It's Not a Dream (jp: Cuylar, Darrica [NPC]) 6/6
Darrica stared at him, worried and guilty again. “I-- I don’t want you to think..” She blushed. “I mean. I really hate what he did to your mother because she-- I mean, she’s nice, Sela is. But I wasn’t-- it’s not fair to let you think he-- forced me or anything..”
"I understand. But he did leave you. Alone. And… well, whether he knew what he was doing or not, it's what he did," said Cuylar. "And consequences don't care about intentions. I don't blame you for this. And I'm not going to abandon you."
Elphith leaned her head in slowly, carefully. She wanted to softly touch Darrica with her nose, but she also did not want to frighten her.
"Is there anything I can do to show you that you can trust me?"
“Oh, hello.” Darrica almost squeaked that at the unexpected proximity of a dragon head. “Does-- does it want to see the baby?” she asked Cuylar cautiously.
"She wants to make sure you're OK, actually," Cuylar answered.
((Hey, also I want to see the baby.))
Cuylar smiled. "And she says she does also want to see the baby."
“He is very little,” she said a little apologetically to the dragon. She twitched aside the blanket to make the baby’s face more visible. Wide blue eyes stared in an unfocused way at what seemed to the baby to be an expanse of green and the baby waved his hands as though trying to grab at Elphith.
((He is beautiful, and I love him. Please do not botch this, Cuylar, or I shall have to be angry with you,)) said Elphith.
"She says he's beautiful, and she loves him," he relayed. "But you already knew that, of course."
Somehow trusting the dragon felt easier than trusting the man and Darrica smiled more genuinely. “I didn’t know dragons liked babies,” she admitted, and then hesitantly. “May I touch her?”
"Maybe not all of them do. But she likes this one. Probably mostly because I do. But she can smell the similarities between us," Cuylar explained. "She says if I mess this up with you, she'll be mad at me," he chuckled.
"And she would like it if you would touch her."
Her hand was shy, barely brushing against the green hide, almost tickling in its hesitancy. “She’s warm!” Darrica sounded surprised.
Elphith rumbled a bit of a laugh at the tickling touch.
"She is," Cuylar confirmed, chuckling. "And she won't bite you. Here, she likes it if you scratch her eye ridges like this." He showed her, and Elphith's eyes closed, and she hummed happily as he did.
Could he be that bad, really, if his dragon liked him this much? Darrica sneaked shy sideways glances at Cuylar as she traced over the eye ridges carefully, the baby held steady in her other hand. It was a minute where she could pretend to be distracted while actually trying to weigh up the man she was putting far too much trust in.
Cuylar smiled obliviously as Elphith enjoyed the attention from Darrica as well. He was, for his part, happy to have found something that seemed to help Darrica feel more safe.
Darrica watched, and thought, and rocked the baby. “I think--” she said finally, quietly, “I’d-- like to make the decisions right now where R-- Cuyric is concerned. He’s.. he’s very little and I know him and you don’t. But-- but if you still wanted to help..”
"I will still help, of course," Cuylar answered as he turned back to smile at Darrica. "Call him Riccard until you're sure you want me to be his father, too. If that will make it feel less like I'm trying to call the shots."
Darrica considered that. “How do you feel about Ric?” she suggested after a moment. “I call him that a lot of the time anyway, and it could be either. Then it’s not changing on him later.”
"Ric it is," Cuylar agreed, his smile unwavering – but he was more than a little happy at the compromise.
“Ric.” Darrica confirmed more firmly with a nod, her eyes on the baby in her arms a moment. “..Right. Then.. I guess we go?”
"We're ready when you are," Cuylar patted Elphith's hide again, and she crouched down low. "Wait here, and I'll get everything ready." Cuylar climbed up and began to strap the bags onto her back behind where they would sit.
When he was done, he sat on Elphith's neck and leaned down. "Hand the baby up, and I'll hold him while you climb."
“You have to support his head,” Darrica said again anxiously, watching until she was sure Cuylar had the boy steady before she started to climb up, a little awkward in her skirt.
Cuylar smiled and nodded as he conspicuously supported the baby's head. He would have to make a point to show just how good he was at supporting baby heads.
Elphith tried her very best to make it as easy for Darrica as possible. And once she was up, he very carefully handed the baby back to her, then strapped them both in.
"All right. When you're ready to go, give the word and then we'll take off. After we've gotten high enough, we'll glide for a moment, and that will be your sign we're about to go between. Count to five, and then we'll be there. Hold onto Ric, and we'll all be fine."
Darrica nodded uncertainly, unsure whether it was better to hold tightly to Ric or the straps. “Okay,” she said, quiet again.
"Everything is going to be OK. You won't be able to fall," Cuylar reassured her. "And Elphith says she will do her best to make it a smooth flight. Ready? Here we go."
And while taking off from the ground was never going to be the smoothest ride, Elphith did as she said and gave it her best effort to jostle her passengers as little as possible. When she got high enough to feel safe going between, she glided.
And then they vanished.
One. Two. Three.
And before they reached the count of four, the Arolos sun shone on them again, and Elphith flew in wide circles to take them down slowly. Soon, they landed near the entrance to the lower caverns, and Cuylar carefully unbuckled the straps.
"We're here," he said cheerfully.
Darrica was shivering, eyes wide, not sure yet whether she was terrified or thrilled. “That’s between?” she said, dazed. And then, belatedly, “t’s warm!”
"Between?" Cuylar asked. "I know the North is frigid, but it's not colder than between." He laughed.
“No, it--” She squinted up at the sky, eyes half-closed against the brightness of the sun, taken completely by surprise. “This isn’t-- where are we?”
"The Weyr," said Cuylar. "Arolos Weyr." It suddenly occurred to him that he had never said which weyr he meant. And that “The Weyr” might mean something different to someone from another protectorate. "Is… that OK?"
“...We’re in the South?” Darrica sounded stunned. “That quickly?”
"Everywhere is a few heartbeats away through between," Cuylar explained. "And like I said. If there's somewhere else you decide you'd rather be… it'll be just as quick to get there."
“This is a dream.” She was certain of it now. She peered at Cuylar suspiciously. “In a moment this dragon is going to turn into a giant canine or something and then I’ll wake up late for work again, won’t I?”
"Is this sort of thing what you usually dream about?" Cuylar chuckled. "Want me to pinch you?" he offered.
“You don’t just pop out into somewhere that’s all sunny just like that.” She prodded Cuylar instead with a suspicious finger, genuinely doubting for a minute that he could actually be there. “Real doesn’t work like this.”
"Sure I do," Cuylar chuckled at the poking. "And sure it does. I mean. Here we are. Would you like to get something to eat before we find you a place to sleep? Or is Ric hungry? Need a nappy change?"
She hesitated and looked around her, everything she could see from the back of a dragon. “I think-- I think if I’m going to stay here I need to learn to get around it on my own,” she said finally, with a self-possession that seemed surprising, given her quietness. But then-- she had been ready enough to find Cuylar and confront him. “I can’t go around hiding behind you all the time, that won’t work.”
"Of course," Cuylar agreed. He had been trying to see to the more immediate and pressing needs first, but he understood – or thought he did – that Darrica did not want to feel dependent on him.
He carefully climbed down and then reached up, even as Elphith once again made herself as flat against the ground as she could.
"There we go. Hand the baby down, if you would. And then you next. El, you don't mind watching Darrica's things, do you?"
((I will, if you need it. But I would much rather you find a place to put them as soon as you can so I can go sun with Traynth.))
Warm-wrapped as he was, Ric made a small noise of protest as he was handed over, followed almost immediately by full-fledged howls of rage as he realised just how very hot he was.
“Oh! Sorry,” Darrica apologised, sounding flustered as she tried to scramble down in a panic. “He’ll want me.”
As she came down, Cuylar began to unwrap him a bit, to rock him, and to make soothing noises at him – and, yes, he supported his head. Though once Darrica was on the ground, he did not delay in returning him to her arms.
"You don't have to apologize. I think he's a little warm," he said.
“..I guess. It is hot here,” Darrica admitted, unwrapping the blankets she had him wrapped in to reveal a small very pink face. “There now.” Unabashed, Ric continued to scream and she sighed. “I think maybe if there was somewhere we could stay?” Somewhere quiet and cool because already she was sure heads were starting to turn at the noise.
"Of course." Cuylar gestured to the nearby lower caverns entrance. "I landed here because I thought you might want to start with getting a room picked out. You might have to stay with a new friend," he said, "and I wouldn't be surprised if there's another nursing mother who might have an open bed. Or maybe you'll get your own! Apprentices usually share bunk space, and Candidates sleep in the barracks." As he spoke, he walked into the cavern entrance.
"Creche workers might double up, too. If you wanted to think about starting there. And if you're not ready to make any decisions yet, there's probably some temporary quarters you could use until you're ready."
“Yes please.” Darrica grasped that idea gratefully. It was a lot of change to make all at once. “That last option.”
And she followed him in, ready to start a new chapter.