt isn’t working, is it?”


“Passionberries don't keep your fingers from working properly. Can I help you?” Maybe this was more important than his own concern.


Well, not more important. But maybe Cremsden was not in a position to help.


Though, if passionberries were involved, Cuylar almost felt a little miffed that he had not been part of the prank. It had been a while.


Still…


“If the plant we're looking for has special properties, maybe the others around here do, too. Maybe there was more to those berries than the eye could see.” He leaned in to try to peer into Cremsden's eyes to check for dilation.


“Yes, that’s why Kregg was interested,” Cremsden agreed matter of factly. He held still obligingly for Cuylar. “He did already do this, you know. Said it looked more like fellis than quickwort then went haring off…” he waved a hand vaguely “...somewhere. So I told him not to test on the apprentices.” And apparently considered that enough safeguarding not to worry further, or stop working. He blinked at Cuylar; the pupil dilation indeed looking more like the pattern typical for fellis than quickwort. “You know I could just take the shirt off?” he suggested, starting to wriggle his arms free. It felt like a good solution.


“You're going to get a sunburn…” Cuylar muttered. “Just hold still,” he insisted. “So, Kregg already fixed your crazy ‘I just got laid, but actually that was last night’ buttons, and you unfixed them?”


Fellis did not look like passionberries, and Cuylar could not think of any reason the old timers would have wanted to cross them. But then again, with all their tinkering, they might have left them vulnerable to crossing on their own in the wild. Or maybe it was just a coincidence.


“Are we making fellis, too?” he asked. He needed to start making it a point to try to behave as though he had already been promoted when it came to knowing the plan.


“Mmm, no?” Cremsden sounded vaguely puzzled by that first question. “Kregg just looked at me and ran off to play with passionberries, why would he fix my buttons?” He yawned, and gestured somewhere to the right. “Fellis is over there. Just been to check on them. They’re working slowly for some reason.” And maybe if he had been thinking more clearly he might have wondered about that, or at least mentioned it to Kregg.


“Good gravy,” said Cuylar. “You've just been to see them, and you're half-sedated. They're sluggish. We should get them away from there. There is something off about the fellis here; it's… airborne somehow. You stay here. I'll go.” This was turning out to be a disaster!


“Don’t worry.” Cremsden, who was usually the worrier, reached to pat his arm reassuringly. “Really. I’m fine. It’ll be fine.”


“If you're telling me it's fine, it's most certainly not fine,” said Cuylar, frowning. “Come on. Come sit down.” He had half a mind to make him sit and drink water beside Megin, but that could only backfire. “Drink water.” He handed his waterskin over.


“No, no, listen,” Cremsden said, sitting down as he was told and taking the water. “Margana is going to marry me.”


Cuylar forced himself to smile. It was happy news, even though he had too much else on his mind, like whether wetting his handkerchief and breathing through it would be enough to keep him from being addled when he went to tell the fellis crew to leave it be and stop.


“That's great news, Crem. I'm really happy for you.”


Cuylar could not help but wonder whether a handful of passionberries would work such wonders for him and Haygen. But how, exactly, did one bring that up? Want to get high and do the do?


“I hope I'll be invited to the ceremony.”


“Course you will. You’re practically family.” Cremsden patted the ground beside him. “C’mon, come sit down. You look stressed. Rest a minute.”


Cuylar’s eyes misted for a moment, and his heart really did long to take Cremsden up on the offer. Practically family.


((You left Megin with help. And there is little more either of you will do for her right away anyhow. Do as you will to warn the fellis makers.)) Elphith began to giggle in Cuylar's mind, and he raised an eyebrow.


[[Faranth, are you high as a kite, too?]]


((No. No, I'm good. Really good. Honest.))


Cuylar sighed.


“I'll be right back, OK? Stay right there, and I'll be right back.” Cuylar decided to forgo wetting the cloth so as not to have to take the water back from Cremsden. It would have to do. Besides. Everyone else was feeling good. Why should he not, too?


He jogged off to stop the fellis crew and to get them away from the vats. And a little while later, he came back and sat down beside Cremsden as bidden.


“Feel better?” Cremsden had stayed where he was bidden, mostly because standing back up felt like far too much work. Now he leaned his head against Cuylar’s shoulder companionably. “It is all right, you know.”


Cuylar was all the more worried by Cremsden's affection. It might have stirred him to tears of joy to have it were he not so certain that if it were fine, he never would have received it. Still. He patted Cremsden's shoulder.


“Maybe,” he said. Practically family. Oh, how he would miss this tomorrow.


“I really do love her, you know,” Cremsden confided, leaning against Cuylar more heavily and -- oh, that was practically snuggling now. “I never know how to tell her, but I do.”


Cuylar put his arm around Cremsden. Might as well make the most of this while he could. He doubted he would ever get to be this close to Cremsden again. It was an entirely platonic gesture – just as Cuylar knew it was on Cremsden's part. Practically family, after all.


“I know you do. I'm really proud of you for telling her.” Even if it was under the influence. At least it was not alcohol.


“It’s just-- you riders are really odd.” And Cuylar had reached the ranks of ‘you riders’ now apparently, although Faranth knew when Cremsden had dropped the idea of him just being a Healer with a convenient extra dragon. He yawned, half-asleep and cuddled in Cuylar’s side. “Never quite know how to handle that.”


Cuylar tried not to deflate at being lumped in with the riders.


((You are my rider. I am a dragon. That makes you a dragonrider. It's like. Math.)) Elphith giggled again.


[[What have you got into, anyway? Get away from that.]]


((Mmmm, no.))


“When I work it out, I'll definitely let you know, Crem,” said Cuylar. He could get up to go make Elphith drop whatever she was doing to get so silly, but then he would have to get up. And he was not about to let this moment end any sooner than it had to, as it was not likely to come again.


“I mean, this whole flight thing,” Cremsden continued, having apparently reached the point of reflecting on the universe regardless of whether or not he should stop talking and mind his tongue. “I know we have to all act as though we don’t think it’s creepy, but really? It’s not--” He flailed one arm briefly in the air, searching for words. “I just don’t see a way to square it with being any less creepy than the Holder who sends his teenage daughter off with the highest bidder.”


Cuylar blushed. He did not quite know how to answer that. It was not precisely easy to explain the… biological necessities that came with dragons’ mating.


“It might be ‘creepy’. But it's a part of what the dragons are and a part of who we become when we join with them. Those who choose this life, they do it knowing what it's going to do to them because it's less of a sacrifice than it would be to let Thread fall unchecked,” said Cuylar. He did not know whether Cremsden was enough in his right mind to appreciate an answer like that.


“I know Elphith didn't give me any choice. But… I can't blame her for what she did when she was effectively an infant. She did it to survive. And now I do what I have to to survive along with her. She rises to mate, because dragons rise to mate. And I deal with it because I love her.”


Was that too heavy?


Cremsden made a face, not bothering to hide the grimace he might normally have surpressed. “I don’t know. Maybe I just worked Fort too long,” he admitted. “Feels like anything which is so good, healthy and normal and such shouldn’t land people in the Infirmary as often as it did.” Hard to think of Fort flights as anything other than a nicer name for rape a lot of the time. And it had been turns, enough for him to learn that Arolos numbers were different, and he still had that mental reflexative twitch at the whole idea.


“I don't think there was much good, healthy, or normal about Fort,” said Cuylar with a grimace of his own. “Everything there was just an excuse to be terrible. I'm sorry if I've been making you uncomfortable, talking about… you know, love and stuff. With other men.”


“Yeah, because that’s totally the part that makes me uncomfortable about the whole thing,” Cremsden said. “Come off it, Cuylar, you know I couldn’t give a shit who’s warming your furs, I just don’t like worrying I’ll need to patch you up in the Infirmary afterwards.” Or at least he’d apparently assumed Cuylar knew that.


“Yeah…” Cuylar was not so sure, but that was all part, too, of having lived at Fort for so long. Hearing someone complain about what was unhealthy or abnormal when it came to sex definitely reminded him of many an overheard conversation there, even if it was not exactly what Cremsden actually meant by it.


“Well. You'll be happy to know that Arolos riders don't tend to come to the flight rooms looking to punish me.”


“And yet there’s still that ‘tend to’ there as a get out clause,” Cremsden noted. The fellis muted the normal background worry that he’d got used enough to in life to almost ignore, but didn’t quite hide the concern in his face. “Seriously though..”


“Look, I'm not trying to… justify flights or whatever. I'm just trying to put you at ease. I'm OK. I've always been OK here. If I'm ever not OK, you'll be the first to know. OK?” Of course, all of those ‘OK’s were in regard to flights only, but that was a talk for another day.


The contented feeling was wearing off. Might have been the subject matter; more likely the crash Kregg had warned about. Cremsden sighed, still leaning against Cuylar. “Yeah. Bit late then though.”


“Elphith knows how to pick the right ones. Don't worry. I'm OK. I promise.” Cuylar wanted to reassure Cremsden, especially if this was what was heaviest on his mind with his inhibitions so lowered.


“Hate it when people try to put me at ease. Usually means there’s something I shouldn’t be at ease about.” There was that grimace again, and this time Cremsden rubbed his head a moment. “How much of an idiot is Kregg going to tell me I am today, do you reckon?”


Cuylar sighed. He wanted to put Cremsden at ease because he cared about his feelings. And because he was obviously hung up on this. But he was not going to argue, not after Cremsden changed the subject.


“Well, I don't see how you cold have seen this coming. But that won't stop Kregg from telling you how much of an idiot you are,” he said.

“For not thinking about the fellis field at least.” Cremsden was starting to wince, and maybe that wasn’t all subject-change. “Feck. Reckon I’ve got about half an hour before I’ve got a migraine from the Red Star itself.”


“Need some more water?” Cuylar offered. It might not solve the problem, but maybe it could mitigate it.


“Can’t hurt. Not more than everything else is going to anyway,” Cremsden predicted rather glumly. And oh hey, beyond addiction and side-effects here was the problem with drugs. They wore off eventually. He didn’t try to move off Cuylar but shut his eyes for a moment. “Have I been making an idiot of myself?”  


“Not so far as I saw,” said Cuylar, smiling a bit and mostly to himself. He was also going to be waiting until Cremsden moved first, even to fetch him more water. “I really am very happy for you.”


“...Right. The marriage thing.” Lose the bolstered confidence, and back came the self doubt, except a little more paralysing. Cremsden was quiet a moment, not moving, just thinking. “...Cuylar, am I doing something really really stupid here?”


“Looking for a plant that may or may not exist and getting poisoned by vaporized fellis? Yeah, that might be a little bit nuts, but it was Kregg's idea, yeah?” Cuylar winked. “No, I don't think you're doing something stupid. I support you a hundred percent, and I'm looking forward to your big day already.”


“There's a lot of stuff to think about when it comes to marrying a rider. But I can't imagine Margana would have said yes if you hadn't already talked about that.”


“Yeah, it--” Cremsden swallowed, and sat up a little finally, pulling away. “Okay, so it might have all been kinda rushed at the time.”


“Do… do we need to talk about this?” Cuylar asked, turning to look directly at Cremsden. How had they not had this discussion? Of course, the drugs might have been the catalyst, but had they not talked about any of this just as weyrmates?


Cremsden flushed immediately. “No, it’s-- I should probably go find Kregg. He’ll want to write stuff down while it’s still fresh,” he muttered, not making any movement to actually follow through on that by getting up.


“I'm not gonna make you right now if you can't. But you're not gonna get away with it forever. We're gonna talk about this,” said Cuylar. They would get to talk about flights again, at that. Great.


“I just can’t lose her, okay?” Cremsden said that quickly, bolting the words as though if he rushed them out he could trick his brain into not thinking about them. “If--if this ends up being that kind of screw-up… it just can’t be, okay?”


“You're not going to lose her,” said Cuylar gently. “So long as you remember the reality of what her dragon means for her, you won't. You have to have already talked about the fact that he comes first, right? And that this doesn't have anything to do with her commitment to you? This is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about before – there are certain realities involved in riding dragons, and most riders make that choice, to accept those realities.”


“As long as you can accept what she has to do as part of that, there's no reason you can't be together. You've made it work so far. And let me tell you, she must really love you if she said yes to this. Making a marriage work as a rider is no small feat, and she wants to do that with you.”


If if if. If she said yes, if she meant it, if she hadn’t just been afflicted by the same weird mix Cremsden had managed to inflict on himself. If they’d ever been the type of people to talk about anything ever, rather than just ducking away from awkward subjects and hoping they went away.


Hard to tell if the pounding heart and dry mouth were side-effects of the come-down, or just straightforward panic.


“I need to find Kregg,” he said again, and this time he did start to get up, wincing. “Master Healer’s orders and all. Find him when it started to wear off.”


Cuylar shifted to help him stand up.


“Maybe now's a better time for me to let you know that Megin got herself into some quickwort while she was suffering from heat exhaustion, and that's the whole reason I came to find you in the first place,” said Cuylar. “For that matter, I might need you to search me. Or for Kregg to search me. So you can vouch that I didn't keep any.”


“And don't worry,” he added. “She was just chewing a mouthful of leaves.”


“..what?” Other thoughts got wiped away at that statement. Cremsden stared at him. “..on purpose?”


“Yeah, on purpose. I think she was a bit addled by the sun and thought it would give her super powers,” said Cuylar. “And I did leave her with someone to keep an eye on her, drinking water in the shade.”


“Feck! I’ll sharding kill her!” Cremsden swore and managed two steps before he stopped looking queasy. “...She’s stable right now?”


“I wouldn't have left her otherwise,” said Cuylar. “So, you're just going to take my word for it that I haven't got any on me?” he asked as he stopped to look at Cremsden's eyes again. “About that water…”


“You just told me you found her by the quickwort. Either you’ve not got any on you or you made sure to hide it somewhere off your person before you told me.” Cremsden was squinting, trying to block out the light. “You’ve got a dragon, not like searching you means anything. I think I was over-optimistic about the time to migraine.”


“I'm not asking so that you'll believe me,” Cuylar grumbled, still a bit bothered when Cremsden got all… clinical like that. “Come on, then. Let's get another waterskin. Or else sit back down, and I'll bring it.”


“Yeah, because if it goes bad they’re going to believe the other ex-addict searched you properly and didn’t accept a handful of berries as a pay-off.” Cremsden gave him a squinty-eyed glare. “Even I wouldn’t take my word on that one and I am me. Find someone who doesn’t like you to search you; they’ll take their word as worth something. I’m going to find Master Kregg. He can’t have gone far; he’s off his best painkillers and his leg hurts.”


“Fine, fine…” Cuylar huffed again. “The dragons are into something funny, too. Or at least Elphith is. I'm going to hunt you down with that waterskin later, too. For now, I'll go check on Megin… The search can wait until we're ready to go back.”




--

Blackadder: I mean, what about the people that do all the work?
Baldrick: The servants.
Blackadder: No, me; *I'm* the people who do all the work.