Better

Who: Arlet and J’kson
When: Month 10, 204 AT
Where: Court of Shadows, Honshu Territory
What: Poor decisions or otherwise, at least they both get what they want.


She might have finally deigned to supply her son with a name, but Arlet’s days still pass in a dull blur of avoiding him and trying to keep out of the way enough that nobody bothers to comment on what she is or isn’t doing during her time at the Court. By now, most have a notion of who she is, if not the mechanics of how it’s possible, which has drawn some to make efforts to encourage her to participate in more than looking after Akanyth, while it’s made others give her a wide berth for fear of blood running true or the Lord and Lady taking against any who ‘interfere’. She’s managed to secure a sitting room for herself this afternoon, the fire in the hearth one she’s built and effort made to eat the tarts that have been forced upon her by a passing kitchen girl. It’s not much, but she’s awake and upright – and staring into the flames is better than sleeping her day away.

J’kson’s reports have been requested in person more than the bluerider would like, or anticipate, since the hatching of Malynth. The stakes at Fort don’t seem as pressing to him as they do to his Lord, M’tan’s demanding of a personal audience something that is meant to remind J’kson of his place even if the man would like to forget of the bargain he made too long ago. He’s opening and closing doors, seeking a hideout, and it draws him into the room with Arlet. He doesn’t immediately notice the room is occupied as he strides in after closing and locking the door, his footsteps pausing as he takes in Arlet, the tarts, and the fire. He doesn’t stop himself from continuing into a chair opposite of her, his flask drawn out once his body is pressed into the comfort of fabric and stuffing. “Can’t please him,” he mutters, taking a swig before he settles it back into his jacket. “I keep telling him. Try again. Put another man on the Sands. Malynth’s not the sort to pry and gossip. I imagine D’soto’s blue,” he doesn’t look at Arlet as he speaks, “would be the better spy than me.”

Arlet sits up a little straighter when she sees the door open, fight or flight kicking in before she can stop it, though when she sees that it’s J’kson, she slouches again and pays enough attention to track him from the door to the seat opposite. “He’s probably already got others like you on various Sands across the world,” she replies, exhaling as she animates again, grabbing the plate of tarts and shoving it towards him in a silent offer, waiting for it to be rejected or accepted until she puts it back down again. “One thing that I’ve figured out since being here is that if they keep on at you about something, it’s less about what they want from you and more about what they think you can do for yourself. Thankfully, they’ve shut up on that score for a while now with me.” She shrugs one shoulder. “Not that I’d want to piss off M’tan just for the heck of it either. Maybe it’s not Malynth who should be doing the spying. People tell those they think are half-cut all sorts, assuming they won’t remember.”

J’kson’s only ever reminded of the need for food when it’s shoved in his face and so readily accepts the tart when it’s brought his way. He munches it far more politely than his overall disheveled appearance might make him seem capable of doing. He gives her a non-committal ‘hmm’ at her mention of insight, eying the fire rather than Arlet as he listens. He draws his gaze back to Arlet at the mention of //who// should be spying. “I’m fairly certain C’aol’s trying to sleep with Isolwyn to gain Weyrleader permanently. But so far as I can tell she’s not minding the attention his bronze gives Eosyth or that which he gives to her. Why would I tell M’tan that? It’s not politics. He already knows our weyrlingmasters are idiots. And the fact that Nalmi from Telgar keeps visiting one of our bronzeriders? What of it? Everyone’s looking for leverage.” He slides that flask out once more and sips before settling it back in his pocket. “If you’re unhappy here, leave. You don’t deserve to be a shut in.” He looks more fully at her. “No one does.”

“Everything is politics,” Arlet claims, drawing her knees up to her chest so that she can huddle in her chair with her arms wrapped around them. “It’s why I didn’t surrender Fort. Everything, every decision someone makes, is someone’s politics. It all fits together somehow. What you think is insignificant is going to be significant to someone, looked at another way.” She props her chin on her knees. “Seems to me you should tell M’tan anyway. The worst it can be is irritating.” Closing her eyes, she gives another, dismissive, shrug. “I don’t have anywhere to go. And my brother or sister will be born soon, anyway, and I at least ought to meet them. I’m not unhappy, I’m just… not anything. I don’t want to go back to a Weyr to be pitied or mocked or be under the hand of anyone I used to trust.”

J’kson focuses on eating a few more of the tarts, watching her with sideways glances as she shifts her legs up. “You can’t go from Weyrleader to nothing,” he tells her, tone neutral, “that doesn’t seem like much of anything to want to fall into. Meeting your sibling sounds nice. It’ll be weird, won’t it? Your kid will be that kid’s…,” he pauses, scrunching his brows together in thought. “Uncle? No, er, Cousin? I don’t fucking know. But family’s family and they’ll have it in each other.” He finds that flask to sip from again and then, out of habit, offers it over to Arlet. “Being pitied is interesting,” he tells her, “people think you’re too weak so they try to help you. You can manipulate that to your desires. I’m working on that for Malynth.” A pause, and then he has to ask, “Who would mock you? You didn’t do anything – those assholes did.”

“I already am nothing,” Arlet insists, stating so without any self-pity. “It isn’t as if it’s much different for anyone else who loses the same knot. They just go back to the Wings or to wherever they came from…” She presses her lips together in a moment of grief that she can’t suppresses, arms tightening around her knees. “…Where I’m from is just too far away,” she utters, the thought one that makes her uncurl a second or so later and, eyes opening to dart to J’kson and away to the flames. “M’tan’s child will be the baby’s aunt or uncle,” she clarifies, “thought it might be better for both of them if they’re raised as siblings.” If that’s her plan, she betrays nothing further than the idle thought. “If you can’t do the spying thing, you could come and live here. They’d find a use for you. They find a use for everyone.” Except her, so far.

“If I did that, how would I pull my weight? M’tan wanted me to be a spy, or at least, he could tell I’d be the sort that people would talk to, or talk around, as it were.” J’kson lifts a shoulder in a shrug and then watches her for a moment. He won’t touch on the subject of the children again. “Maybe if the use for me is the same for you, I’d consider it. I’m not going to bring Malynth back here to be charity to M’tan or Jet. That’s not how they work. You have to give enough that they’ll take care of you. Don’t feel like I’ve done that yet.” He reaches across the distance to place a finger to her cheek. “Who was it?” he asks, blue eyes clear enough to show concern, “That hurt you? It can’t be the knot. Did you love them? The Weyrwoman and her partner? I could never figure out if you did.”

“They train people for all sorts of things around here. I’ve seen my mother in the forge and the weapons that come out of it. I don’t think they’d take anyone on solely for charity; not unless they were young enough to need it.” When J’kson first begins to reach towards her, Arlet watches him all too carefully and closely, until he makes that contact and she drinks it in, even so small a thing as it is. “…They were kind to me,” she says quietly, glancing down. “For the most part. I was fond of them. Her more than him… I think. Neither of them were… overly affectionate when the baby was almost here. They were a distraction, really. Fun. They wanted me.” She bites down on the inside of her lip. “Your Weyrwoman. Fort’s. I knew it was wrong. I knew I wasn’t right for her or good enough for her all along and I still… And some part of me //hates// her now, for having //my Weyr// and flaunting her bluerider. I told her… I told her again and again I didn’t want to be a mistake… And she still had me take her to bed just to see what it was like. Until she could find someone she wanted more.”

J’kson doesn’t let his finger linger against Arlet’s cheek, not wanting to press flesh to flesh when it may not be wanted. He tucks it back against his chest, and once more, he’s reaching for that flask to take a nip of before he tucks it back into his jacket pocket. He listens with the attention of someone struggling to understand and then realization hits as her story fully unfolds for him. He shifts in his chair, sitting up, and levels his gaze upon hers. “It’s normal to have lovers who you don’t love intensely,” J’kson reasons, the weight of his own years giving validity to his words, the wrinkles that dot his forehead and crinkle at his eyes a sign of hard time spent either at the bottle or at life. “Doesn’t mean we don’t like it.” He takes in a breath and holds it, letting it out in a rush of breath. “You know they’re the reason Malynth’s deformed,” he tells Arlet far-too-hotly, “Their ‘love’ is the reason Malynth may never fly. He is //proof// a blue should not fly a gold.” He tenses, his shoulders hunching, his hands tightening into fists. “So if she practiced on you she never learned what mattered.” He flexes his fingers and focuses on them. “Isolwyn will never be that sort of Weyrwoman. Her, Jet, and… I don’t know. //You//. Are the sort of women we want to follow. Not //her//. Not //them//,” he spits the words out and then silences himself by focusing on the fire.

“I’d rather she hadn’t loved me at all,” Arlet murmurs, sitting back in her seat again to curl up there, jamming herself into one of its corners. “Or at least not found a replacement so soon. I don’t think she ever understood that leading Fort wasn’t a choice I could make or something I didn’t do to deliberately leave her.” J’kson’s anger has her watching him rather than her knees or the fire, her eyes narrowing a little in a manner that conveys no judgement, but rapt attention. “I don’t hate her. Half the reason I kept the knot was so she wouldn’t become the next target for letting Inaskashath get caught by a blue.” And yet… “But I think you have to be right. None of the dragons hatched from Inaskashath and Jynth are exactly what you’d expect. It doesn’t mean they can’t contribute or they’re worth any less – even if anyone else thinks otherwise – but they’re… evidence enough.” She knots her hands together, considering for a moment. “I suppose the question is: if it happens again, would you want others put to the eggs, knowing what you know? Or would you want them to be left to Between?”

“You should’ve stayed Fort’s Weyrleader. It needs to change. It may change now, but C’aol’s… more like the others than he is of Honshu or here. He’ll keep some of their ways intact. No one benefits from the hidebound or nostalgic for ‘better days’.” J’kson’s focus remains on the fire as he leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees as he dangles his hands between his legs. “How could I say to Between the eggs?” he asks, fingers clenching and unclenching. “That would be like denying Malynth the right to //live//. It’s not wrong that he’s different. It’s frustrating that he is. It’s frustrating that those who could have prevented it didn’t try too. I see her with the bluerider, you know? And the blue. It’s clear Inaskashath will continue to favor him. If they can have their way, why shouldn’t you? Why’d you have to fight so hard? Why should any of us?” He clenches his fists and looks up at Arlet finally, his gaze tortured. “Life doesn’t have to be fair, but sure as shit, it’d be nice if it wasn’t so hard.”

“I suppose we’ll never know if they would have let me remain. A blue catching a queen pushed the Council too far to let a brownrider stay in a position of power.” Whether Arlet flinches more at J’kson’s reaction or the idea of Rori and her bluerider may forever be unclear, but perhaps the two being so connected makes it impossible to discern one from the other. “…But that’s it, isn’t it?” she says gently. “We both might wish they’d never let it happen, but if we refuse to agree with those who’d condemn the results, then we’ve really no right to condemn them for doing it either. If we want progress, then I’m not sure we can pick and choose which we find acceptable and what we don’t.” Slowly, she unfolds herself from her chair and picks her way across the short distance between her chair and J’kson’s, to sit herself down at her feet and rest her head against a thigh. “Some people are destined to get what they want with few reprisals. And the rest of us… muddle through. Malynth is yours. He wanted you. He found you worthy. The rest is… difficult, but maybe needs to mean not as much as that.”

J’kson watches as Arlet moves to settle at his feet, the warmth of her head against his thigh eases some tension from him as he exhales slowly. He keeps his stance, hands kept out of reach, until he can’t resist the urge to wrap a finger around one of her curls. “Akanyth found you worthy,” he reminds her, “and so you shouldn’t focus on muddling through. Don’t stay trapped here,” he presses her, his speech a tad slurred and then he clears his throat and focuses his eyes to a point of clarity on her face. “Unless you find a purpose to stay. You needn’t stay,” he repeats himself, his hand moving from twirling a piece of her hair to casual finger-combing it. “Malynth likes you,” he shares with her after a spate of comfortable silence has fallen. “You’re thoughtful and kind. You don’t rush around making stupid decisions.” He grins, eyes twinkling, “Like I do.”

“Oh no,” Arlet dryly begins to argue, “just a couple of vastly stupid decisions for me per turn. I like to get it over quickly in large instalments rather than measuring it out over a longer time.” She closes her eyes as J’kson’s fingers move through her hair, her weight shifting a little more heavily against him as she relaxes, a soft sigh leaving her. “I need to work out how to be a mother. Then maybe I can leave. My mother… the one who raised me… She took me on and loved me as her own without question. I owe it to her and the baby to try and figure it out.” Tilting her head into his touch, she might not even notice the low sound she makes that would be purring if she were able. “Perhaps you shouldn’t stay trapped at Fort. They could train you here. I’ve seen them. Maybe they could even craft Malynth a wing in that forge.”

“My mother died giving birth to me. Never really had a maternal figure. My father was a pretty shit one. My brother, though. He helped raise me. Can’t say he let me fall in the right direction,” J’kson’s laugh is a throaty-chuckle as he stills his hands in her hair, caught away from his past to focus on her. “You’re almost purring,” he tells her, his tone soft and careful, “it makes me want to kiss you.” He doesn’t do that, instead he returns to gently combing Arlet’s hair as the conversation shifts from parenthood to Malynth once more. “I can’t leave Isolwyn. Not until she’s Weyrwoman. It wouldn’t be fair. She’s been there for me, and without Eosyth’s help, I’m not sure Malynth would tolerate me leaving as much as I like to do.” He pauses, considering her idea, “You think that could be done? Forge him something?”

“I’m sorry,” Arlet murmurs, “about your mother.” Offered not out of politeness, there’s a sincerity there that lends weight to her words. “…I should be grateful that I’ve had two. I can’t claim that I don’t know how to be one… I just… don’t feel it… Not yet.” She winds an arm around J’kson’s ankle to better anchor herself there, her lips twitching in a faint smile as he confesses wanting to kiss her. It’s not something she immediately addresses, choosing the safer territory of potential other forgings. “I can’t speak for Jet, but I don’t know why they didn’t think of it in the first place. Maybe they didn’t want to promise something they couldn’t. But I don’t see why it’s not worth looking into. If she can make weapons catch on fire, I don’t see why she wouldn’t have the mechanical knowledge to craft a semblance of a wing.” Lapsing into silence, she focuses only on the motion of fingers through her hair until she takes a deep breath and gathers the nerve to say, “You can kiss me if you like,” colouring more for the thought of that than other things she’s previously suggested without a shred of shame.

“Is that something one should feel?” J’kson asks, honestly curious and not judgemental in his curiosity. “I don’t think my father ever ‘felt’ it. He just made sure I stayed alive.” He returns Arlet’s faint smile with a smirk and a lifted brow, taking the deflection of his statement in stride. “Jet scares the shit out of me,” he confesses to Arlet in a conspiratorial tone, lifting his gaze from hers to look over her shoulder as if the Lady would walk into the room herself. “I’ll ask M’tan when we meet if it’s something they’d be willing to help Malynth with. If we got airborne, it’d help us with all that was hoped we could do for the Court.” He confirms that Jet is //not// coming through the door and returns his gaze to Arlet’s, returning to that idle combing of her hair again without thought. His smirk dissolves into a softer smile, his finger moving from her hair to brush calloused tips across her lips. “Your beauty only grows when you blush,” he tells her as he leans forward to claim a soft, chaste, kiss of her lips.

Arlet’s, “Me too,” is an easy admittance, accompanied by a faint note of laughter. “Though I guess I have the luxury of being one of the few people that know she’ll never hurt them.” She doesn’t miss that J’kson checks that door a second time, and it’s that which makes her laugh again, quiet though it is, the sound smothered against his thigh when she ducks her head down to try and conceal it. Looking up again as his gaze returns to hers, she’s no shy and passive thing when his fingers brush her lips, for she briefly parts them to nip at a fingertip and tease before accepting his kiss and returning it in kind, surrendering another low, purring sound as she does so. “…You’ve only a few more months at Fort…” she murmurs, reaching for one his hands to graze a kiss to his knuckles. “Maybe then we can… help make each other better.”

“If you keep making that noise,” J’kson’s voice is hoarse as he states, “I’m going to come undone without ever touching you further.” His eyes are in and out of focus as her lips graze his knuckles, the inebriation he’s sought finally catching up to him as he tries to focus on Arlet. “Make me better now,” he tells her, no longer fueled with anything but base desires as he reaches forward and clasps her cheeks in his. Even with the abruptness of his grasp, his lips are not demanding more than a taste, his tongue a tentative thing across her lips. It would not take him much to fall on top of her now, and his grasp may indicate that to Arlet. “I’m not one to wait,” he breathes when he pulls away from bruising her lips. “It’s a disorder. My impulsiveness.” He claims her lips once more, tipping her neck back and letting his hands move in an exploratory manner down her chest.

There’s a fraction of a moment when Arlet hesitates, seeking a clarity in J’kson’s gaze that she doesn’t find and tries to care more about, only to give in to wanting touch more than any assurances, her fingers trailing down the line of buttons of her blouse to bare what his hands want by casting fabric back over her shoulders and lifting up onto her knees to kneel there between his legs wearing nothing but a silver chain from the waist up. “Another day, we can see what I can do to you without letting you touch me,” she tells him, claiming a kiss of her own and a delicate nip at his bottom lip. “But if you stop touching me now, I promise it’s going to be me that you should be scared of.” She slides her hands from his knees and up along his thighs, reaching to unbuckle his belt with a needy forwardness.

J’kson’s appreciative glance is stalled as he takes in the sight of Arlet’s nakedness. He can’t resist placing his calloused, warm, palms on each to explore with firm pressure, the knowledge of his fingers making brushes against the more sensitive parts of her breasts. “I like that you’re already planning other days,” he drawls to her, easing himself forward to aid her in unbuckling his belt. He moves his hands up from her chest towards her face, meaning to pull him closer again so that he can claim her lips. It’s not long before his lips and touches are paused only long enough to kick off pants, to remove his shirt, to cast aside clothing along with doubt. He won’t force her in any one direction, but it’s clear that he’s ready to please her further should she want it. At some point during the discarding of clothing and kisses, he’s found himself on the ground beside her, his lips claiming her neck as his hand makes its way between her thighs.

The discarding of trousers is an easy thing for Arlet, who has moved from slender to skinny over the months she’s spent at the Court, some lingering curves marking recent motherhood that seem incongruous with the lines of the rest of her. While she won’t look down at her body of her own volition, she has no concerns about what J’kson may wish to do, almost submissive in her desire to prevent him from stopping, arching into his touch as she anchors a hand at his shoulder and tips her head back to allow him better access to her neck, her breath hitching as his hand moves between her thighs. Another day, she might be patient, but today is not that day, and while she takes her time to lazily rock her hips against his hand, it isn’t all that long before she simply tugs him down on top of her, uncaring of the rug beneath her or the nearness of the hearth. Demanding a kiss, she sends a hand south to stroke him slowly enough to tease as she parts her knees in invitation, a purring note hummed against the column of his throat.

J’kson’s the sort of man who loves to drink in the sight of a woman and he is unashamed by his own nakedness, the smattering of hair on his chest, and the various freckles and moles only add to the ruggedness of his features. He laughs as her hand moves to stroke him, his head tipping forward to brush his forehead against Arlet’s. “I told you,” he manages to say, “that your noises would undo me.” He doesn’t play games and so finds himself inside her readily enough. He groans loudly at the feel of her, breathing against her ear, “Perfection.” And then all other communication will fall to the sounds he makes, what he can draw from her, and the movements of their bodies against each other. He’s not able to last for overly long – the moment he can tell Arlet’s found completion he’s quick to follow in a shuddering movement against her. He presses his weight down on her as he inhales the scent of her hair, unwilling to move as he tries to gather his bearings. Unwillingness turns into something else as the weight of his intoxication claims him and takes him down into utter darkness.

It’s long enough for Arlet, who doesn’t will herself to care about who might hear her, nor that the weave of the rug bites into her skin and leaves her marked; she has what she wants and needs and finds interest only in delighting in the physical closeness as much as anything else, after isolating herself for so long. Her murmurings are incomprehensible as J’kson’s release follows hers, a content sound escaping her for the weight of him on her, any discomfort yet to be realised while she steals a moment to wrap herself around him and just breathe. As seconds tick by and he doesn’t move, neither does she, but reality is soon enough to sink in, and so she shifts to roll him over and clambers off of him, her head tilting slightly as she regards his prone and sleeping form. From one of the chairs, she takes a cushion, which she places beneath his head, then she goes about the business of dressing and quietly slips from the room. She doesn’t leave him there to be discovered, watching the door from nearby for the time he might wake and leave, all without betraying her presence. Only then does she go to bathe, keeping to her own quarters for the rest of the day in-case she should be called out and named as a regret.

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