More Than Friends

Who: Jet, M’tan, J’kson, Arlet, Malynth
When: Month 13, 204 AT
Where: Court of Shadows, Honshu Territory
What: J’kson arrives at the Court.

It’s unfair. It’s unfair. And they don’t care. That has been the mantra between J’kson and Malynth for too long — no one listens and no one looks and no one //thinks// about them. After Eosyth rose and the leadership was guaranteed at Fort, it was almost like the current werylingmasters no longer had to pretend with J’kson and Malynth. The blue only had one functional wing – and so, he couldn’t fly, and couldn’t Between and so — why care? J’kson’s own tendency to find solace (and courage) in alcohol has lead him and his blue to a fateful choice – die or go Between. The one-wing blue and he have taken a long journey up Fort’s bowl to the fireheights via Malynth’s rock-climbing ability. Before the watch-dragon can question their motives too long, J’kson sends his blue tumbling from the heights and gives him the only point of reference he can give – the heights of the Court. As Malynth descends from Between above the Court, his cries both mental and physical will stir the entire populace to his descent – and once he is landed, J’kson is already passed out and unable to give reason for the risk he incurred bringing his dragon to the Court.

It’s difficult to tell which of Kyramith and Akanyth senses Malynth’s presence first, for while it sends Arlet running through the corridors of the Court, Jet is closer and abruptly abandons the wooden sword she’s been using to train Safiye in swordplay, snatching up her very real and very sharp blades instead as she runs from that courtyard to find where the blue has landed. She’s got a knife out and members of the Court trailing behind her when she reaches him, Malynth’s wing studied with what seems to be more curiosity than pity, though she makes no move to assist J’kson. That much is left to Arlet, who doesn’t stop her headlong dash for him, the frantic checking of pulse and breathing something that darkens Jet’s features considerably. “Why are you so concerned for him?” she demands of her daughter, which earns her a disgusted glare from the brownider. “Why //aren’t// you?” Arlet shoots back.

How Malynth managed to land will be something J’kson will have to consider in the coming days. Despite the roughness of his descent from the sky, the little one-winged blue looks relatively unhurt. He swings his head around, taking in the sights around him, as his tail taps side to side behind him. His mind broadcasts a tentative and unsure, << Hello? >> to any dragons who may answer him. J’kson will have to be dragged out of his straps and thrown into a cold bath to wake him up from his drunken stupor. More than a few concerned members of the Court enters the courtyard, murmuring to themselves as they take in the sight around them. M’tan descends to stand beside Jet, watching Arlet move to J’kson’s side with a cold stare. “What a drunken idiot,” he growls to Jet. He signals two people over and gives them instructions to help take J’kson to the Infirmary.

Arlet steps back as others move for J’kson, but she moves only as far as Malynth’s head, reaching for his muzzle with both hands to lay gentle palms against hide without question of whether he will accept her or not. “I was his Weyrleader,” she declares, lifting her voice enough for her parents and those who have trailed after to observe the new arrival. “Some of this is on me.” She fixes her gaze on M’tan. “But you. You started it. And that means you’re to blame too.” There’s no interference for anyone’s intentions for J’kson, yet she sticks by Malynth, murmuring, “Come on, let’s go and get you somewhere to rest,” to him before she attempts to lead him off and to where Akanyth waits for the both of them. Given purpose, she spends the ensuing hours bathing and oiling the blue under the watch of her lifemate, ignoring the watchful stare and occasional visits from her mother, and only once she’s sure that Malynth is settled does she head inside and to the infirmary to check on his rider.

M’tan takes Arlet’s criticism without comment as his arm moves to wrap around Jet’s middle. He turns and guides his wife away, nodding his head to their steward and headwoman to follow them into their council chambers. Malynth’s breath is hot as he snuffles Arlet’s middle, his eyes flashing yellow with concern until he centers himself around her. He is a biddable dragon when it comes to her cleaning and oiling him. He settles himself near the Infirmary once he’s freshly oiled and falls instantly asleep. When Arlet comes into the Infirmary, J’kson at least looks freshly bathed. His hair is slicked back from his face, still wet from the bath. His stubble that he often hosts has been tamed with a fresh shave. He’s sitting up in the bed they have placed him in, sipping a steaming mug of tea. He’s far too pale to look fully well, but his eyes light up when he sees Arlet and he holds back a smile. “Don’t say it,” he tells her with a gravelly growl, “I know I fucked up.”

Arlet probably looks a lot less presentable than J’kson does, having not bothered to change or do anything such as comb her hair after bathing and oiling Malynth, signs of water and oil both in evidence in patches along her clothes. “I’m going to say it,” she tells him anyway, “because maybe the more you hear it, the less likely you’ll be to do it.” As she reaches his bedside, she knots her arms across her middle, perhaps to keep her hands from reaching to throttle him. “Even when I thought of doing something really stupid, I thought of Akanyth. He doesn’t deserve to suffer for what I feel or my choices. You could have killed Malnyth, let alone yourself. And if that queen he’s friends with turns up here, my mother is going to throw a fit.” She shakes her head a little. “You really //don’t// want to make her angry. She’s got a new baby in the nursery and she’s gone into some hyper-protective mode for all of us, not just him.”

J’kson holds the mug of tea against his chest, as if it could somehow block the words from landing where they need to. He shakes his head and lowers the mug, turning to set it on the small table beside his cot. “We were going to die there,” J’kson tells Arlet, his brows furrowed. “We were wasting away on the ground like runners. We had to go and practice rock-climbing at night when no one but the watch dragon could worry about us. Eosyth will–,” he shakes his head and tips his head back against the wall. “I’ll hear about it from her and Isolwyn. But we aren’t their concern anymore. She’ll have eggs, and they’re leaders, and… it would have been better to die,” he looks to Arlet, his blue eyes sharpened, “together than to continue to be made to feel less.” He inhales sharply and lets it out in a whoosh of sound. “Malynth wanted to do it. So do not judge me too harshly. I was drunk for a reason. I didn’t expect to make it.”

“Being a leader doesn’t mean you stop caring about people,” Arlet insists, only to duck her head and look away. “…Even if they think otherwise,” she says more quietly and not without a hint of bitterness. “Maybe you wouldn’t have felt like less if you’d taken your head out of the bottle for long enough to consider your options. There are things that you could have done for a Weyr, as a rider would, within that structure that you’ve never even considered.” Still there, the anger is enough that she steps back from the bed, unable to trust herself to handle it, so unaccustomed is she to the depth of what she feels. “And being drunk eliminated any possibility of you correcting the image if Malynth hadn’t been able to hold it steady himself. You hindered him. He wanted to do it and you didn’t help, you made it more difficult. It’s a miracle he managed to get here at all and land without injury.” Jaw set, she mutters, “…You’re here now. You’ll have it worse here than at a Weyr. You’ll have to be useful.”

J’kson closes his eyes as he listens to Arlet, avoiding eye contact in the easiest way he can. He doesn’t wince at any of her words – nor does he deny them. Exhaustion weighs at his features as he lets the truth settle. “I don’t think I’ll be able to quit it, Arlet. It’s not so simple.” He opens his eyes and looks to her, before lowering his gaze to the ground. “Useful,” he huffs a laugh, “I’ll likely be fired by M’tan and Jet will kill me. They don’t tolerate such theatrics as I’ve just pulled. It was… the only place I //knew// to go to, though. It’s not as if I’ve been taking free rides on other dragon’s since I’ve been at Fort.” He rubs at his forehead and reaches for his tea once more, trying to hide the nausea that begins to roll as he takes a sip of the tea. “How are you useful?” he asks with a genuine interest, no trace of accusation there. “What have they let you do that makes you feel so willing to stay?”

“They’re my family,” Arlet states through a glower. “They look after my son. They got me out of Fort. I can’t and won’t go back to a Weyr after what happened there, and the thought of going back to Honshu to watch the one I cared about parade around with her bluerider, thinking she knows everything, when me and my child’s parents are the ones who paid the price for that bluerider makes me sick.” She bites down on the inside of her lip, willing herself to silence before anything more can escape. “Akanyth likes to chase. I take him to Weyrs to do so, but that’s all I’ll visit for.” A shoulder twitches. “My mother is instructing me in combat. They must have some plans for me, so letting them turn me into whatever it is that they want will be how it is. At least it won’t leave me at a Weyr’s mercy; not if I can hurt them first from now on.”

J’kson’s reaction is to simply blink slowly and sip his tea in the face of Arlet’s glower. “It’s nice to have family,” is said with something hollow in J’kson’s gaze. “And the fact they are willing to look after your son is nice. But your son’s going to want you too when he’s older.” He rubs at his forehead again and lowers himself back against his pillow. “Combat,” he drawls, looking up at the ceiling, “seems to be a fitting trade.” He grows quiet and closes his eyes. He waits long enough to hint that he might’ve fallen asleep before he tells her, “I appreciate your concern for me, Arlet. But I don’t want to be another disappointment to add to your list. I’m not that goldrider,” he reminds her, keeping his eyes closed, “and I’m not interested in sleeping around.” He opens his eyes to look at her, “I know I’m a drunk. I know I disappoint you. I know I’ll hurt you. But, it matters..,” he sits up again, grunting as he moves to set the tea down once more. “That you came here for me. That you cared for Malynth. I know it isn’t because you were our Weyrleader. I’m hoping it’s because we’re… more than friends.” He holds out his hand to her. “You don’t need to hurt them first. That’s no way to live.”

“When I’m someone he can look up to and who can keep him safe, then he can have me too.” It’s a flat statement, made without any possible belief that anything else would be remotely right. Arlet eyes the hand held out to her, and, for a moment, does nothing but knot her arms more tightly, only, with a steadying breath, she manages to step back to beside J’kson’s bed and reach for his hand to hold. “…The Council insulted me and hurt me and encouraged behaviour that cost lives and nearly lost me my son,” she murmurs. “I can’t trust them or anyone to have the first strike anymore.” If she was apathetic before, now something burns and won’t relinquish its grip. “I’m not interested in sleeping around either, but Akanyth likes to chase. I like…” she hesitates, “…being physical. It makes things go away. If you can… tolerate my wanting that of you probably more often than another woman would, I can tolerate your drinking, provided you don’t deliberate endanger yourself.”

J’kson listens attentively with no expression on his face save the one he’s been prone to hold whenever he’s extremely hungover. The wrinkles and lines of his face are stark in the Infirmary’s lighting and the bloodshot quality of his eyes are hard to hide. Still, he holds firm to Arlet’s hand as she speaks, unwavering in the support he offers in that one physical action. “I will be at your side,” he tells her, “in whatever way you need.” He doesn’t smile right away, yet it tugs at the side of his mouth. “It’s rather alarming to consider your partner may want to have sex every moment of every day… what if you break me?” he squeezes her hand. “I’m confident that your mother and M’tan have plans for that Council. They’ve already made some moves against them. More will come. They will suffer for what they did to you.” He tugs gently on her hand. “Lay down with me?” he asks, “my neck is hurting from twisting to look at your beautiful face.”

“More alarming than knowing your partner might want a drink at every moment?” Arlet counters, arching a brow. She relents enough to concede, “Maybe not every moment,” of her own interests, yet she doesn’t go out of her way to make it sound terribly convincing. “I can try not to exhaust you too much.” The tug at her hand is answered by the shedding of boots and shifting of sheets enough that she can fold herself down next to J’kson, an action that doesn’t go without a long look from a distant Healer who may or may not have overheard their conversation. Whether or not she knows what trouble and interrogation being so close will draw their way, she chooses to not let it be a factor for now, curling up against him and laying her head down on his chest.

J’kson shifts around to make the proper amount of room for Arlet. Any remaining tension from the trial of the day evaporate once Arlet’s head rests on his chest. He bends his head down enough to kiss the top of her her head. “I wouldn’t have risked going anywhere else,” he tells her as he begins to comb his fingers through her hair. “I knew this was where we needed to be.” He lets silence fall between them as he calmly combs her hair, content with her against his side. He does not care what the Healer’s make of it – they will give their reports to M’tan as all people are expected to. He won’t remember how long he held Arlet and stroked her hair before sleep claimed him – he may not even remember all of what he did when he wakes up. It’s a contented man that falls asleep, holding tightly to Arlet. The Healers are wise enough not to wake them.

Later in the evening, M’tan slips into the Infirmary to look at the bluerider and his step-daughter sleeping in the cot together. His face is somber as he stands near the doorway, his arms folded in front of him. The night-duty Healer has a quiet conversation with him about the state of J’kson’s health. “He was that drunk,” she mutters to M’tan in the corner, “and if we let him sober up he’ll likely have a seizure. When he wakes, I’ll have to allow him a drink or two. This won’t be an easy recovery, if he is truly to get clean.” M’tan sighs and shakes his head, moving to pat the woman on the shoulder. “I should’ve known more of his troubles before I hired him. Do what you can for him, Judea. He is one of ours now.” He turns and leaves, moving down the hallway as he debates how much to disclose to Jet about the relationship between the blue and brownrider.

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