Restlessness slipped under F'nor's skin. He was in motion before he realised why. The bronze riders were absent from the main cavern, and, barely a bend in the corridor beyond it, he could hear the deepest of the male dragon voices as they called to each other.
The last time Benden's only queen had risen in a mating flight, F'nor had known what that meant by lesson and observation - but not experience. Now he had that too. Half a turn ago Canth had chased and caught green Gereth. The dryness in F'nor's mouth was half empathy, half memory: urgent arousal, musky skin under his mouth, thrusting his cock where he could find friction between the other rider's thighs.
He felt a a faint stir of interest from Canth. Brown dragons did not fly queens - though Canth was bigger than Benden's smallest bronzes, and at six turns had not reached his full growth. At this late hour it occurred to F'nor to be wary of Canth's reaction to this event.
But on this occasion, at least, there was no danger, because the bronze dragons' cries were dying away - lifting away, as they followed their mate into the air. F'nor wondered if Nemorth would struggle above the height of the Weyr bowl. The timing - so soon after the midday meal - was not auspicious. At the best of times Jora's acrophobia and nausea kept her queen out of the air.
No danger, but - despite Jora - opportunity. Was F'lar among the riders? Hope and curiosity lengthened F'nor's steps. He turned into the corridor outside the Weyrwoman's chamber.
A miserable scene unfolded before him: riders, not straining and absent, but blinking, reeling. R'gul's boot protruded with obscene absurdity from the hangings to the chamber. He heard Jora's wet gasps within.
The flight, begun barely minutes ago, was already over.
As if sensitivity to F'lar, not Nemorth's urges, was the instinct that had led him here, F'nor glanced down the corridor and closed his jaw with a snap: his brother stood at a dragonlength's distance. F'nor's eyes met F'lar's, but did not catch them. F'lar's eyes were unfocused, his fists clenched. He rocked back and forth like a ship in a troubled bay. As alertness returned to his eyes, shock followed, and rage and shame.
F'lar stepped forward, towards the other bronze riders, his customary discipline discarded as if their father's impulses had only lain in wait. As clearly as the curl of F'lar's lip, F'nor could see the next panel in this tapestry. The riders, disturbed and disoriented by a flight that had agitated but not wearied them, brawling in the corridor, coming to their senses with hands about each other's throats. It could not happen. F'nor ducked past the other bronze riders, ignoring them. He crowded F'lar against the wall, his left arm going up high to block F'lar's escape.
F'lar let out a harsh breath and shoved at him; F'nor shoved back. His victories against F'lar in grappling and similar contests were rare, and he didn't count this as one of them. In response to his steady pressure, F'lar's second shove was less aggressive. He grunted, pushed himself up against F'nor, as if he were Jora or some other intended mate.
It was this, F'nor told himself, that gave him his next idea. He told himself that it had never occurred to him before. That this was merely a thought to turn bloodlust back to the more primitive lust in which it had begun.
His right hand was free. He slid it down his brother's body, coming to rest at his groin, where the leather strained, warmth as much as contour betraying the swell of F'lar's cock. F'lar twisted, and F'nor responsively tightened his curved half-grip; F'lar moaned. More confident, now, F'nor stroked firmly up and down, careful to work around snags in the fabric that still separated his fingers and his brother's cock, encouraging him to a desperate rigidity.
They had Impressed at the same Hatching, yet the gap of three years between them had always set F'lar apart in status from F'nor; his concerns had always seemed to be larger concerns than F'nor's, and had added distance to F'lar's natural reserve. F'nor had been happy to follow in F'lar's shadow; less keen, for all that Weyr folk supposedly put little store in relationships, to feel that reserve. But the façade, for once, had slipped, and all at once it seemed to F'nor true that the same petty feelings of men stirred F'lar as they did him. For once he was not untouchable. Therefore F'nor touched him.
Behind him, he heard two riders shuffle off together. He shifted slightly, ensuring that his body hid his right arm, the movements of his shoulder. As if he was merely conferring with F'lar, consoling him for his defeat, in flight and for the position of Weyrleader. Quietly, yes, but they were known for discretion, both of them.
He glanced up. F'lar's eyes were sharp, alert, ironic. He met F'nor's gaze without speaking.
F'nor stroked him faster, sliding his palm over and around the head of F'lar's cock as F'lar's breeches permitted. He kept his eyes locked on F'lar's until F'lar's mouth went slack, head tilting back, breaking eye contact and losing their unspoken contest: another victory not to be recorded.
They stood there a moment, still not speaking. From the dying sounds behind them, F'nor surmised that the other bronze riders had gone. Adrenaline fading, F'nor ached with need. Impossible thought succeeded impossible thought: F'lar in his bed, F'lar sucking him off, as casually competent with his mouth around a cock as he was at anything else he set his mind to.
F'lar met F'nor's eyes again. "It should have been me," he said, as if stating a plain fact.
F'nor did not reply instantly, desperate fantasies giving way to desolate ones. He imagined the next three years, or more, with R'gul as Weyrleader. "She barely got off the ground," he said quietly.
F'lar shook his head quickly, sharply, as if dismissing how little chance he and Mnementh had had. F'nor watched his half-brother absorb into himself responsibility for every poor course that the Weyr might take as a result of this day: as tangible as a cloak that F'lar might pull about himself, but sinking under his skin. Then, as F'lar straightened up from the wall, stretched languidly, and adjusted his belt to help hide what F'nor had done, F'nor saw the visible anguish fade away, F'lar's usual guarded demeanour settling over his face.
And yet, if the walls were up, F'nor was within them, lodged under F'lar's skin; the rapport was still there in what F'lar did not say.
F'lar nodded to him and strode down the corridor - his stride only a little wobbly. A quarter-smile on his face, F'nor went the other way.