8.29.2.14 - Have I Got Something to Tell You (JP Dytha/Ambrelli)


Nutmeg
 

IC Date Reference: Set approximately 29.8.2.14 - a couple of weeks into the 10th month for the Midsummer Dreamers.


Ambrelli looked around her weyr, frustrated, frowning at the state of it.  The weyr was not a normal one to start with.  First off, it was large, a two-bedroom weyr with a bathing pool and wallow fit for a bronze.  Had it been in perfect condition, she -- a mere greenriding JM dragonhealer -- would never have been allowed it.  But it was far from perfect.  An earthquake Turns ago had caused rockfalls throughout.  The smaller of the two bedrooms was partially blocked by a rockpile, as was the entrance to the dragon’s wallow.  Both were still passable, but the rocks had never been removed or the walls shorn up.  Part of the ledge outside had also collapsed.  For a smaller green like Ilexeth, it didn’t matter as much.  The entrance to the wallow could accommodate a bronze, so that Ilexeth just landed nearly inside the entrance, and she couldn’t sun outside.  But those were minor inconveniences, not true impediments.  And none of this was new.  Ambrelli had lived here shortly after her arrival to Arolos, the weyr having once belonged to her parents, long long ago.  This was home to her, in so many ways.


But months of having lived in the Barracks meant that what was already a disrepaired weyr seemed even worse.  There was dust on so many of the surfaces, signs that a tunnel snake might have lived in one corner of the second bedroom.  The couch needed new reeds.  The food stocks needed disposing and replenishing.  


She could have asked the HW to have her staff prepare it for her return.  It was within her rights as a weyrling.  But Ambrelli was prickly about people in her space, and nowhere nearly as much as here.  This weyr was so personal to her, the only memories of her parents existed here, likely caused by the painting that hung on the wall of her parents, bronze Ranth, and a young smiling bright-eyed Ambrelli.  When she’d arrived last night, she figured she’d tackle it bit by bit.


And then Ked’son happened.  She closed her eyes against the memories and feelings that swirled just beneath the surface.  Ilexeth still was far too smug for her own good about the whole thing.  


With a sudden decisiveness to her movement, she called Merck to her.  She needed him to take a message.  And then she’d make another trip down to one of the weavers...She had an idea that would serve to char a few clumps with one flame….


Ponth had been delighted to entertain the small brown until Dytha was able to retrieve the note from him. The feeling she had had on reading it had not been an immediate clench of worry filled fear. But rather something more akin to cautious and tentative enthusiasm. Ironically, it also slotted in nicely with the efforts that were being made to encourage her to spend time outside of the weyr and actually around people. The brown had waited long enough for her to hastily scribble a resounding ‘oh my Faranth, YES!’ to the invitation. And then she had proceeded to spend the majority of the afternoon preparing enough food to likely feed a small colony.


So by the time Ponth arrived at the edge of the broken ledge, small enough to perch there, the green looked more as if she was laden up for an expedition into the darkest jungle than she was visiting a friend for the evening. (( Where is my Ilexeth? )) she had demanded, warbling a greeting before Dytha had even had a chance to dismount.


Ambrelli came out to the dragon cavern to greet the pair.  “She’s off sunning on the rim.  I didn’t tell her you were coming Ponth, but I’ve told her now.  She’ll be here shortly.  She’s quite chuffed at me for not telling her, but it serves her right,” she added with a bit of reproach in her voice.  It was abnormal for Ambrelli to be anything but pleased with her dragon.  Sunning on the rim was new for Ilexeth; her ability to reach the Rim newly acquired since Thaath had begun her individualized training.


She smiled at the pair.  “Thank Faranth you’re here.  And apparently, feeding an entire Weyrguard by the look of it.  Did you invite others I didn’t know about?”  Ambrelli peered around behind Ponth as if there would be others…


And then a warbled greeting could be heard as Ilexeth glided to the ledge, the gray dragon getting smoother on her landings.  She appeared in the cavern, her eyes whirling excitedly.  ((Ponth!  You’re here!  Everyone’s coming to visit!))  Ambrelli rolled her eyes.  


“Come on Dytha.  Let’s go inside.  I’ll help you carry all this…”


Dytha caught the tone and for a second, gave Ambrelli a slightly quizzical expression as she tried to wiggle through it. But she was caught off guard by the attention to the packs strapped to Ponth and she had the manners to at least look a little sheepish about it. “I brought you some supplies. I know you’ve only just gotten back in here. Baking keeps me occupied at the moment.” 


Thankfully the packs were quick enough to come down because Ponth was wriggling free as Ilexeth appeared. Illexeth who was now indeed bigger than her now, even if not by much. “But it’s just us, promise.” Assorted baskets and parcels were handed off to Ambrelli, even whilst Dytha appeared to disappear behind a collection of her own.


(( You’re so big! You’re bigger than me! I told you I’d be cuddling under your wing some day! )) Ponth was cheerfully inspecting Ilexeth from top to bottom as though she hadn’t seen the younger green since the day after she’d Hatched. 


Ambrelli shook her head to indicate ‘not now’ to Dytha, as she caught the other’s questioning look.  “That’s very kind and thoughtful of you,” she said with a smile to her friend.  It was good to see signs of the old Dytha returning, not the frightened beaten girl from before.  “You’ve baked all this?  Shards woman, we should send you off to apprentice under the HW instead of Larsin!” but she took all the baskets nonetheless, moving off the set them on her table before returning to help with more.  “And good, because I’m not in the mood for company.”  But it was said in more of an exasperated tone rather than a reprimanding one.  


She helped Dytha bring the rest inside, before looking the other over carefully.  “You’re looking better,” she said with a small smile.  “How are you feeling?”


Ilexeth preened at the compliments and she rubbed against Ponth in greeting.  ((I’m not THAT big yet!  Do you like my weyr?  Look at how big my wallow is!  We can both sleep here and still have room besides!)) the green excitedly showed off her new abode.


Following her in, Dytha took a second to look around her with slightly wide eyes. Her own weyr would probably fit inside of this with room to spare, plus she had never previously seen Ambrelli’s home prior to Ilexeth being in the picture. The baskets were set down and the same sheepish smile appeared. “It’s not all fresh, you’ve got some jarred fruits, biscuits - savory and sweet, seed mixes for seeds, tea now we’re apparently out of klah. Just things to keep you going a bit.” But it finished with a bit of a snort. “And I’m with you on that. I… don’t seem able to manage more than a couple of people at a time. It’s why I’m not back in the Infirmary yet. Not properly. I’m… a bit nervous around crowds. Like I keep expecting to see H’lan. Even though I know he’s on weyr Guard.” But the sheepish face devolved a little into something that made her resemble an overbaked redfruit. “Oh… and… uh…” 


The pause came out of a minor internal dilemma. Because on the one hand she both wanted and needed to tell Ambrelli about the… change in her situation. On the other hand, she was still so baffled by it, she wasn’t sure she was meant to be telling anyone about it. But Cuylar knew, albeit accidentally. And he hadn’t minded. “So… we’re sort of all… sharing the bed now.” Dytha plunged into it headfirst, ripping off the proverbial bandage.


Ponth had been happy to reciprocate, fussing delightedly over Ilexeth. (( We can! We fit so *nicely* - and mine likes your weyr too. It’s so big! ))


Ambrelli noted the wide eyes at her weyr.  She’d forgotten Dytha had never been in here before.  She’d been in Dytha’s but not the other way around.  Until last night, only Z’go and Ay’shen had been in her weyr.  She’d literally doubled that number in a single day.  She brushed the intrusive feeling that came with that aside.  


“Well, you can always do what I did when Ilexeth was young and sneak down during the night to grab files and work on them elsewhere.  Or, feel free to use my office if you need a break.  I am still not going to be there daily anytime soon it seems…”  She was over halfway through the typical weyrlinghood, and while Ilexeth still had things to learn, she hoped they didn’t make her wait until the rest of the Midsummers graduated to release her.  She opened a jar, giving it a whiff.  “Definitely smells better than anything that’s here right now.  Thank you,” she said.  “How about some tea then for while we settle in?” she asked, moving to heat the kettle.  


She’d started to ask about how Dytha was feeling about the H’lan situation when she stumbled over her words.  Her hand stopped fiddling with an old jar in her cupboard to look at the other.  The redness in her face was unmistakable, and then she slipped out the last thing Ambrelli had expected.


“I’m sorry...I swear I just heard you say you were sleeping in the same bed as Cremsden…” she must have misheard.  Margana was one thing.  Ambrelli somehow could not picture Cremsden sleeping with anyone, despite the presence of Arden to the contrary.  


Ilexeth crooned.  ((It is good that it is big.  It means others can come and visit.  I didn’t like it when she first showed it to me, but it is important to her, despite it being so broken.))  Ilexeth’s first trip to the weyr had been when she was small and could still fit through the front door.


“Oh shells, I could go for tea and then some…” Dytha was carefully unpacking a couple of the baskets that had fresh food she had intended for that evening. “Oh… and… uhm… Yes. And Margana.” She looked a little stunned even as she said it, as if part of her head was still trying to make sure that yes, it was actually her voice saying it. 


Dytha’s face looked a little bit stuck, as if the features didn’t know how to arrange themselves but at the same time, she seemed to be watching Ambrelli as if she was waiting for… for… what? Horror? To be told off? Some part of her probably noticed that it was a reflexive response built on the anticipation of the anger she expected from H’lan ever since ‘the flight’.


Ponth seemed to take on the assessment with sage understanding. (( I thought our weyr smelled funny. But it is important to Mine because it was *hers*. So I got used to the funny smell. Ours are peculiar. And like peculiar things. ))


Ambrelli raised an eyebrow at Dytha’s confirmation.  Well, well, Cremsden… she thought to herself.  “Feck the tea.  Give me a minute to fetch some wine… There should be glasses up there,” she pointed to a shelf.  “Probably need to be cleaned out though.”  She disappeared into the second bedroom, her form obscured by the rock pile.  There on the shelf were some of the wineskins leftover from her business venture with Z’go.  Usually, she’d have kept such things in a trunk or locked up, but they’d used Merck as a delivery service, so the skins had to be kept where he could get to them.  She selected a good red, decent vintage, and returned to the room, slipping into a chair at the table.


“Well, at least one of us has a decent sex life.  Go on then,” she encouraged, pouring wine into the now-cleaned glasses.  “I cannot for the life of me see Cremsden naked…”


She possibly could have gone for something even stronger. Not that she’d be able to drink it without coughing up a body part. But suddenly wine sounded like a really good idea. Dytha was grateful for the moment’s pause from Ambrelli hunting down the wine to try and put her thoughts in one place. When said wine appeared, half the glass disappeared in one go - or near enough. 


“Shells… Honestly? I’m… still a bit… baffled by it all,” she admitted. “And even more confused as to why it feels so… comfortable.” That was probably the biggest hop in her head, why she had found the entire thing so extraordinarily comfortable to settle into. “Although it probably didn’t help when it was first discovered that under my undeniably baggy tunic, I do in fact have… well.. These.” She gestured to her chest, giving Ambrelli a sardonic smile and cocked eyebrow. “And trust me… I’m not sure what to make of it either. The naked part, that is.” And now that Ambrelli was safely into her tenth month with Ilexeth, these sorts of conversations were no longer out of bounds.


Ambrelli chuckled.  “Oh my Faranth!  You have breasts under there?  I never would have guessed,” Ambrelli rolled her eyes.  “Come now, Dytha.  Surely R’bor taught you that you’ve got sex appeal.  To some, I’m too skinny.  For others, you won’t be their flagon of wine.  But that doesn’t mean you don’t have something that will attract the right person.  Apparently, that’s Margana and Cremsden.”  She shook her head, then smiled at the other.  “And to be clear, any chuff you hear in my voice is for Cremsden, not you.  That was supposed to be an untrue rumor I spread about the three of you.”  There were other concerns here.  Dytha had been in a delicate state.  Cremsden was a Craft superior, albeit not quite the same subsection.  Cremsden might be in a delicate situation if the truth became known.  Oh, the part about him being her superior in rank was already the cause for rumors and finger-pointing.  THe number of people that knew what state Dytha had been in at his weyr would be minimal, but she was one of them.  And one of Dytha’s superiors.  She’d have a chat with Cremsden later, and she doubted this time would end in a hug.  


“I’m not even sure I want to ask how it happened…” she added in a conspiratorial tone.  “But tell me anyways…”


“Shut up,” But it was without malice and clearly a bit of a tease as the blush began to recede. “You know as well as I do that I’m still some fat little Apprentice in my head.” There had been more than one girly conversation about it and Dytha mostly knew that she didn’t look like that anymore. But the fact she still lived in shapeless tunics much too big for her also suggested that she still didn’t quite believe it. “And we also know that I’d sell my teeth to look anywhere near as glamorous as you.” As far as Dytha was concerned, everything about Ambrelli screamed an effortless elegance that must be some secret to her. “And no, I still don’t quite understand R’bor’s attraction. You saw him. Harpers probably fainted when he walked past.” It turned into a small, shy giggle behind more wine. “Huh… so having a… handful appeals to some men. And some women too...” And that was being perhaps almost naive about it and clearly something was picking over her head a little that she wasn’t ready to say, or ask, just yet.


“And if it’s any consolation, it was a cover story. Until… I found out that H’lan is under weyr guard for… well… the foreseeable future. After that I felt like I could breathe. For the first time in… in… an age! And I wanted to do something nice, because prior to… this… Cremsden and Margana did put themselves out a bit for me. So I made dinner. A nice dinner… which… ended up with me kissing Margana on their couch...”


Ambrelli bit her lip to suppress a laugh.  “And everyone knows no man can resist two women making out.  There are some universal truths,” she added.  “And I was a knock-kneed bony apprentice, and it wasn’t until later I figured out how to turn that into anything other than awkwardness.  What you call glamorous was just something I was taught how to do.”  The details of that were more nuanced, her time with Sirasri at Fort both filled with joy and despair.  She was glad though she’d decided on her errand earlier that morning.  She’d wait to bring that up though.  


She gave the other a smaller smile.  “And H’lan?  How are you doing with that?” she asked the question as she deftly poured more wine.  She was going slower on hers, but then, she hadn’t drank in what felt like ages.  She certainly was bound to have a lower tolerance.  And look what one glass last night had led to.  She had to avoid that again, for Ilexeth’s sake if not for her own.  


Now that she had gotten that out of her system, the wine was going down more slowly and this time, was being savoured a little. She wasn’t an expert, but Dytha did appreciate a decent wine. She gave Ambrelli a knowing look. “And if it’s any consolation, I was asked profusely if I was… okay with where it was going. Which… I was. And I wasn’t coerced into anything either. I very much said yes. Even if my head is still trying to fathom why. I mean… I think… I think Ponth and Zlorenth are feeding it a little with Margana, y’know? She’s been with him every night since the flight and has been, shells, beyond wonderful with her. Well, you saw how she turned up.” The smile grew softer and more fond as she felt the sheer delight bubbling through her bond with her dragon as the green delightedly preened Ilexeth on the ledge. “It all feels… comfortably okay. So weird. But… comfortably okay is possibly the only way I can describe it.”


Pausing, Dytha reached to take the cover off a small mixed platter she had put together, setting it between them. It was the sort of thing you’d find at an evening meal where alcohol was expected, slices of vegetables, pieces of fruit and cheese. Small pieces to soak up the booze. “My problem is that I wasn’t the type of girl who saw the point in learning how to be pretty. I was more interested in the next report I was going to read…” it tailed off with a small but honest chuckle as she reflected on the teenaged version of herself who had been more interested in reading than styling her hair like the other girls.


Ambrelli’s follow up wasn’t surprising. She suspected she had been waiting for it to come up. “I… had a meeting with Weyrleader R’tal. There’s still an investigation and Ponth… was gold questioned about what happened to Mimsi…” Dytha’s face fell a little, inadvertently feeling the empty little space that the green had been in, in her thoughts. “But he reassured me that H’lan is going nowhere. He’s constantly under guard and Travath can’t chase at all.” Dytha gave Ambrelli a somewhat wry smile. “He even offered me a new weyr. But… eh… feels a bit like I’d be letting him win…”


Ambrelli shook her head.  “Dragons are the worst for interfering, aren’t they?  But seriously Dytha, if you’re comfortable and safe and happy, just let it be and enjoy it.  Don’t go pushing it off on Ponth,” she added with a smile.  “It is good to be able to feel desired and to reciprocate.  Don’t question it too much for now, is my advice.”


Ambrelli reached for a bit of cheese.  “And I was the same when I was younger.  Shells, it wasn’t until I was leaving Arolos that I actually had sex for the first time.  And that was so it wasn’t at Fort.  NOT because I was some popular girl that all the boys chased after.”  Well, if they had, she hadn’t noticed.  If they didn’t have whirling eyes, she had been oblivious.

Her eyes narrowed suddenly as Dytha spoke.  “Dytha...what happened to Mimsi…” she asked slowly, reaching out to block Ilexeth from hearing this part.  


She nodded her head, showing she was taking it on board and thinking about it. Mostly she was also just relieved that Ambrelli hadn’t flailed at her, confirming there was something terribly unsettling about the whole scenario. “Not that I overthink or anything,” she remarked wryly. Because Ambrelli had probably saved her from her own catastrophic thinking enough times and that was just when working in the Infirmary together. “I… I think you’re right though. That that’s what some of it is… I feel… welcomed in without being pursued into a corner.” Dytha waved a hand vaguely. “Hard to pinpoint. But not a bad feeling. That’s certain.”


As the question was asked, there was a deliberate pause. “I… didn’t tell you because of how little Ilexeth was… It was not long after the Night Glory hatching… And I didn’t want you worrying about me because… because I didn’t want you or anyone else getting hurt…” Dytha fiddled with the stem of the glass, her fingers drumming on it a little anxiously. “He… sent her to me. In pieces… And told me to stop talking to people about… what was happening.”


“Well, you’re not alone.  That’s a trait we both share now isn’t it?” she said with a smile.  “Sometimes, ‘not a bad feeling’ is a really good feeling.  As long as you’re ok with it, and Margana and Cremsden are ok with it, who am I to say otherwise.”  Well, her JM for one thing, but again, Ambrelli’s issue was not with the situation in general as much as the particular circumstances that led to it.  “I think I might have over-succeeded in starting some rumors, so don’t be surprised when you get some side glances.”  In some ways, it was good that it was now true.  It would make the lies all the more credible.


Ambrelli’s knuckles whitened as she tightened her grip on the glass.  H’lan was lucky he was under guard.  She might have gone and done something very nasty in that moment.  His poor blue.  It was a wonder the dragon hadn’t betweened in shame yet.  And while she agreed that H’lan shouldn’t be permitted to a flight room, it was cruel to keep the blue from chasing eventually.  But that was neither here nor there.  


“Dytha.”  Ambrelli said the name slowly.  “I am so sorry.”  She took a deep breath.  If that had been Merck, she’d have gone berserk.  It startled her to think about for a moment, the idea of someone hurting a flit intentionally, let alone killing it.  Then another deep breath.  “I understand your concern about Ilexeth.  But I want to be very clear about something.  Don’t you ever keep something like that from me to protect me.  I am your friend.  We protect each other, but I can’t do my part if I don’t know…”  Not that she wasn’t being hypocritical, having not said a word to Dytha about the warning she’d received.  But it was very different, the one having actually occurred, and the other being a vague and unsubstantiated thing.


“What did WL R’tal say when you told him that?” she asked.  Maybe she could talk to Tyne about getting one of Bobbin’s eggs the next time the gold Clutched.  


There had initially been a short laugh, “Oh, I’ve seen a few already when I went down to collect some files. I dread to think what they’re imagining. But you know, you’re right. It doesn’t feel bad. So I should go with that.” But the small smile had faded a little into something more akin to guilt as she was lightly admonished, even if it was with nothing but concern and care.


“I didn’t tell anyone,” she admitted carefully. “Because it scared me what he… might do to someone if he thought they were helping me. You, Mendl, Larsin. Even the likes of Cremsden or Cuylar. No one. And then I… made Ponth forget by forcing it out. So by then I thought it was too late. Because I… I burned it all… in the incinerators in the Infirmary. And then I thought no one would believe me…” Leaning across the small table, Dytha wrapped her hand around Ambrelli’s, squeezing it gently. “I promise I won’t keep you out again. I felt terrible. I still do. I didn’t do it out of spite. I just… I really didn’t believe anyone could help. It sounds so stupid… but it’s like hearing it from someone like Weyrleader R’tal… someone with, you know… big authority. It opened a tiny door in my head that I could wriggle through.” The small smile she gave the other woman was definitely a little sad. “That was when he offered me the new weyr. I think… I think he saw it as a good reason not to go back there. Although that was after asking if he would be getting a request for a bigger weyr. Because the Weyrleader knows about… my living arrangements. So that’s fun.” Luckily, the slightly baffled memory was just enough to lift the gravity of the mood for her to roll her eyes at Ambrelli in mock theatrics.


Ambrelli squeezed her hand back.  “I’m not mad or hurt, Dytha.  But those moments when you feel like no one else can help you, that’s when you should be able to reach out for help the most.”  Unless you were an obsessively secretive internalizing personality, she thought bitterly.  “Of course I would have believed you.  And there are more ways to get to the truth than pure evidence.”  Well, at least she knew a few of them.  There were others who knew more, and certainly gold dragons were helpful in that regard.  “I’ve worked with you for what, nearly two Turns now?  I know how competent you are, and I know you wouldn’t make something like that up.”  She squeezed the other’s hand.  “And I’m really hard to hurt…”  Not that, as Cremsden had pointed out, a baby dragon didn’t make that easier and more complicated.. “Or shock for that matter.”


She snorted at the last bit.  “The man is Weyrleader to WW Kassia.  She’s not exactly known for her holder-like ways you know.”  If there was one thing Ambrelli didn’t judge WW Kassia for, it was her sexual proclivities.  An idea struck her then.  


“There’s an empty weyr next door.  Z’go was going to move into it, but… that’s not looking ever likely.  I’m pretty sure it has a bathing pool.  Now this area is marked as possibly unstable because of my weyr, but there’s no damage next door.  Take that one!  Then Ponth and Ilexeth will be able to keep each other company.  And you’ll be just on the other side of a wall.”


The mood was lightening a little and she felt somewhat relieved for that. Dytha had given Ambrelli’s hand another small but grateful squeeze before leaning back, snagging a piece of cheese as she did. Cheese was never a bad thing. “I suspect Margana discreetly made him aware. She is his assistant and probably didn’t want him to hear any gossip. But you make a point about his Weyrwoman.” A giggle followed because even if Kassia terrified the boots off her, the woman sure had an interesting reputation and then some. “He was nice about it all. Plus he remembered what I did for that egg.” Dytha managed a slightly wicked smile, chewing happily on the fruit that had followed the cheese. “A Weyrleader favour in my back pocket might not be a terrible thing to have.”


Listening, Dytha had to admit… it sounded tempting. But also slightly confusing. She gave Ambrelli a slight look, one that screamed ‘I’m not the only person who didn’t know something’ as she observed her friend carefully. “I’m not going to ask why that situation changed. But I’m here if you want to scoff cake and read bawdy Harper stories.” Dytha wasn’t the ‘touchy feely’ sort. Nor was she the sort to pry. So what she did instead was offer a small branch of support, if the woman wanted to take it at any point. No pressure. “As much as part of me is saying I have to go back to my weyr, a really big part… doesn’t want to. Not just because of Mimsi. I guess… it all feels a little bit tainted now. Not as safe. And having a friend next door would be nice. Although Ponth will probably never leave Ilexeth’s ledge. Ever.” 


Ambrelli mentally chuffed at Cremsden again.  He wouldn’t involve Margana in Fortian affairs, but H’lan...not that she blamed him.  Besides, Margana had become involved in Dytha’s business through the flight afterall.  It was a totally divergent situation.  “The Weyrleader should remember all the things dragonhealers have done to help him and his.”  He likely owed his dragon’s life several times over to the healers, first for the Flight ending in the Weyrlake, and second, after the Caverns falling.  Not to mention all egg work Dytha had done over the Turns that helped to save his Clutch when it was necessary.  


“WL R’tal is not going to be shocked by either of our sex lives, or well, rather yours.”  She amended.  He might be shocked by hers, but not in a good way.  “I forgot you don’t know about Z’go.  I’ll tell you about it in a bit after we finish talking about you,” she said pointedly.  “And it’ll be Ilexeth on Ponth’s ledge since ours isn’t big enough to sun on.  Look at it this way, you’d be doing me a favor.  It’s a bigger weyr, and more likely to eventually be taken up by some terrible arse of a bronzer like that S’ryll than anyone as wonderful as you.  If R’tal is letting you have your pick…” she left it unended.  


“Only if you want to.” Dytha had said simply, with all the air of someone who would take no offence if not. “It definitely threw me for six when he asked if he would be getting a weyr transfer request from Cremsden and Margana for something bigger. Especially since at that point it was still a cover story!” The small laugh had been light, but genuine and Dytha was remembering why she liked Ambrelli so much. Though in many respects they were complete opposites - especially physically - Dytha found it incredibly easy to be around her and not for the first time, was more than pleased that she could call the other woman ‘friend’. 


“I helped Talith see inside the egg - the one that had that piece of stone lodged in it? He was worried he had broken it. So I helped him to see that the Hatchling was alive and the heartbeat was healthy. Well, through R’tal’s eyes. Seems our Weyrleader - well, one of them - is a sucker for emotional baby dragon moments.” She couldn’t remember if she had actually told Ambrelli what had been done for the egg. To be honest, the past few months were little more than a fear-filled blur. “I am thinking about the offer sensibly. And not just knee-jerking and saying no because it feels like I’d be stealing it away from a ranker who ‘deserves’ it. I think I want to at least try going back there first. Prove I can do it. And then… see how it feels.” It was a hard thing to put into words because it wasn’t really much more than a feeling that she should try to go back to her weyr. At some point. “And speaking of weyrs, I bet you’re relieved to finally be out of the Barracks. Shells, I do not miss that at all. You must be over the moons to have your own space again.”


Ambrelli chuckled. “I do NOT remember WL R’tal being all that pleased with my baby dragon.  I can’t imagine the other Weyr’s Leadership would like any of it, though they’d likely do the same when in that situation.  It’s always easier when the eggs aren’t yours.”


Ambrelli shook her head.  “You do what you need to Dytha.  There are a bunch of pillows on that rockpile over there that need a home though…” she said, pointing to the second bedroom again.  “It’d be faster to move them next door…” she added enticingly.  


She sat back, sipping on her wine and nibbling on the cheese as she thought about her response.  The immediate answer was easy enough.  “I am, incredibly so.  It’s funny… when I was there all I could think about what how much I wanted my privacy back.  But now, after the Barracks, this privacy almost feels isolating in its own way.  Not that I’m complaining.  I’ll take this any day, and Ilexeth is so proud that she can make it here now.”  She smiled.  


“I told you this was where I grew up.  Of course, back then there was a full ledge and the walls hadn’t collapsed.  That happened some time ago, but after I’d left.  I think the HW was shocked when I asked for it since it’s so far up.  Who in their right mind wants to go this high without a dragon!  Ilexeth does make it a LOT easier!” she added.  “But I could use your help cleaning it out after sitting empty for so long.  Z’go was taking care of it, but…”  She supposed now was as good a time as any.


“It started before the Night Glories Hatching.  We’d talked about getting restrictions lifted as soon as we could, even if it wasn’t for sex, but just to be able to have some level of intimacy.  Not like we didn’t steal a kiss here or there when Ilexeth was asleep or occupied, and she didn’t mind us holding hands, but,” she shrugged.  “Then the Caverns collapsed.  The WW was stabbed.  The Weyr lockdown.  It didn’t seem like anyone was in any mood to be granting favors.  And by the time things were better, Ilexeth was struggling in her classes.  I had to save my favors for her.  And Z’go was frustrated that I wouldn’t even ask.  I thought it was pointless and would detract from them eventually saying yes, but he took it personally that I wouldn't even try.  We had a few fights about it, and then finally a big one.  And a couple sevendays ago, he accepted a transfer to another Weyr.  He’s gone and he’s not coming back.”  She said it all like it was a story from Turns ago, not the event that had left her heartbroken so recently.  She was good at giving advice about being open, but terrible about taking it. 


Dytha had listened, quietly sipping her wine and eating more of the cut fruit as she did. Ambrelli wasn’t the sort to want to be fussed or coddled over and inwardly she had felt miserable on the other woman’s behalf. Shells, she’d been having a nightmare of it and a time adjusting to her unexpected Weyrlinghood and then her partner had up and gone. The carefully distant tone hadn’t escaped her either and even she was quick enough to tell that it was a deliberate device and likely something of a coping strategy. Inwardly she found it ludicrous that he had given in over something as trivial as not being able to get the restrictions lifted but she also knew that it was easy for her to think that, she hadn’t been in the same boat, after all.


She waited to be sure that Ambrelli was finished before she even attempted to try and talk, her thumb running round the edge of her glass. “Shite Ambrelli, I’m not going to go on about how fecking rubbish that is because that’s stating the obvious. I get your direction of thought on the whole thing, just a sharding shame it panned out the way it did. And you don’t even have to ask about me helping up here. Just prod me and I’ll be more than happy to help out. Gotta get me out of the weyr after all. Plus I can be convinced to bring more food. That is if I get chance before Ponth drags me up here.” 


The young Dragonhealer already knew that Ambrelli wasn’t the type to wear her heart on her sleeve. Nor did she like being put on the spot and asked how she was feeling. The woman was keenly protective of her privacy and Dytha could only imagine how terrible she was feeling on the inside. “Besides, you know I can’t get enough of you. I’m beyond pleased that you finally have some freedom again.” In so many unspoken words, Dytha was quietly asserting that she would be there whenever the other woman needed her. If she wanted her to be. “Even if it involves you picking fun at my terrible choice of clothing and bizarre living situations.” It had ended with a small, slightly teasing smile.


Ambrelli gave a sad smile.  “Of course it’s rubbish.  He knew it was too.   He saw me not even trying as indicative of the future.  So he did what he told me he always did, which was leave before he could get left.  I shouldn’t be so surprised. What is it in the harper’s tales where the woman always thinks she’s the special one.  But that’s wherry shite.  People are who they are, and they don’t change unless they want to.  His fear was just stronger than his love for me.”  She looked away for a moment, collecting herself despite her tone.  “And I am so angry and disappointed in him for it,” she said finally, tears running down her cheek.  


She shook her head to stave off any pity from Dytha, refilling both their wine glasses.  “I promise not to judge you if you don’t judge me,” she said, drinking a bit more and wiping away the stray offending tears like they were burning acid.  Then put her face in her hands groaning slightly.  “I need your help.  Dytha, I fecked up massively.”  


“Pfft, like I’m allowed to be all judgemental after holding out on you for what, months?” Dytha wasn’t the sort to flap and make a big hoo-hah. She appreciated that Ambrelli had felt comfortable enough to tell her about what had been going on and merely tucked the information away as something to perhaps be a little mindful of. “Besides, I think I felt a bit the same when R’bor said he was staying at High Reaches. Tried to be pleased he’d found something he was passionate about in their training regimes and hated him for bringing something out in me and abandoning me with it.” She shrugged lightly, but on the inside, yes, it stung. She didn’t begrudge him for being asked if he was interested and didn’t even begrudge him for saying yes. But admittedly, she had felt a little abandoned just when she had started to find something. 


Before she could say anything else however, Ambrelli’s words and more her behaviour startled her and for a moment, could only stare whilst she tried to catch up with the sudden turn around. “Shells, Ambrelli! What happened?” Immediately her mind started catepaulting through about a thousand possibilities. 


Ambrelli shook her head, lifting it away from her hands.  “You can’t tell anyone, Dytha,” she said as she waited for the other’s ascent.  “One of the fights Z’go and I had was ridiculous at the time.  It was about Ked’son.  We’d never been the jealous types, but he was possessive.  He got it into his head that the reason I wouldn’t ask, was because I didn’t want him anymore, that I preferred to spend my time with Ked.  And it wasn’t like there already weren’t a whisper here or there, which we all expected.  But it was like he’d heard it one too many times, that harper’s song that gets in your head and just won’t go away.  I told him he was being silly, but it didn’t matter.  That was a big part of why me not asking was a problem.”  So far what she was saying shouldn’t be all that shocking to someone with half a brain.  


“Then the other day, Ked and I were telling Ilexeth about her new training.  He called me ‘dragonhealer,’ like Z’go used to,” she said with a shake of her head, “and I automatically responded calling him ‘brownrider.’  And as if that wasn’t bad enough,” her eyes flicked towards the wallow, “Ilexeth conspired against me.”  She took a moment to gather more liquid courage, despite her earlier desire to stay sober, and told Dytha about the previous night.  “So after all that posturing to Z’go, what do I do but go right ahead and do the very thing he was afraid of.  And in the process, I put Ked’son’s career at risk.”  She finished, shaking her head.


Dytha wasn’t sure what it was about Ambrelli’s tone, but something in it told her that the other woman needed to hear some verbal confirmation. And it was given without hesitation with a firm nod of her head and assertive “Of course.” She had only met Z’go a handful of times more in passing than anything so didn’t feel it was fair to pass too much judgement but also had a fleeting ponderance over what seemed like insecurity in the man. She had listened, nodding along as she took it in and what had been an impassive, neutral expression of paying attention turned into a wide eyed face of ‘you what?’.


“Okay. So. Before I stare at you, I’m going to point out the really obvious here. And no, it’s not anything like ‘oh but you’re obviously meant for each other’...” Her voice took on a slightly simpering tone for dramatic effect but vanished quickly as she continued. “I know Ked’son. I mean, I was under him as a weyrling for what? Nearly three turns? The man’s about as straight an arrow as they come. As my mother would have said ‘a good egg’. But the biggest thing here? It’s not about the fact you were working one on one, the man’s probably been one of your staunchest allies, if not the staunchest since this entire thing started. And I know how good you are at reading people. So you probably picked up on the fact he’s not got ulterior motives, he hasn’t been trying to lure you off into the furs. He’s solid. Stable. And he’s also not the sort to go and flap at the Weyrlingmaster ‘just because’. He’s actually got the ability to think for himself.” Dytha leaned forward to reclaim her wine glass. “The way I see it? You had a moment of vulnerability. And honestly? I’m not surprised you got bitten in the ass with what you’ve had on your plate. Ilexeth reaches out to the person who makes the most sense. Which happens to be the guy you’ve worked with the most intensively and also doesn’t treat you like some idiotic twelve year old Weyrling who can’t be trusted to tie their own shoes. He could probably watch the Weyr implode and still take it all in his stride without freaking out about it. And a sensible, mature Weyrling like yourself having a bit of a moment that he just happened to get in the way of? I doubt he sees it as the career ender you do and has probably already chalked it up to situational circumstance.”


Ambrelli shook her head.  “That’s about what he said,” she admitted ruefully.  “But that’s just it.  I know how good Ked is.  But if Ko’ssen asked ‘why Ked’son,’ the fact that it’s because I trust him, because he’s one of the few people I trust,” Dytha was obviously included in that circle, “that would only serve to reinforce why it’s an issue.  The point of the prohibitive practice is that such trust is necessary and the AWLMs are in a position of trust and authority.  While doubtless anyone wouldn't believe for a moment that this was Ked’son’s fault, it wouldn’t change what Ko’ssen would do.  He’d remove me from Ked’son’s care and probably assign me to him.  Because certainly he wouldn’t fall prey to the same temptations,” she snorted.  Did Ko’ssen even have a sex life?  She doubted he ever left the Barracks at all.  “I know this, because I’d do the same if it happened to one of my apprentices.”  It wasn’t quite the same with Dytha and Cremsden, since he wasn’t under her command or Dytha’s direct supervisor, so she hoped her friend didn't infer a judgment.  


“So I knew all of this.  Logically I knew what a risk it would be, for Ilexeth and myself.  With Gamyth gone, Ilexeth looks to Thaath for more than just instruction.  She wanted this to happen, but that it actually did happen is still on me.  If Ko’ssen took Thaath away from her because of my lack of self-control…” she let the thought go unfinished.  “Not to mention, Ko’ssen and I have different styles.  I might go crazy if I had to learn directly under him.  I respect him, but I respect our differences as well.”


She shook her head again, rolling her eyes, her hands coming to rub her temples.  “It’s not so much that I let what Z’go stupidly believed get to me, it’s that I let that, what did you call it,” she paused, “a 'moment of vulnerability' jeopardize the next few months of mine and Ilexeth’s lives.  I risked one of the most important relationships in my life.  For what, physicality and sex?  How does that make me any better than Z’go?” she asked her friend.  For there was the rub wasn’t it?  Everyone was mad at him, but she was no better.


Dytha watched her friend carefully as she talked. This was a side to Ambrelli that didn’t leak out of the carefully maintained front unless it really had to come out. And the fact it was, was testament to how much it was playing on the woman’s mind. “Stop it.” It was firm but still gentle. “You’re not allowed to dissect yourself into pieces just because I’m not allowed to judge you.” Dytha gave the woman a sidelong look even as she topped up the wine. “So putting a pause on the impressive catastrophizing you’ve got going on there, Ked’son’s been a Weyrlingmaster for what? Something like twelve turns. Do you really think that in all that time something like this hasn’t happened before? I mean, think about it. This is a guy who works with people of assorted ages going through a monumental shift in their lives, not just in terms of routine and new roles but a huge emotional shift as well. As well as the hordes of kids, you get people from all walks of life, people who are leaving mates behind, children and for those who came unexpectedly from Hold or Craft life, being thrown into a way of life that probably feels as though it was made up on the fly.” She reached for her wine again, taking a moment to let her words go in as she sipped, snagging a cracker as she did.


“Not to mention, the part they don’t mention is that Weyrlinghood can be incredibly isolating. Yeah, sure you’ve got your ‘class’ but sometimes it feels like they expect everyone to be friends. Which you and I both know is positively half-cracked because throwing a bunch of people together, potentially all strangers and expecting them to be bestest friends is just ridiculous. So someone like you comes along - you don’t fit in with your class, you’re not one of the Weyrlingmasters. And yet you’re expected to play along and pretend you’re absolutely fine.” There was an audible and derisive snort at that and it was likely, if not obvious, that Dytha was probably recounting her own experience as a Weyrling. 


“And you’re right, Ilexeth probably has bonded with Thaath. He’s been at her side since almost the first day she came out of her shell. No, dragons aren’t monogamous but they can and do pick favourites.” She paused and her expression was soft and very fond as she looked at her friend. “Do you really think it’s remotely surprising that when you had your ‘moment of vulnerability’ as we’re going to call it, that you reacted when the person who showed up is probably the one person you’ve actually felt was a friend who you’ve actually been able to be you with, without all the pressure they put on you to don the Dragonrider hat as a Weyrling. Ambrelli, you’re human. You’ve been lonely, you’ve been hurting and if you’re going through anything like I did, you’ve spent most of these past months wondering what the shells was going to happen to your previously very comfortably established life. And probably quietly terrified that it was all being ripped out from under you with no way to stop it. So no, you’re not for one minute even in the same boat as Z’go.”


To be fair, she heard everything that Dytha was saying.  It was just that she’d already thought of half of it and still analyzed her own actions until she’d ended up in the bottom of an emotional hole.  The only thing that Dytha had gotten wrong was worrying about her life of dragonhealing being ripped out from under her.  Ambrelli had never once believed she’d be a wing rider, probably because she’d had alternative plans all along to ensure that didn’t happen.  She’d abandoned most of them quickly though as Ilexeth’s own limitations made them unnecessary.  The part that was frustrating for her was the lack of control she had in deciding the timeline, and the fact that until Leadership agreed she wasn’t going to be a wingrider, she had to endure the classes on wing formations and the like, all of which took away from Infirmary time and were ultimately pointless. .


But the rest of it, well, she needed to hear it from someone who wasn’t her own head for once.  She supposed, upon later reflection, it was because while she was angry at herself for so many of her past choices, she both didn’t want to be angry about her attraction to Ked’son, and didn’t want to negate out her anger at Z’go with anger at herself for the same mistake.  That would let him off the hook far too easily, and likely have made it harder for her to keep her distance.  Pern wasn’t all that big if you had a dragon…  


Dytha’s reasoning with her gave her a moment to pull herself together, and she brought a knee up to her chest, wrapping her arm around it.  A few deep breaths later, and she had herself under control again.  Marginally.  Her control in general had been slipping lately, and that was as concerning as anything.  Perhaps, as Dytha had suggested, it was a culmination of various events, and quite possibly, due to the one that she hadn’t told the other about yet.  Fort and her threats.  But it had been nearly two months now since Lis’ warning, and nothing had come of it.  If it weren’t for the growing nightmares, she may have dismissed it by now.


After a long, considering pause, she finally spoke.  “Now look who’s being practical,” she said in a tone that tried too hard to be teasing.  “At least we can work through the other’s problems even if we can’t work through our own.”  Another pause.  “Thank you.”  She gave a small frown.  “I’ve gone without sex plenty of times, but I think this has been my longest dryspell.  And honestly, Z’go was the only one, besides the goldflight.  I’ve never felt the need to seek out a partner, it’s just sort of always happened.  But now… I can’t let myself be compromised again.”


She looked around the weyr.  “As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, I hadn’t even cleaned really or done much more than whack the rushes before Ilexeth got him here and he saw this shamble.  Before last night, Z’go and Bluerider Ay’shen were the only two who’d been here.  But now…” she gestured around.  “Would you mind terribly helping me clean it up?  I could really use the help…”


“S’what I’m here for,” Dytha replied with friendly affection. “Besides, who else am I going to wave my arms at when I end up in some baffling situation that involves me sharing a bed with two people at the same time?” Dytha heard the seriousness under the attempts to be light. But she also knew it wasn’t easy for Ambrelli to be candid. And making a big thing out of it would make her friend worry about the vulnerability and potentially less likely to see she could utilise people like Dytha as an outlet. 


“Besides, I think we both know Ked’son’s not the sort to pick at peoples’ weyrs. And given you have only just gotten back in here, I think some disorder and chaos is to be expected.” For those that thought they knew Dytha, they likely thought she only had one expression - surly grumpiness. But people who actually knew her, they were the people who were allowed past that wall got faces that were filled with quiet affection. Just like Ambrelli did now. “And already said I’d help. Gets me out doing things. Makes me feel useful. Just don’t expect much success if it involves things in high places.”


Ambrelli chuckled at the last.  “Merck can get those.”  She sighed.  “And I know he wouldn’t.  Not the point though.  It’s about how having someone else in this space makes me feel.  I’m already uncomfortable enough having people in here normally, let alone when it looks a wreck.”  She motioned to the rock piles.  “Not much to be done about those without having a Smith in here, but the rest of it…”  She recognized the warmth on Dytha’s face.  “You’ve already been a big help with bringing all these foodstuffs.”  She stood then suddenly, moving towards the main bedroom.  


“Come on.  We can start by purging my closet.  It’s terrible how much I can’t wear anymore…” she said, deciding it was a good time to put her other plan into play.  


“Yeah, I get you. Didn’t much like Cremsden and Vivaeldi coming into my weyr. Even though they had good reason. Feels a bit… invasive. Even though you try to tell yourself you know that’s not the plan.” She looked a bit baffled by Ambrelli’s sudden surge of motivation but she would take motivation over sitting around feeling stressed and worried anyday herself so… “Clearly you planned to take advantage of my foot improvement,” she laughed as she eased herself off the stool that was careful due to the fact it was as though she was sitting on top of a cabinet due to her small height.


“Let me guess,” she called out as she followed Ambrelli through the weyr. “You’ve realised that you’ve changed shape from all that climbing over dragons to cater to their every whim because they absolutely have to be oiled in that peculiar space that involves incredible acrobatics just to get there.”


Ambrelli rolled her eyes.  “Exactly.  They don’t mean to be, but...it doesn’t change the way it makes you feel.  She’d told Dytha ages ago that she dressed the way she wanted to be treated, but her weyr was her place where her masks came off.  Which also probably had something to do with the way she reacted to Ked’son.  


“There’s definitely that.  It’s not like she’s so big that I can’t handle her, but I also help the others, or try to.  And the Barracks to the Infirmary is not the closest, so I’d doing even more running than normal. Plus,” she said with a grin, “firestone sacks are heavy!”  


Her actual room was a mixture of trunks, some tightly closed and locked.  There was a closet, a simple rod that went across the stone, and then a dresser.  The bed was neatly made, and for once, most of the blankets were actually on it and not in the wallow.  Ambrelli blew the dust off of one of the trunks, and opened it.  She motioned Dytha to the closet, where some of her nicer dresses and fine tunics were hanging.  “Do you want to start there?  The dresses I’ll generally keep, but the rest…. You’ll probably be able to size them up well enough.  I don’t even remember half of what’s in these trunks.”  Not quite true.  A few of the nicer tunics hanging would be obviously too big for Ambrelli...and mysteriously a decent size and cut for Dytha.  Ambrelli had placed a few items in the trunks as well, recovering their surface with some dirt to make them look untouched.  She’d known Dytha would likely need some new nicer pieces that actually fit her as a way to help boost her confidence after H’lan.  She just didn’t know that they’d be getting worn for Cremsden…


As they went into the room, Dytha gave a low whistle. “Shells, you’ve got so much potential in here. If you ever want to doodle decoration designs I am so in.” She wasn’t exactly the girliest girl, but even someone like Ambrelli had probably spotted the careful care that had gone into the small selection of items that had adorned her tiny weyr. Faranth, it would feel like going back into a storage closet after spending time here. 


Of course she was completely obvlious to the ‘plan’ Ambrelli had carefully laid out and would no doubt have turned a very unflattering shade of bright pink had she known the effort that the other woman had gone to. Carefully she wove her way around the trunks, making her way to the closet rail. “Oh, some of these colours…” There was definitely a slightest girlish note of admiration as a particularly elegant looking dress was moved aside. “Shells, you must look amazing in some of this. I might suck it up and ask you how to do something… girly at some point. So I can at least pretend I’ll do it regularly.”


Ambrelli waved off the comments about the room with a wave of her hand.  “Honestly, it’s a storage room more than a bedroom.  I hardly ever used the bed; even before Ilexeth, I mostly slept in the wallow.  It’s got far more air circulation, and well, I’m strange that way.  Plus I was always in the Infirmary.”  


She looked up from her task -- the trunk did legitimately need sorting -- at Dytha’s expressive statement at one of the pieces.  “I honestly should get rid of half of them.  Some were ‘gifts’ from Fortian bronzers for Gathers so I could be a pretty shiny thing on their arm.  I only kept them because they’re valuable, but not as easy to barter away.  That one, and those three,” she pointed at a few in particular, including her Hatching Feast dress, “I bought though.  And honestly, half the secret is going to a good tailor.  Give them some basic parameters, and then trust in them to do the rest.  Even my work clothes I have tailored to fit me rather than the generic tunics we normally get.  Nothing fancy, but a nip here, a seam there, does a lot of good.”  Ambrelli looked at one in the closet, one of her plants, and pointed to it.  “That one definitely won’t fit.  I never had it altered for me, and I’m already going to have soo many that will need to get taken in.”  


She pulled some skirts out of the trunk, sorting through them carefully.  A few had buttoned clasps at the waist, but some were made of a gatherable material that could be shortened or lengthened to accommodate different sized waists.  “Dytha, try these two on.  I think they’d fit you, and Faranth knows in the Barracks or the Infirmary I hardly have a reason to be in a skirt.”


“I know you do,” Dytha had grinned back at her. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed how exceptionally good you manage to look in a boring Healer smock. And yes, I’ve quietly hated you a little bit for it.” The snorted giggle was testament that she hadn’t actually hated the other woman for it.” She seemed to be thinking as she moved a couple more of the dresses aside. “You thought about maybe offering them to the Candidates to buy? Some of them do have more marks than others and don’t get chance to find something nicely without headed down to the Gather and half the time they want something nice for the Gather anyway!” More fabric moved and Dytha couldn’t help but feel a little guilty pleasure at liking the feel of some of the cloth on her hands. Some of it felt positively luxurious. “I think the last time I was at a tailor was for my weyrling uniform. And that was forced on me very reluctantly!”


Shells, she hadn’t forgotten that experience. The woman had been nice enough but her head had still been in such an uproar. There had been tears, unhelpfulness and freezing like a rock. She’d promised never to put herself through that again.


Dytha’s curiosity had been piqued however as the skirts were shaken out towards her, before she had a chance to direct her attention towards what Ambrelli had pointed out in the closet. “Hey, I remember the dress you were wearing when we did Ilexeth’s eggs. You should probably be wearing skirts more often.” There was a very hearty and very mischievous chuckle that followed. The sort of chuckle that was very much the sort of thing between friends who knew the boundaries of each others’ humour. “You wouldn’t want to get them adjusted for you? I mean… they might not… you know…” It was a sheepish acknowledgement that she wasn’t sure they’d fit her despite Ambrelli’s assertions. 


Ambrelli rolled her eyes with a smile at the other’s admission.  “They don’t have to be boring you know, just practical.  And besides, you weren’t fighting the stigma of being the Resistance spy and traitor.  Looking polished was at least mildly useful for that.”  The cynicism in her voice was mild, but there all the same.  She looked back at one of the nicer dresses.  “I actually let Mendl borrow that one for the Night Glories feast.  And Calyse, I think I just gave her the skirt.  Neither of those women had anything befitting a goldrider.  I thought maybe I’d give them each another one as a graduation present.  Buying a bit of goodwill from a goldrider is a useful end for a Fortian dress,” she said with a bit of amusement.


As Dytha dithered and stalled about trying on the skirts, Ambrelli held one up to the other’s waist.  “It’ll fit more than likely.  But you certainly won’t find out just by standing there.  Go on, take off your own and try it on.”  She motioned impatiently for Dytha to get on with it.  “And as for needing it, I don’t need half of these clothes.  I really should have done this when I first arrived at Arolos.”


“Look at you rubbing elbows with future Goldriders,” Dytha had teased. “Shells, I need to talk to Mendl soon. I still need to talk to her about… you know, Nimoth’s ‘involvement’. That was a fun thing to find out. I was half expecting a furiously pissed off Kassia at the door demanding why my eeny-weeny green had incited that.” 


The casual impatience had been more amusing than irritating or intimidating. “True, not like I haven’t seen you stripping off blood stained tunics in the on-call room more than once. You know, you’d think they would have given us a changing area by now.” It was obvious she was still a little shy however as she pulled her tunic over her head. True, she thought nothing of changing a tunic that was covered in… fluids, whilst in a blurred haste to get back out onto the wards. But a tiny piece of her noticed that this time she was going to be under a degree of scrutiny, even if it was friendly. By the time she had in fact stripped down, a hand held out for the skirt, the reality was she did feel a little self conscious. Automatically her head had been making the lightest comparisons between their different shapes. Ambrelli was tall and slim, but elegantly proportionate to her frame. By comparison, well, there was the height for one thing. But Dytha still had a slight, soft plumpness to her despite the clearly nipped in waist where puppy fat had vanished after three turns as a Weyrling. Top and bottom ‘heavy’ was possibly a diplomatic way of looking at it. “You know this will probably come up to my neck,” she had managed to shyly giggle as she held out a hand for the dress.


“I’ll have you know those are two goldriders that were BOTH draonhealers!  How often do twin golds happen and they both come from our Infirmary?!  And shells, you know how much Mendl helped with Ilexeth.  I owed the girl for that klah the first morning if nothing else.”  Since she’d still been in the Barracks at the time of Ponth’s flight, Ambrelli had heard that Mendl and Nimoth had been called out by WW Kassia and her Foreth over the incident.  Not to mention, Ilexeth had spent the flight with Nimoth, the two dragons getting on well.  “I wouldn’t make too big a deal of it if I were you.  Just let her know you appreciate what she did.  I have a sneaking feeling Mendl would prefer people forget the role Nimoth played.”  


Ambrelli rolled her eyes a bit at Dytha’s comment.  “Yes, but if it involved a dragon, I could be naked in the Weyrbowl and hardly bat an eye.  I grew up in the Weyr; you didn’t.  I put a lot less stock in what someone looks like naked than I do if they can conduct themselves with any kind of sense in an emergency.  You can and do, so don’t think twice about changing.”  But when Dytha finally did start to take off her dress, Ambrelli gave a low whistle, a twinkle in her eye.  “You call those boobs?  Mine are definitely bigger!”  The teasing obviously a lie since Ambrelli’s breasts were small, even smaller now than before she Impressed, the lost weight having affected those too, and they were never big to begin with.  “Cremsden probably has no clue what to do with those,” she teased, biting her lips in what was obviously holding back.  She handed Dytha the skirts, and then selected one of the tunics.  “If it does, that’s what a tailor’s for.  Here, throw this on too…” she added the tunic to Dytha’s outstretched hand.  


At the comment she had stared and unconsciously, her eyes had gone to Ambrelli’s considerably smaller chest. And then back to her face. And then down at her own chest. The laugh had struggled to stay behind her teeth before exploding out of her. “Oh shells… I know, right? Sometimes it feels like I’ve got water skins stuffed under my shirt… And no, no I don’t think he does. That or he thinks he’s died and gone to the best place ever. Margana doesn’t seem to mind either!” The laugh was so thick and genuine that it had tears streaming down her cheeks even as she navigated her way into the skirt. It was too long but was the sort of billowy style that was common on Pern. Adaptable and easy to make practical or even a bit smarter.


The tunic was taken and obediently pulled over her head. It was tighter than she was used to and underneath it, her mouth had automatically opened to announce it was clearly too small. Until it was pulled down. Then it was obviously just very well fitted. The way clothes were meant to look when they had actually been selected to fit. It wasn’t that it was tight, just… snug in the right places and Dytha gave Ambrelli a rather wide-eyed face. “I feel… a bit exposed… Are tunics meant to fit like this? Really?”


Ambrelli chuckled along with her friend.  “You should also invest in getting a tailor to help you with a bustier that fits better as well.  It’ll help make things fit nicer and smoother.”  She watched with a smile as the tunic went on easily enough.  Ambrelli looked it over, pulling on an edge here or there.  “Yes, Dytha.  This is one way that a tunic is meant to fit.  And if you feel exposed, there are ways to change the neckline.  A soft tunic underneath changes the neckline and allows you to use it for multiple tunics.”  She stood back, having made some more minor adjustments.  “Yes.  That looks good.  Perhaps a little hemming on the skirt, but overall…”  She gave a nodd.  “Told you it would fit.”


There was another giggle and definitely a bit of a blush. “Well the neck line wasn’t what I was thinking, I’m just not used to things that are so… snug!” Dytha peered over her own shoulder and down her back where she could actually see the way her spine curved inward before going out again. Her eyes found their way back to Ambrelli, a definite bit of uncertainty there. “It really looks okay? I… don’t think I’ve bothered with new clothes for a while.” 


Yes, there had been the Gather dress she had worn for R’bor, but that had been hastily donated to the Stores when she realised the man wasn’t coming back. She wasn’t sure she’d have the courage to wear it again. And the tunic did look good, even if she hadn’t realised that. The neckline wasn’t so low as to be inappropriate, merely sloped down just enough to be complimentary. It was the fit that made the difference, highlighting that she wasn’t as shapeless as the baggy tunics she wore made her out to be.


Ambrelli smiled understandingly.  “You said earlier you were envious of how glamorous I looked in a plain work tunic.  Then trust me when I tell you this looks good on you.  It does.  It just takes time to adjust to how things fit and processing in our heads.  I struggled with it when the woman that helped me first gave me a few things.”  Sirasri had been her friend, her girl crush, and her fashion icon.  She still smiled at the memories, the first time she’d really seen herself as beautiful.  Even at Arolos, she’d just been Bony Brelli for so long, the nickname a reference to both her profession and looks.  It had been a strange adjustment to being a desired creature.  


She only had a small looking glass, one she generally used for her hair and kohl-rimmed eyes.  “Sit here,” she said, pointing to the bed.  Ambrelli grabbed her brush and a stock of pins, beginning to work on Dytha’s hair.  


Dytha did as she was told, sitting on the edge of the bed and there had been a small, happy giggle. “It always feels so nice when someone does your hair.” Her own hair had been, as per usual, in its practical and tight braid. It rarely lived in anything else. It wasn’t as long as it had been before Impressing, but she had let it grow out a bit again.


There had however, been a moment’s thoughtful silence as she let Ambrelli tease the braid loose. “You’re right though, about the head thing. That’s why I… didn’t trust R’bor?” The questioning note clearly had the undertones of ‘I’m not sure that’s the right word but it’s close enough and I’m going with it’. “I mean… I know I lost so much weight after Impressing. But I still just see myself as that overweight Apprentice with the bad feet who got sent off to the Healer Hall to live in the Archives because her mother accepted she was never going to find a suitable husband for her daughter.” There was a nonchalant shrug as she spoke, though careful not to jostle Ambrelli’s hands. “It was easier to live with the idea rather than get hurt by it if someone decided to tease me about it. Then I suppose it sort of… just stuck there. Especially when it’s not the dumpy girl with broken feet who wins the handsome Bronzerider, it’s the willowy beauty with hair as golden as the sun. And yes, I know, that’s very morose. You can hit me later.”


Ambrelli teased out the woman’s braid with patience and a gentle hand, brushing it once it was loose.  “I still remember my mother teaching me how to braid.  I swear I didn’t learn on purpose, just so she’d have to do it…”  One of those rare true memories she still had, although it was more a feeling than anything.  Ambrelli listened as Dytha talked, noting the same dispassionate recanting of past events that she usually gave.  She and Dytha were alike in so many ways.  “Well, not everyone falls in love with who they’re supposed to,” she said with a smile, “but who they feel connected to.”  It had been that way with Z’go, having fallen for him because he accepted her so freely.  Or at least, it had seemed that way at the time.  Now she wasn’t so sure.  Ked’son accepted her, at least as his student.  That didn’t mean she loved him.  Had she mistaken what she’d felt for Z’go, confusing acceptance with love?  No, she didn’t think so, but it was all so blurry now.  


“It’s not as if wearing those giant tuber sacks you’ve dismayed anyone from thinking you’re still that same apprentice.  But you’re not.  You’re much more than that.”  And that same mentality had also probably contributed to the same self-worth issues that had enabled H’lan to take advantage of her.  It was part of why Ambrelli wanted to get Dytha dressing better, to increase her self-worth.  It wasn’t that outsider’s opinions mattered completely, but it helped to see what you should believe reflected in other’s eyes.


She leaned her head back into Ambrelli’s fingers, sighing a little in quiet content as she felt the fingers carefully separating her hair from the tightly woven and extremely practical braid she deftly wove it into every day whether she was working or not. There was always something very comforting about someone else doing your hair and maybe Ambrelli was right, maybe it was something to do with the memories girls had of their mothers.


“I think some of it came from me being absolutely convinced that I was already in so much trouble for Impressing Ponth. You know, just trying to be invisible.” It was a musing and she had no idea if it really made all that much sense. “And you’d think by now I’d have far more confidence in my own sense of worth by now after all the things I’ve gotten pulled into on the Dragonhealing side of things. No, apparently not.” There was definitely an eyeroll as she leaned back to look up at Ambrelli but it was clearly a self-deprecating tease.


Ambrelli chuckled.  “I know that feeling.  I thought WW Kassia would rather I just stop existing after Ilexeth.  I’m pretty sure I’m still on all of their shite list, for nothing more than the nature of our dragons.   And while there’s an argument that the circumstances that brought the eggs into our lives were man-made, neither one of us created them.”  She began braiding Dytha’s hair, but these braids were smaller, lighter, and meant to pull hair back strategically while letting other sections flow freely.  


“Neither of us think as much of ourselves as we probably should.  I just hide mine behind well-tailored tunics and a cold, efficient demeanor.  You’ve hid yours in that tuber sack you call a tunic,” she wrinkled her nose down at the other girl, but in a teasing way.  “If you let me, I’ll come donate them all to poor cold herdboys and replace them all with things that will actually fit you.  Not like you have to replace everything all at once.  You’ve got enough pillows now...you can supplement whatever we find in here for you today…”


“I still sometimes privately wonder if she’d rather the eggs hadn’t been brought forward. Not after all the kerfuffle of trying to work out what to do with the dragons. Not to mention the amount of class angst that saw. Shells, I know she’s all hot on Impression Anxiety but even so, that class probably took the cake.” There was a sigh and an eyeroll, trying not to think too much on the whole mess that weyrlinghood had been for that class.


“You’re going to steal my tunics and burn them just to spite me aren’t you?” It was a lighter tone, less pensive and serious as she scrunched up her nose at Ambrelli. “If I find the courage to go to a tailor, you’re getting dragged along as punishment. And also to decipher Tailor language for me.”


“I’m sure she wishes that about both our dragons.  Arolos has enough problems without all the special cases here.  But they also opened themselves up to accept all the special cases.”  Ambrelli shrugged.  “The WW has so many of her own problems, I think she resents those of us who only add to them.”  Not that Ambrelli hadn’t helped save Foreth when she’d plunged into the Weyrlake.  


She chuckled lightly at Dytha’s tease.  “No I am not,” she admonished.  “I told you.  There are herdboys that could use them.  Or maybe a drudge,” she teased back.  “And all you have to do is ask, silly.  I’ll take you to Bronwynn.”  She’d been at Fort too, had known Sirasri as well.  It had been a shock at first to see her here, but she’d been glad to see her old friend safe and sound.


“I get what you mean. No, I don’t think she’s on some Fortian crusade to purge the wicked but I do sometimes feel like we’re viewed a bit like added problems to an already full plate.” Dytha gave Ambrelli a wry smile before straightening her head for Ambrelli.


“Can I at least keep a couple of my favourites that I like to curl up in at home? Yes they’re horribly baggy but I promise they’ll be for weyr wearing only.” She leaned back slightly, using a shoulder to nudge Ambrelli affectionately. “I’d… really like it if you were there. I’ve… I’ve really missed being around friends.” She didn’t have all that many. Ambrelli and Mendl were right up at there at the top of the list and through no fault of their own, had been… well, diverted by baby dragons. And then with H’lan… shells, she had felt so very alone. From everyone. “I’ve missed… feeling normal. And not so afraid all the time.”


She hadn’t meant to cast a note of melancholy on the situation but something had needed to get it out of her head. It was possibly something feeding from the strange situation she was in with Cremsden and Margana but of late, she had been surrounded by so much of people wanting to keep her safe, wanting to care. It had been so alien after months of quiet terror that it had been like stepping into an unexpected, but quietly welcome warm bath.


Ambrelli chuckled at Dytha’s first comments about WW Kassia.  “Just wait until Nimoth and Adorath are full grown!  She’s going to have her hands full when Foreth has to compete with her two daughters…Poor Mendl and Calyse!” she said with a smile.  


“I know exactly what you mean.  I hate being a wlg!” she said with a snort.  “Normal is good.  You need to get back to normal.”  Then a smirk, her leg pushing Dytha right back.  “Though how you’ll achieve that while enduring Cremsden’s bare arse, I have no idea!”  She finished the last of the braids, securing it in place.  “And you keep what you want.  It’s your stuff not mine, your choice not mine.  I mean, if you want any of it, you’ll have to reclaim it from some herder boy who’s about to cry when you tell him he can’t keep it, but sure…” she teased the other right back.  She was not about to let it go back to being melancholy, for either of them.


She stood then, going and grabbing her hand mirror.  “There.  Look now…”


“Shush you. I’m not making any herders cry.” Dytha grinned up at her, even as she took the mirror. “And I’m not telling you about Cresmde’s bare arse. Part of me is still trying to hop over the part of how that became a thing. I’m glad I normally work the other side of the Infirmary because I don’t think I would be able to keep a straight face without blushing furiously about the fact we were all in bed together before starting the shift!” There had been a chuckle behind her words though before it was swallowed up by a small gasp.


The face in the mirror she knew was hers. The hairstyle was simple but elegant, the small braids pulling the wisps away from her face and holding her hair back. It made her look a little older, but not in a bad way. More like a young woman than a fresh-faced teenager. Her fingers tentatively touched a few of the small braids. “Ambrelli…” It was a very emotion filled whisper as she stared at herself. “... I love it.” And if there was a shimmer in her blue eyes, that was clearly dust and nothing else. Really.


They spent the rest of the afternoon and late into the evening doing little more than enjoying being there for each other. Both of them needed it, in more ways than one. 



= End =



--
Nutmeg on the Wizzy.
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