Slow and Steady

Xanadu Weyr - Stables
The stables of Xanadu Weyr are composed of one long building, lined with box and standing stalls that are kept thoroughly clean by the resident grooms and stablehands. Runners nicker and neigh at everyone who enters, save for the obstinate ones that just flicker their ears in indignant curiosity that they dare not make visible. The foremost stalls near the door to the barnyard are the grand box stalls which are home to the prized runners of Xanadu, as well as the most pregnant, those which are so far along that they require constant observation by the Herders, so as to ensure easy foaling.

A broad pathway covered in straw and sawdust leads to the rest of the weyr's stalls, primarily comprised of standing stalls. Many runners are in the standing stalls, with ropes strung across the front so as to keep the runners from leaving their designated containers. A few hay bales sit here and there along the avenue, some of which act as seats for the stablehands and grooms on their breaks, others as snacks for those runners who can reach out their necks far enough. Buckets and baskets of grooming supplies - brushes, combs, and the like - also sit here and there, occassionally knocked over by a wayward hoof or inquiring muzzle.

Under different circumstances, Avi would be completely deterred by the very bluntly stated, 'I'm just not into you' remark. This situation is different. The runners, Shiloh's mare in particular, and the beastcrafter, himself, have become a favored subject. So much so that Avi has sketchbooks filled with their likenesses— not all of them fit for any eyes but his own. >.> And, of course, it has done nothing to curtail his sneaking out to the stables in wee early hours to hide in the loft and draw his unwitting subjects. This morning is no different from the others— barring the fact that Shiloh has made it clear he's not interested. Course, now that he's had time to get over being embarassed and startled, Avi has reasoned that he had not /actually/ made advances and Shiloh will just have to suck it up. Except he /won't/ because Avi has no intention of letting him know he's there. So. So it is that he's comfortably curled up in a nest of hay, a blanket over his lap as he goes about the business of sketching the mare while waiting for the beastcrafter to make his appearance. The mare? She most assuredly KNOWS he's there.

Shiloh is not normally the first in the barn. Usually there are apprentices that precede him, getting the feedings and stall-cleanings out of the way, going about the normal routine to keep the stable running smoothly. But sometimes old habits die hard, and while he'll let the apprentices do the bulk of the work, the journeyman ambles in just after dawn to check up on things and get started for the day. And really, after having hauled himself out of bed with a massive hangover a few days prior, getting up at dawn has become a lot easier. Perspective. The sounds of nickers and neighs and stall-banging is pretty typical for this time of morning; the chorus of runners within their stalls demanding their breakfasts with all the insistence of a hangry toddler. Red is no different, hanging her head over the door and flinging it up and down like that might persuade Shiloh to move faster. It won't. It just makes him laugh a little and issue a quick "Quit it" that she, miraculously, listens to. For all of thirty seconds. Mysterious spies in the stable loft? Well. Avi's made himself a habit of being here, so Red has made a habit of being cool about it; she's pretty sure he has snacks, even if he won't share. Shiloh might even be aware that he has a sneaky spy up there, even if he's unaware of what he's doing.

Averil has snacks. Of course, he is completely unaware of the fact that Red might actually enjoy his carrots and redfruit. >.> But he has them and he has been nibbling on them since arrival. It could be that the presence of redfruit cores and carrot ends gave away his presence. But again, that is just not something he's thought about. After all, staying hidden is a choice he made not because he's being 'sneaky' per se, but rather because he has long since learned the value of remaining unnoticed. And really, 'not interested in you, but you're pretty' certainly doesn't help matters. He's here to draw and the moment that his subject (victim) steps into the barn, that is what he is doing. Course, the sound of Shiloh's laugh inspires an immediate and unconcious smile in the hidden artist, pale grey eyes sweeping down to runner and beastcrafter as soon as charcoal hits the fresh page.

Someday (probably someday soon), Shiloh is going to regret those words. Even if, at the time, it felt totally appropriate (because drunk-brain and he's an idiot >.>). But this morning, he's not thinking about the stupid things he said (and then promptly forgot he said) in a bar a few nights ago. He's thinking… well. Who knows what he's thinking, but it's probably to do with runners. With Red happily head-tossing, Shiloh shakes his own and slips into the tack room, reappearing with a bucket of brushes. This is all pretty normal, really. But what's not normal is that he heads a few stalls down and pulls out a very different runner from his usual red mare. This one, a dark bay of the same build, is happy to perk his ears at the beastcrafter's approach and politely put his head into the halter to be led out and clipped to a cross tie. But rather than start grooming, Shiloh just takes a moment to stand there in the aisle, all sentient and silent and mysterious (maybe not mysterious) until the last apprentice has finished their chores and skipped out to breakfast and the stable is suddenly quiet save for the sounds of runners happily chewing on their breakfasts. And then? Well. Apparently apple cores and carrot-butts or maybe even sketchy charcoal noises and perked red ears gave him away, because there's a clearing of his throat and a loud-enough-to-be-heard but not shouting, "I know you're up there."

Averil is content to watch and sketch, as curious as it is to have the bay brought out instead of the far more familiar red. For Avi, the familiar is like a play he knows and is comfortable with, something that pleases without the need for unexpected shocks. The apprentices skipping out for breakfast has his attention sweeping back to Shiloh and the mysterious bay, but it is the words spoken that have him immediately going still. For a few long moments he doesn't even dare to take a breath, not so much as a hint of movement given. Slowly, bit by bit, he leans forward enough to peek over the edge of the loft, just enough to try to determine if there is, perhaps, a curious apprentice hidding in one of the stalls. It's only tenatively that his gaze slants back to Shiloh, the tip of his tongue brushing over his lips as he watches him intently.

The bay, for all that he was removed from his breakfast and is somewhat not-happy about it, is content to shift his weight and cock a hind leg and perhaps even consider an early-morning nap, ears twitching in lazy curiosity for the speaking man. Shiloh offers him a little pat, a murmured promise of a hay net, and then turns his attention toward the lurking lurker up in the loft. It's just a quick little glance, enough for Averil to know that Shiloh means him, before he turns toward the bucket and fishes for something within. "I'm not going to chase you," he decides. "But if you're gonna be here a lot, you should come down and learn a thing or two." A pause and he stands, head tipped thoughtfully but gaze cast toward something else — purposefully not looking up at Averil, as it were. "It's your choice, though."

Well. That cinches it as far as Avi is concerned. The moment that Shiloh looks up, he draws back. It is not a quick motion, though, he knows now he's been seen. "What makes you think I am not doing something?" Even as the question is asked though, he's closing up his sketchbook and tucking it in his satchel. Of course, picking up his nest takes a bit longer then one might think. Long enough that for a moment, or two, it would be easy to think that he has no intention of coming down. He does, however, descend the ladder, a faint wary frown on his lips as he sets boots on ground and turns to regard the beastcrafter. "I wasn't bothering anyone." It's defensive, but quietly so, one hand moving to clench the strap of his satchel in prepartion for a potential flight.

"Never said you weren't," counters Shiloh, all patient drawl and zero defense. While Averil debates his descent and then goes about the business of picking up his nest, Shiloh gets started on his apparent task at hand — finding the bay runner a haynet. He's finished hanging it (and the bay is happily tearing out chunks of hay to chew on) when the artist makes his appearance. A subtle, crooked grin flits across his face for the challenge. "Never said you were," he answers, turning to face him properly. "But I figure if you're gonna be in the barn, you might as well learn a thing or two about the creatures you're spying on." That it is him, just as much as the runners, that is the subject of Averil's spying has not crossed his mind. "You don't have to," he adds a moment later, dark eyes darting to the clenched strap before lifting to meet misty-grey. "But I thought you might like to."

The frown remains on Avi's lips as pale eyes flick between runner and man. He's listening, though, that much is certain when his head tilts. Still more certain when he takes an unconcious step back at the beastcrafter's moving. It is not until it becomes clear that Shiloh is tending to the bay and not attempting to come closer that his nostrils flair and he eases down from the immediate flight posture he had fallen into. It is the words though that have a faint, almost reluctant smile tracing acrossing his lips. "Like… what?" That, for a fleeting moment, he has an image of hanging a net with meatrolls for Shiloh, crossing his mind? Well, he just can't help the thought and it inspires a quiet laugh to whisper past his lips. "I don't know anything about runners," he admits. "Except that she," he adds with a nod toward Red. "Is soothed by circles."

If Shiloh notices the that backwards step, that fight-or-flight (and clearly, Avi's default is flight) response, he makes no mention of it. He is simply going about the same tasks he might otherwise, as though Averil's decision to flee or stay would inspire no different response. Truly, if one were paying very close attention, they might notice that it is a rather… similar approach to how Shiloh deals with young, flighty runners. "Whatever you might want to learn," he allows, favoring the artist with a hint of a smile in return for the question. "How to properly introduce yourself, for starters. How to groom them. Maybe someday how to ride them, if you don't already know." He is, clearly, making some assumptions about Averil's level of skill in regard to such things. But the mention of circles has him almost laughing, a quiet chuckle offered with a shake of his head. "That's a bit different. It's not really the circle that soothes her it's… well. I'll tell you if you want to know," he admits. "But I warn you now that I can get long-winded in regard to runners."

Averil slowly starts to relax. At least enough that he is comfortable with releasing the deathgrip on his satchel and letting it hang loose against his hip. That Shiloh is talking to him like he talks to the runners is not something that has occured to him, yet. "I suppose," he allows as he takes a tenative step closer (it should be noted that he is still hovering close to the ladder and the entrance). "I should say hello." He has been drawing the runners after all, even if only occassionally. It is the mention of riding them that has him giving a rapid little shake of his head, pale eyes flicking up to Shiloh's face. "I don't know if that would be a good idea." Runners are huge, comparatively, he is not. It is only the last that has him forgetting his wariness enough to state. "I want to know."

Not so much in how he's speaking, as how he is behaving. Careful to keep the 'pressure off' so to speak; to not move to quickly, or to be too tense; to keep his gaze from landing too heavily upon Avril. To be aware of what Averil is doing, but to take no action to influence how he might decide; whether he chooses to go or to stay. There are no consequences for the decision. At least, no negative consequences. "It's easy enough," he allows, for proper runner-introductions. "I'll show you." Angling his body so that he's half-facing the runner and half-facing Averil. "The important part is listening to what they tell you as you approach. Lightning here is very comfortable around people. He tends to want to say hello. You offer your hand, like this," he puts his hand out, palm-down and fingers closed but not fisted, toward the runner. And while the bay is pretty happy to have his breakfast, he pauses to turn and obligingly take a sniff at Shiloh's hand. "And you wait. And you let them decide if they want to touch you." Which, after a moment, the bay decides Shiloh is simply not as interesting as the hay, and goes back to it. This elicits no hard feelings on the part of the beastcrafter, who gives a little half-smile before offering, "Wanna try?" to Averil. As for those circles, well… He'll happily explain as he scoots out of the way (rather intentionally moving so that Averil can come closer to the runner without actually coming closer to Shiloh). "They're prey animals. When they get scared, they want to run. So I let her run, but she's only allowed to run in a designated space — a circle. She can run as fast as she wants within that circle," (and really, it's a pretty small circle, so she can't run *that fast*). "It lets her move her feet and feel better — gets the anxiety out — without actually getting run away with. She won't need it as much as we go along and she learns that things aren't as scary as she thinks they are."

Averil brushes his tongue over his lips as he listens, pale eyes following Shiloh's hand as it is presented to the runner. "What if he bites you," he breaths. When that does not happen, a relieved sigh spills past his lips, his gaze flicking between the runner and the beastcrafter in clear consideration. It is only after a few long moments, that he draws off his satchel and sets it carefully on the floor by the ladder. Getting closer, however, is harder then he'd thought. And, for a few long moments he waffles where he is before pushing his hair off his face and stepping tenatively closer. He /does/ want to try, that much is clear as he (slowly) gets close enough that he could reach out. "Prey animals?" Surprised, even though logically he KNOWS that is true, he shakes his head, his gaze remaining on the bay. "They are huge." Huge. Huge enough that it takes a few long moments of watching the bay intently before he extends one hand in a tenative mimicry of Shiloh's movement. "Dragons don't really eat them, do they?" The words are whispered though, and tense only because he is not entirely convinced he's not about to get bitten.

"He won't bite." In that, Shiloh is very confident. "Lightning likes people. He's just a little more interested in his breakfast right now." And the beastcrafter does not blame him. While Averil comes forward, Shiloh remains quiet, relaxed but attentive as he watches harper and runner interact. The bay, for all that he is rather happy to be having his hay, flicks an ear toward Averil and then turns curiously toward him, stretching out to whuffle and sniff at his offered fingers. A bit of investigating finds that there are no treats on offer and, after another moment, he turns back to his hay. Fingers are just not as interesting as his food. "There. Proper introductions made. You're welcome to take another step closer and touch him, if you want. He likes his withers scratched." And while Shiloh moves, it's only to go for the bucket of grooming brushes, digging in it a moment to pull out a stiff dandy brush. "They have, sometimes," he allows, for dragons eating them. "But it's on accident, and very, very rare. Most understand that runners are not for eating."

Averil freezes when the runner's attention turns to him, every muscle in his body /screaming/ at him to jerk his hand back. To his credit, though, he keeps it firmly extended, not so much as taking a breath until Lightning has returned to his food. "Do they only eat hay?" The words, though, are breathy and faint, accompanied with a flick of his eyes toward Shiloh when he moves unexpectedly. The offer to touch the runner, though, has his attention sweeping back to Lightning, a few careful steps bringing him close enough to touch. "Withers?" He has no idea what that means and keeps his hands firmly at his sides as he does so. It is only the last that has him flashing a relieved smile, grey eyes crinkling at the corners as he sweeps his gaze back to Shiloh. "Oh? Oh, good. They are far to pretty to be food."

"Oh, they eat lots of things. Hay, grain on occasion, grass, some leaves, apples, carrots, bananas… Those are more treats though; not something to be eaten all the time." While Shiloh is aware of all that tension, he's not going to do much about it. He's just going to take his dandy brush and walk around to the other side of the runner (though it should be noted that, compared to Shiloh, Lightening is not that tall, and the beastcrafter can easily see over his back and see — and be seen by — Avi) "Withers," he repeats, the word an agreement. "Right here," and he reaches up to scratch at the spot, just at the base of the mane. "It's kinda like… the point between your shoulder blades, if we compared it to a person. That spot you can't quite reach, but always seems to itch? Watch; Lightning will make faces if you scratch it." And sure enough, as Shiloh really start scratching, the hay is briefly ignored and the runners top lip starts doing that wiggle-thing that indicates yes, that spot right there!. A grin and Shiloh stops. "You can try, if you want."

Averil can't help the quiet laugh that spills past his lips at the runner's reaction, his delight made clear in the crinkling of grey eyes. "Oh that is perfect," he breaths as he takes a step closer. The offer to try himself, though, has him hesitating, a breath exhaled before he bites his lip and reaches up to mimic the gesture. The moment that Lightning reacts, though, a delighted smile traces over his lips, another unconcious step taken closer to the runner. "He's perfect," he declares in breathy tones. "No wonder you are always smiling while you work."

Shiloh certainly shares that sentiment. Runners? Perfect in his book. As Averil gives the scratching a try, he can't help but smile as well, pleased with the response of both man and beast. It's the mention of smiling while he works that has him pausing as he brushes Lightning, a glance given over the back of the runner that is definitely a 'what now?' sort of response before he can catch himself. "Hm," is all he says about it for the moment, turning his eyes (if not his attention) back to his grooming. It's a moment before he decides to actually speak up, and the words are chosen carefully but said casually enough. "So why were you hiding in the loft?"

"It's the best way to draw people," Avi answers without so much as a thought. "If they know you are there and drawing them, they tend to get self-concious, or to pose. I just.. When I am doing life drawings, I want things to be the way they are, not adjusted to suit a picture." Of course, almost immediately he realizes that he's just admitted that he's been drawing people. And since Shiloh is usually the only person in the barn? Drawing him. Falling silent, he lets his hand rest flat against Lightning's shoulder, his fingers drifting through the bay's mane. "You don't really smile much when there are people around," he observes.

And he's also not smiling now, either. Though there's no animosity in his expression; Just a bit of an awkward frown — a bit of that self-consciousness that Averil mentioned — creeping in to rob Shiloh of some confidence. He's quiet, going about the routine task of brushing the runner down, his expression carefully neutral as he considers how he might respond. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to find anything suitable to say, and so that silence stretches on for a rather long time. Probably well into 'uncomfortable' territory. And in the end, rather than address the drawing, or the smiling, what Shiloh finally asks is, "Do you want to help me groom him?" While honest and polite, it lacks a little of that carefree, openness that his previous tone had possessed.

"I know that you are not interested in me," Avi states quickly. "It's not that, really. It's just.. People get.." Self concious when they know they are being observed. Falling silent, he lightly clears his throat, his gaze switching toward the runner as the silence stretches out. It's only the last that has him looking back up, surprised at the offer, though he's quick to dip his chin in a nod. "I do."

It appears that Shiloh is just… not going to touch that topic. While there's a squint and a frown a the explanation, the beastcrafter leaves it alone without confirmation or denial. How he might feel about being drawn? Well. Maybe even he is not sure of that. So, runners. Grooming. Things he knows with certainty. Those are what he will focus on. "Here," he offers, handing the brush over the back of the runner to Averil. "That is a dandy brush. The bristles are a bit stiff. It's used for whisking away surface dirt. There is also a softer body brush for putting a shine on the coat. And a round, rubber brush called a 'curry comb' for getting a deeper clean." But for now, the dandy brush will do. A press of his lips, and he lets his gaze go elsewhere, studying the hay net without… actually studying the hay net. Avoidance, perhaps?

Averil chews his lip as he takes the brush, a mild nod of his head offered as he smooths his fingers over the brush bristles. "This won't hurt him?" Even as the question is asked, he's very gently running the brush over Lightning's back, his lips twitching in a faint, unconcious smile at the shiver and twitch of the runner's muscles. And, while Shiloh is looking away, he is able to really study the runner, his free hand smoothing over the beast's side in a tender caress. "I've never had the nerve to get this close to them before," he murmurs in quiet tones.

Silence is not inherently uncomfortable for Shiloh. He's often silent while he works, the runners having no need for conversation (though he will occasionally talk to them, as well. They're the best listeners, of course). This silence is not much different for him, the beastcrafter lost in his own thoughts as Averil tentatively brushes the runner, and Shiloh fishes in the bucket for another brush so that he can work on the opposite side. It is the confession that breaks him from his internal thoughts, a glance spared over the back of the runner to watch Averil for a moment or two, an unreadable expression on his face. "Why not?" he finally asks, the question curious but careful; allowing for a lack of answer if Avi is not comfortable giving one.

Averil is silent as he considers the question, his visual attention remaining on the brush he's smoothing over the runner's side. "I don't know," he finally admits. "I think I just assumed that they would be more aggressive then they are?" In the wake of the words, he lapses into silence, watching the trail of his hand as it moves in the wake of the brush. There is more to it then what he's said, of course. The beastcrafters in Ista were all very masculine men and not at all fond of his presence. "It's silly," he murmurs as he lightly clears his throat and shakes his head to banish the thought.

"To be afraid of something that could hurt you? Or that you think might hurt you? That is not silly," argues Shiloh, though his voice is quiet as he says it. Gentle, rather than strong. Whether he reads more into the answer than was given is unknown; he won't press for details, even if he spends another moment studying Averil over the back of the bay runner. A few moments more, and he's finished his side of Lightning, stepping around to join Averil on his side. He does not touch — won't even try. But he stands near enough to be somewhat… in his space if not necessarily crowding him. "Runners are usually very gentle creatures," he decides, his eyes on runner as he smooths his hand affectionate over his coat. "They can be dangerous, but that danger usually lies in people not understanding them; not listening to what they are trying to tell us. Otherwise, the only time they are truly aggressive is when they feel threatened. Or… if a stallion is trying to mate." But that uh… not a topic he wants to discuss for reasons. "Their primary response to fear is to run, not to fight. They only bite, or kick, or strike, if they have no other option left to them."

"A lot of things want to hurt me," Avi mutters under his breath. Again, it's thrown off with a quick shake of his head, his lips twitching in a frown as he drifts up to comb his fingers through the runner's mane. It is only after a moment that he glances up to catch Shiloh looking at him, his chin tilting up in a stubbornly proud gesture before he turns back to brushing Lightning. It's Shiloh's moving into his space that brings his gaze sweeping back up but, after a moment, he accepts it with a barely perceptible nod and smooths his fingers over Lightning's shoulders as he listens. It is in the wake of the words, that he dips his chin in a nod, his expression gentling. "I think runners and I have a lot in common." Trailing his fingers along the bay's neck, he glances back up at Shiloh and affords a quiet smile. "I don't know your name," he admits.

That has Shiloh tensing, however briefly, and his hand going still on Lightning's coat. Whatever he's thought, he keeps it to himself, a little frown and a deep breath taken before he's moving right along. There are some questions that strangers (or near-strangers) should just not ask. But it is the last that has him looking a little startled, pausing once again to regard Averil with a bit of surprise and then, pretty quickly, a contrite expression as he realizes, "Oh. No, I never told you, did I?" Sheepish for a moment, he offers an apologetic little half-smile and says, "I'm sorry for that. I usually have better manners. My name is Shiloh." And of course he's gonna follow it up with a touch of his fingers to his hat, because that's just what he does. "Pleased to make your acquaintance."

As somber as Averil has gotten, the tip of the hat is more then enough to inspire a brilliant smile to tracing over his lips. "Very pleased to make your acquaintance as well, Shiloh." There is just something so charming about the gesture. So much so that he is forced to clear his throat and turn his attention back to the bay in order to conceal the light flush that rises to his cheeks. "This is the most amazing thing I have /ever/ done," he admits as lets the brush smooth over Lightning's coat. "He's so calm and relaxed. But then, who doesn't love a really good hair brushing?" Glancing back at Shiloh, he affords another smile, this one bordering on sheepish. "Thank you for this."

It's a smile that Shiloh can't help but to return, the journeyman looking pleased with himself at the response. That there is a blush and a throat clearing? Well. He's just not going to comment on those. Lightning is far safer to look at for a moment, but even still there's a subtle, pleased curl pulling at the corner of his lips. That this is the most amazing thing Averil has done gets a lofted eyebrow and a curious look, but again, Shiloh won't really comment on that (his immediate thought is not particularly PG-13 and so, he will simply err on the side of caution and say nothing for the moment). A little pat of Lightning's flank and he turns to drop his brush back into the bucket and move over to lean against the stall door. "You're welcome," he decides, though a moment more and he adds, "I'm glad you're enjoying it. But it doesn't have to be a one-time thing, either. You could help. If you wanted. Or just… spend time with them, if you need it." Sometimes, a bit of quite time with a friendly animal is all one really needs. "And the offer to learn to ride still stands."

Averil is listening, despite the fact that he sets his brush down in favor of carefully combing Lightning's mane with his fingers. "I want to braid this so very badly," he notes with a quiet laugh. It is the offer to come back and do it again that has him rising up on his toes to peek over the bay's neck at the beastcrafter. "I would like that," he admits. "I don't.. I don't really sleep very much." He is always up before the sun and while he loves his work, this has proven to be very therapeutic in nature. "Can I bring them redfruit and carrots?" Cause while he has eaten the ones he brought with him, it would be nothing to grab a few more for his new hooved friends. The mention of riding, though, his him chewing his lip, pale eyes flicking toward the bay's back for a few long silent moments. "Is it.. Is it very difficult?"

"What is stopping you?" From braiding Lightning's mane. "You're free to braid it however you'd like. I ask that you don't braid his tail, because runners can be sensitive about that. But his mane… go ahead." And after a moment of thought, Shiloh adds, "They're not as sensitive as we are about their hair being pulled — though they don't usually like if it's pulled out. So don't be afraid that braiding will hurt him. It won't." Pushing from the door, he stoops to dig in the grooming basket once again, producing a hairbrush that is eerily similar to those used on people. In fact, it's probably exactly the same. "Here," he offers, moving around Lightning to stand on the same side as Averil. "This is the forelock," he adds, reaching up to smooth the lock of hair laying between Lightning's ears. "And he's not too keen on that," even if he kinda puts up with it, there's definitely a flick of an ear and a little head shake; a very 'get off me, mom!' kind of motion. "But from here down," he points out, marking the spot at the top of his neck where it's 'safe' "is free game." And Shiloh will just stand back and let him go at it, though he'll be staying on this side of the runner. "Carrots," he agrees. "If it's gonna be a habit, carrots are better. They like redfruit, but it's not good for them to have too many — it's like candy for them. But you can bring carrots for them. And I'll show you how to feed 'em so they won't accidentally get your fingers. None of them want to bite you," he adds. "But sometimes they get a little eager, and they can't see real well right in front of their noses, so accidents can happen." And riding? The fact that Averil seems to be considering the offer has him looking pleased, another crooked smile teasing at his lips. "Nah. It's like anything. Takes practice."

Avi's gaze sweeps up to Shiloh's face as he speaks, a smile tracing over his lips. In short order, he is going about the business of braiding Lightning's mane, nimble fingers remaining gentle as he combs and divides the strands for weaving. It is Shiloh's moving that has him halting his progress, a slow nod given at the mention of the forelock. "It looks pretty draping into his eyes as it is," he admits. "He's a very fashionable fellow. You really are," he whispers to Lightning as he returns to his braiding with relish. Despite his focus on braiding, though, he is listening, glancing up with a serious nod at the instruction that carrots are a better choice then redfruit. "I'll bring some with me tomorrow," he promises. "And wait for you to show me how." Again, it is the last that has him falling silent as he considers, his teeth nibbling at his lip as he does so. It is only in the wake of considerable thought that he looks back up at Shiloh and nods slow. "I want you to teach me. But… But can we stay away from the beach?" He has not forgotten Red's discomfort with the water. "Can I ride Lightning?" He has, after all, already formed an attachment to the bay.

"Yes, you can ride Lightning." The answer requires no thought because Shiloh might have sneakily selected Lightning for this grooming venture for exactly this reason. That the gelding appears quite content with everything that is happening (he might be half-dozing, in fact) is probably not a coincidence. "We will ride in one of the paddocks," he assures, reaching out to pluck a bit of stray hay from the gelding's forelock. "But please don't let Red's antics color your perception of how runners behave. Red is very young and she's still learning. What you saw on the beach… that was her first time seeing a large body of water." If that explains anything or not, Shiloh appears to think it does. "Runners are just as unique as people; they all have different personalities."

"I won't," Avi promises in tones that are Very Serious. "I think Red is beautiful," he assures quickly. And it is always terribly sweet watching Shiloh with her. "I imagine that seeing that much water and not knowing what it is, or if it is dangerous, has to be frightening for anyone." Glancing toward the mare, his expression softens, pale eyes gentling. "She's always so happy to see you, you know. I think she knows when you are coming to the barn because she's looking at the doors before you even step through them." Which had worked out well for Avi, at least for a few days. "She's yours, right?" Course, even as he asks the question, his attention is sweeping back to braiding Lightning's hair.

"I think so, too." That Red is beautiful. There is no denying the fondness with which Shiloh speaks about her, nor the sweetness in his expression when he peeks over to look for her (she's eating, and as much as she likes him, food comes first. There are no hard feelings though). "Yeah, she's mine," he agrees. "My first. Well. First that was… mine." A moment of hesitation, coupled with a brief study of Averil, and he adds, "I saved for two turns to buy her. She's from a great line; amazing sire. And her dam was my project horse when I was an apprentice. Someday," he admits, "when she's older, I'd like to breed her. I think she'd drop amazing babies." It is a confession, a hint at a deeper dream that has not been spoken, and which Shiloh won't speak of now. But hey, if Avi can be a bit vulnerable — and he has been. He didn't run yet — then Shiloh can, too. Of course, they he kinda goes and mucks it up by wondering, "Can I see your sketchbook?"

"Are you going to have a ranch," He asks curiously. Glancing back at Red, his expression immediately softens, blond hair spilling into his eyes as he dips his chin in a slow nod. "She loves you, too," he assures. "Even I could see that from the loft." It is the request to see his sketchbook that has him momentarily hesitating, one hand smoothing over Lightning's braids before he steps away and stoops to open his satchel. Fortunately, he has more then one sketchbook. And, while they ALL have sketches of Shiloh (all of them shirtless) only one of them has his more risque drawings in it. It is one of the books that has more of the horses in that he pulls out and hands over to the beastcrafter. Mind you, the very first drawing is of Shirtless behatted Shiloh and Red on the beach. Mind you, he's completely forgotten that the third page is a study of 'jeans' from the back with a focus on detailed muscle. "Don't laugh," he requests as he pushes to his feet and steps over to run a hand down Lightning's neck.

Just you wait until he accidentally leaves one of those 'risque' books in the loft! Shiloh will be sure to find it (if an apprentice doesn't find it first!). But for now, there's a promise of, "I won't laugh," dutifully offered as Shiloh pushes to standing once again and solemnly accepts the sketchbook offered him. TO BE FAIR, he actually was shirtless when he was riding Red on the beach, so he can't fault him for capturing the moment as it actually happened. Even if it's definitely the runner, and his likeness, that Shiloh will study. "This is really good," he decides, a hint of awe in his voice. A flip of the page and he adds, "Really good," for the runner drawn upon it. And then he's flipping to the third page and, whether it's him or someone else or a fictional person, there's a rather hasty clearing of his throat and a quick flip to the next page because Shiloh isn't quite sure what to do with a study of that image. At least, nothing that comes to mind would be appropriate. Course, the next page is another shirtless Shiloh and this time, it is not from any moment that he remembers participating in. Hm.

"Thank you," Avi notes with a flashing smile. "I love doing character sketches," he admits as he steps away from lightning with a final draw of his hand along Lightning's back. "And I mean, men on runnerback, or with runners is a pretty typical request for romance novels. Almost all the really good heros have them." As he speaks, he steps close enough to peek at the book as Shiloh is looking at it. "I love the musculature of the runners," he admits. "And Red's running afforded me the opportunity to see them move." Settling at Shiloh's side, he can't help but smile as he points out the detailed muscles in the sketch he is looking at. "They are so amazing in motion, being able to capture that is something I never thought I would get the hang of." It's the shirtless Shiloh that has him convienantly looking away, making a show of his attention turning back to Lightning.

"If you have the time, you're welcome to watch me work with them." Because Shiloh assumes he hasn't been watching him this whole time. Of course, the offer is made before he's flipping the page and being confronted with an entirely nude man with no runner in sight. For a moment there's a blank-faced look and a nonsensical "uh…" before he's quickly clearly his throat and shutting the book because he doesn't wanna accidentally make it worse. Conveniently, the sound of apprentices returning from breakfast gives Shiloh an excuse to hand the book back without discussing the nudity. "Tell me when," he adds, as he straightens from his spot and casts a glance towards the door. "And I'll be happy to let you watch me train." For art, and no other reason >.>

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