Sisters In Arms


Ahnika.jpg Olira.jpg

Date: Jan. 6, 2011
Location: Eastern Weyr: Kitchen and Weyrling Barracks
Synopsis: Time has gone by and Relly is six months pregnant. Ahnika finds her craving sweets in the kitchen and helps her out. The two sneak the food back into the weyrling barracks then and have a heart-to-heart that further solidifies their friendship.
Rating: PG
Logger: Jaya

Relly is pregnant. Six months from the time that it happened, she’s been in a boat of denial. It’s hard to do so when you’re going through all the symptoms that a pregnant woman does, and now that she’s been showing … Yeah. Fuck. She was pregnant. What was she going to do? More importantly, how was her crimelord cousin, Kelarad, going to take it?

She’s been hiding her pregnancy for the most part, although she was certain some of the weyrlings knew with her living in the barracks with them. Ahnika was the only one that knew for certain, and with her getting in the occasional meet with the mind healer, Evie, there was always the possibility that she knew, too. And so here she is, in the kitchen and craving for something very sweet. With her red hair braided down her back, Relly raids through the ovens not too long before the weyrlings’ curfew, deft fingers managing to scrounge up some greens and a meatroll. Not what she had in mind, but she wasn’t about to throw it away either. She keeps one hand over her budding belly as she hunts, the Tillekian transplant having now at least gotten used to the growing physical change enough for it not to be so much of a discomfort anymore.

Even if she wasn't able to ride Jhath yet, Ahnika's duties only seemed to increase exponentially since Jhath grew into her wings, so to speak, and most of it involving acquiring hand-me-down riding leathers and straps and learning how to work them and adjust them for Ahni, personally. Shortly before curfew, Ahnika decides a break in her work is in order, and the close and focused work she was doing was making her feel snack-hungry and thirsty. She assumes at this hour there might still be one or two people about in the kitchens, but is reasonably sure with the clearance Indira had given her long ago for pie-making, they'd not mind her poking around. So as Ahni approaches from one of the drudge hallways, hearing someone already moving about in there doesn't give her pause. It is only when she crosses the threshold that she pauses near the entrance, watching the other redhead a moment before smiling a little, "After dinner craving?" Ahni steps a little farther into the room, going to where they keep the juice and cups when not being served out in the Living Caverns. "Seren, my foster mum," the midwife Healer, "she used to talk about how all attention-consuming cravings could be, like nothing else would satisfy until you got what you wanted." No pun intended. "Sweet or sour?" The craving presumably.

It being the time of night where the kitchen isn’t fully empty from those looking to satisfy themselves on a snack, Relly doesn’t stop her rummaging when she feels more than sees Ahnika enter. It’s her question that gets her attention, however, the woman turning abruptly to look Ahnika’s way as if she hadn’t realized she was there. “Oh! Yes, something like that,” she answers, laughing a bit to herself as she straightens up and watches where the green weyrling goes. “I’ve been having the oddest appetite lately with-“ and she pauses, waving a circular pattern just ahead of her bulging belly. “So your foster ma’s right,” she continues on to say, sending a fond smile her way as she goes back to closing the current oven she was raiding. “I wonder how long this will last. I’m …despite having seen what all this-“ the pregnancy “- is about back home, still, to go through it yourself …” and she trails that off, straightening back up once the oven is closed and leaning a bit against the counter as if such a feat took up most of her energy. To answer to that last with a tentative grin, “Sweet. Very, very sweet,” she tells Ahnika, nodding towards the scraps she managed to get on her plate. “Some greens and a meatroll is not going to help me tonite.”

Careful to avoid getting in the way of any late evening kitchen workers still puttering around, Ahnika grins companionably as she pours two cups of juice and meanders over to hand one cup to Relly, and where someone else might offer some tidbit of midwifery knowledge having been brought up around such an environment, Ahni is rather careful not to. Leaving the Healer knowledge to the Healers? Perhaps. Or perhaps she just is thinking Relly might not want to hear any from her. Despite the circumstances of Relly’s pregnancy, Ahnika doesn’t seem uncomfortable around her, but then Ahni’s known for some time and suspected the possibility even before that, and the two have gotten to be friends on top of that since her arrival here. So, she’s definitely not uncomfortable and it shows. “You’re in luck,” Ahni says with a smile, and either handing off the juice cup to Relly or setting it on the counter next to her if her hands are full, Ahni leaves her own cup at the counter and then moves over to the small private cupboard Indira granted her, unlocks it, and retrieves a deep bowl covered with cheesecloth and tied off to keep it fresh. Tucking it in one arm, she returns to the counter and grins a bit impishly as she removes the lid to reveal a mixed stash of sweets ranging from left over sweetcakes from her last batch that morning to cookies. “Chow time.”

Taking one of the cups gratefully with a bobbing head of thanks, her eyes following Ahnika eagerly as she speaks and moves about the kitchen. “You know, I’ve really been hankering to make something in here sometime – something from Tillek, even,” Relly notes, moving close to catch the mixed stash of sweets with widening eyes. “Oooh, you wouldn’t mind?” she asks then, eyes lifting to meet Ahnika’s only briefly now that her craving pangs spike due to the eye candy. “If it’s meant for something, or someone, I don’t want to eat you out of the pantry.” Still she moves closer though, one hand still over her belly as she does so with her gaze fastened to the sweets revealed. It was great for her to have someone to be easy around herself, especially with the events she had gone through along with the current. Relly didn’t know what she would do otherwise, and as such, her mood has improved tremendously. For the most part, anyway. Being pregnant does bring on its own sort of moods. Taking a long sip from the cup and setting it back with Ahnika’s on the counter now that there was food to be had, “I trust your Jhath is well?” she asks after the green, it becoming natural for her now to speak of dragons as much as she does people in comparison to how she was when she first arrived at the Weyr.

“That so?” Ahnika grins a bit, “You should. I’d love to help. Learn a new recipe. Maybe bake a favorite batch of Tillekian cookies or pie or something for the next time we have a get-together up there.” She won’t drop names here, even if the few remaining kitchen staff who are puttering around appear not to be paying any attention, “No reason why folks can’t enjoy a snack while they conduct business, right?” Or give bad news. She sets the container down on the counter, and regarding whether or not she’d mind, “Not at all.” Ahnika takes the moment to sip her juice and gives a little wave of her free hand to the container for Relly to take her pick of cookies and cakes and turnovers and such. “It’s meant for me and the friends I want to share it with. Right now, that means you.” After swallowing her sip, she sets her cup down, “If you want we can be really bad and take it back to the barracks and get crumbs in the sheets.” She grins, then smiles a little more warmly, “Jhath’s very well, thank you, and sends her regards, too. She’s mulling over a new puzzle-riddle I gave her and that always has her content.” Then in more of a sotto voce (as if Jhath is right there and has the potential of overhearing) “She’ll probably stay focused and concentrating so hard she won’t realize she fell asleep until tomorrow morning.”

When Ahnika says that she would love to help her in cooking, Relly sends over a cheerful smile in response. She likes the idea of baking cookies…but then the get-together is mentioned and some of that cheerfulness ebbs. Blinking and looking away for a moment, she sets to picking out a couple of sweets from the bowl in the pause. Once she’s downed a turnover and a couple of cookies, “I don’t think…I can go back,” she voices her thoughts, eyes seeking Ahnika’s out as her fingers close around her cup of juice. There’s a slight frown as she says this, the words difficult – or rather, voicing her own feelings seem to come difficult for her. She takes a long sip before setting it back down, then adds, “I feel like he’s coming soon.” She doesn’t feel like she needs to elaborate on the ‘who’, assuming the weyrling to know. “He doesn’t know…about this.” He’s certainly going to get a surprise. But it’s short-lived when she harks back to the sweets and getting crumbs in the sheets. That gets her smile to lift back into place, and with a light giggle, “Actually, I could really go for being ‘bad’, right now,” she confides, leaning forward to pin Ahnika with a quite mischievous look. Wouldn’t that be something – a pregnant woman and a weyrling sneaking a bowl of sweets back into the barracks! Relly could go for the distraction. Her smile turns warm at the answer on Jhath, the Tillekian having grown rather fond of the dragon. At hearing the next, there’s a light frown as she gorges on a large cookie and asks with laughter in her alto, “What new puzzle-riddle? Is it meant to be solved?”

Resting her forearms on the counter as she leans forward, corralling her cup of juice within as her hands clasp together, Ahnika looks with frank earnestness as she murmurs in reply, “And I don’t think anyone should make you if you don’t want to go, Relly. And if it comes down to it, I can safely say me and Jhath won’t let it happen unless you change your mind.” Max, she suspects, won’t let it happen either, but she can’t speak for him and doesn’t try to. Well, at least not this time. “But it’d go a long way, I think, if you told them yourself you want to stay without being asked first. Otherwise, it will just look to them like we are keeping you here against your will, or we’ve coerced you into it, or whatever.” She lapsing silent, simply nodding in acknowledgement to Kelarad not knowing yet, assuming that had been the case since she was the one to break the news to Max and Max didn’t have to find out about it by Kelarad introducing Max to his boot by way of his arse. “Would it be easier for you to talk to him when he comes if me and Jhath are there with you?” Ahni has no way of knowing if this will be a meeting inside or outside of the Weyr, but in the case of the latter, she’ll do her best to pull whatever strings she can to get permission, if Relly wants her there for it. Then a mischievous grin of her own and she winks, “Then let’s be bad together,” and putting the cheesecloth cover back over the deep bowl as Relly grabs that large cookie, and securing it before moving back and relocking her private little cupboard Indira gave her, and then back for her juice in one hand and her other arm wrapping around the bowl to hold against her as they walk. Chuckling softly, “This one is answerable: ‘I pass before Rukbat, yet I cast no shadow. What am I?’” It’s actually one she’s used to occupy Jhath before, but one of the few good things about a dragon’s memory is Ahnika doesn’t have to find or come up with new riddles and puzzles and problems for Jhath to solve quite so much.

Leaning forward and trying to copy Ahnika’s forearmed pose on the counter with her cup, Relly shows a slight frown as she answers, “Of course! It’s not that I can’t stand up to my cousin, it’s just that –“ that Kelarad can be quite imposing when he wants to be? “I mean, once they find out that I’m, you know, like this? I think it’s best to stay down here, you know?” In all the months she’s been at the Weyr, learning and doing all the things she never got to learn or do up north, the Tillekian had grown to really like life down south. With her being pregnant with Vaputero’s child… “I think…I know that I can tell him if you’re there,” she says firmly, turning a wide gaze towards Ahnika. The thought of having to break the news to Tillek’s crimelord and Relly’s relative was enough to have her go into labor right there and then. “There’s a part of me that wants to go back, of course, but, since being here… since meeting you, and Jhath, and all sorts of people..” Yes. The Weyr was exciting compared to living in a Hold where Relly always felt she didn’t belong. When Ahnika announces for them to cause some mischief, much of her misgivings about her current and future station in life drop away with that brightening smile. She finds it hard keep back the giggle that escapes, turning with her drink and walking out close to the weyrling. She gives those she passes brief glances, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible beside Ahnika as they both put actions to words. The puzzle Ahnika comes up with for Jhath has Relly frowning as they trot along, the redheaded Tillekian trying to figure it out herself. Her eyes narrowing, “Cast no shadow?” she echoes the words slowly. “Hmmm…and you say that she can find the answer to this? They can reason like a harper?” They. Dragons.

“I think it’s best for you to do whatever the shells you want for your life and if that’s stay here or go back, well, fuck what anyone else might have to say about it,” Ahnika says with pure, raw feminism, and cue mental warble of agreement from “Jhath d’Arc” over that one, though Ahnika probably should have qualified it a little more with something like ‘as long as it’s legal’ or ‘as long as it doesn’t get you killed’ but she can be a little short-sighted about that sort of thing, especially when she’s being all ‘girl-power’ like. “Then I’ll be there for you,” Ahnika responds with a smile, reaching a hand to briefly try and grasp her arm or elbow in an encouraging and reassuring manner. She won’t dare try and grasp a hand, knowing that the pregnant woman is stuffing her face with sweets and Ahni’s fingers might potentially be at risk. “I’d miss you if you did want to go back,” Ahnika says to her saying there is a part of her that wants to, “but I’d understand, too. Sometimes I miss the old cothold where I grew up, myself. I look forward to being able to fly with Jhath and showing her where I grew up.” And Max, too, but she’ll leave that unsaid. The giggling is contagious as evidenced by Ahnika catching it, too, as they make their not-so-discreet exit. Now in the tunnels and heading for the barracks, Ahnika grins, “Some can reason better than others, but yes, they all can,” and then with no small amount of fondness for her green, “Jhath … she’s really clever. Though sometimes I have to give her hints. It depends on the riddle. This one she usually can get the very next time she takes to the sky.” That in itself is a hint, no doubt, and has probably started Jhath off into a new round of contemplation.

Those bursts of ‘girl power’- something that is highly lacking in all the Holds of Pern – has become a comfort to Relly. Where in the beginning she had used to blanche at such notions put forth by the green weyrling, now she looks hard-pressed to deny any of it. Walking along side Ahnika as she says it, the pregnant woman flashes an enigmatic smile at that and nods firmly. “You know what,” she says, moving as if to snag an arm around Ahnika’s own if it connects while they walk. “You’re right. Fuck them. Fuck him!” Well, it’s so easy to say that when they’re not present, right? For the moment, and for the last several months even, Ahnika has effectively empowered the holdless-turned-holdgirl from Tillek into someone that looked ready to take on all of Pern. She looks pleased when the other says she would go with her when she faces Kelarad over her growing matter, and further sentiments have her sending over genuine smile along with, “I would miss you too, if I left. I’d miss all of this!” Fingers close over a cookie in the bowl, adding, “I’ve been thinking, though. I could always visit there, right? I have friends there that I know are worried about me, being that it’s been months and I’ve haven’t had the time to send up a letter. I don’t want Miena and Daver to worry about me.” On the topic of flight, “How much longer before you can?” she asks on her and Jhath flying to her old cothold, and flying in general. Speaking of Jhath, “It’s really fascinating, these dragons,” she comments lightly, much more free in giving voice to her comments and opinions with the weyrling now that she was quite used to her company. “There’s so much I’ve heard back at the Hold that’s turned out to be totally untrue! There was this one/ man back at the Hold,” she confides with laughter in her voice, “that was convincing the lot of us that dragons and their hides would change color according to their moods. Can you believe that?” She snickers quietly, “He would tell us that the green dragons were really brown, and so on… no wonder some holdbred folks come here with their eyes as wide as plates!” Back to Jhath, she adds once the laughter dies down, “Something tells me she’ll figure it out before you know it. Let me know what answer she gives!”

Ahnika has the influence of Seren and Indira to thank for those moments of ‘girl power’. Otherwise, she’d probably be blanching right along with Relly. The arm with the deep bowl is snagged easily enough as they walk and Ahni smiles right back while Relly reaffirms her independence, “Sharding right! They’d be lost without us, you know.” They? Who’s they? Weren’t they just talking about Kelarad? “They need us more than we need them. I bet that’s why they try to control us so much, like the men who don’t let girls learn to read and such, or overpower us with brute strength, treating girls little better than herdbeasts for breeding without any say-so in our lives. It’s to hold us back. Hold us down. They can’t risk losing us. We’re their only true power.” And the weyrlings who are already back at the barracks and getting ready to turn in have to deal with an obnoxious and seemingly out-of-nowhere trumpet of emphasis from Jhath over at her couch. Laughing a little, Ahnika echoes the trumpet with a “Rar!” of her own in the tunnels just before they emerge into the late evening bowl traffic. With her hands full, she doesn’t partake in any sweets along the way, but she doesn’t object to Relly doing so. If anything, she moves the bowl a little closer to make it easier. “I can’t see any reason for you not to visit your friends up there. I mean, we should be sensible about it, you know, try to keep it from being known by too many people, especially …” Vaputero. Ahnika has no idea what a man like that will do if he finds out Relly is pregnant with his child. “But we can make arrangements to do it right and sensibly. And when Jhath and I are able to fly other people, we can go and visit them whenever you like.” There’s a thoughtful pause as Ahni considers Relly’s next question, “It’s hard to say. I mean, Jhath’s doing well flying on her own right now. I think she could even leave the Weyr if they allowed it. And they did tell us months ago to start working on our straps and leathers. I’m hoping they’ll allow us to try to ride them in the next few weeks, but Nara says they usually don’t until the dragons are about a turn old, and that’s not for another three months or so. Ahnika snorts a little at the unfounded rumors about dragons being passed around, “Jhath is ten times better than any broody brown. I’m not surprised, though. Those who control the information, control the people, and that includes misinformation.” Then she grins, spying Jhath now waiting for them outside the barracks, perhaps she was asked to leave if she was going to be so loud, “She’ll get it, yeah. She always does. What’s hard is keeping the answer firmly locked away in my head and trying not to think about it and giving it away. But that by itself is practice, too, for me. I can tell you after she’s gone to sleep if you want, though.”

Ahnika’s arm snagged, “I’ve met plenty of girls who like to be influenced and such,” Relly agrees fervently, snacking on a turnover as they walk. “You’re right, though. They would be lost without us! Some of them can be so downright absent-minded if we’re not there to do things for them. Did you know that Loriendovus was like that?” She speaks on the Telgari crimelord, mentioning him along with the rest easily since she used to work for him. “Wouldn’t even have his boots on if not for me! Are dragonriders just the same?” She’s visibly pleased when Ahnika notes it’s sensibly possible for her to visit back up there every now and then, though when the other takes that pause on trying to keep such visits from certain people, “Vaputero Ilste,” she states his full name, eyes seeking out the weyrling’s in that quiet pause. After a moment, “He’ll know eventually, you know,” she adds quietly, eyes looking on ahead of them. “About me. About this. He’ll want to see…” It was a difficult situation – one she’s been forcing herself to face from the moment she realized she was with child. It’s a sign that she’s come to face all of it with her being able to even voice his name. “He’s unpredictable,” she admits on him, speaking in a crisp tone that she’s heard the crimelord up in Telgar use. “Loriendovus would say so. I want to say that I know what he would want – what he would do about this…his child,” she corrects herself softly, “but he’s too unpredictable.” After a pause, going thoughtfully silent when Ahnika talks about when she and Jhath could fly, “Who’s Nara?” she picks up that unfamiliar name, sending a curious look her way. She then sends an amused grin her way on Jhath being better than any brown, “She could even stand up to a queen, the way she demands so much respect. If any of the holders back home had gotten a good gander at her…” Eyes fall on the green dragon as they near, the redhead giving her a little wave of the turnover she’s snacking on before talk of the puzzle has her nodding, “Please let me know, when she’s sleep? Do they do that often, though? Get inside your thoughts like that?” Eyes stare curiously on Jhath as she now voices the questions that have been assailing her since her living at the barracks. “Does that mean you can’t keep your secrets, Ahni?”

Ahnika nods a little to the first, lapsing quiet and contemplative as she muses over that one, not having really thought a whole lot about why some women let themselves be managed by men like that and seem to like it better. To this firecracker of a weyrling, it seems unfathomable, really, though she knows Relly is right. Those women do exist. Such contemplation fades, however, as Relly continues and Ahnika grins, “He was? You know, that reminds me of something Seren once said, ‘Behind every powerful man is an even greater woman.’” Though she’s obviously not putting that into context with her and Max as there’s nothing haughty in her expression. She’s probably blush if she thought it out further. And then she winks at Relly, laughing, “His feet probably would have fallen off by now without his boots!” Her mirth is short-lived, however with talk of Vaput and his finding out. There was a time when she would deny the truth, suggest running, going to ground, pulling out all stops imaginable to prevent him from finding out and firmly believing it could be kept from him forever, but in the end she sees Relly’s point. She knows it’s only a matter of time. The trick is controlling when and how he finds out. With the way her hands are full, she can’t exactly give Relly a hug, but she does pull her arm in a little in a gesture of a squeeze around the arm Relly has clasped about hers. “I know,” she says softly, “but you’re among strong friends here. Him being unpredictable or not, we won’t let anything happen to you or the baby. You’re practically another sister-in-arms to Jhath and me. We’ll all work it out together.” Girl Power. Then Ahnika grins, “Nara is another greenrider. She’s older though. She’s lived with her green a long time and has the greatest advice about things. Well, most of the time.” When it’s not about sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, so to speak. Nara is a party girl. Then she chuckles, “Even Jhath says she’d never stand up to a queen, but I think that’s because she sees them differently than the other dragons, those she would stand up to if there was just cause.” That being that queens are born with majesty, as if by divine favor, not science, and are therefore due more reverence. “But yeah …” Ahnika says, looking at her tall and stocky green on their approach, “very little seems to cow her, I agree. My dignified, militant, brave girl.” All said with utmost fondness and earnestness. Jhath bugles in greeting as Relly waves, a bugle that bounces around the bowl a few times in echo. Ahni, and probably most of the weyrlings, are used to that obnoxious, over-the-top physical voice of hers by now. The redheaded weyrling looks to consider Relly’s last questions, “I think so. Jhath does sometimes, though not all the time, and I’ve heard other weyrlings say as much. Though I think it sort of depends on the dragon and the rider as to by how far. I can keep things from her. It’s just harder when she’s awake. I have had to sort of focus more, kind of like …” Ahnika searches, “kind of like curtaining off a part of a room, knowing what’s on the other side, but not letting your company see it.” She steps through the large, dragon-sized opening to the barracks and Jhath falls into step with the pair of redheads.

“I believe that!” Relly pipes up on the motto, a little skip in her step on this topic. “My ma would say the same thing, you know? She would say that’s how the Lord Holders function even remotely so well. If their Lady Holder doesn’t amount to much…” then neither did the Lord Holder? “I don’t know about crimelords, though,” she goes on to add, frowning a bit in response to Lorien. “Though if it wasn’t for me, he would have lost all his boots! Part of me wants to check up on him, just to make sure he’s getting on alright.” She smiles when Ahnika squeezes her arm, and those encouraging words on Vaputero warms that smile further. Yes, she is reassured of the friends she has here. It’s evident in the fact that she subsides easily to the point, nodding her head a few times and easily putting forth, “I think I like being a sister-in-arms to you and Jhath,” with amusement in her tone. “And I can see Jhath respecting the queens so. It still amazes me how big they are up close! Even the ones in the barracks!” Jhath’s answering bugle to her wave delights her, the laughter light and airy now that they’ve arrived to their destination uncaught. “I used to have this silly notion that one day a dragonrider would come and sweep me off my feet to a Weyr, and from there, I would Impress to some gorgeous dragon,” she confides as she looks the green over, her hands now free of sweets for the moment. Stepping towards Jhath with her hand outreached to give her headknobs a rub, “But that’s what most holders dream of, right? Kelarad used to be so annoyed that I would even bother with such dreams, with him seeing dragonriders as nuisances.” Eyes falling on the barrack contents as they enter, “I do wonder though,” she adds, sending a glance towards Ahnika. “What would become of me once I have this baby? Will I still be able to stay here?” Because she could just imagine the baby crying every which time and W’red clawing himself up the wall in frustration of it. Now being inside, she lets Ahnika and her green lead to where they can stash their bounty and she could eat to her heart’s content, exchanging smiles with a few of the weyrlings present that she likes to talk to on occasion.

Nodding in agreement to Relly and her mother’s commentary about men needing women more than the other way around, Ahnika smiles, but it’s tinged with a depth of consideration in her grey eyes as she thinking about Lord and Lady Tillek and how that dynamic came about and what it might mean for the rest of those holders under their responsibility when … things come to a head. “Well,” Ahnika says finally, still smiling and dismissing the more worrisome thoughts, “If you really want to check up on him, I’m sure something could be arranged, either by way of letter or a person or yourself. It’s just a matter of which resources to apply,” says the would-be junior headwoman. The smile turns fonder still as the other young woman speaks of liking being a sister-in-arms to Jhath and Ahni, and then grins brightly, adding, “Being swept away for romance and Impression isn’t silly and certainly nothing for him to get annoyed with. Dismissing what any woman values is a man’s first mistake.” Jhath dips her head a little into the headknob rubbing, a deeply contented rumble coming from the green’s chest. Then Ahni giggles a little, adding, “We should make up a list of rules of do’s and don’ts for men to follow. You know, for when they don’t have a woman to keep them in line and from getting lost for them. We could send it to the Harper Hall to be made into a teaching ballad for all boys.” This is stated as she passes one of the male weyrlings who rolls his eyes at them, but Ahni continues, “Rule Number One: don’t dismiss our values, especially our dreams.” She turns down the row of cots and couches and stops in front of her own made bed, sinking down onto it and putting the deep bowl of sweets down next to her, leaving plenty of room for Relly. Jhath moves on to settle onto her oversized couch, but she looks quite interested in the conversation. Contemplating with a sip of her juice, Ahni responds to Relly’s next, “I … don’t know, honestly. The baby will need you for the first three months, so maybe Indira can arrange a private room for you that’s safe and even with a guard nearby. After that, the baby can be looked after by the nannies in the Lower Cavern, like the others, and you’ll be free to see her whenever you like, but not tied down by her,” all this feminist talk apparently has Ahnika already thinking the baby will be a girl. “You’re young enough, I think, too, that I bet you could even still be a candidate after the baby’s been born and turned over to the nannies. We can talk to Indira about it, perhaps.” We, not Ahni alone nor Relly alone. They were a team.

Relly considers Ahnika’s words on how to check up on the crimelord, “Perhaps a letter,” she chooses, seeing that as more plausible than any visit anytime soon. That topic’s short-lived though for the more interesting one – making a list of do’s and don’ts for men to follow. Eyes more bright at the notion as she gives Jhath’s headknobs a final pat before moving away, “He just doesn’t want me to become the ‘enemy’, by his words,” she explains in high amusement in regards to Impression. “He’s not fond of romance either. I mean there’s Crawl-“ she stops, a blush forming at dropping a name she hasn’t uttered since being there. Eyes dropping away along with her hand from the sweets bowl, “Crawl,” she says low, again. “He’s Rad’s second. I… don’t think he approves of him and I …” but that’s short-lived, too in the light of making rules for men to live by. She lets that momentarily fade from her mind as she settles down on Ahnika’s cot, reaching for the sweets in the bowl with amusement back in her voice. “How about Rule Number Two: Do allow us to have an opinion, even if you think we don’t know what we’re talking about,” she puts in with a wink, biting into a sweetcake. “Or Rule Number Three? Don’t treat us as if we’re invalids, especially when you know that we can handle ourselves better than most hold boys looking to venture out on their own!” She’s near-draining her cup when Ahnika answers about her future with her baby in the barracks, a thoughtful expression stealing over her at the words. She nods to that, “That sounds right,” she says, internally grateful to have someone like Ahnika around to be able to ask such questions to. As much as she was adapting to the life of the Weyr, she still wasn’t fully trusting of the general Weyr public. When she mentions being a candidate, “Do you think so?” she brightens at this thought, the possibility of one of her holdbred dreams appearing before her. “Indira, right! She’s the Headwoman, correct? Yes, we should do that soon…”

Ahnika’s only response to Relly talking of Kelarad afraid of her Impressing and becoming his ‘enemy’ in his words, is to snort derisively, “Seems to me the fastest way to make anyone their enemy is to try and force them into a little box and not let them be free to be themselves.” But she won’t go so far as to call Kelarad a bad name. This is his cousin, after all. Blood is thicker than water in most cases. She smiles at the blush and the mention of Crawl, but there is no teasing that comes from Ahnika over it. “What if Crawl left Rad to come be with you? Make a life with you here? Would you want that?” Not being born in the crime syndicate world, Ahnika really is a bit naive with just how challenging leaving a renegade crime lord’s employ is, even without the bad blood exit scenario that she had. She laughs at rules two and three, “Exactly!” reaching into the bowl for a cookie of her own, “Rule Number Four, knees aren’t just for dandying us on. They need to get down on them in front of us, too.” Beat pause and then more giggling, “First for begging and then for scrubbing the floor for us.” Just how much have these girls had to drink? Oh wait, they haven’t had anything to drink. To the notion of Relly still possibly having a shot at candidacy, Ahnika nods, “Well, I should think so. They don’t allow pregnant girls to Stand because of the potential jealousy problems between the dragonet and the baby, but I’ve never heard of them not allowing a young woman who’s had a baby already Stand. I mean, we have nannies and foster parents here. And it’s not like you’d be far away or anything. We could ask W’red if you want, or even Alara or Randi. Randi and Alara would have the final say, of course.” W’red’s just a little easier to get an audience with. He’s right there in the barracks. Ahni finishes chewing that bite of cookie and tilts her head a little, “You think you might still like to? Be a candidate that is?” Ahnika was Searched, so she’s not really sure what the protocol is on volunteer candidates.

“Well, according to the rest of Pern, he is the ‘bad guy’, isn’t he?” Relly notes on Kelarad with such sly amusement in her demeanor, winking. “Which is why I find Max so curious. Living in the Weyr, and running the southern lands?” Brow lifts lightly at that. As on Crawl, that blush lingers as she settles back on the bed and lets out her breath gustily. Eyes rolling to the ceiling, “I would love that of course,” she answers the questions, bringing her gaze back on Ahnika, “but he wouldn’t dare leave Rad! His second, leaving him for his cousin?” She shakes her head at that. “There would be no place we could hide, Ahni. The only way something like that is happening is if Rad says it could.” And getting him to agree would be difficult, but she doesn’t voice that. Such worries only linger briefly in the face of rules for men, and the Tillekian laughs out loud as she reaches for another cookie. “Good luck getting them to do that,” she says on rule four, leaning forward with a single nod. “They’ll get on their knees to kiss us, but other than that…” Nope, these girls have had nothing to drink, but perhaps they don’t need to in the light of that bowl of sweets. As to candidacy, that’s a whole major subject on its own. Relly considers the other’s words on the matter, nodding once to the fact that pregnant girls couldn’t stand. That did make sense. Head tilting slightly as she considers around munching on a cookie, “I …think I would like to have a go, at least,” she answers on putting herself up for volunteer candidacy. “Such a thing I should run by Rad though, but…” she pauses as if hesitating, but then her jaw tightens and with firm resolve she looks Ahnika in the eye and adds, “…you know what? Screw that! This is my life, right? He has no say over it if I’m here!” Girl power – Kelarad better look out!

“Max is nothing if not … unconventional,” which is a little like the pot calling the kettle black for Ahni, but she doesn’t mean it as an insult. She has always sort of sided with the Progressives, so unconventional is just fine by her. Ahni picks out a fruit-filled turnover next and says of Crawl, “That’s got to be frustrating for you both. Not likely something could be worked out to make everyone happy?” Then she grins a bit of a knowing grin to what men might do on their knees, but foregoes any response to it for fear of being overheard by one of the other weyrlings and they make assumptions that shouldn’t be made. She uses that time to enjoy that turnover, instead, listening as Relly continues on about candidacy. She grins as Relly reasserts her independence again, “Sharding right!” and her free hand pumps in the air for emphasis, “It’s your life, not his! And with an attitude like that, you’ll make a fine dragonrider.” She finishes off the turnover with a nod. “I can picture you Impressing now out there on the Hatching Sands,” the redheaded weyrling muses aloud, looking with a bit of nostalgia over at Jhath where she is settled in something of a meatloaf position on her couch.

“Unconventional,” Relly repeats that with some amusement, regarding Ahnika with interest. While she hasn’t flat out asked her yet, she knew there was something going on between the weyrling and the beast manager. On Crawl there’s a pause as she considers what’s left in the bowl then, lips twisting a bit as she answers, “I want something to be worked out, but..” and she sighs a bit, eyes lifting to meet Ahnika’s own, “…it’s not something I don’t think could be brought up right now with the pregnancy and everything. There’s….a way to handle Kelarad,” she admits on her cousin a bit awkwardly. “He’s not that easy to make a deal with. It’s even worse with family. Getting him over this preganancy’s going to take some finesse.” Finesse that she might have, but would need help, apparently. But, her firm resolve returning to the fore, “I’m sure something eventually could be worked out. Just going to take time and patience.” She beams more when Ahnika mentions her making a good dragonrider, such words reassuring enough that she laughs aloud as she picks out a sweetcake. In awe, her eyes falling on Jhath, “What’s it like?” she asks then, glancing at Ahnika. “You know…Impressing? Being out there on the sands? Is it really as hot as I’ve heard? Do the little dragons really attack you?” Yeah, she’s heard some stories, and she’s sure many of them are far-fetched back at the Hold.

“He won me over with a runner shoe,” Ahnika says of Max with a nod, pauses, and then says again, “Unconventional.” Well, that’s probably summarizing their tumultuous start a bit too unfairly, but it’s technically true. Then Ahni nods again over the delicate matter of Crawl and Kelarad and the baby, “What can me and Max do to help? When should we set up the meeting for you?” As soon as possible, Max would probably say, but Ahnika isn’t about to twist Relly’s arm into doing something before she is comfortable and ready to do it. She grins a little over the questions on Impressing, her eyes settling on Jhath once again, “Word’s can’t describe it, really. It’s like … finally coming home, to where you belong, in your heart …” her voice trails off as she searches for words to really do it justice, but seems to come up short and just shakes her head a little, smiling, before saying, “No, they don’t attack you … well, I’ve only seen the two Hatchings, but everyone I spoke to who have been to more say they’re pretty much just like the ones I saw. And no one got hurt in those. They might nudge or bump into you by accident. They just hatched, so their balance isn’t always the greatest. Or maybe the one they choose is behind you so they’ll nudge past your legs, but they don’t maul you to get to them like the stories say they do.” Beat pause, “It is really hot though. If you’ve got tender feet, might want to go barefoot a little more often to try and toughen them up before the Hatching. Fortunately, you’re not out there on the hot sand too long.” Then Ahni smiles and offers encouragingly, “I bet, if they let you Stand after the baby is born, you’ll be the first one to Impress.” She doesn’t – like so many others might – bet what color it would be. Ahni considers it bad form, since it suggests one color is better than the other and Jhath has proven to her that short of a queen’s biologically-supported and recognized authority over the rest, the color of a dragon’s hide makes no difference.

Relly lifts an interested brow, the sweets forgotten momentarily. “Just a runner shoe?” she echoes, leaning forward towards Ahnika a bit. “Must have been some runner shoe! But, how…” and she pauses before going on, “…how is he handling you….being here?” When Ahnika offers herself and Max to help in her matter though, there’s a pause as she thinks on it, the slight frown in place. “He’s supposed to be coming soon,” she admits, glancing at her with a light shrug. “To check up on me, you know? So I imagine, him getting here and seeing me like this? Is going to be a big thing. Crawl and I…can wait.” Yeah. Kelarad seeing his cousin pregnant, or with baby in tow depending on when he gets there, was going to be news enough. As much as she was starting out her journey of independence, the woman from the lands still had a healthy fear of her crimelord cousin – with good reason. She was willing to set that topic aside, however, for the lighter one of candidacy – which was another factor that Kelarad was not going to like should she stand. Listening through Ahnika’s more accurate-sounding account of the experience, “I bet they’re a sight up close like that,” she wonders aloud, the smile given in slight awe. “The eggs, too. I’ve always heard that the queen mother would eat you if you get close to them though.” Yeah. Holds and their crazy stories. No wonder some holdbred folks come to the Weyr with either awestruck or downright fear. She tries to suppress a yawn then, the work of the day starting to wear her down now that all the sweets have sated her craving, but when Ahnika mentions that she would be the first to Impress should she stand, there’s a sleepy smile for her dear friend and a warm, “Even if I didn’t Impress, I would still consider the whole experience extraordinary. To be a part of something that few get to ever see in their lives. You’re so sweet, Ahni, for believing in me. I thank you for it.” She’ll lean over and offer the weyrling a hug though not as tight with a belly in the way if it succeeds.

Smiling in fond remembrance, Ahnika nods, “It was,” a very special shoe, and the weyrling eyes the trunk at the end of her cot a moment where it rests within alongside her other few treasured things, before looking back at Relly and nodding, “The first three or four months were the roughest. We nearly split up, truth be told,” a couple of times, “but it’s easier now. Jhath and Max are actually getting along a lot better than they used to.” A single trill of a trumpet comes from Jhath in response to that, a respectable sound. Ahni grins at her, nodding, and then nods once more to Relly, “Well, you know you have me and Jhath at your back, whether for Rad and your circumstances or for Rad and yours and Crawl’s desires to be together. I firmly believe that if two people wish to be together, nothing can really keep them apart forever. You deserve to be happy, Relly, and if Crawl is the man for you, well, I’ll do whatever’s in my power to help you, whenever it’s the right time for you to something about it.” She grins a bit a nods again, “They are,” of hatchlings being a sight to see, “all different shapes, colors, and sizes. Jhath is tall for a green. You should have seen her as a hatchling. She was tall enough even then to put her head on my shoulder.” And with Ahni being as leggy as she is, that’s worth mentioning, “They’re all magnificent in their own way from the moment they crack shell.” With a nod she adds, “I don’t think the queen would actually eat you, but it’s best not to get too close without her permission, which she does give on occasion. All the candidates are allowed to touch the eggs, but it’s an organized and scheduled affair. Touching them outside of that is not allowed.” Returning the hug gently, Ahni smiles, “Think not a jot on’t. You’re easy to believe in. You’ve got spine without being an obnoxious runner’s arse about it,” beat pause, “like a man would be.” She grins and winks as she pulls away, “Everything will work out in the long run, Relly. I’m sure of it. In the meantime, don’t let me keep you up if you’re getting tired.” Jhath croons to the pregnant redhead in fond farewell from her couch.

Smiling more a touch, her eyes going where Ahnika’s does, “It was tough because of….” And Relly nods toward Jhath, that getting her to thinking. “Is it true that only dragonriders should be together then?” But then, Ahnika and Max are getting along… As for Crawl, “I don’t even know if he’s right for me,” she’ll admit that, shaking her head bit with a frown. “We haven’t talked for long, and with our situations being what they are… well, I suppose I’ll know what it is when I see him again. If I see him again.” Maybe, without her realizing it yet, it was her way of keeping her options open. Talk of hatchlings puts light into her otherwise tired eyes, her gaze alternating between her and Jhath as if both of them were talking to her at once. “I wish I had been there,” she voices wistfully on attending Ahnika’s hatching, rocking back on her knees as she settles her hands into her lap. “To see it all! But maybe, next time…” Next time here. There’s hope in her voice as she says it, but through the embrace and Ahnika’s encouraging words, there’s light laughter and a wry, “You’re the one with spine, Ahni. I’ve never met another woman with such a strong mind. Being where I’m from…well, you’re definitely a rarity there.” Leaning forward with a wink, “I’m looking forward to being strong like that,” she confides before releasing her, tacking on, “And I believe you. One day at a time, right?” And this time, she was getting tired. Hands stretch above her head then, letting out a small yawn before she reaches to pat Ahnika fondly on the leg as she gets off the cot. “Thanks so much for the sweets,” Relly says then, sending Jhath a nod for the croon. “I think we should do this again, and soon. Have a little excitement in our lives, hmm?” She sends the other a mischievous wink as she prepare to depart for the night.

Ahnika doesn’t even hesitate to snort, though the derision is meant for anyone who’d state as much and not Relly herself. But it’s a little bit of overly emphasized, almost like she’s dismissing it in an effort to convince herself, or at least not let such seeds of doubt take root. A flash of fear in her grey eyes and then it is gone as she shakes her head, “Not at all. It’s just a matter of the dragonet needing some time just with you at first. If two people love each other enough, they can work through anything that comes up, even when one’s a rider and the other not.” They can do this. Ahni has to believe in it. It may not always be easy, but nothing worth having was ever easy. She smiles then to Relly wishing she had been there to see it, and sensing their little sweet-gather on her cot was coming to an end, Ahni leans over to set the bowl down on the flat top of her footlocker trunk, leaving whatever is left over as easy pickings for the other weyrlings as they go by, all the better for her to have an empty bowl to put a fresh batch of baked goods in tomorrow, perhaps. “Next time, for sure. One of the queens is due to rise any time now, so, in another few months, we’ll be welcoming many new faces to Pern,” the last is said with another look at Relly’s stomach and a warm smile. Then she nods, “One day at a time, yes. And you’re welcome, but I love to bake,” and make the occasional stew, but mostly she’s got a preference for baked goods, “so you give me a good excuse to make time in the kitchens. I’ll bake some more and we’ll get crumbs in the sheets again soon. Promise.” Then she grins and gives a little wave to Relly’s wink, “Night. Sleep well, Relly. I’ll see you in the morning.”

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