It's a week after the Hatching and the heavy rain that has been soaking the Fort Weyr area has passed. A cold front pushing overhead behind it has dumped four inches of rapidly-melting hail on top of the mud but for now the skies are done weeping. The noontime air is chilly for autumn, the bowl is a sloppy mess which seems to delight the rooting bronze hatchling now end. Zapallie and D'ani are standing in the muck talking. The weyrling is chuckling and shaking his head. "You two sort of bounced headfirst off each other. Harmony's alright. And she has no problem making her wishes known. That said, I'd go crazy with her blue in my head. Just sayin'."

A week after the Hatching, and during that week, Borodin has been rather scarce. His things were moved out of the candidate barracks the next morning, at least… but even at things like meals (and the kitchens beforehand), he's been a difficult fellow to find. There was this one rumor - someone saw him join up with a pair of middle-aged people after the Hatching (or they joined up with him, maybe?) and the man of that pair and Borodin were spotted soon after departing the weyr. One way or the other, nobody can actually remember Borodin turning up for the lunch turned Hatching Feast. In the intervening days… well, of course the rain could have had something to do with it. Or the hail… but, no, the day with the hail is apparently the one he decides to actually show up on. Here he comes now, shoulders hunched together and hands in his pockets.

"And that's exactly why you didn't Impress him," says Zapallie easily. "And I did not /bounce/ off Harmony. I kicked her back to the rubbish bin." Always pleasant, she is! A movement catches her attention, and she lowers her umbrella, but not far enough that the edge of it can drag in the icy mud. "Borodin?" she says brightly, recognizing that figure.

"Is that how it works?" asks D'ani whimsically of impressions. Who knew? He just gives Zapallie a knowing look for her countering parry, but doesn't comment. Instead he smirks, obviously thankful that he's not watching bouncing off of and kicking back between the pair of them on a daily basis. Dremkoth, meanwhile, his patter-splashing further a-field until… he finds something! He's splishing back to them, circling Borodin twice on his way with a curious head tilt to eye him, multi-colored…things sticking out of his closed mouth make the rumble of hello sound more like a snort before he trots off. He reaches D'ani and Zapallie but a few steps ahead of Borodin, blows the things out of his mouth so that they flutter down all around them. "Those? Oh they're leaves. They fell off the trees." It's going to be a long explanation, most likely involving sap and the weather, so he'll do that silently. "Hi Borodin," he greets. Has the cook been gone? He didn't have time to even take note.

What? He's been spotted? Noooo! Borodin cringes for a moment at the sound of his name, shoulders hunching further as he looks around and… oh. The relaxation is obvious as his gaze falls on Zapallie, as is the smile across his face. D'ani does not get that particular smile, but he does get a glance and a nod. Borodin turns and hurries towards the others, only to find himself discovered! "Uhm," Borodin says on Dremkoth's first pass, his steps slowing. On the second pass around, he manages a "Hullo," to the dragon, then follows the bronze the final distance, pulling his hands out of his pockets as he gets near. Hey, look, other humans! "Hey. Uhm, congratulations, Eda- D'ani." He smiles, then looks over to Zapallie again… not that he says anything, he just looks like he's thinking about it reaaaaal hard.

"Yes," replies Weyr-born Zapallie with a shrug. "Maybe a dragon wouldn't want /you/ in its head either. Compatability is everything. Which is…obviously why my very boring and strict mother got stuck with a silly, pink-loving idiot." Seems legit. She's got eyes for Borodin though, sorry D'ani. At first when he gets more slumpy she looks worried, but then he perks right up and it's all relief! "Hi," she says, maybe a bit awkwardly, when he finally joins him. "You haven't been around lately…" Which actually means: You aren't avoiding me, are you?

D'ani seems a touch preoccupied. Having two conversations, one outside and one inside of his head, will do that. But he does acknowledge what Zapallie is saying with a glazed-eyed sort of nod. "Thanks!" he says to Borodin sincerely. The smile tugging on his mouth is rueful, both sympathetic for the other once-candidate for not impressing and for the so-obvious awkward between Borodin and Zapallie. It's not hard to read the smiles and eyeing between the pair and interpret them correctly but he doesn't tease the shy teen about his choice in a girlfriend. Besides, Zapallie would probably punch him. "Uh, right. I'll just… let you two catch up. Hang in there Borodin. Seeya later Zapallie." His little bronze meanwhile, has risen and is dancing in place, nudging at D'ani's thigh. "Dremkoth has it in his head that we ought to make toilets for the hatchings and won't go anywhere but IN his couch until we say we will." Sigh. So much for rider's lives being glamorous! Off he trudges through the mud - to shovel that couch and then wash his dragonet. Again.

"No," says Borodin in answer to Zapallie, and he looks down to the mud at his feet. Which level of meaning is that answering, again? "I… my parents came for the hatching." He frowns at that mud. He is so very displeased with that there mud, apparently. He continues to stare at it right up until D'ani makes it obvious that it's obvious that the two of them are- "Oh." …and then there's that snippet about Dremkoth's choices. "Oh." Did you know that 'Oh' and 'Eww' have a very similar vowel? Borodin's pronunciation makes that quite clear. "Uhm. I'll… uh, good luck." Don't ask him to figure out with what exactly, but the tone is nevertheless sincere, and Borodin waves and watches bronze and rider depart before turning his gaze slowly back to Zapallie.

Zapallie looks back at D'ani finally and a hint of a frown graces her mouth. "Good bye, D'ani," she says when he's taking off for a potty break. "I hope he grows out of that," she muses. "It's going to be a very long Turn otherwise." Now her attention refocuses on the cook. She notices the awkwardness and very slowly her posture changes. "Borodin?" she says his name as a question, full of uncertainty. "They're not making you go home, are they?"

Borodin lets out a slow sigh. "They want to," he says. "Really, they want Abbey back but it's not like they can get to her." He tilts his head slightly to where D'ani and dragon just went, then gives it a shake. "I'm not going. I don't care what they do, I don't want to go back there." He frowns. "I don't know what they're going to do. I just… snuck off, today. But it doesn't matter. They can't make me."

Zapallie snorts and rolls her eyes up, "I'd love to see where they'd put Niumdreoth." But still, she presses her lips together and nods. "You're right. They can't. Besides… you're coming with me. Aren't you?"

There's a flicker of a smile as Borodin considers on where a brown dragon could fit inside the tunnels of the Hold, but then it fades off into a sigh. "Yeah. Well." He shakes his head slowly, then pauses it as Zapallie asks her question. "You're…" Right, all those things and all those reasons and… the expression like he's been hit over the head only lasts a couple moments, and then he smiles. "Yeah. But… there's time yet before Larabelle's ready… right?"

Zapallie looks around for a moment — old habits — and then offers her hand. "Good. You had me worried for a minute. I thought you might be breaking up with me." And for a moment she's silent. "Ready to ride, yah," she agrees. "She can be driven though…anywhere I want."

Borodin reaches out to take that hand, curling his fingers around hers. "Oh. No, I…" He shakes his head, then smiles. "I don't want that. I mean, uhm, we've…" He trails off into a blush. "We. We should… talk about that." About his blush? "Where we should go." Awww. "And… I should… talk to Abbey. To… congratulate her." He's frowning for that part, his gaze sinking down toward his feet.

Zapallie might actually be catching on now… because while she's ecstatic that she'll be leaving with two of her favorite people (okay, two of her favorite cows? Um. No, not that either…) in tow… it occurs to her that he might be a little disappointed. Still holding his hand she turns to face him, reaching her free hand up to touch his cheek lightly. "Are you disappointed you didn't Impress?"

Borodin's eyes stop in their trip downward as Zap's hand touches his cheek. For a moment, they
try to look at the hand, but that's not so effective, and his gaze soon moves on to look at her face. "Well," he says, and takes in a deep breath. His gaze goes out past her shoulder, avoiding her eyes as he speaks in excessively calm tones. "It makes sense. I should have expected it, really."

Zapallie gives him a pinched look. "It doesn't make /sense/. None of it makes any sense, Borodin. But there were 10 eggs, and far more Candidates than that. Somebody had to go home. Do I need to get /you/ drunk, too?" She chews her lower lip. "I thought you'd be happy..or relieved.. or…" she trails off and then says quietly, "Well. I am."

"But I'm not going home," Borodin just has to point out, his eyes flitting back to hers briefly. "I know. I just-" Wait, what was that back there? "…too? You got someone drunk?" he asks, blinking. Hey, at least it's a distraction… even if it doesn't last for long. "You…" He trails off, regarding Zapallie now with a thoughtful expression. He nibbles on his lip for a moment; watching her, thinking, putting together some words ever-so-carefully. Here they are. "I'm happy I've got you." He leans in with a kiss for her cheek.

Zapallie nods her head in total agreement. "You're not going home. And I wouldn't let you anyway… Actually, I would, but I'd go with you, and we could get married like proper holders and have fat little babies and teach them to ride cows…" Okay, just a tangent. She clears her throat and gets a bit pink on the cheeks. "Er, yah. Kazulen. He was a bit down, and he was in the infirmary because he, ah, burned some..sensitive parts of himself, apparently… Anyway! We celebrated, you know, or at least I tried to keep him from wallowing in misery. Totally philanthropic." She smiles at the cheek-kiss and says, "I'm glad I have you, too. You've made staying here bearable."

Fat little holder babies riding cows. That. Right there. That is the face Borodin makes when his brain breaks. Now you know. As it takes some time for a brain to repair itself, he simply nods along dumbly to the explanation of how Kazulen was made to drink and all that. Makes total sense. … "You, uhm. You don't seem the… holder-baby type." Things he successfully did not say: the marrying type. But, yeah, his mind is kind of stuck on that now.

"I'm not," replies Zap cheerfully. "But if it was what you wanted… living at a hold and being…holderish. I'd do it." Really, she's more of the wandering type, but wandering with a partner is definitely the preference there. "Which brings us too… what /do/ you want. Or where do you want to go, anyway. Sky's the limit. Literally."

"Oh," says Borodin. He smiles, as he reverses the mental whiplash, then shakes his head. "I don't want to live at a hold. I spent eighteen years at a hold. All I ever got was… well. I don't want to be a holder, anyhow." Right, there's the easy part handled. Now then, time for the harder one. Borodin takes a step back, looking up at the sky for a long moment. "I suppose it is. Unless we pay for a dragon ride… but I don't think Larabelle would like that. Oceans, too… but cows and boats are okay together." None of this answers the question. Also, after saying it, he goes silent, and a moment into that silence, he bites his lip in thought. This is definitely the harder part.

"Pay?" Zapallie actually sounds insulted. "What's the good of being related to half of Pern if you have to /pay/ for a dragonride? But no, I suspect Larabelle would not be too keen on meeting Adinaeth. Or Dhonzayth or…any other dragons I might be related by Impression to." While Borodin is thinking, the rain starts to drizzle again. Quietly she moves forward, holding her umbrella up over them both. "Go for a walk? Talk it over? Not talk it over at all? Got nobody to answer to, you know. Can hold your hand and kiss you and not care who sees, walk down dark tunnels, climb trees, not have to get in bed or get out of bed when you're told to. Nice, isn't it?"

Borodin blinks. How else but paying - wait. Relations? Yeah, how about that. "Oh. Well. Probably not. …or… or Abbey's dragon, either." He steps closer, underneath the umbrella as the rain starts down again. "Yeah. Anything at all." His fingers squeeze gently as he looks out across the bowl. So this is the taste of freedom. How novel! "Maybe we'll go-" He's interrupted by a gust of wind that spatters the rain sideways and splashes despite the umbrella. "…inside." So he says, but he doesn't actually start moving. The problem with inside is that if his parents are looking for him - and they probably are - that's one of the first places they'll go to search. "Or we could go see Larabelle."

Zapallie gets a mischevious glint in her eyes. "Yup. /Anything/." She did, afterall, assign him with figuring out just what he'd do with her when he was allowed to. "Yah, let's go visit Larabelle!" she agrees quickly, eagerly, spinning about to face the beast stables off the corrals while still keeping the umbrella over Borodin.

Anything at all. The fevered reaches of imagination, aka Borodin's blush at the prospect. Not that he's at all hesistant to come along, and it's not just because if he gets left behind, he'll lose the shelter of the umbrella. It's only a mild blush, anyhow. What's he going to do, scandalize the cow?

Zapallie would eyebrow waggle, if she was a bolder girl. But she's not, and this whole physical contact thing is new to her. And indeed, the cow isn't going to care what they do in her stall. The /Beastcrafters/ might…

Well then, the beastcrafters can… can… they can look disapproving, that's what they can do. Borodin will just be wild and scandalous. Why, just for a start, the whole way there… he holds Zapallie's hand. That's right. There's hand-holding. So scandalous! There'd probably be a crowd of gawkers if it weren't for the rain keeping most people hurrying along. At least they manage to arrive at the stables without causing any major incidents.

The shy boy and the bully, holding hands? So many gawkers! The scandal! And there really aren't many beastcrafters around today. Now that Larabelle's older and weaned, she's been moved to her own little stall. Zapallie lets herself in, keeping an eye on the calf until the door is reclosed safely behind both of them. The shaggy brute grunts in excitement when her human arrives, coming over to shove a wet nose into her middle. "Well at least somebody is happy to see me," says the blond girl with a laugh.

The stables aren't one of Borodin's more accustomed places, and so he mostly just follows Zapallie's lead into the stall. Just a cow. Roast beef, pre-cooking. "Well, of course she is," he says, and smiles as he reaches out to pat the shaggy creature on the shoulder. He seems to be under the theory that if he treats it vaguely like an oversized canine, things'll work out. "She's getting big."

That's probably actually a sound theory. And while Zapallie sometimes jokes about calling Larabelle 'hamburger', she'd be upset if anyone actually wanted to eat her. The bovine turns her attention on Borodin when Zap fails to produce a treat, headbutting at the boy. "Hey now, he's mine…go get your own boy. Well. When you're old enough." She shoves the calf back with a hand between the eyes, but not unkindly, just firmly. It's how Edani, D'ani, whoever, showed her to deal with her new pet. "She's only 4 months old. Wait til she's full grown. She'll be huge. Apparently her breed is one of the biggest."

"…that, and, I don't have food, so." Either way, he's utterly useless to the cow! Borodin watches how Zapallie handles the beastie, and nods. "The biggest, huh?" He considers on that for a moment, and then he laughs. "Figures."

Zapallie shrugs her shoulders and takes one for the team, putting her back to the cow to protect Borodin from her snotty seeking nose. "She's got to be big enough to ride, after all."

Borodin nods. "She does," he agrees, and now that Zapallie's turned her back on the cow… well, he'll just take her from the front. He sidles up closer as he speaks. "It's just… it's you. You don't do anything small." He smiles as he says it, his arms reaching out for around her. Never mind the cow in the room. Those're easier to ignore than elephants, anyways.

Zapallie looks just a little delighted when he comes to embrace her, stiffness melting away as she leans into him. "Is that it?" she asks with a little laugh, bracing her hands against his back as she reaches around him in turn. Larabelle doesn't seem to mind what they're doing, she's rediscovered a block of salt somebody brought her.

After all, there’s no reason for the cow to care. No good reason for anyone to care, now that the eggs have hatched and Borodin’s no longer a Candidate. Nobody should care about this conversation or what comes after, except the two of them… not that the lack of reason stops the beastcraft apprentices from tittering, when they’re eventually found, half-naked and sleeping… nor does it stop the beastcraft journeyman summoned by the giggling from yelling at them mightily, demonstrating a set of lungs that would not be out of place on a bellowing cow…

'The World of Pern(tm)' and 'The Dragonriders of Pern(r)' are copyright to Anne McCaffrey (c) l967, 2000. This is a recorded online session, by permission of the author but generated on PernWorld MUSH for the benefit of people unable to attend.