“Dieth told me something very interesting while I was recovering,” B’ton said as he took a long drink of klah. There was something too offhanded in his tone, and Ray felt himself tense. He knew no good would come of having a dragon in his head.
“Yeah, what was that?” he asked when B’ton seemed like he was waiting for a response, proud of how he kept his tone even. Ray pushed his dinner plate away and picked up his own mug to keep his fingers from drumming on the table.
“I asked him why, when I was attacked, he called you instead of another dragonrider.” B’ton’s cheeks pinked as he went on, visible even in the relatively dim lighting of B’ton’s quarters. “He told me you put me first.”
Ray felt his own face reddening as the implications of that sunk in. “Well, we’re friends,” he finally got out.
“Yes, we are,” B’ton agreed, catching Ray’s gaze and holding it. “Very good friends. But when I brought it up with him later, he informed me that wasn’t what he meant.”
Ray felt panic taking hold. This was not a conversation he ever wanted to have. He grasped at the first response he could think of. “Well, he’s a dragon. What does he know?”
“Ray.” That one word, so warm and full of amusement and what he was sure was sympathy, and Ray knew it was no use.
“Look, I gotta go,” he said, scrambling out of his chair and starting toward the doorway.
“Wait,” B’ton called out, and despite his desire to leave as fast as his feet would carry him, Ray couldn’t help but stop. He closed his eyes and kept his back to B’ton, listening as the man stepped closer.
“Are you leaving because what Dieth said upset you, or because it’s the truth?” B’ton asked, voice oh so gentle, like he didn’t want to scare Ray off. It nearly broke Ray’s heart to say what he knew had to be said.
“A Harper like me has no business being with a Bronze rider,” he rasped out. “Especially one who’d be as good a leader as you. You should,” he went on, still facing away to hide what the words cost him, “you should let Dieth fly a queen.”
Shockingly, that statement made B’ton laugh. Ray turned around to see him shaking his head, a rueful grin on his face.
“I would be spectacularly bad as Weyrleader, Ray. I wasn’t raised to it. The fact that I didn’t grow up in a Weyr means a lot of people still see me as hopelessly out of touch. I’m not sure they’re wrong.” He shrugged, his smile turning fond. “Wingleader, perhaps... or flight instructor. That’s more suited to Dieth and me. But I have no desire to be in charge of an entire Weyr.”
He took a step closer to Ray. “Besides,” B’ton went on, “Dieth prefers Greens.”
Ray swallowed, frozen in place. “He does?”
“Yes. He seems to prefer going against the expected.” B’ton took another step forward, cupping Ray’s cheek with one warm hand. “His rider agrees with that thinking wholeheartedly,” he whispered, leaning in to brush his lips over Ray’s.
That gentle touch restored Ray’s ability to move, and he immediately leaned in to return the kiss. He felt B’ton smile against his mouth and reached out, pulling them closer together.
It was a good thing Ray had never fancied himself a wordsmith, because there were none he could think of that would properly describe just how wonderful this moment was. Instead, he lost himself in the kiss and the feeling of B’ton’s hands caressing his face, his neck, his back. The desire for more crashed into him, and he pulled back as what was happening really hit him.
It took a minute for Ray to catch his breath, especially since he couldn’t help but to keep dropping tiny kisses on B’ton’s lips, unable to keep away from them. Shifting to press their foreheads together, he looked at B’ton, his face beautifully flushed, his lips shiny and kiss-swollen.
“So, I guess you don’t mind what Dieth said either,” Ray said with a grin.
B’ton’s eyes were twinkling with merriment when he schooled his face into a serious expression and answered, “I suppose I will have to learn to live with it.”
“Shards and shells, you better, after kissing me like that!” Ray exclaimed. That got him a raised eyebrow.
“How I kissed you?”
“Hey, you started it,” Ray shot back, smiling so wide his cheeks hurt. He wasn’t sure he could stop if you paid him.
“What you see as placing blame, I see as finally taking action, one that we both should have taken a long time ago.”
Ray shrugged and moved in to kiss the juncture of B’ton’s neck and shoulder. He got a very satisfying shudder in response, as well as an accompanying gasp when he placed a kiss just under B’ton’s ear and whispered, “We can argue that point later. If we’re so behind, maybe we’d better start getting caught up, huh?”
And that was the end of any talking for quite some time. Well, except for a smug, self-satisfied rumble that swept through Ray’s mind, and B’ton’s too if the brief interruption in the proceedings was any indication.
They were definitely going to have a talk with a certain bronze later about timing. And minding his own business.