Of What Could Be


It was getting late and M’ti was on the cusp of exhausted. It felt like he’d been all over Xanadu since he arrived just after lunchtime, and yet he hadn’t been able to find Keruthien anywhere. “Maybe the barracks?” he asks himself, trudging across the meadow, a place that as a candidate himself, he’d often played with friends. Ashen lashes descend, feeling a pang of longing in his chest. Where was he? He wanted to see him! Admittedly, Cherith’s presence helped to remind him that he wasn’t completely alone and never would be for as long as they both lived, but this didn’t satisfy the space that had been made available to the smithy that remained achingly empty thus far. Drawing air in through his nose, the greenrider exhales a long sigh, hair caught up by a sudden gust of warm summer air as he reaches the cliffside overlooking the observatory. He does his best to tame it until the rush of wind passes, smoothing back down with a distracted frown, “I don’t like this…” he decides aloud, feeling Cherith stir somewhere in the back of his mind, “…anxious feeling.” The intensity passes but the overall residual remained and M’ti folds his arms over the fencing meant to keep people from accidently falling to their deaths, staring out over the water and the vibrant splashes of color the setting sun provided. He really does try to ground himself, but finds his mind wandering nonetheless. Admitting to himself the way things had developed for him in regards to his feelings for Keruthien, had been and remained tough for M’ti, as denial had transformed into the undeniable sensation of being trapped in a place that was as uncomfortable and unsettled as it felt exciting and packed to the rafters with his own one-sided eagerness to see him again. As the hours passed without a sighting, the former was certainly beginning to outweigh the latter, and his anxiety was rapidly turning into the sort of negative thoughts that made remaining in Xanadu difficult to justify for very much longer. There was no logic to them, he understood that much at least, and none of it the fault of the absent smithy. Sighing again, his heart heavier by the second, “Should probably head back to Fort…” he breathes out, but remains despite himself. Just a couple more minutes. Just a few more and he’ll go.

"What? Going so soon?" A voice that will be all too familiar to the greenrider will, seemingly, materialize out of NOWHERE (and likely behind him) and once the source is found? It's quite obviously Ruthien, standing there with a rolled towel under one arm. He's got a full grin in play, turned completely upon M'ti, which only broadens no matter what the other's reaction will be. Oblivious is he to all of the turmoil going on within the poor younger man, all he's aware of is the fortunate crossing of their paths once again! "Fancy seeing you here! It's been… how long since we last saw each other?" he teases, also unaware of how those words will resonate despite their innocent delivery. With a wink, he'll approach him, peering out over the fence and to the waters far below. The wheels in his head are already spinning and, likely before M'ti can voice much of an answer, he'll turn back to him. "Hey! If you're not already on your way out? Why don't you join me? There's this spot, just a short trek away? I think you'll love it!" Excitement laces his tone and fuels his actions, which have him reaching out to take the others hand or even his arm, to guide and pull forwards. "Come on!" Dare you follow, M'ti? There's only a small inkling of mischief in those eyes of his, wolfish grin now curving his lips to show a quick flash of teeth. This way! Where are they going? It's obvious, soon enough. Minutes in see them reach the forests and should M'ti not put on the breaks, Ruthien will draw them both into them and far into the depths. Following this trail and then that one, he'll eventually bring them to a clearing of volcanic rock that makes a perfect sunning spot. The ground is elevated here but in a gradual enough slope to be safe enough to scale, while the flat rock shelf allows for resting comfortably. It all looks so simple and innocent but there is a wild beauty to this place! Keruthien will set the towel down and step away from M'ti, casting his arms wide as he purposely walks backwards a few paces. "Isn't this place fantastic? I was shown this spot when I was much younger but it's always stuck with me." he explains, eyes roaming over the area with a certain mix of nostalgic fondness.

Oh yeah, that startles the hell out of M’ti, and it’s not even a subtle sort of thing as he totally jumps and wheels himself around to stare at the man who’d so stealthily snuck up behind him. There is quite the complex show of emotion running rampant across the greenrider’s face but it’d displayed only as a mask of disbelief for the most part, his mouth slightly hung open. A moment later it snaps closed, but it’s still pretty obvious that the younger man continues to be reeling from this unexpected surprise. Faranth that grin! FWOSH, cue the blush, and it’s almost as all consuming as the emotions that come along with it. “Uh, yeah…” comes lamely and M’ti actually flinches in its wake. Kicking himself over and over again internally, and seriously debating whether or not to admit that he’d been looking for Keruthien for the better part of the day. Ultimately, the choice is made for him as he’s teased and hazel eyes are shifted elsewhere, “A fortnight,” he very quietly murmurs, mostly to himself because he’d totally been counting and clearly the smithy candidate had not. Yep, there it is, another of those painful pangs and it is not welcomed in the least. Shoulders sag for all of two seconds before Keruthien is just there at his side following that wink, ensuring that those shoulders of his are finding new tension seemingly out of thin air. Although, even as they do, he finds himself trying to burn the finer details of the man’s face into his memory without word. The sudden turn back towards M’ti startles him again, this time with a sup of air past his lips and with hazel eyes rounding out as he quickly discovers he simply can’t find a single thing to say. Well, not before he’s grabbed and hauled off anyway, his first couple of steps stumbling before he finds his footing again and his pace evens out with Keruthien’s. Despite everything that he was thinking and feeling, M’ti still found that excitement contagious and some of it definitely wears off on him by the time that they arrive at their destination. Unfortunately, there was a whole lot more looking at Ruthien and thinking going on than much attention paid towards their journey and so when he’s released and the man steps away, the greenrider looks a little lost and bewildered as he casts his gaze about and attempts to take stock, his eyes widening in wonderment. It was gorgeous here and although he’d spent an entire candidacy in Xanadu, he’d never seen this place until now and there was just something about it that felt hopelessly romantic. As Ruthien breaks the silence, M’ti’s eyes cut back to him sharply, and he stands there staring at him once again but this time with a hardening jawline. Here they were, alone at sunset, amongst probably the most stunning scenery to be had at Xanadu after not seeing one another in two whole sevendays. Clearly, this man was put on Pern to drive him to insanity and question everything he thought he knew about everything. SNAP. Blushing furiously, M’ti stalks forward and roughly grabs the front of Keruthien’s tunic, hauling him down into a kiss that was anything but chaste. Lips, tongue, teeth, they’re all included in an exchange that felt warm and familiar now rather than awkward. Where have you been?! Why haven’t you written me?! I’ve been looking for you all day! he screams at him from inside his head, And now here you are and you’re show me this? You’re killing me here!

Well, this was unexpected! Of course, Keruthien was probably leading up to this sort of fun but he's not going to turn away this marvelous gift! Brazen forwardness from the otherwise shy greenrider is a shocking turn of the tables but he rolls with it, letting it spark something deep and hot in him. The kiss is returned just as passionately, as hungrily, like a man starved and unaware of how such hints may further confuse the young greenrider. He cannot read thoughts and is terrible even with the obvious signs; so he is taking only the surface of this clash of hormones and lust. Without so much as a breath of hesitation, his hands will be upon him, caressing, roaming, touching him wantonly and without reservation. In a similar vein, he will begin to undress them both, drawing away from those lips only long enough to discard fabric before he's pulled in again. Skin to skin, save for their underclothes, but it's there that he resumes his silent worship of the young man's body under the roughened texture of his hands. Stoking the flames, but not jumping right into an all out blaze and there's a reason for it! One he is craftily executing, as they become so deeply intimate. He'd begun to step back, during the course of undressing, seamlessly pulling M'ti along. Distracting them both in those fevered kisses and heavy petting, until at last… ah. He feels what he was distantly waiting for. Breaking the last kiss, breath panted and eyes ablaze despite the heavy lidded appearance, he holds M'ti's head between his hands, framing his face. "… do you trust me?" he utters in a voice thick with passion and lust, followed with a heart stopping beaming smile. He may wait for an answer and he may not… it could be he takes any sound from him as a positive one and then acts on his original plan! In the blink of an eye, he's reaching to grip M'ti's arms and hauling him forwards as he gathers himself and leaps backwards… And all too soon, reality will hit, as the ground drops to nothing but open air beneath them and the clear, cool waters of a hidden pool below. Keruthien's WHOOP of exhilaration and laughter echoing around them as they FALL but there was never any danger. The cliff side poses no risk and the depths below are deep that even the most enthusiastic of jumps would not see limbs striking bottom. As they plunge beneath the water's surface, Keruthien will let go to allow the greenrider to swim on his own power, pushing up to crest the surface almost immediately. His hair is plastered over his face, but it doesn't stop him from erupting into joyful laughter while haphazardly trying to brush it aside.

That kiss, as passionate and deep as it started, had absolutely nothing to do with sex as it did the greenrider’s tubulent emotional state and his sudden need to express what he felt in the only way he could think of without facing rejection. As Keruthien wasn’t a mind reader, thank Faranth for that, it wasn’t especially surprising that things start to head a carnal direction. If only for a single moment M’ti allows himself to believe that the smithy candidate’s returned hunger is for him and not merely at the prospect of getting laid, but that’s all and with that he lets himself sink into pure sensation. Clothes being tugged at, Ruthien’s work calloused hands on his skin, the warm summer air where it wasn’t before, the taste of his mouth and the feel of his tongue; all of it spiced to perfection with the scent of him, sounds of their quickened breathing, and the occasional moan M’ti couldn’t quite figure out belonged to whom. It didn’t really matter. Step by step, clothing is removed, and the greenrider’s own roughened hands find flesh bringing with it a surge of arousal that takes him completely by surprise. Faranth, he wanted this man. All of him. Mind, body, and heart. Somewhere in the back of his mind he was aware he was being led forward, but it was another one of those things that possessed so much less value than the man whose lips he kissed and whose form seemed to fit so well against his own. M’ti is quite flushed by the time the last kiss breaks and there was no denying his attraction and desire for Ruthien, not looking like that and certainly not when all he was wearing was his skivvies, hazel eyes meeting bright blue as his face is gathered up between the smith’s two hands, mouth opening further with that truly loaded question, bringing about a soft and quick intake of air, but that smile steals away any ability to speak. Shards. How is this even a real person? And that voice! Instantly M’ti colors quite red, “I…” But that’s it, because his arms are grasped and he’s being pulled forward, and a second later there is nothing but air beneath them. Or so he thinks. “RU!” he cries out as his eyes widen to the size of serving platters, the greenrider’s dismay heard just above the man’s laughter, and then there's gravity and the refreshing crash of water all around him. After the initial shock, instinct kicks in, and Matty kicks his way to the surface with a tremendous gasp for air as he pops up. At first, hair smoothed back with a wet hand, he stares at where they’d come from and then as he slowly turns his head towards the laughing Keruthien, his expression brightens into one that is delight beyond compare! Without thinking he grabs for him and kisses his mouth, hard and fast. MWA! Then, he’s laughing and looking back up, every single one of his shadows chased away, “That was amazing!” Now it might be Keruthien’s turn to wonder who this person was, because in that moment the greenrider once known as Mathis, looked like someone else entirely and he was now smiling at the smithy brightly with an eagerness that was completely unrestrained, “Let’s go again!”

Oh, the pay off from his ‘trick’ is wholly unexpected but oh-so worth it in every which way. Sure, some small part of him was a teeny bit disappointed to leave their make out session interrupted, but this? THIS is well worth the deviation from their usual encounters. There will be time yet for some physical fun, back above on the rock plateaus. Here, in the cool, clear waters, Keruthien is FINALLY getting a rare glimpse of another side of M’ti and isn’t so enthralled or distracted to miss it. No, he witnesses the change and something in him shifts, though he wrongly places it as mutual adrenaline and eagerness. Treading water, he grins the broadest grin yet as he drifts lazily closer to the younger man. “I’ll race you!” he challenges, along with a playful nudge to his ribs or sides beneath the water’s surface. There is water splashed, too, in typical retreating tactics familiar to those who’re at play. Because that is what this is, on the surface, is playing. Who needs to act their age here, when it’s just the two of them? With echoing laughter, Ruthien will make for the “shallow” end of the pool, which is only shallow thanks to a tumbled chunk of rock that never breaks to the surface but allows anyone a natural step to the actual shoreline’s edge. Then? A pathway is easily spotted, narrow but worn and it’s up this that he will run, full tilt out of familiarity. There is, of course, many glances shot over his shoulder to gauge how close M’ti is and maybe he allows the greenrider to win out of ‘kindness’. What happens next will likely be firmly decided on the greenrider’s actions! Does he jump immediately, upon claiming victory? Exact some revenge on Ruthien and push him off the cliff’s edge? The possibilities are limitless and honestly, with the type of personality he holds, there is no going wrong (not entirely, anyways), with him!

Little by little, unnoticed in increments, M’ti was growing accustomed to the rollercoaster ride that was Keruthien. Things that might have shocked and dismayed him months ago were now much easier to adapt to, finding that he quite liked that unpredictable element that kept him guessing and on his toes, and before he knew it, his perception of the world and its people had started to change— much like coaxing a frightened animal out of its burrow. Maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t that bad out there after all. The greenrider is wholly unaware that his raw openness and unadulterated joy was being observed so closely, far too wrapped up in the thrill of that moment coursing through his veins, to such a degree that he’d all but forgotten about the hormonal and emotional surge before their fall from the cliff above. That beaming smile rife M’ti bore with such childlike delight is undaunted by Ruthien’s grin or proximity, it’s intensity amplified by the elbow nudged challenge even as it beings to edge towards devious, “You’re so on!” he laughs as he’s splashed, returning the favor, and shortly after he is in hot pursuit. While M’ti did not move like a dolphin in water, he did know how to swim well, and so catches up to the smithy candidate in time and can be spotted grinning like a fool as he practically cackles, “Too slow, Ru!” Uh, when exactly did Keruthien get himself a nickname? Moments ago apparently, and M’ti seems inclined to stick with it, breaking past him the second the narrow passage opens up to a wider space just to grab his hand and with a firm yank they fall together back into the waters below with the greenrider’s bellowing whoop chasing after them. It’s short lived, because SPLASH, but really even then his waterlogged laughter is detectable and carries over to the next surface breach, echoing off the walls of the cavern as once more M’ti starts to smooth the hair out of his face. This was more fun than he had in turns and that he was so young to start with, that was saying something, but such was the nature of the culture Pern fostered. It’s people deemed adults far before their bodies or brains were fully developed with all the expectations there of.

Was there a taboo behind nicknames? If so, Keruthien doesn’t seem to care and likely has a list of names not his ‘own’. Something warm and bright flares in him when he hears M’ti call him ‘Ru’, however; that one was new and now specific to the greenrider, even if someone happens to repeat it. Can he place why it strikes a chord, as it does? No, of course that moment goes unremarked (but not forgotten, it will come to haunt him again and again later, as this whole moment will). Instead, he’ll give chase to him, let his hand be grasped and allow revenge to be sought in another fall from the cliffside. His laughter will join M’ti’s, robust and unfiltered, echoing off the walls once he’s cleared the water from his face and pushed back his hair. There’s no need for conversation now, as Ruthien goes in for the “kill” again and starts to splash water and reach to playfully nudge, tickle and generally rough house in play with the younger rider. Anything to keep that moment between them alive, feeding off the atmosphere they’ve created here. Carefree fun, as one would think to see between good friends! Another jump may be in order, with Ruthien taking off again and perhaps “winning” this time. By the time they exit the pool again, he is thoroughly tired out at least for swimming and he will say as much with a broad grin. Up that path, back to the flat shelves of sun warmed rock, where he rolls out the large towel he brought. Patting the space beside him, he will lay out on his back and sigh contentedly. “… now THAT was some fun!” he remarks, draping an arm over his eyes as a way to shade them. It also makes him a prime target, should M’ti feel bold for anything beyond just joining him on those rocks.

That’s a good question, but not one that M’ti was asking of himself, as the nickname had popped into his head and flowed out of him naturally and now seems to have stuck. It felt warm and right, solidifying itself somewhere deep inside of him, like a something finally settling into the place it was always meant to be. Although, the greenrider was far too busy enjoying himself to pay it much mind at present, but rest assured it would be turned over and inspected closely in the not so distant future. For now there is running, hand grasping, jumping and plunging; Matty’s laughter intertwines and spirals upwards with Ruthien’s, quick to splash back at him, his expression jovial and alarmingly bright. Whatever physical contact between them then is kept strictly platonic with well timed pushes and failed attempts to dodge the smith, ultimately resulting in more laughter heavily laced with unfiltered and undeniable joy. It isn’t difficult to keep the atmosphere at peak energy levels, with M’ti giving chase instinctively as if this was an activity that he’d always participated in with Keruthien, as easy as breathing, despite the fact this was the first time in his life he’d ever played with another living breathing person like this. “No fair!” he calls after him as he takes the lead and dives off the cliff, with the greenrider to quickly follow, finding at the end that he too was a bit tuckered out to continue in this way as well and so there is no ‘awwwws’ or pouting, no nothing like that, hardly about to guilt trip Keruthien for wanting to take a break even if he wasn’t in the same state as he. This time, when the smithy grins, there is an answering one with only the lightest dusting of color to pale cheeks and the greenrider is completely unaware of the things that were changing their shape where no one could see them. Following the man back up to ground level at a much more leisurely pace though, the thought occurs to M’ti as they fall into step beside one another, that holding Keruthien’s hand was first and foremost on his mind. This was why the awkward sort of punches him in the gut when that towel was rolled out and that body is laid out before him like a gather’s banquet, gears slamming on one train of thought to a squealing halt and then slowly beginning to turn in another direction. Standing there, staring on the cusp of just plain weirdness, M’ti eventually lowers himself to kneel beside Ruthien and then leans over him to brush lips over his, “Thank you…” he says in a tone that is heavy with far more than just gratitude for that bit of fun they’d just had, the back of his fingers slid over the older man’s cheek as he lingers there, “…I had a lot of fun today.”

When has Ruthien ever played fair? Even if it comes across as 'fair' now, despite any "dirty tricks" in their play. It was definitely unfair that he remains oh-so oblivious to the way things were changing, the subtle change of shape of emotions he hasn't yet reflected too deeply on. He's too focused on the NOW, not the future and it will likely come to bite him hard in the months to come. There's a smile that blossoms after that brush of lips, his arm dropping away so blue eyes can drift open and turn towards the young greenrider. "Good!" he replies with that ever present humor of his. "That was the whole point! I think we both needed a break, eh?" There's no hesitation from him, to lean into those trailing fingers and likewise he'll reach to touch his hand against his arm or shoulder. Join him? "Come on and relax a little more." What could possibly go wrong with that invitation? Likely nothing, as Keruthien isn't exactly hauling him down, but who is to say that he will be chaste in the long run? There's still plenty of daylight, even if it's later in the day (got to love summer for that!) and Ruthien is very much unhurried to go anywhere from this place.

A truer statement had never been written than that, Keruthien most assuredly did not play fair or by any set of rules that M’ti was aware of, but then again no one had ever offered him the playbook. It was all good though as far as the greenrider was concerned, as they seemed to both be having fun with it, and for a time it takes his mind off the things yet unspoken on his side of things. Unspoken, of course, as he didn’t want to pop the perfect pink bubble they thus far existed in. Little did he know that things were going to come to somewhat of a head a lot sooner than expected. The future was and wasn’t much on Matty’s mind when exposed to the smile that draws itself onto Ruthien’s mouth, fear and doubt pushed aside in favor of living in the moment, find that it was all too easy to return that expression with equal measure. “Can’t disagree with you there,” he admits, surprised at how light he felt now in comparison to when Keruthien had found him at the overlook. That the smithy candidate was leaning into his touch and touching him in return, so very gently? Well, can one really blame the greenrider for smiling at the man like he does, ashen lashes lowering a drumbeat before he leans back down again and this time that kiss he offers is far from a chaste one. Deep and thorough as it might be, there was a considerable amount of emotion and feeling behind it before biology brings heat and passion; starting slow, soft, and remarkably tender. If there was anywhere else that M’ti had to be, it certainly doesn’t show as he makes it all too obvious he plans to waylay Keruthien for many hours yet.

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