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JP: We Look After Our Own. (Dytha/Cremsden)


Nutmeg
 

IC Date Reference: Set several hours after Ponth’s flight.


Cremsden gave it a decent amount of time. Decent enough for her to er, finish and have a bath, decent enough for him to stop blushing -- no, that part was a lie, there was a possibility he was going to feel as if his cheeks and his neck were bright red for the rest of his life even if they weren’t.


There was always the possibility Dytha might still be..busy. And if she was, that was fine, he could go away again and they could never ever speak of this again. But she was a Healer, she was an apprentice -- even if not strictly his any more -- and to Cremsden’s mind there was a rule to things. A Healer was in trouble, you checked on them. And then you quietly took yourself off if they needed you to, but you made the offer. 


And just in case she really really didn’t want to see anyone he brought a tray with him to her weyr. Because everyone had those days.


Although the experience had been… well, different… it certainly hadn’t been wholly unpleasant. Even if it had been somewhat awkwardly that she had mumbled something about needing to go do something and clumsily thanked the other woman for being nice. But there was something about the itch of flight room furs that had her crying out for a bath. Ponth was still comfortably tangled up with Zlorenth which was fine with her. Because if anyone heard what was happening on the grapevine first, it was the Healers. And she wanted, no, she needed to keep her ear to the ground. Travath was no long on the ground, in fact he had vanished entirely as had the dragons that had all but dragged him to the ground. Vaguely in the fuzzy memories of flightlust she remembered the sound of H’lan’s angered roar, recalled the sounds of outrage. But… she didn’t know where he was. And that was genuinely terrifying.


By the time the small knock came at the door, she was bathed and redressed, hair still damp. But she didn’t immediately open it. Standing behind it, eyeing the locks, her voice drifted through to the other side.


“Who is it?”


“It’s me, Cremsden.” The voice that came back was reassuringly familiar. “Eh, I can feck off if you’d like me to? But I brought you a tray over, in case you didn’t feel like the Dining Hall.”


The handed that lifted to the bolts paused. She recognised Cremsden’s voice immediately. So what stopped her? Part of her wondered why he was there, although it was hard to hear over the nervous voice that paced back and forth like a caged wher. 


“Hang on.” The rustling, clunking sounds of latches being pulled back were heard before the door cracked open. An eye peered out. “Did anyone else ask about the food? Or ask to take it?” She still didn’t believe that it wasn’t possible for H’lan to have done *something* to it.


“Nope.” Cremsden had set the tray on the floor in front of the door and stepped back, hands so clearly visible it had to be intentional. “Fresh straight from the kitchen, ‘cause I smiled nicely and asked for it hot. Cake too.”


She was hungry. In a way she hadn’t felt in… forever? Something like that. Another pause and for a second the door closed again. Another sound, almost as if something suspiciously heavy sounding was being pushed out of the way. And then it opened again and she was there, eyes watching Cremsden as if to be absolutely certain it was definitely him. “Was I supposed to bring some Rider notes from our side?” She looked confused, brow furrowed as she tried to figure out what had brought him to her door.


“Do I normally pay in you in cake for that?” Cremsden considered the question. “Well. Sometimes maybe I do. Not on purpose though.” He shook his head. “Look, like I said, you don’t want me here I can feck right off again. You don’t want to see anyone and, well, we can talk about places no one looks for you and that’s fine. We all have these days and-- I just like to make sure if someone is having one they have food.”


For a moment there was awkward silence, then an abrupt shake of the head and the door opened wider. Definitely wide enough for someone to come inside. She didn’t know yet about the compulsion that had sent the males into the sky and made them badger Travath down. But maybe Cremsden had heard something. And the food she suddenly caught scent of seemed like the most wonderful thing she had ever smelled.


“You can come in. Ponth isn’t home yet.” And there was something in how she said it that suggested that Ponth not being there didn’t sit right with her in the way that a dragon off sunning themselves normally caused no concern at all. But at the same time, part of her was more than relieved that for the first time in forever, Ponth was just being a dragon.


“Didn’t think she was the jealous type.” The comment was offhand, the kind of light Infirmary joking that came naturally, and then Cremsden actually heard that in context of a flight and blushed, red down to his neck again. “Er. Not that I meant-- eh, let me bring this tray in for you.”


“Oh, don’t let her pretty side fool you. She’d write her name on them all if she could.” The comment was wry but it wasn’t too far removed from Dytha’s usual sarcasm. Gesturing towards the small table, she indicated for him to come in. And firmly told herself that H’lan wasn’t going to materialise out of the shadows the second his foot crossed the threshold.


It was a little awkward and Cremsden distracted himself by fussing around the weyr as though she were an invalid, setting the tray down and moving to set a pot of hot water on -- not for klah, sadly but there would be something - and making sure there was nothing missing on the tray. The cupboards seemed surprisingly empty -- not that there weren’t people who never kept food in their weyrs but Cremsden had got used to her cupboards back when she’d had an infection.


“Glad I brought this over. Need to sort you a refill in here,” he commented casually. “If you get stuck late and the kitchens are shut you’ll be living on breakroom snacks and that really doesn’t do us any good. Here, sit down.”


Dytha had slid into a seat, perhaps there was nothing unusual about the fact that it put her back squarely to the wall and meant she could see both entrances into the weyr at the same time. It had taken monumental effort not to hastily push all the bolts and hasps back into place as soon as Cremsden came in. “There should be… something? Unless it moved again. Things keep moving. I keep forgetting where I’ve put them.” Her fingers knotted absently around themselves as she watched him, not quite being able to let herself just let him do… whatever it was he was doing.


Cremsden gave her a sharp look at that, and slouched into the chair opposite her, leaning back comfortably rather than sitting at attention. “I’ll sort them for you later. Ask the kitchens to take something by. Look, will you take a suggestion?”


She was fighting with the urge not to just ask if he had heard something. Anything about what had happened after the blue was brought down. Somewhere in hazy thoughts she recalled the sensation of Foreth’s compulsion rippling through Ponth, the moment of bewilderment it had caused. Dytha was unaware that she watched Cremsden’s every move with the air of suspicious caution not dissimilar to a runner uneasily eyeing the looming presence of a nearby dragon. It was clear that she was waiting for something to happen. 


What she hadn’t expected was his words. Dytha wasn’t sure what she had expected but a “suggestion” was not it. Her mouth opened to immediately respond “yes” but her mind kicked in first, stopping any commitment to anything she didn’t know the full in’s and out’s of. “How do you mean?” she said instead, still watching Cremsden carefully.


“I came early, because I’m likely to be the first of a crowd,” Cremsden said bluntly. “You just told the whole Weyr that there’s reason to be worried about you and as well as actual friends checking on you there’s a feckload of people in this Weyr who’ll poke their noses in just to be nosy or because it’s good gossip.” It might worry her more to think about it that way but sometimes it was better to be blunt and get it over with quickly than edge around a subject. He looked at her gravely. “Take it from someone who’s been through that mill, you maybe don’t want to be here for a little bit, not where people can find you. Go stay with a friend. Find a couch to stay on for a day or two. Ponth can tell people you actually like where you are.” He spread his hands. “You’d be welcome enough to come to us but I understand if you don’t want to with Arden. But go somewhere.”


Odd perhaps that he seemed far more concerned about nosy gossip mongers finding her than the person she was actually scared of.


She looked genuinely confused, as though she hadn’t even considered the possibility that people wouldn’t just assume it was some peculiar dispute between the dragons that had gotten somewhat out of hand. Dytha was wholly unaware of the escalation to violence that had ensued, by that point too stuck in the tunnel-vision of fear and lust she had been wrapped in. “Why would people want to come here?” It was clear it wasn’t deliberately obtuse but genuine bafflement. Then it seemed the rest of his words filtered through in some degree and she shook her head. “I couldn’t impose. It wouldn’t be fair.” What she didn’t say was that H’lan would still be able to find her regardless of where she was. No one else was getting caught up in the fallout.


“Sweetheart, this Weyr is full of gossips like you wouldn’t believe and they love a sharding drama,” Cremsden said. “Give them the ability to say they spoke to you and have a clue what was going on and they’ll be surrounded by people in a heartbeat.” He gave her a fierce look, protective as any father. “And that’s fine for people who like you, they’re not going to spread your business far and wide but there are others who are more interested in people thinking they’re kind than actually being kind and I will not have them taking advantage of you.”


Dytha realised, with a sinking feeling, that she was going to have to ask outright. “What… do people think is going on…?” There was a hesitance to her words that suggested she was trying to be as vague as she could get away with, as though she were sitting on something that she didn’t want to risk incriminating herself with.


Cremsden looked startled at that. “Didn’t Ponth tell you?” He’d just assumed the green would have explained. “From what I understand one of the young golds in the Barracks decided the best way to protect you two was to call every male in the Weyr to chase. The sharding bastard who was after you turned up, found the room was full and I just got done patching people up after the fight that ensued. Frankly I think he should consider himself lucky he just got arrested rather than beaten to death. You never know how a crowd will turn.”


Oh. 


For a second Dytha wasn’t sure which piece of this information she needed to process first. She took the safest bit of information first, shaking her head. “She’s still with the blue and hasn’t really said much yet. Apparently he’s called Zlorenth and what a gentleman should be like.” She smiled weakly but it was small and swallowed up by what looked an awful lot like dread. A gold weyrling… she knew immediately who it could only be. Dytha knew that some part of her should perhaps be touched by the notion, that Mendl and by proxy, Nimoth, had cared that much. A fight. And an arrest. He was going to be so angry. And now, everyone knew that something was happening. She wished she had locked the doors. “I vaguely remember Foreth. It’s hazy. Like patchy memories after too much to drink.” That and she didn’t want to remember anymore than she had to.


“Right, so you come and stay with us for a little bit - Arden might be a bit loud in the night but I can try and keep it down.” Seeing as Dytha clearly didn’t have a plan, Cremsden took charge. “Just a night or two, people get bored pretty quick around here and Margana won’t mind--” He was never the best at actually listening as opposed to giving instructions and it took that long for his ears to catch up his brain “--wait, what did you say the blue’s name was?”


Dytha was too busy frantically trying to think of a way to refuse his offer that didn’t end with a garbled “because I don’t want you or worse, your baby, to end up in bloody chunks in a gift wrapped box” to completely pay attention, missing snippets and only just catching the end. “I’m sure she said it was Zlorenth…” Because now she wasn’t sure and Ponth sure as shells wasn’t being helpful. The smug and dozy contentment of the green’s deep sleep, though much needed, was already keeping part of her brain in a fog of its own and interfering with her own gnawing sense of tiredness.


Cremsden’s mouth opened and shut a moment soundlessly, eyes suddenly wide, searching for a reaction for that and finding no quick answer available. So Margana had-- It had been Margana who-- Some part of his mind cheerfully noted that in that case it would require very little explanation as to why Dytha would be sleeping on their couch. The rest just froze.


Dytha’s own mind was also slowly putting two and two together. Very slowly. As Cremsden gaped, her own eyes were stuck in a wide expression that could only be translated as “... Urm.” Because suddenly her brain remembered the occasional gripe that Margana was stuck doing files for R’tal, Margana had been called out on Fall, Margana, Margana, Margana. “I’ll tell Ponth to come back,” she said hurriedly, as though what she needed to do right that second was order her green to cease her invasion of what was now, by her perception, her former superior’s personal space. 


“No, no, it’s fine,” Cremsden said just as hastily, though his colour could possibly have been compared to that of a redfruit. “I just--er-- normally I don’t ask.” Or think about it. Shards, do not think about it.


“And I don’t tell.” Dytha added just as quickly. No, she wasn’t a “typical” Greenrider in a lot of ways. And that included not gossiping about what happened behind her closed doors. “It was dealt with positively because of dragon intervention. That’s all.” Shells, was she going to have to add Zlorenth to some sort of mental blacklist? The shift of annoyance from Ponth warned her to not even try it. Dytha swallowed, or rather, she tried. It felt as though there was a ball of wool in her throat. “Where… where is he? Now, I mean.” Back to the important stuff. Back to trying to believe it was dealt with.


“They arrested him,” Cremsden was still flushed. “He punched the interim Weyrleader. I can’t imagine he’ll be getting out soon because Weyrleader M’gal was less than amused about the whole thing.” He looked around, highly missing the distraction of klah at that moment. Still there was always the Tea Of Disappointment. “Water’s boiled, you want a drink?”


“But his dragon… he’ll have to take care of it.” Somehow Dytha couldn’t bring herself to say “him” when thinking of Travath who to her, had seemed just as complicit. “And they can’t hold him forever… not for a punch. He might not even be there now.” Fingers had started drumming anxiously on the table even as the words fell out of her mouth with a mind of their own. A drink? Vaguely her brain prodded her and reminded her that the kettle was making its faint whistle. She could hold onto a hot drink. If anyone came through her unlocked doors she could at least throw it at them. “Not fellis tea. It makes me groggy. It’s in the cupboard above.” Or, so it should be. Dytha hadn’t yet realised that moving the small cannister of tea to a cupboard across the room had been the latest endeavour of the firelizard H’lan used to infiltrate her weyr.


“Dytha.” Cremsden didn’t move to get the tea though. He leaned over the table to look at her, very earnest, mouth set into a grim line. “Dytha, don’t you ever forget that Cuylar and I came from Fort. That rider will be taking a trip down a long flight of stairs if I think there’s the slightest chance he’ll be coming near you again.” He didn’t question distrust of the system. Sometimes systems failed. But Fort training meant that sometimes you had a rather direct way of dealing with problem people.


She felt the prickle of panic begin to crawl under her skin. Words were forming so fast she knew that they were coming out before she would be able to stop them even as she felt her mouth open. It was like watching herself from outside of body and being powerless to do anything about it. “You can’t make him angry! He’ll be angry he lost. He already knows I told someone about before. He knows everything I’m doing. That’s how…” No, stop. Clamping her mouth shut, Dytha dragged herself back into control.


Cremsden was sat up straight now, no longer in his relaxed slump. “Right. Pack your things,” he said firmly. “Clothes and what have you. You’re coming back with me. Margana won’t mind and Ponth is already there. We’ll sort details later.” And maybe there would be an awkward conversation with Margana about it, but sometimes it was worth awkwardness.


No, no, no. This had gone completely wrong. Why hadn’t she been able to sit on her words? Why had she been so utterly foolish! The growing sense of dismay grew like something was swelling up like a rapidly inflating water skin. If she went anywhere H’lan would know. She knew that. And if she was with anyone, he would assume they were involved. “He’s already killed Mimsi,” she wailed suddenly, the gruesome image of the dismembered chunks of flesh flashing up behind her eyes. “If I’m not here… and he finds out where I am…” Why elaborate? It was clear where her thoughts were going. If a man thought nothing about maiming a firelizard, a sentient creature, why would he stop at anything else in his way?


“Oh, sweetling.” Cremsden never really accepted his apprentices were any more than children. It didn’t matter how tall they grew or how many flights they took part in, there was a part of him that would never accept them as more than fourteen turns at the outside. Never mind his growing desire to find this rider and punch him in the face repeatedly, first you dealt with the scared and upset child in front of you. He shifted, not approaching, not a threat, but opening his arms in a clear offer of a hug if she wanted it. “Come here. We’ll sort this. I promise.”


It wasn’t delicate, pretty or feminine sniffles with glistening tears rolling beautifully down a cheek. The sort of description you’d find in a Harper’s most extravagant tale, no doubt. It was ugly, gut-wrenching sobbing that bubbled out like a stopper had been pulled somewhere. Dytha didn’t do “weak”. She had spent turns “keeping going”, shrugging off countless Healers, shrugging off the difficult days, shrugging off the pain. And she was so tired of it. So tired of putting the mask on day after day after day. All she wanted was for things to be normal again. Convincing the world that everything was absolutely fine was taking up everything she had. And she wasn’t sure how much she had left to give before something broke for good. 


She didn’t know how she ended up collapsed there, accepting a hug that not too many moons ago she would have no doubt laughed in mildly aghast horror if they had told her would happen. Anyone who actually knew Dytha knew she certainly wasn’t the friendly, hugging sort. Her personal bubble of space was a valuable one and one that very few breached. That, and it was Cremsden. Hardly the embodiment of the human teddy-bear.


But Cremsden held her gently and patted her back as though she were just another upset weyrbrat who had skinned her knee, not trying to talk her through it, not telling her she should have come to him sooner. He hummed and made generically soothing noises, letting the storm pass before he tried to do any more than that.


Whether it was seconds or minutes seemed irrelevant. But eventually she moved clumsily, sniffling wetly as she freed herself. Some deep part of her felt relieved, another part felt little more than shame. Part of her wanted to shout angrily at Cremsden that he was a fool for putting the lives of himself and his family in danger, another part was… what? What the shells was it? Awkwardly she limped carefully towards the stove. Suddenly attempting to make tea seemed far more important. Probably because it was distracting. “You still take a ridiculous amount of sweetener in tea?”


“As much as it takes to cover the taste of it actually being tea.” If she hadn’t moved to make the tea, Cremsden would have. Even if the taste was terrible the action was easy displacement. He watched her, absent-mindedly making a note to check her feet later. “You know, if you think I’m that easy to kill I really have to work more on my reputation again,” he said mildly, utterly and calmly matter of fact.


“Psh, philistine,” It was the first remotely normal “Dytha” comment since Cremsden had arrived. “Healers don’t have to function on klah as a blood replacement.” For a few minutes there was little more than the silence broken only by the sounds of water pouring, cups moving that was interrupted by the perplexity of not finding her tea where it was supposed to be. “There was nothing left of her. I don’t know what he can do.” It was gloomily solemn as it drifted over her shoulder without making eye contact. “And I don’t believe punching a Ranker makes any difference. He’ll do what he wants.”


Cremsden leaned back in his chair again, pushing it back with one leg to stand on two feet like a fidgety apprentice. “Got a scar on my chest where someone tried to stab me once,” he said conversationally. “That was before I even got to Fort. Not even sure how many death threats I got while I was there, they thought that a bad diagnosis could be solved by a beating there. And then when it fell -- well, we don’t talk about that. But we don’t talk about it for good reasons.” Back and forth he wobbled, doing the chair no good whatsoever. “Or there’s Cuylar. Looks soft as they come but the man’s built like a stone wall and he doesn’t talk about what we lived through any more than I did. He’d offer you somewhere to sleep in a heart beat, though I’m not saying you wouldn’t go blind while you were there, I’ve started living vicariously through his very exciting love life.”


Unfortunately she was facing him, mugs in hand when her face went exceptionally pink and her eyes subconsciously and briefly flickered towards the small closet where a very innocuous looking chest sat. “Not even going to ask,” she managed to mumble, setting down the mugs with only a little wobble. But she paused before she carefully returned to her seat and the silence felt as though it were stretching out for a full Pass. “He sent her to me in a box. In pieces.”


Cremsden was Healer-trained not to react and an excellent poker player besides. Still, his lips pressed together tightly for a moment. “If they don’t ask you about things like this before they release him, then this isn’t the Weyr I think it is,” he observed. 


“I burned it. So there’s no proof. And he can deny it.” For all that she had managed to gingerly return to her chair, the tea was stared at morosely. “Can blame flightlust for before. Maybe even for today. They’ve not got anything on him except my word.” And it was clear she believed precisely that.


“You’re forgetting you both have dragons. And the reason if it came to it, I’d be the one shoving him downstairs and not Cuylar.” That was both casually said and deadly serious. “They’ve got ways of finding out the truth of things when dragons are involved.”


“I don’t know what Ponth remembers. I…” Dytha paused, guilty flickering across her face. “I… made myself think differently and told her that was what actually happened. I don’t know what she knows is true or not anymore. Not like she’s a gold with a decent memory, she’s a green afterall.” Her fingers curled around the mug and she sipped at tea she didn’t really taste. “He’ll get what he wants. Whatever that is.”


“So, you’re coming to live with us.” Cremsden said that as though it was already decided. “At least until we know what’s happening.” He shrugged, and went a little pink again. “I mean -- ah, if you wanted a cover story for it I’m sure Margana wouldn’t mind if you told them that after the flight, uhm--” He was red now and fumbling for words.


He wasn’t the only one looking pink. Because Dytha cottoned on exactly where he had gone but it wasn’t something she was exactly known for. No, she was the polite thank you and quickly leave sort. Dytha didn’t really do promiscuous. Perhaps it was some leftover vestige of her Holder upbringing but Flights were definitely relegated to the “once only when absolutely necessary” contingent of requirement. “I have locks… and I don’t open my doors…” It sounded almost plaintively hopeful. Even if the prospect of hiding with people was incredibly appealing.


“I mean, obviously we wouldn’t-- I mean I wouldn’t expect-- our couch is really comfortable and you’re only little and you’ll fit on it just fine.” Was it possible to actually die of embarrassment? Cremsden cleared his throat and tried to hide behind his mug of tea. “And it would just be until we get this sorted.”


Dytha sighed and it was a morose sound that perfectly conveyed that she didn’t think that was ever going to happen. Why would it? How did she explain H’lan’s way of talking people into a befuddlement they thought was their own doing, that he looked like he had stepped out of a Harper’s dream idea of the embodiment of the heroic Rider. She had little doubt whatsoever that he would talk himself out of this. Talk himself out and no doubt make everyone think it had been some terrible misunderstanding. After all, she was one of those peculiar “non-riders” that didn’t quite get how the Weyrs worked. She stared at the mug in her hands. Part of her wanted to drop everything and run, a bit more of her felt just a little bit more out of control. “I wondered if they might accept me as a Healer up at New Fort,” she admitted, looking as guilty as she felt.


“And that’s a thing you can think about,” Cremsden agreed, not flinching or trying to talk her out of it. “If you need to. But it’s not good to make a plan in a panic. A good night or two’s sleep -- I’m betting you haven’t been sleeping? -- somewhere you know you’re safe and you can work out your next steps with a clear head.”


Dytha wasn’t so deluded to deny that she looked like death warmed up. And knew that Cremsden was astute enough a Healer to spot someone barely able to stand on their feet from sheer exhaustion. “Fellis tea…” It was admitted only after an awkward, prolonged silence. “... But I don’t like the dreams.” The narcotic effect of the tea was the only thing that managed to claw her away from the fear and into fitful, restless sleep that didn’t feel even vaguely energising. 


“And that’s a habit easier to start than to stop.” Cremsden looked at her sharply at that, looking her over carefully. “That’s one thing I am insisting stops and stops now. You start on that for the sleep, next thing you’re on something else to wake you up and-- well--” He rubbed the back of his neck, and looked away. “Too much temptation in an Infirmary. You lose good Healers like that.”


It was a lecture that didn’t take her by surprise. At least she had the good grace to look sheepish about it. “I’ve been calculating the dose, I did the numbers on how much I should mix. Just to sleep. That’s all, I just… I just wanted to sleep…” Because he would know, more than anyone that she normally only had access to the very, very low dose tea that could be safely prescribed normally only in very small amounts. “I don’t always need it when I’m given it. So I’ve been saving it.” She looked and sounded like a child that was admitting they had cheated on their Craft exercises.


Cremsden closed his eyes, putting his hand over his face a minute. “How many days in a row? Honestly?” He didn’t sound angry, maybe a little despairing.


Dytha hesitated, not because she didn’t want to come clean but because she genuinely had to stop and think about it. The past couple of months had been a panic filled, fear tainted blur where the days rolled into each other. “On and off for maybe a month and a bit…” she said first, staring into her tea like it held the secrets of the universe. “...Needed it most nights maybe… maybe a couple sevendays…”


Which meant that likely her body was already adjusting enough to want that bit more. Cremsden managed not to groan. “Okay,” he said very calmly. “You’re going to give me what is left now, and we’re going to make sure we don’t prescribe that ever again for you. And we’re not going to mention that to anyone, particularly not to Master Larsin and K’ren, because unless it happens again they don’t need to know and it’s not going to happen again, you understand?” He gave her a firm look, for a minute back to being the teacher to her apprentice. “And then you’re going to pack your things and come back with me because besides anything I need to keep an eye on you for a few days without it.”


And for a second she looked genuinely alarmed. “But… but my feet…” Normally she only had it when the gnawing, bone deep ache pierced her joints and kept her awake through the night. The thought of those nights awake feeling as though her joints were being compressed between rocks and having no relief… That he was telling her that he wouldn’t inform Larsin or K’ren seemed… almost irrelevant to the idea of having no way to keep the pain away. Dumbly she pointed to the door that led to her small bathing chamber. “The wicker stand in the corner. With the wound cleaning kit.” Because she knew that if she didn’t tell him, he would look. And there were definitely some things about her life she did not want her professional superior knowing about.


“We’ll work something out for your feet,” Cremsden reassured her. “Master Kregg’s been working on some new things. I’ll write and ask him. And if you’re staying with us the one thing I can say is I’ll have time to make sure they’re properly taken care of so they shouldn’t be bothering you so much.” He didn’t give her the lecture on how much worse withdrawal could be than foot pain. Right now it wasn’t necessary. The important thing was making sure the tea was in his pocket and nowhere she could find it -- and remembering not to take any back home with him in his bag either.


She knew it was meant to be kind, and she did appreciate the gesture. But now the looming thought of fear and pain was rising up like a black cloud before her. Dytha nodded mutely, feeling more and more like a naughty child. It was a testament to how much she believed she had had it all under control that she wasn’t even remotely concerned about the prospect of withdrawal. She didn’t think it was going to happen.


Cremsden looked at her and reached very gently to put his hands on her shoulders, not quite pulling her back into a hug. “It’s going to be okay,” he reassured her. “We’ve got this. Any issues, we’ll work them out. I’ll be right in the next room, and you’ll be safe -- properly safe, you hear?”


As much as she wanted to, Dytha just didn’t believe him. She didn’t believe anyone could make it safe, no matter how much they wanted to. The shadow of H’lan still loomed up as a domineering presence that seemed as unpassable as a mountain. It wasn’t hard to find someone in a Weyr, as Cremsden had pointed out, people liked to talk. How long would it be before he knew exactly where to find her? And worse, what would he do if he found people in his way? Dytha wasn’t sure she would be able to let her guard down regardless of where she was. She would comply, that was for sure. Truth be told, she was too tired to put any real effort into a real protest. She wanted to sleep. Sleep and then sleep some more. 


“What does Ponth think of the idea?” Cremsden added, almost as an after-thought, watching her again.


She hadn’t even thought to ask. And not surprisingly, the mental nudge was surprisingly agreeable. Of course she would be, she would have Zlorenth. Well, until he got sick of her and pushed her off his ledge. And that broke down any last bit of resolve she might have had to fight against it. Ponth was incredibly lonely right now, too afraid to trust other dragons just in case Travath was lurking nearby. And it had quietly been killing her to watch the sweet, normally playful green lie morosely on her ledge, watching others doing the things she was too afraid to.


“She wants to know what’s taking me so long.” Dytha tried to make it sound humorous but her heart wasn’t entirely in it. But catering to something Ponth needed was somehow easier.


“Right. And I can’t see Zlorenth objecting.” And the humans were at least partly the dragon and don’t think it, don’t follow that thought. And now he was blushing again. “Look, I’m going to go talk to Margana. You lock the door after me and pack your stuff up. I’ll tell Master Larsin-- something, I don’t know, he probably won’t expect you for any shifts today anyway and then come back and help you carry it.”


There would be no putting it off now, regardless of how much she dragged it out. It wouldn’t take her long to throw a few things into a bag, just essentials and nothing more. And maybe the comfortable blanket she had found in the Stores that was, ironically, the perfect size for using on a couch. Nodding her acquiescence, the mugs had been cleared away, washed and left neatly on the counter. Because she was coming back, after all. Besides, what was she going to do, run away? She probably couldn’t even hop all that far. By the time Cremsden would return, she would be there, small bag in hand, nervously calling through the door who was there. Just as anticipated, she would be excused from duties. And the inevitable talk with Larsin was just another thing to wait for. And whoever else was going to come to her door. If Cremsden was right, apparently half the Weyr was going to decide she was someone very interesting. And she wasn’t looking forward to it.


= 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!