Skip Of The Needle

Clock Tower
The walls of the tower are the same dark gray stones that make up the outside of the tower. The central portion of the structure is open, so that one may stand in the center of the structure and see the top. Well…almost the top. A ceiling cuts off the view to whatever it is that's at the very top of the tower. Very little light comes in, just tiny beams of light from the arrow-slits in the walls. The floor is of dark hardwood slats, thin enough to have been worked easily but thick enough to provide protection from insects and wildlife that might be trying to get in.
A wooden staircase is built along wall, one that spirals up and up around the inner wall of the structure. It leads a workshop, where along every wall there are…clocks, of course! Clocks of just about every configuration one could think of, and quite a few that are outlandish enough to escape one's consideration at first. While most of these clocks are working, there are more than a few of them that aren't. The gentle ticking sounds fill the space, the clocks almost always perfectly in sync with each otherand with the ticking from the movement of the big clock aboveand the sounds mingling together to form an ordered cacophony of sounds.
Clock parts are strewn across a table in one corner. There are a couple of cabinets with parts in them like the ones downstairs—parts that are significantly smaller than those on the first floor. These are obviously for the smaller clocks that are built here. There are no less than two large grandfather clocks in this workshop, both working.
A thick support threads through a large hole in the center of the floor, extending from below to above. A chain hangs beside it too, anchored high above, and the spiral staircase continues up, past a door on the outside and on to more storage space, dedicated to piles of crates with springs and "little" parts for the clocktower's main movement. Of course, the word "little" may not be the best way to describe it; some of these springs and levers are longer than a man's arm. And some of the gears in these crates a man could actually put his arm through the middle of easily.

It's well past lunch and hours until dinner that Cherith circles the meadow until coming into a very graceful landing upon dainty toes, but isn't the sort to be bothered that no one was around to notice. M'ti swings down off her back and to the ground, having hit the jackpot when it comes to Impressions as boarding and descending from much larger dragons looked rather daunting to him in comparison. Checking on the precious burden he'd tucked inside his jacket and making sure it was safe, there is a breath of relief before he pats his lifemate on her neck before stepping away and begins to wander in search of one candidate in particular. He hadn't had the best of luck last time, but something was telling him to look in the direction of the clock tower for some reason or another and so off he goes one foot in front of the other.

The clocktower as a guess will pay off well for M'ti and poorly in other regards. For he'll find who he seeks within easily enough. Keruthien is indeed within, but he is not alone. Which isn't wholly unexpected, as Candidates usually do work together in groups. Only this isn't the case at all. Their work is done and the only reason he and this other Candidate are lingering behind is because they're clearly having a conversation. A very… close quartered one, in hushed tones and wry amusement bantered between them both. It's quite obviously on the threshold of flirting and both parties appear eagerly and mutually invested in it. Keruthien especially, his focus on the one in front of him and not so much on the surrounding world. For that reason, he won't notice if anyone has snuck up on them or is even catching a glimpse in the distance.

Strolling along, none the wiser, M'ti first checks the steps leading inside from a distance before approaching the door itself and making his way inside. Unintentionally, he makes little sound as he does this, his footsteps naturally light and it seems the hinges had been recently oiled. It takes a few moments for his eyes to adjust to the gloom of the clock tower's interior, but even as it does he can hear the sound of male voices quieted and amiable. One he instantly recognizes as Keruthien's and so the package he'd so carefully prepared is removed from his jacket with a warm and soft smile, an expression that dies as the tone of that muted conversation dawns on him. No. Please no. Gripping the small gift in his hand, M'ti suddenly, as if against his will, begins to move forward even as his blood runs icy cold and his stomach starts to tighten. The source is uncovered far too quickly for one in Matty's position, all too soon standing there and baring witness to Keruthien fully engaged in what appeared to be a wholly intimate exchange with someone who seemed to be just as into him as it was the other way around. In that moment, all he wanted to do was run away, nut found instead all he could do was standing there, staring at them. His feet felt rooted to the floor and his eyes refused to deviate, brows ever so slowly sinking downwards as if he couldn't believe he was seeing or hearing. The main gears inside his head stuck and stubbornly refusing to process any of it, while the smaller ones in the back turned far too quickly with the sorts of thoughts that had Cherith stirring somewhat. Of course. Of course he wasn't special to someone like Keruthien. The comparison between the two of them laughable surely, what with one being so friendly self-assured and the other too nervous and scared to get close to people. It all made perfect sense. M'ti had only been someone to kill some time with all this while. Why had he allowed himself to think that what he felt was mutual? Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Without a word he turns, still in a bit of shock, his boots scraping on the wooden floor soundly and he forces himself to leave. He had to go. He couldn't stay any longer.

None the wiser, Keruthien is continuing with his 'flirting', mostly unintentional on his part, with this unnamed Candidate. Had M'ti stuck around and not given into the first thoughts to pop into his mind, he would have discovered that their conversation was nothing more than the usual joking banter. It sounded serious, but there was nothing really behind it. Some playful jousting, some verbal jabs and nudges and then they're off in their separate paths. One of the last comments given has Keruthien laughing, but it tapers off just in time to hear the scraping of boots on the floor. Just a glimpse of the fleeing form but it's all that he needs. Excusing himself, Ruthien does his best to hurry after M'ti. Once the greenrider is in sight, he'll rapidly close the distance. Unaware of the turmoil and pain he's just cause, he'll attempt to overtake the greenrider in favour of turning to face him, even if it means walking backwards to do it. "Hey! Where are you off to, in such a hurry? I'm done my chores, y'know." Said with his usual grin, so full of amusement and energy. He has NO CLUE. No clue, on how badly this will come off, how wrong his every behaviour and gesture will be read.

To be perfectly honest, M'ti didn't give a tunnelsnake's sphincter who that was with Keruthien, only that he'd been struck by a sudden impulse towards violence for whomever he was. All that the greenrider was feeling needed an outlet and that was just the first of many what he'd seen had inspired even as he turns to leave, wanting to move far away at break neck speeds from that scene. Unfortunately, M'ti found that his legs felt far too heavy to accommodate the desire. That laughter chasing after him, was not helpful, but rather it makes the greenrider outright cringe as every negative thought he had skyrockets to new heights. Eventually there is momentum, his free hand pushing past the door he'd only just entered, and his feet carry him back down the steps towards the makeshift path that'd lead him back in the general direction of Cherith. Completely lost inside his own head, M'ti doesn't even notice that Ruthien was in pursuit, somehow managing to convince himself not to fall to pieces just yet. Barely. This state of being is thoroughly tested when the very object of his turmoil appears in his way, so jovial and nonchalant it sets the greenrider's teeth on edge, "I'm going home," he replies flatly with a hardening of his jawline, rather impressed with himself for holding it together, even if the slight sting to his eyes warns of it's rapidly decaying state. Why are you even here, Keruthien? he asks himself, What happened to your little friend? Side stepping, M'ti attempts to dodge the backwards walking candidate, his thoughts turning well and truly bitter. Oh. I get it. It doesn't matter who it is, does it? As long as they're easy. Matty feels a sharp stab in his chest with that, clueless as to whether it was because Ruthien might atually think that of him or that he might be perceived by others this way.

Anyone else would be able to put two and two together and nip this right in the bud before it spiralled further out of control. Only that person isn't Keruthien, as he's young still and despite experience in some fields, he is woefully not as aware in others. He's not so blissfully unaware as to miss the hardening of that jawline and the flat tone, but he's way off the mark as to the source. Seeing M'ti upset has him impulsively reaching for him, to touch fingers to his arm or shoulders and grip, firmly enough, to stop the greenrider. They can dodge and dance around each other for awhile at this rate, as he's not so easily deterred or thrown off the trail, once he's set on it! M'ti would remember that well enough. "What? Already! You don't want to hang out? Like I said, I'm done my chores and have some free time." He offers again, smile still curving his lips at this invitation of company. If he's managed to stop him, he'll wait there, in hopeful anticipation to his answer. "We can do something fun, even! We don't have to go to my room or anything, if you don't want to Matty?" Ooh, his use of his name couldn't come at a worse time, could it? Only Keruthien really doesn't know. Truly. Which is liable to make it just a touch more tragic.

It didn't help that M'ti was not especially forthcoming when it came to expressing himself and what he was really thinking, the guard that was once down between them, now high and firmly in place. Although, for how long was debatable at best, particularly when Keruthien reaches out and grabs his arm. This action brings immediate stone like tension throughout the greenrider's body, far more pronounced than it had been previously, and he recoils in seconds by yanking himself out from beneath his grasp. Don't you fucking touch me! This very nearly escapes his parted lips, biting hard on his tongue to prevent in spite of the fact his very cellular make up cried out every syllable in silence, a wince doing a decent job of keeping it from showing on his face. Yes, M'ti was well aware that Keruthien was like a thing that would not blow off, and this was the only reason he stops dead in his tracks rather than continuing to try and escape outright, "No. No I don't want to hang out…" he begins to say, managing somehow not to hiss, though the anger shows through plain enough. However, between the smithy candidate's words and that smile growing in such stark contradiction to how M'ti feels was as if the man had just pulled a knife on him, the blade run through him again and again a moment later. Fun. The deepest cut of all, his nickname, something he'd offered in hope of more growing between them but hearing it now made him feel sick. Fuck you, Keruthien! "Here!" he says, his voice thick with emotion as he tears up whether he likes it or not, shoving the prettily wrapped gift in his hand HARD into the smithy's chest. There is barely a drumbeat before he pushes past him to make for Cherith at a dead run, wanting that distance now more than anything. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Why did this keep happening? Why?

Slowly, achingly slow, it will begin to sink in that something is very wrong and that he is the cause. By the time he makes the connection, however. it's already too late. Keruthien's mouth opens to fire back a quick response when M'ti turns him down, a wry half-grin hinting that he STILL assumes this might be some kind of game, like the time before when they danced around each other. Only he knows better now, that something is amiss but he's grasping at too many ill-fitting pieces. "Hey, what's…" Wrong. It almost forms in time and in the correct amount of genuine concern but abruptly cut off. Suddenly there is a pretty wrapped package thrust at him and he fumbles it, in an effort to react fast enough. He's barely examined it, when he's suddenly taking off and Keruthien can only stare at him again in dumbfounded puzzlement. What is going on? Before he even realizes it, he's trailing after him but his legs feel leaden - maybe some failsafe in him won't allow his body to work at full capacity or he's simply too stunned by the change in the greenrider. M'ti will earn his escape, though Keruthien will be visible, awkwardly standing there and likely watching as Cherith takes him home. Maybe he will see him lower his head, as his hands unwrap the gift and upon discovering what is inside, suddenly snap his gaze skywards again. By then, it will be too late and even had the greenrider remained, Keruthien wouldn't put the pieces together right. Still, it won't stop the arrival of a letter, the next day, from a young bronze barely a month old. Familiar script, a short message and a doodle of hugging figures. Will he read it? Even if M'ti doesn't, another letter will follow - and another. Do they all repeat themselves? Likely. Some might ramble on on tangents. One, however, ends on an unexpected note. An invitation to come see him, when the eggs Hatch. That his presence would be appreciated. It's phrased with hopefulness, but a hint of loneliness to it. It will be the last letter to arrive, whether or not he replies to it or any. After that, there is silence.

Unlike the link he shared with Cherith, there is nothing connecting M'ti to Keruthien, a perhaps not so accurate fact that would resonate hollowly within him had the thought occurred. Thus, lacking the ability to detect that some of what he was putting out there was indeed getting though at last, the greenrider continues as he has been in the face of that half-grin. There was no way that M'ti could do this anymore, feeling more and more like the fool, the need to leave before he embarrassed himself further with the confession dancing at the edge of his lips had brought that meticulously and affectionately wrapped gift to be propelled forward. Admittedly, it strikes firmer than intended, but there was something satisfying about it nonetheless. Fleeting as the sensation turns out to be. Whatever Keruthien tries to say, whatever expression he bares, M'ti can't bring himself to see or hear it. Booted feet eating ground with remarkable speed, there isn't even so much as glance backward, because this wasn't a game to him. It never had been. Things were suddenly too real, too raw, too reminiscent of events past now. Cherith is off the ground quickly with the greenrider barely buckled in, gaining height and winking out of existence in a blast of frosty air that is oddly fitting. Whether or not M'ti is aware that his gift is unwrapped or merely tossed aside is unknown, only that it contains a small blacksmith's hammer suspended from a dark brown cord of leather, with a sterling silver head; it's handle ornately carved with such attention to detail that it'd impossible to miss the tender loving care that went into it's creation. What is undeniably obvious is that there is no response to the letters that come, either in writing or any repeated appearances. Angry or otherwise. Like *between*, there is only the cold and the empty vacant silence of nothingness.

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