- No use keeping secrets from me! (JP Dytha/Cremsden/Cuylar)


The truth was that without people to push him Cremsden tended to lose momentum on projects.

The inhalers were a good example. Multiple times now he’d got it out and worked on it, getting a little further every time. But every time he got to a point and his brain just.. stopped, convinced him somehow that this couldn’t work, that his patient was too healthy to test on ethically, that the risk was too high, that if the solution were this brilliant he wouldn’t have been able to work it out.

And he would stop and make an excuse to hide it in a drawer for a few months until the next patient with breathing issues and he would pull out the dusty work from the back of the drawer and start to work on it again.

It was at the point where he had a prototype of the inhaler in his hands now, a Healer from the Hall interested in reviewing his work and.. If it weren’t for the fact that Dytha and Cuylar already knew about it and would raise their eyebrows if he hid it away for another six months he would have been sorely tempted.

Instead of which Cuylar was coming over to review it, and Dytha was using her incredible skill at categorising things and Cremsden was nervously reading over his newly written chapter on future applications and trying not to think of but what if it goes wrong because really that helped nobody.

Elphith landed on the ledge to deposit Cuylar but then cleared away to make room for the dragons who properly lived there.

"Ahoy! I'm coming in, everyone put your pants on!" he called into the weyr with a little chuckle to himself about how funny he was.

“Ladies present!” Cremsden’s voice drifted back to the ledge cheerfully. “Or a lady at least. And Elphith and Ponth obviously.” Like any of them would care.

"Aren't we supposed to be putting on a convincing show?" Cuylar laughed as he came inside. Of course, nobody was going to hear him up so high. But it was still funny.

"Sorry, Dytha!" he called into the back, wherever she was.

Ponth had greeted Elphith far more enthusiastically than the time the other green had appeared at her ledge, shuffling aside for her to settle if wanted. Dytha on the other hand appeared from the direction of the sleeping area, straightening up her tunic as she did. “I’m running out of things that don’t have juice on them Cr-- oh, Cuylar!” The smile was a little sheepish. “Forgot you were coming up.”

“I told you it’s the curse of the weyr. If you like it, it gets stained. Just be grateful it’s not blood.” Cremsden looked up from his work and gestured to his own chest. “Eh, middle button,” he said helpfully. Which was fine. Utterly normal and fine. Except he’d pointed it out without blushing and pointedly averting his eyes.

“Shaffit, can never see the blasted thing.” She grumbled to herself as she fiddled with it. “Could be worse. Could be The Shirt.” Dytha cheerfully grinned at Cremsden as she meandered past to fill the kettle. Tea would definitely be needed.

Cuylar lifted his eyebrow for one moment. Was something weird? Something other than the fact that Cremsden and Margana were hosting Dytha and pretending she was their third, anyway. Hm. Well. There was bound to be some weirdness.

"The Shirt? I could hear the capital letters in that," Cuylar chuckled. "Do I get to hear the stories?" he wondered.

“Mmm? Wardrobe malfunction.” That was vague, but Cremsden was often vague, particularly when he was reviewing papers and didn’t really feel like extracting his brain long enough to put words into sentences. It didn’t mean he was being intentionally unhelpful, mostly it just meant he was distracted. 

Though right now he had looked up from the papers and was watching Dytha proceed into the kitchen.

“You a tea drinker, Cuylar?” Dytha called out almost absently as she fussed in the cupboards. “If not there’s juice and the like.” Her head appeared from around the side of a cupboard and there was a slightly frozen expression as if she had remembered she had mentioned something that wasn’t really meant to be talked about. “Oh, well...  I found a shirt I thought was mine and pulled it on. Funny story, wasn’t. Haha…” The smile that ended was screaming ‘that’s the truth, honest’.

Cuylar covered his mouth to avoid showing his smirk. That screamed “I totally saw her boobs,” and he did not want to make them uncomfortable about it. But it was still funny.

"I would love some tea, please. Thank you," he said.

With effort Cremsden pulled his attention away and back on what he was meant to be doing. “So, I got a prototype made up,” he said, offering Cuylar it -- all shiny metal and newness. “One of the Smiths knocked it up for me.”

Cuylar squeezed his eyes shut and covered his mouth once again with his free hand. Then bit his knuckle. Were they doing this on purpose?

"Sorry for the pregnant pause," he said as he regained his composure. "Let's see…" He looked it over. He was no engineer, but it looked to him as though it would serve the intended purpose.

“...What?” And Cremsden knew Cuylar enough to know that expression but looked genuinely confused by what had been so funny just now.

Soon enough, a tray appeared with mugs and even a plate of biscuits as Dytha carefully came back to the table, oblivious to what was going through Cuylar's head. "Before we get lost in paperwork," she began as she stopped between the pair, setting a mug down for them both. "I've been meaning to thank you, well, Elphith, for her help in getting everyone involved in that flight. I've not had any chance to stop you since I'm hardly in the Infimary at the moment."

"It's been our pleasure," Cuylar said genuinely to Dytha, though he side-eyed Cremsden. "I will always do whatever I can, we will, to help you," he promised. He reached out to grasp her hand if she would allow it.

The smile was small but genuine and in the safety of the weyr where she knew there was no possibility of H'lan lurking around the corner, she let him take her hand although it was positively dwarfed in his own. "Ponth will probably try to flood Elphith with fish. Or shiny rocks."

"She is excited. She came back, did you know? She had gone back to leave room for Zlorenth, but since Ponth made a space just for her, she came back. She'll clear out when Zlorenth is ready to come back if she needs to, of course." Cuylar smiled back and then let Dytha's hand go.

"I'm really happy you're safe here with some of my favorite people. Hey, Crem, this is amazing – how did they get the shape for the mouthpiece here?"

“A sevenday tomorrow I think he said it was,” Cremsden answered absent-mindedly, not looking up from what he was reading.

Cuylar made eye contact with Dytha and shook his head, pointing at Cremsden. "This guy, am I right?" he half-mouthed, half-whispered.

Dytha had been in the process of boggling at Cremsden when Cuylar's words made her attempt to cover a giggle with her hand and only part way succeeded. "I know…" she whispered back conspiratorially.

"So, when will you be florping the brezankle, Cremsden?" Cuylar asked, throwing in the craziest nonsense words he could come up with on the fly.

“Fifty.” Cremsden turned over his paper, starting the next page. “I think that ought to do nicely.”

Cuylar snickered and then turned to Dytha.

"Well, he's lost to the world, isn't he? How have you been doing?" he asked with genuine concern. "I hope it's not too crowded in here – I'd offer for you to stay at my place for a while every now and again, but that doesn't really fit the image we're going for, does it?"

Rolling her eyes, Dytha turned away from Cremsden slightly, she hadn't moved from between them as of yet and it was nice to be able to start standing for longer again. "We're making it work, Margana has been patient as anything in all this. Guess it's an acquired skill." It was a blatant, but cheerful tease with a meaningful nod in Cremsden's direction.

"And that's very kind of you to offer. Honestly? I feel better knowing I'm not going to find H'lan outside the door. But I made the mistake of starting to cook so I don't think I'm allowed to leave even if I tried." 

“Because your cooking is amazing.” Apparently that had got through, even if nothing else had. Faranth knew what kind of mental filter Cremsden had on his ears. “Sit down before you do your feet in again,” he added, still making careful little notes in the margin of what he was checking.

"Ooh, amazing, is it?" Cuylar grinned again. He chuckled to himself. They really did not have to do this for any longer than they wanted to, but it certainly seemed like Dytha was settling in. He was happy that it was going well. It would be difficult to pretend to want to boff each other if you did not actually like each other.

"I hope you'll invite me for dinner some time – I'll even watch the boy for a night to earn it." He winked.

"Psh, you were the one who told me to start walking on them again." Cuylar was given another small smile and friendly hand on the shoulder as she maneuvered to her own seat and settled in. "And if Margana doesn't mind, I'm sure you'd be more than welcome for a meal. Although I apparently cook enough to feed the whole Weyr."

“Two Weyrs. At least.” And if Cremsden had been paying attention it probably wouldn’t have happened but Cremsden wasn’t paying attention and didn’t even think what his hand was doing as it snaked around Dytha’s waist and gave her rear a friendly squeeze. He’d probably done it in front of Cuylar with Margana a thousand times -- but this wasn’t Margana.

Cuylar's eyebrows climbed into his hair. Even if Cremsden did think he had to perform in front of Cuylar, he would never have been so brave as to get a handful of Dytha if they were just pretending.

"Oh, my stars, you two are doing it aren't you!?" he exclaimed.

What she probably shouldn't have done was giggle. But she did. And then remembered that someone else was in the room. Dytha met Cuylar's face with a bug-eyed flush that was somewhere between impressive and concerning. Oh shells and baby flits, Cremsden and his absent minded hands. "Uhm…" was the only thing she managed to get out.

Well, that tone certainly finally got Cremsden’s attention. He looked up, startled, and then turned to blink at his arm as though possibly it didn’t belong to him or maybe had started acting all on its own.

He didn’t actually remove it though.

“Oh, I, uh--”

"OK, first of all," said Cuylar as he leaned forward and put both of his hands up palms toward the two of them, "I'm gonna need some high fives all around – come on, up top."

Dytha was currently too aware of what was on her behind to process words and stared at Cuylar's hands as though she half expected them to bite her. "Thank… you?" she managed a little weakly as she complied with the request, albeit a little flimsily, blatantly trying to wrap her head around what she should be doing here. It

“..Cuylar, you’re terrifying the girl,” Cremsden said, calm after that two second pause of shock, not moving towards the high five. “I’m used to you, she’s not. Give her a minute to breathe before you start demanding hilarious anecdotes.”

Cuylar's expression softened as he looked at Dytha to something more apologetic, and he lowered his hand.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to frighten you," he said. His expression fell as his failed attempt at levity left him with nothing but the little stab of hurt that they had tried to keep this from him.

"I… I dunno, I just…" He sighed. "Look, I'm trying to deal with learning about this without acting like a petty prick. It doesn't feel fair for me to say how I really feel about learning that I was the only person in the whole Weyr who didn't actually know the truth of what was going on here."

“Hey. No sad puppy eyes.” And Cremsden’s tone had the same calm firmness he had used on Dytha when she was doing badly. It was like the verbal version of Bitey’s nips, very much a ‘snap out of it’. “We didn’t lie to you, idiot, I just didn’t get chance to talk to you yet. What, you think I’d manage to have a whole conversation with you about moving her in and whether Margana would be okay with it without tripping over my own tongue?”

"It's fine," said Cuylar, and he gave a smile to go along with it. "I said I knew it wasn't fair. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said it that way. And I should have remembered that throwing up the open palm probably wasn't the best way to show Dytha that I'm excited for you. I really am. Like, really, getting past my pity party, I feel like it's time for a silly little dance." His smile grew larger. There was no question at all in his mind that Margana knew about it and approved and was likely involved herself. Cremsden would sooner throw himself down the stairs than cheat on Margana.

Dytha leaned across and gave Cuylar's rather forlorn looking hand a small squeeze. "It definitely was a cover story." She said with a small, encouraging smile. "Now… not so much "story". Or "cover"." She glanced at Cremsden, "Entirely Margana's fault and no idea what is happening as we go. But it's comfier than sleeping on the couch."

“I keep on telling you there were easier  ways to change up sleeping arrangements if you’d asked,” Cremsden mock-grumbled. He grinned at Cuylar apologetically. “I feel like I need to reintroduce you now if she’s staying-- y’know-- longer. Dytha, this is Cuylar, he generally looks like a kicked puppy a whole lot less than he used to and he likes to talk about sex. A lot. Expect to be interrogated.” If there was an eyeroll to his words it was a fond one, and softened by the fact that the way Cremsden looked at Cuylar.. Well. It wasn't a hundred miles off the way he looked at Margana sometimes. None of the attraction perhaps, but all of the this person is important enough to jump off a cliff for.

"Not to worry, my lady," said Cuylar. "I can keep the rest of my uncouthness to myself." He smiled and lifted her hand to kiss it gently. "I completely understand. It was a story until it wasn't. And you just hadn't had the chance to tell me yet." Aside from, you know, just then. "Really. So excited for you."

She had watched the interaction with interest, logging away the little details of observation as she did only to give a small snort. "I might be half your size but I don't implode around certain conversations," Cuylar was given a broad wink of reassurance although the gesture felt a little alien. "Or are you convinced I'm still sixteen and only a pair of feet, too?"

Cuylar's eyes went wide again.

"I should hope you don't really mean that," he said, folding his arms, though his smile showed he was still feeling good natured. "If you're up for telling me all about it, I'm all ears." He grinned. "How did it go? Did you and Margana conspire to seduce poor Cremsden?"

"Ha, poor, I say. Hardly poor." He laughed.

“Very poor. They tease me dreadfully,” Cremsden informed him straight-faced. “Completely outnumbered here. Send help.”

“Well apparently I wasn’t supposed to have these,” Dytha gestured to her chest. “Although even Arden figured out their existence.” Now that there had been the added ‘okay’ from Margana that she didn’t think Dytha was somehow trying to steal her child, the whole situation of that particular day seemed little more than ludicrously and hilariously bizarre. As much as a piece of her brain was still very much trying to fathom what sort of situation she had fallen into, something else had also cottoned on that if Cremsden had Cuylar mentally flagged as ‘safe’ then Cuylar was safe. “So after preparing a dinner to thank them both, I had to tell Margana that not only had her small child… gotten a hold, so had her weyrmate. Albeit not intentionally.” She paused, eyes twinkling as she sipped her tea. “Actually, I left the second part to Cremsden.”

Cuylar burst into laughter that he contained just in time, turning it into a bit of smiling and shaking uncontrollably as he covered his mouth with his hand.

"Oh, that's perfect. Well. Really, truly, I am absolutely thrilled. Tickled even," he said once he caught his breath. "And of course, the only help I'll be sending will be to assist your lovely ladies in teasing you, Crem." He grinned.

“Like I would expect anything less from you.” Cremsden made a face at him. “Arden needs to grow faster so he can be on my side.”

She couldn't help but giggle in return because after the mortification wore off, it WAS peculiarly hysterical. "So we established that Margana wasn't aghast," Dytha said, finding a biscuit. "Even though I'm now quietly terrified about being within grabbing reach of Arden. And we made it through dinner without choking. And then after dinner… well… we all enjoyed the evening." It was said with supremely casual nonchalence.

"Arden will be a perfect gentleman before you know it," Cuylar promised with a smile as he grabbed a biscuit for himself. "It sounds like y'all have worked everything out, then."

Cremsden eyed him.”In the spirit of honesty I do have to tell Dytha you're pretending to be exceptionally good mannered until you can get all details out of me later, you know,” he pointed out, willing to stick pins in that politeness if it got them all onto a less formal footing more quickly. “Otherwise she's going to think I'm impugning your character.”

Cuylar snickered. "Well, I'm more than happy to hear all the sordid details now, if you're ready to talk about it," he said to Cremsden. "I would hardly want to turn you red as a beet in front of Dytha."

“I’m just saying that you’re going to very much confuse her later if you suddenly decide to be all good-mannered on her account,” Cremsden said, as though Dytha weren’t present. “Particularly as she barely bothers to be polite on her own account.”

“Hey!” Cremsden got a sharp jab for that. “It’s not my fault you still had the idea in your head that I was only sixteen and a pair of feet. And if you keep on like that I’m going to start withholding cake privileges.”

"Is cake code for, you know?" Cuylar grinned and waggled his eyebrows at the both of them. He would not want Dytha to get the idea that he was good mannered after all.

“No, cake is code for cake.” Cremsden held up his hands in surrender. “And it's not my fault you hadn’t actually changed your clothes since you were a sixteen turn old apprentice. Also your feet were the important bit of you until.. Well. Until they weren’t.”

“Cremsden can be bribed with cake. That might be useful for you to know if you ever need a favour out of him.” It was cheery retaliation although he earned a slight, if not half-hearted, glare for the comments of his clothes. “They still fit!” Dytha insisted stubbornly.

"I usually just give him the kicked puppy eyes, like this." Cuylar put on his very convincing sad puppy eyes, completely with a bit of misty eyes. He even made himself cry!

Cremsden kicked him lightly under the table for that. “Hush now. You’ll be giving her the impression I’m soft,” he grumbled, as though most of the Infirmary didn’t already know he was a soft touch under the loudness and occasional swearing fits. “Anyway, you two should get on. Probably took Cuylar about as long to accept he was a grown up now and buy things like flatware as it’s going to take you to wear clothes that actually fit you rather than confusing a person.”

“Oh, oh! I can do a good one too!” Cheerfully Dytha let her features fall, lip wobbling slightly and eyes misting up. It looked as though she had just received terrible, heartbreaking news.

"That is a good one!" Cuylar praised, looking impressed. "And it's not my fault that you're the best adult from the group, Crem. … well, maybe it is a little bit my fault, but we're going to be 80 with great-grandkids, and you're still going to be on about how long it took me to get my weyr straightened out." He laughed.

The expression had vanished as quickly as it had appeared, clearly a manufactured device that was controlled at whim. “Ugh… mine took forever… my excuse is that it needed practically rebuilding and not that paltry Healer wages meant decorating options were limited.” Dytha shot Cresmden a look of mock scolding. “I’ve gotten used to the luxury of a bathing pool but someone decided I needed to relocate.”

"Someone," Cuylar chuckled. "Well, it seems like the benefits outweigh the inconveniences here, don't they. All that cake." He winked.

“I don’t know, a bathing pool is pretty hard to measure up to,” Dytha said solemnly but a twinkle in her eye gave away any suspicion of it being serious. “Besides, it’s blatantly Margana I’m staying for. Cremsden just tags along.” Cuylar was tossed a sly wink 

Cuylar laughed and reached out to pat Cremsden' arm consolingly.

"We'll call him a bonus lover," he said. "Wait, no, this is better. You two are cake, and he's the icing."

“More like the meat in the sandwich,” Dytha snickered. Cuylar was definitely a bad influence. Or maybe it was just nice to… kick back and not feel she had to watch every word for fear that somehow H’lan would have heard it too.

“Well, that attempt at pretending you two had good manners lasted, what, half a candlemark?” Cremsden said cheerfully. “Thank Faranth for that. The pair of you are creepy when you’re being all formal.”

"Nice." Cuylar snickered again. Being the meat in the sandwich was a pretty good place to be, if he did say so himself. "Anyway, you insisted," he pointed out to Cremsden. "I'm happy to accommodate you if it means not being creepy."

“You were being weird,” Cremsden grumbled, nose wrinkling for a moment. “Hand kissing and the like. I can cope with blushing better than that. Anyway, anyway, can I give these pages to one of you to proofread? I think I’ve forgotten how words work at this point.”

“Well you didn’t help your train of thought with that hand,” Dytha admonished lightly. “Shall I start sitting on the other side of the table so you’ll actually get work done?”

“My hand wandered off on its own, my brain was fully engaged editing,” Cremsden insisted. “Also you’re more distracting at the other side of the table.” Not Dytha’s fault, but her size and the size of the table meant that sitting across from her gave him a perfect view down the middle of her breasts. Not that he had ever noticed this before a couple of days ago.

"Well, then, I'll keep my seat. Here, I'll get a quick read in. Or a slow, careful one. If you guys need a minute. I promise I won't hear a thing." Cuylar winked and then held out his hand for the pages.

“Pfft, I’m fully in control of myself thank you. Not my fault Cremsden can’t keep his hands to himself.” It was a cheery tease and what was clear that irrespective of her own internal musings, there was still something about the entire set-up that she was finding very comfortable. Although if Cuylar (or anyone) had asked, she wouldn’t be able to say why. “Do you want me to look over anything or are you going to send me to my place in the kitchen to make sandwiches? We do have some leftover meat slices from last night you know.”

“If you don’t stop offering me food I won’t be able to fit through the door of the weyr,” Cremsden slid a couple of pages over the table to Cuylar before he turned to Dytha. “Can I use your indexing brain to check if the way I’m ordering things makes sense to you?”

“I’m a feeder, if that hadn’t become apparent by now then I’m clearly more distracting than I ever realised.” Not that she believed it even when it was being said in front of her as she took the papers, running her eyes over them. “Hmm, I’d switch these two - it would be a more organic follow on.” Dytha glanced over to Cuylar, “You’re also welcome to ask for food. It shall appear as if out of nowhere and you may query the suspiciously large amount of dishes that also appear.”

"Oh, I love food," said Cuylar as he scanned his pages. He grabbed a pencil to mark in a few suggested changes, most of which were minor editorial sorts of things, with the occasional actual missed punctuation and the like. "And I'll be happy to clean up after."

“She won’t let you,” Cremsden was trying to make the leaning to check what Cuylar was marking up at least vaguely subtle, as though he could hide being anxious to death about how it read to someone else. “Threatens to hit you with a wooden spoon if you get in her way. Though.. That somehow seems to have gone missing.”

"And when I find it again, I'll hit you with it," she quipped as she drew arrows in pencil suggesting content could be switched.

"Already threatening him with a good time, are you?" Cuylar mused as his eyes scanned the page, grinning all the while.

“She went mad with power,” Cremsden observed. Somehow when it was Cuylar saying it he didn’t blush. “Had to hide it for her own good.”

“I did no such thing, you kept stealing bits of food that I was trying to prepare. It was for your own good. And you don’t seem the type to enjoy a spanking so clearly you’re just starved for food.” Dytha flicked her hair as though huffily offended, underlining a spotted spelling mistake as she went. 

"Food is the way to the heart, as they say," said Cuylar. "Or… however they say it, anyway. I'des had me over to feed me last night, actually," he said.

Cremsden squinted as though trying to remember. “That’s the nice bronzerider I sent to the beach with you, yes?” he checked. “Cuylar has a very exciting lovelife,” he explained to Dytha as a side-note. “I use it to live vicariously and also because nightshifts are very dull.”

“Dare I ask how exciting?” Dytha said a little slyly. This was the first ‘social’ time she had really spent with the other greenrider and so far, he was amusing and a bit silly. Never bad things.

"Oh, you can ask anything you like," Cuylar answered. "And yes, that's him. The one who got all sliced up by the baby wher – actually, the wher is the sweetest thing now. So. He really must have put in a lot of work to repair that bond."

This time Cremsden’s grimace wasn’t just for effect. Whers, even teeny tiny cute baby ones, still unnerved him. “I’ll take your word for it. I don’t get the attraction in pets who want to kill you.” Said the man with a massive amount of scarring from his firelizard.

Cuylar rubbed his ear conspicuously. "Yeah, I must say, I don't get it either, but I figured if I'm going to be in his bed – in his weyr, I mean, eating his food, I should at least be prepared to give scritchies to his adorable murder baby. Er…" He winced a bit as he remembered the green dragonet who actually had killed a boy gruesomely.

"Well. You know what I mean."

“You did not mean in his weyr,” Cremsden pointedly ignored the ear rubbing, reaching over to pet Bitey. “Can’t he come to your place? Tell him you have flatware.”

"I mean," said Cuylar, "that I wasn't eating his food in his bed. Obviously." He stuck his tongue out at Cremsden. "And yes, I'll have him over next."

"Maybe I should consider something big enough to eat someone," Dytha interjected a little darkly, pondering briefly whether a wher in her weyr would have perhaps kept H'lan out of there. "And you're one to talk, Cremsden. Bitey could do damage if he had a mind to it." Cuylar however was given a sage expression and a worldly nod. "Just watch for crumbs, terrible way to ruin the evening." Of course, despite her own… interests, eating food in bed probably hadn't been on the list of things ticked off, but the banter seemed to happen very easily around the other man.

“So get a firelizard of Bitey’s ilk. Something small and vicious that still isn’t--” Cremsden struggled, looking for an apt descriptor and coming up only with the memory of slathering jaws. He shuddered. “Isn’t that.”

“Mmm…” She fidgeted uncomfortably, her face not seeming to know how to set itself. “Not… sure I’d be okay with a firelizard. Not for a while, maybe.” For a second her face seemed almost uncomfortably miserable but at the same time as though it was struggling to decide what expression it wanted to use.

"Bl'by's got a canine. And Tiddler is much sweeter than any wher, no offense meant to any whers," said Cuylar. "I bet we could find you a good puppy. If you decide you want something big enough to eat someone. Cremsden would never eat anyone. Well. Not in the scary way, anyway."

“Will you stop ruining my terrifying Infirmary reputation?” Cremsden complained. “I worked hard on that, I’ll have you know.”

“You have a terrifying Infirmary reputation? Did I miss the memo that day?” It was a bit more comfortable to go  back to teasing Cremsden than to dwell on whether at some point she might want to replace her dismembered firelizard. It wasn’t a crossroads she had gotten to yet.

“Grr.” He bared his teeth at her for a moment. “You’d think having a firelizard that bites people would help.” Except for the part where it mostly bit Cremsden himself. “I’m going to go back to my Bitran accent. That worked better.”

"Actually, that is scary," Cuylar agreed. "Ooh, look," he said in his best approximation of a Bitran accent, "I'm a scary Bitran who's gonna steal your left socks and sell them back to you!"

“Ah, feck off.” And Cremsden let himself slip into it at that, letting go of the carefully ‘correct’ pronunciation he had learned to imitate at the Hall and which barely took thought any more and letting the harsher Bitra accent slip back in, all short vowels and dropped consonants. “Y’couldn’t pass as Bitran if y’ life depended on it.”

"Not with a Bitran, granted," Cuylar agreed. "But I bet I could fool any Southerner." That still might have been a bit optimistic, but it was more plausible by a longshot than convincing a Northerner.

The exchange made her giggle behind a hand as she vainly attempted to cross reference the index pages she was looking through. Or rather, trying to look through. “He tried to teach me how to play cards. Needless to say I was terrible and kept getting distracted by the pretty pictures.”

“He’s not better.” Cremsden gestured to Cuylar. “Abuses cards. And Margana gives me this tolerant look like I’m a five turn old showing off the pictures I just drew. No-one appreciates them properly.”

"Oh, come on, I have to have gotten better by now," Cuylar protested. "And just because the cards I've had since I was a kid are floppy doesn't mean I abuse cards!"

“You play horrible games with them,” Cremsden said darkly. “One day I’m going to rescue them and give them an honourable retirement where they can be properly appreciated.”

“Apparently my cheat face is terrible,” Dytha managed with a giggle, getting up to refill the kettle because fresh tea was long overdue. “I look too smug. I don’t try to look smug!”

"Smug is a good look on some folks, but it does tend to make it hard to convince Cremsden that your cards are garbage," Cuylar chuckled.

“I tried to teach her to at least look smug sometimes when her cards are terrible and she gave me this constipated face.” Cremsden raised his eyes to the ceiling despairingly. 

“It was not constipated! It was blank with a touch of worried severity!” The voice came from around the corner, accompanied by the sound of running water as the kettle was refilled and set to boil. “Just for that I’m not getting cake out!”

"Uh oh. It's a shame to lose cake so soon after you've earned it, you know," Cuylar shook his head, still grinning despite his playing at a somber expression.

“But Cuylar hasn’t done anything!” Cremsden protested, raising his voice to shout back. “You wouldn’t punish Cuylar with cakelessness!”

A head appeared around the corner. “No, I’m not. You however, I can.” Cuylar was met with the sweetest of sweet expressions. “Would you like cake Cuylar? A sandwich? Both if you like.”

"Oh, my," said Cuylar. He grinned even more. "Well, as flattered as I am, I only like men, and Cremsden may as well be my brother." He winked. "But seriously, I would love some cake if it's no trouble."

“Tell her you want two pieces.” Cremsden didn’t even attempt to hide his loud whisper, very obviously pitched for Dytha’s ears.

It took Dytha a second and then it twigged, causing a blushing hoot of laughter. “Unfortunately I don’t have real versions of the part you like!” The comment sailed gaily over her shoulder as she turned to check the kettle before her head appeared around the corner again. “I heard that by the way. And just for that you get to tell Cuylar just how much you would do anything for your weyrmate. And if you’re good I’ll give you cake. An extra jammy piece.” The fact that it could so blatantly be an innuendo hadn’t been lost on her. It had been deliberately so.

"Y'all are adorable," Cuylar chuckled. "Really, I am so thrilled. Now Cremsden doesn't have to live vicariously anymore." He chuckled. "If you have a good idea of where to get the fake versions of what I like, I'm all ears," he added.

The head appeared again. And it was wickedness personified as Cuylar was given a far too knowing look. “I’ll whisper it in your ear because otherwise Cremsden’s head might explode. But I am on good terms with a couple of the Traders at the Black Wagons.”

Cremsden had been just..letting that comment about how to earn cake slide right on by, as it seemed likely the pair of them would forget it as they bantered between themselves. He choked at that though -- apparently Cremsden didn’t even need tea to choke on, he could just choke on his own tongue or something -- and went an interesting shade of crimson.

"The Black Wagons Traders owe me a discount or something after all the marks I spent there with Bl'by and T'baran…" Cuylar mused with a chuckle. "Or maybe because I made friends with someone on good terms."

“Suddenly I get the feeling I’m going to regret telling you two to stop pretending to have good manners,“ Cremsden said under his breath, still roughly the shade of a redfruit.

“Told you, all grown up now. And doing terrible things.” Well, preferably having them done but that was neither here nor there. The kettle began to whistle and the head vanished, replacing the whistle with the sound of cups being filled. “And if they’re not throwing in freebies you’re not doing it right. I own a set of cards you probably do want to look after.” She had continued talking as she brought the mugs back, setting them down before retreating for cake.

"Well, most of the marks we spent was for food and, uh. Time in the tents. It was the first time we all three decided to give it a go, so." Cuylar laughed. "And we shelled out for someone to look after Tiddler while we had our fun."

"I'm sure they threw in a few free half-rolls or something. I don't remember everything. It… was a fun time." He kept on laughing.

Cremsden had hidden behind his mug the moment it was available, attempting to look like someone who was firstly not blushing like a virgin Holder girl and secondly was not listening with something between fascination and oh-shit-do-I-want-to-hear-this? Were half rolls food? Half rolls were probably not food. He was not asking in front of Dytha if half rolls were food.

When she appeared again, there was in fact cake in hand. Unfortunately for Cremsden it was kept out of reach whilst Cuylar would find himself looking at something covered in fruit and definitely with jam inside. “When we’re not in polite company, I’ll let you see the cards,” Dytha chuckled. “Might give you some inspiration, too.” Her eyes had seen the colour of Cremsden’s face and unfortunately all it did was prompt another chuckle. “Are we too much for your innocent sensibilities, Cremsden?”

“I’m fine!” It came out with more of a squeak than he intended and Cremsden cleared his throat. Not fragile. Definitely not fragile. Definitely not feeling as though his eyes were turning into saucers as he listened. He eyed the cake hopefully.

"I am so glad y'all invited me over today," said Cuylar, smiling from ear to ear as he dug into his slice of cake. "Dytha, I think we're well on the way to being fast friends. And not just because of the actual cake. Of course."

The cake was kept almost teasingly out of reach as she resumed her seat. “You sure? Looking a little flustered there. You told us to stop being weird.” Momentarily distracted, Dytha glanced towards Cuylar with a genuine smile. A little sad but she didn’t have many friends - not constants, at least. “And to think, Cremsden still hasn’t given his side of the story yet. We should stop monopolising and behave.”

Another throat-clear, and really it probably wasn’t possible that Cremsden could get any redder or more flustered looking but this was an exceptional day. “Right. Uh.. yes.”

“You’ll be rewarded with cake. And Margana will no doubt reward you for playing nice as well.” There was definitely a wicked twinkle going on there as the cake was inched closer, almost in reach.

“..I feel I need to state in my defence here that I was going for a believable cover story..” And it was probably going to be good if Cremsden was getting his defence in in advance and looking this flustered. “And also that for  some reason absolutely no one in the Infirmary appears to believe I’m just suddenly capable of seducing Dytha just because.” For some reason. 

“Although it’s probably fair to argue that claiming Margana as the seducer might be more believable.” Dytha added with a snort of laughter. “Which… you know… sort of right.”

“Which is why it was perfectly logical when someone was looking disbelieving to say.. Well.. that Margana liked her and uh, that I would do anything for my weyrmate.” The last words were delivered at high speed.

"That all sounds very real to me," said Cuylar. "It doesn't have to be weird, Crem," he said. "Just roll with it."

Still flushed, Cremsden gave him a slightly disbelieving look and held out a hand. “Cake,” he demanded. “Please.”

“See, wasn’t so hard,” she teased as the cake was handed over before glancing back to Cuylar. “And now you know our terrible secret. Our cover story turned into less ‘cover’ and more… unexpected.”

"Well, I hope I didn't make it bad enough for you to think it's better to keep your secrets." Cuylar made a silly face at Dytha. "At some point, I want a more enthusiastic high five, but I'll leave that up to y'all."

“You have to wait until I introduce people properly before you give them sex high fives,” Cremsden said, digging into the cake. “That’s manners. Not that I expect this to be a regular issue.”

Dytha rolled her eyes for Cuylar to see but it was tempered with a small smile. “In my defence I don’t think I’ve ever been asked for a high-five. So I was wondering a little what in the world you were doing. That and I was quietly waiting for outrage. Or something like it.” Dytha leaned towards the other greenrider, outstretched palm raised. “You can have it if it makes you a happy puppy again. But no teasing in the Infirmary when I wander over to your side to raid the staff room for cake.”

Cuylar laughed as he gave Dytha the high five. He liked being a happy puppy.

"Cake in the middle of the day at work? I might give you more high fives, but I promise, no teasing. Not for you, anyway. Cremsden is a different story."

“I keep telling you, the kid making cake Impressed,” Cremsden grumbled. “There is no more cake. Why do you think I needed to move you in?”

Dytha had not been able to suppress a small smile at the cheery reciprocation of the ‘high five’. “Oh you can do what you like to him. I’m sure Margana doesn’t mind.” And looking at Cremsden, she had snorted. “And as I recall, it was closer to kidnap. You just refused to let me leave when you found out that I cooked. Although I also think Margana might lock the doors if I said I was leaving just on account of having a packed lunch every day.”

“He usually does,” Cremsden observed, licking his spoon. “I could let you go home if you started making Infirmary cake. Maybe. Though there’s also the roast dinners to consider.”

"I do love a good roast," said Cuylar, grinning deviously as he finished marking the page he was looking at.

And Cuylar got a sly sidelong glance at that. “I bet that involves the spit kind too…” she remarked with an air of absolute innocence as she airily popped a small bite of cake into her own mouth.

Cuylar turned to wink at Dytha.

"Crem, you attract the best ladies," he said. "I dunno what you did to deserve it, but hey, it's probably because you're a phenomenal lay, am I right?" He covered his mouth after that to hold in the laugh. It would not be as worth it if he cracked himself up.

“Should I be offended at the fact that you said that and laughed?” Cremsden raised his eyebrows, mock-insulted. “Besides, it’s Margana. Anyone sensible worships her.”

“It’s true. Margana’s clearly the reason I’m still here. Although I will give Cremsden his due, he gives excellent cuddles. And he’s trying to bribe me with foot massages.” It was said with such solemnity that you’d think Dytha was practicing some solemn oath to say in front of the Weyrleader. “But no really. I’ll show you those cards some time. Lets just say they… give food for thought on ways to make use of your time.”

"I'm already looking forward to it!" said Cuylar. "And don't give me that face, Cremsden – I wasn't laughing about what I said; I was laughing about who I said it to. There's a difference. But I must say, I was hoping for much more of an embarrassed look than an offended one!"

"Anyway. Good cuddles are worth their weight in ground klah. And Margana is the greatest – I love her."

“Faranth, ground klah..” Cremsden’s expression went wistful for a moment. “I could kill for a mug of klah. But cuddles are also good.”

“And Ponth loves Zlorenth,” Dytha said wryly and with a dramatic eyeroll. “I swear she’s like a Candidate with their first ever crush on a Harper handsome bronzerider. I’ll have to extricate her with a shovel at this rate. But oh shells… klah. I miss it. Do we have a klah problem or do you think we could convince K’ren it’s a vital nutritional supplement for Healers?”

"My only klah problem is that there isn't any!" Cuylar laughed. "Elphith likes Ponth and Zlorenth both, but obviously it's not quite the same."

“I mean, you don’t have to extricate her,” Cremsden said reflectively. “There’s room.” Something in his tone suggested he might not just be referring to the ledge. “Anyway as there is no klah.. More tea?”

“Oh Faranth yes please. I think I’m trying to use it as a substitute or something.” The empty mug was held out and waved in silent ‘hop to it!’. “And I know there’s room, you keep telling me that. And Ponth also points out that she fits perfectly well on Zlorenth’s ledge with room to spare.”

“Ponth is a good girl,” Cremsden agreed, collecting the mugs. “...is there a dragon equivalent to firelizard treats, or is that just ‘a herdbeast’?”

“You’ll love this. She likes those flat cake things they make at Gathers. The ones they dip in the hot oil and put spices on? I offered her one as a joke and apparently they’re the best thing ever. Even if my inner Dragonhealer was screaming at the lack of nutritional value. Give her those and no, she won’t ever want to leave.” Dytha chortled, partly at the memory and partly at the truth of it. No, Ponth woudn’t leave if she was being offered Gather cake.

"Note to self, get Cremsden a bunch of flat cakes…" Cuylar pretended to write a note. He liked the idea of Dytha sticking around, even if it was not as one of Cremsden's lovers.

“I’m pretty sure she likes me anyway,” Cremsden said confidently. “It’s that or she likes Bitey. One of us.” He turned to head back to the kitchen. “Anyone want anything other than tea? Our weyr seems mysteriously full of food..”

“Oh she’s quietly terrified of Bitey. Why do you think he’s been told to stay away from the ledge?” Dytha paused, pulling a little bit of a face. “But I… think it’s a bit of the Mimsi thing. I let her… remember a bit of it. Poor sod possibly thinks Bitey might disappear too.” Cuylar was given a playful jab with an elbow. “And stop encouraging him, I’m already worried I’m going to wake up with his name written on me somewhere ‘property of Cremsden and Margana. Please return to weyr’.”

"Hey, I don't kink shame," Cuylar put his hands in the air defensively, but he still smiled. He would rather talk about that than think about poor Mimsi.

“Pfft, I bet you don’t. You probably ask for lessons.” Cuylar was given a very mischievous look at that. Because she suspected that the other greenrider likely knew his way around the likes of the Black Wagons better than she did. Cremsden on the other, had given her the impression that he might spontaneously combust if someone so much as brought out a naughty Harper story. “May I have some of that cold fruit whilst you’re in there? I’m craving the yellow stuff again.” Dytha called over towards the kitchen as her brain remembered someone had offered food before she had directed her attention back to Cuylar as though scrutinising him a little with something on her mind. “Maybe someday I’ll let you see my trunk that I had Ambrelli hide away for me,” she added with casual nonchalance. 

Cuylar was doing his best to make up with Ambrelli. And after all, she had helped with Dytha. And if Dytha trusted her that much…

"I will be very good," he promised, crossing his heart.

“Although you might faint in shock and never view me in the same light again,” she had teased before peering as though wondering what was taking Cremsden so long. Now she had thought about the fruit, said fruit was top of the list of wanted things.

"If you manage to show me something I've never seen before, I'll buy you your choice of toy next time the black wagons circle by," Cuylar chuckled.

As her mind mentally catalogued what lived in the trunk, Dytha snorted in amusement. “Deal.”

“Have you been moving things in the kitchen?” Cremsden demanded as he reappeared with a tray. “Everything seems incredibly tidy and organised and somehow as though we have more room than we had before.” The ten minutes away had clearly been spent investigating cupboards and poking his nose into what she had been doing. “Your fruit, my lady.” He presented it to her formally. “And more tea.”

"Who has the bachelor weyr now?" Cuylar asked. "My things are all very tidy." Of course, his weyr was still fairly sparsely furnished despite having the minimum of things necessary to be a proper living space.

Cremsden snorted. “Your son is still pocket-sized,” he retorted. “Wait until he’s mobile and we’ll see how tidy you manage to stay.”

The fruit was pounced on gleefully and half of it seemed to vanish in half a blink. “Yus,” she mumbled as she swallowed. “I organised your kitchen. You know, so it had order to it. Bowls live with bowls now. And not with half-empty bags of biscuits.” 

"Alright, that is fair," Cuylar said, swallowing the retort of his own he was concocting. He had been tidying up Darrica's quarters every time he visited Ric, knowing that she would have had no time to do it herself, by herself. At this point, the visits were clearly more for her than for the baby. Let mom get some sleep. Tidy up. It was only every two or three days a seven with his double schedule the way it was, and it already felt like another part-time job on top of the other two.

Not that he minded. It did make finding time for himself a tight squeeze that usually meant giving up hours of sleep, but… Shells, when were they going to have more klah?

Maybe he would toss out that retort anyway.

"You know, things really are going to start getting harder when Ric hides my half-empty biscuit bags with my bowls."

“Want help? Either with kidlet or tidying? Got time to spare right now.” Dytha asked once it was actually polite to do so around mouthfuls of fruit.

"Not that it's fair to actually take someone up on something like that without pretending to say no a few times, but I can't get down to see him as often as I'd like on account of the double jobs," said Cuylar. "You would know how that goes. Anyway, I really can't ask you to give up any extra time. Since I would know how that goes." He chuckled.

“I have to hide them!” Cremsden protested. “They used to be in a cupboard nice and low down and then it turned out Arden knows how to open cupboards now!” And the baby definitely knew what biscuits looked like and had had a very happy mouthful of crumbs when he was located. He paused though, giving Cuylar the quick glance over as he had frequently to Dytha when she was staying with him. “You actually sleeping at all at present?”

"I mean, at least four hours a night," said Cuylar. That was plenty, right? Maybe? "Some nights, even six!"

“I don’t mind,” It was said a little shyly as if a voice in her head had nudged her to remind her that she was perhaps being a little presumptuous. “Even if just looking after the wee’un for a couple candlemarks so people can sleep, clean or eat.” Given that it wasn’t like she was going to be diving into closets with a knife any time soon… “Cremsden will testify to my comfort around small humans. Even if they are trying to turn me into their milk-mother.” It was said with a small laugh, a slight roll of her eyes. Because you had to laugh about it.

“You need to let us help out with some of that.” Dytha offered, Cremsden near-ordered. “I’m not having that Wingleader of yours coming down to glare at me again ‘cause you’re tired. He was terrifying enough the first time.” Though maybe Cuylar had switched wings since then? Faranth knew. The rider side of his life was something Cremsden rarely kept up with.

"Oh, I'm doing much better since then, Crem – I was probably sleeping closer to two hours then," Cuylar said cheerfully. "And Dytha, I would love to introduce you to Darrica," he added.

“People are good. I’ve been told I need to expand my social circle. Although babies might mysteriously go missing if they’re as cuddly as Arden is.” There was a cheerful twinkle in her eye as she reached for the tea.

"Hey, so. Just throwing it out there, and I know you're joking, but maybe don't make that particular joke to Darrica?" Cuylar offered. She would very much not think it was funny. And he had enough of a time getting her to trust him beyond that initial leap she took to get to Arolos in the first place.

“Noted,” It was said with the tone of ‘I get what you’re saying’ and that there hadn’t been any offence taken by the little nudge. Plus, if the babe was still very little, it seemed to raise up all sorts of extreme protectiveness, even in the face of a jest in new mothers. That much she did know.

"He is very adorable and quite cuddly," said Cuylar. "Well. Sort of. He likes being held, but he also gets a little bit hot down here, still. He'll acclimate soon, I'm sure. And he looks just like me, so of course, he's beautiful." He grinned.

“And you thought men didn’t get broody,” Cremsden said cheerfully to Dytha, leaning back with his hands around his mug. “I’m not saying that Cuylar’s worse than me for it but he’s definitely up there.”

“No, no,” Dytha corrected. “What I did was tease you shamelessly about the fact you would probably collect all the lost children in the Weyr if you were left unsupervised.” Cuylar was given a broad grin. “We were reminiscing about our Hold upbringings,” she said in explanation. “And of course the whole ‘why don’t I have grandbabies’ from respective parents came up.”

"Hold life was definitely a bit of a… culture shock for me," said Cuylar. "But hey, if we all band together, we could collect more lost children." He grinned. "It's a lot easier with the weyr to help."

“I mean I try to collect them as apprentices but I’m not allowed to start that until eleven,” Cremsden said mock-woefully. “And then they keep escaping.”

“Is that because you’re banned from the Creche and don’t want anyone to know?” Dytha teased with a light nudge. “You’re not from the Holds?” She asked Cuylar, only to giggle a little with embarrassment. “For some reason I had it in my head that you were. I have no idea why!”

"I was born at the main Healer Hall," said Cuylar. "So. Next closest thing, I guess. But I've lived at a weyr since I was, what, sixteen? Fifteen? I don't actually remember now that I think about it. Somewhere around there."

"Actually. Now that I think about it," Cuylar corrected himself. "I was born at a hold. I forget… But my parents brought me back to the Hall as a newborn."

“His father used to teach me,” Cremsden added helpfully. “He’s the same size as Cuylar and about as intimidating as the RedStar. I swear to Faranth I regress back to an apprentice every time I meet him.”

"Almost every time," said Cuylar. He was not sure he really wanted to let one more person in on the secret about Ric, but he could not help himself with the cryptic quip. Or the quiptic crypt. Whichever.

“I have no idea why but for some reason I put it in my head that you’d been a bit like me and fell into a dragon whilst… I dunno, running a Hall errand or… something…” She waved her hands in a vague gesture of ‘something like that’ even as she chuckled. “Shells, perhaps me and Cremsden need lessons from you on how to be convincing Weyrfolk.” Dytha had caught the slightly… odd tone there. But at the same time, also picked up in the needling feeling that she wasn’t really being invited to ask about it. So she didn’t. After all, this was the first proper time she had met Cuylar that didn’t involve some degree of Healer work.

"Well, you're not far off," said Cuylar. "I Impressed Elphith while I was on the Sands to treat an injury. I quit the Candidacy back at Fort after a… well, a traumatic Hatching, for lack of a better way to describe it without telling the whole story. Kregg was the one who took me back, actually. To the Infirmary."

“Ooph, bet that was fun.” Dytha gave him the sympathetic face of someone who knew that shock of suddenly having a voice you weren’t even waiting for, let alone actually happening. “I found Master Larsin and was convinced I could hear a small child calling for help. No, no. That was Ponth. And then promptly cried all over him.”

"I caused a little bit of a kerfuffle when I was a weyrling, you know… I started off refusing to learn to fight," Cuylar explained. "They twisted my arm when they said I couldn't work in the Infirmary anymore unless I did. So. I did."

“Ohh that’s mean. I never went down the Candidacy route because… you know… mangled feet. But I probably would have punched the Search Dragon in the nose if one ever came up and told me I was ideal material. I wanted to archive reports and spend my days hiding in the Archives.” There was another snort of laughter at the memory. It seemed as though it had come from another lifetime belonging to another person.

“Cuylar is kindly missing the part where I nearly got Elphith to eat me by flinging myself between them,” Cremsden added. “Because I can be an idiot at Hatchings sometimes apparently. But she’s forgiven me since.”

"She doesn't even remember," said Cuylar. "Which, I mean, you know. Dragon. But still. She likes you more than most folks. I'd have been more mad at you than she ever was if you'd gotten yourself sliced up like the dumb kid we went out there to save in the first place."

“At least half your class’ dragons hadn’t gorged themselves on cake…” She pulled a face, remembering the night of thicktail that had ensued. “I think I spent the next four days dabbing the ointment we use when moving bodies under my nose.” Cremsden got a sly grin however. “What is it with you and making draconics cross at you? I’m amazed you haven’t been eaten yet. Either by a dragon or a swarm of angry firelizards.”

“I think they mostly regard me as too slow to eat and take pity on me,” Cremsdem admitted. “At least that seems to be Bitey’s attitude.”

"Are you sure? Well, to be fair to Bitey, he didn't swallow your ear, thank goodness," Cuylar teased.

“Don’t remind me.” Cremsden reached to rub the thick messy scar tissue around one ear lobe. “Though I remember that for at least three days there you promised me I’d be able to wear an earring.”

“I dunno, I’m sure you’d look fine with one of those really gaudy pieces they sell at the Gather.” There was a definite snort that sounded as though the owner was trying to muffle it behind a hand and not entirely succeeding.

"The sky is the limit," said Cuylar. "But it'll never be as cool as my rings, sorry, I don't make the rules." He grinned, knowing that Cremsden would not be able to resist poking fun at the rings then.

“You haven’t shown the girl your rings yet,” Cremsden chided. “Or is that in case she can’t resist tearing your clothes off once she sees them?”

"My clothes are impervious to women. Only Elphith can lower those shields." Cuylar fished into his pockets and fetched out his rings, showing them one at a time to Dytha and slipping them onto their respective fingers. "Try not to get too hot and bothered. But if it's too much, Cremsden is right there, so. I can give you two a minute if you need it." He winked.

Barely smothering a honking chortle, Dytha effected a mock swoon, clutching dramatically at Cremsden’s arm. “Oh… oh it’s too much for me… ohhh!” Luckily it was tempered just enough to not quite sound somewhat inappropriate for the company. “Oh the sparkle… the sparkle!”

“Ah, but you haven’t heard the best part,” Cremsden informed her. “Those rings have special powers.” He dropped his voice to a hushed whisper. “They.. make.. Cuylar.. Cool!”

“No, stop it! I can’t take it! Oh the fabulous!” Dytha managed to sneak a grin at Cuylar even as she continued to very dramatically swoon against Cremsden.

Cuylar struck a dramatic pose.

"It does require great power to achieve, but it's worth it," he said. "So cool."

By now the giggles had a mind of their own, running out freely with the occasional snort of complete brokenness behind them. “Oh! Pose again!” Dytha hooted, “But pout… like you’re mad someone drank the last mug of klah in the Infirmary!”

Cremsden gave in to his own laughter at that, surrendering the fight to hold a straight face for the sake of the joke. “I think that answers the question of how cool they are for you.”

Cuylar faced the other direction and posed again, putting on his best fake pout, which was different from his best puppy eyes.

"So cool."

“Oh, definitely. You should wear them every day. You’ll get all the handsome men throwing themselves at you.” Dytha was trying very hard to have a serious face but ultimately failing miserably.

"I would, honestly, but they do get in the way at work," said Cuylar. "But thank goodness, I seem to have good enough luck without them. Maybe I should start thinking of each ring as representing one man…"

“I feel like within six months you would be complaining that you’d limited yourself to too few,” Cremsden pointed out. “How many are you on at the moment? There’s the bluerider, the nice bronzerider who took you to the beach, that other bronzerider..”

"Well, those are the regulars," said Cuylar. "Sometimes the bluerider brings friends, so that's nice."

Dytha sputtered a little at that. “Good grief! I’m exhausted just trying to keep count. Is your life just one big orgy or something?”

“That is basically Cuylar’s life,” Cremsden agreed, and sipped his tea. “I told you, he brings me gossip so I can live vicariously. Most exciting place in the Infirmary for gossip, my office is.”

Cuylar grinned with some amount of pride.

"Call it making up for lost time. I got a little hung up on a couple of teenage crushes for a long time." It almost hurt to call Caitaphe a teenage crush, but Cuylar knew by then that most of his feelings about him came from having lost him and never being sure what happened to him.

"But yeah. Pretty much if I'm not working or seeing my son, I'm probably having a bit of fun. You know, or I'm hanging out with Cremsden."

“Ooo, invite me next time. I want to live vicariously too!” There was still definitely a giggle in her voice but it was far more contained now and less likely to threaten to rupture a blood vessel. “Although I can’t promise I won’t blush a little at rambunctious stories of muscled up men getting their groove on.”

“And then he wonders why he never has time to sleep,” Cremsden said cheerfully. “Although you’ll note that even with all that I manage to somehow make the list of things he has time for.”

"Of course. I think I might literally move the world for you, Crem," said Cuylar as though that were a perfectly ordinary thing to say. "And you're part of the group now, Dytha, there's no escape! I mean. In a good way. You really can escape if you want to." He grinned.

“I don’t know, I mean it sounds like there’s still time to fit plenty of things in,” And it was said with such cheery innuendo that it was clearly she was struggling to keep her face straight again.

"Well, you know, the more you keep at it, the better you get at fitting more things in," Cuylar countered, also pretending that he could possibly keep from smiling.

“Oh that’s very true,” Dytha nodded with absolute solemnity. “Have to get better at fitting all those things in. Especially those really big, time consuming things.”

“I’m not even sure who is the bad influence on who any more here.” Cremsden hid his own smile behind his mug. “I’m a little worried by what would happen if I left you two alone.”

"Well, nothing like what would happen if I left you two alone, I can assure you!" Cuylar laughed. "Not that I'm judging either way."

“I dunno, I suspect I’d send you away with some good ideas at least.” It was a cheerful comment and just a hint that despite her diminutive size and Craft Hall upbringing, she perhaps wasn’t as childish or naive about some things as some might likely think.

"I love good ideas," said Cuylar. This was lovely. Cremsden should have threesomes more often.

“Do I need to protect my ears before they burn so much they actually fall off?” Cremsden demanded. “Faranth, the one of you is as bad as the other. If you weren’t such physical opposites I’d ask if you were related.”

“I don’t know, you might learn something fun.” There was a definite wink and it was definitely thrown in Cremsden’s direction even as Cuylar got an amused eyebrow waggle.

"I can think of a few things I think you should try, Crem, what do you think?" Cuylar asked, joining in the eyebrow waggling.

Cremsden groaned and let his head theatrically drop into his hands. “I think the pair of you are trouble is what I think. I should have let you go on being awkwardly polite, as though it suited either of you.”

"Well, it's certainly too late for that now," Cuylar shrugged, though he was clearly not sorry in the least.

“Serves you right for telling us to stop being weird.” Came Dytha’s retort behind yet another chuckle. “Just think, if you hadn’t introduced us we still wouldn’t have been anything more than colleagues who politely said hello in the staff room.”

“Don’t give him ideas. He’ll be wondering what other Healers he politely says hello to could be tempted into other conversations,” Cremsden grumbled. “And then I have a choice of not listening to the gossip or trying not to remember it when we’re talking medical stuff.”

"It's easier to end up in bed with other riders, granted, so I do have that going for me," said Cuylar. "I'll do my best not to end up starting any more rumors in the Infirmary."

“I don’t know, maybe we should start a rumour that Cremsden was seen going into one of the special caravans at the Black Wagons…” There was a very toothy grin accompanying that statement and an equally knowing wink to Cuylar.

"It'll be about as believable as the last rumor we started, won't it? But if starting unbelievable rumors about Cremsden makes them come true…" Cuylar tapped his chin.

“I don’t know, we could always send him on an errand to innocently collect a package from their Traders. Let some Apprentice see him… whoosh… new rumour, off we go!” Dytha smiled sweetly at Cremsden. “They’re really very nice about holding goods for you.”

“You’re both terrible human beings,” Cremsden grumbled, using the ‘grumpy’ voice that meant he was trying not to laugh. “I’ll tell Margana on you.”

"Psh, Margana will help us!" Cuylar insisted. "Actually, that might be a good idea. I'll get Elphith to tell Zlorenth. Actually, Ponth can tell him, too."

“Oh I think she would. Margana’s definitely got a naughty side. And Ponth will happily go along with it too, I’d say.” Dytha’s voice was the overly cheerful nuance of someone talking as if they were pretending the person they were talking about was not actually in the room. And over more tea and the appearance of more cake, the chatter continued. Even a little more work. It was far easier not having to remember a cover story once the secret was out, that was for sure.

= End =

Nutmeg on the Wizzy.
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I'm sometimes slow and have the memory of a sieve at times, so don't hesitate to poke me if you think you've been forgotten!