The Ring of Fire: Stories of the Residents
Atisa's Story, Chapter One
Coming back to Star City had been quite the treat. It wasn't exactly a birthday treat now, nor was it exactly a treat just for Atisa-- they were coming to let Kateni see if he wanted to spend the cyborware token his synth doctor had sent him-- but still, it was fun! There was still so much to see that they hadn't gotten to see three years ago-- or which had changed since then, or which were worth seeing again, or which she'd forgotten-- and it was so different from the Ring of Fire that it was a real vacation.
This trip included Atisa, Arlen, Kateni, and, of course, Jesmin. Having Jesmin along this time just made it all the more fun. Jesmin hadn't seen any of the station, since she hadn't been hatched at the time, and she was loving every minute of the trip. Just watching her have fun made Atisa enjoy herself more: she was so enthusiastic and interested in everything and everyone.
Though her making calf-eyes at random people was a little strange. Atisa hardly knew how to flirt, much less flirt so openly with total strangers! It was somewhere between fun, disturbing, and educational to watch the serpentine dragoness smile and pose and make bright conversation with the various dragons of Star City who made the time to talk to her. At home, she flirted some, but not like this.
::Well, everybody at home knew me from a baby!:: she sent privately when Atisa asked. ::I'm the helpful little girl bonded to Atisa Talake, not someone pretty and fun and flirty. Here, nobody knows anything about me except that I'm pretty and fun and flirty.::
::Well, as long as you're having fun,:: Atisa had said, back.
::I so am!:: Jesmin answered, beaming happily at her. Atisa smiled, back; that was what mattered.
When Jesmin started making eyes at an extremely handsome, extremely furry dragon at dinner, though, Atisa was a little put out. She had been gazing dreamily at him from across the restaurant when she caught him looking in her direction and for a minute was breathless with hopeful amazement that he was actually looking at her. Then she realized he was exchanging a grin and a wink with Jesmin, and she sat back in the booth with a pout. Arlen, who was deep in conversation with Kateni about Star City's most recent elections at the moment, didn't notice.
Jesmin, however, did. ::Aw, what's wrong?:: she asked.
::Not nothing, you're upset. What's wrong?::
Atisa looked sidelong at her bond, and sighed a little. ::Just-- you were flirting with that guy. From across the restaurant. I doubt he'd even look at me....::
At least Jesmin was a caring, understanding bond. ::Awww, don't think like that. He so would. You're sweet, and pretty, and I mean, really, look at those colors! I just look like somebody spilled paint on me.:: At her bond's cheerful wink, Atisa couldn't help but giggle a little.
But then Jesmin's tail hooked her wrist and, to Arlen and Kateni's surprise-- and Atisa's!-- she was dragging her after her out of the booth. "We'll be right back!" Jesmin chirped.
"Jesmin, what are you-- oh, no. No no no no. Jesmin!"
Jesmin was hauling her directly over to the pretty dragon's table. And she was cheerfully ignoring her hissed protests and embarrassment.
As it turned out, it wasn't so bad. Atisa was a little shy, but the dragon-- his name was Cemitae Rufasilex, and though he was quite big, he didn't seem overwhelming-- was sweet and did his best to draw her out. Jesmin was as cheerfully flirty as ever, and he seemed to like that, too. Really, it was a nice conversation, talking about the station and where each of them were from and such small-talky things. Jesmin hadn't even hogged the questions and answers; she and Cemitae both making sure Atisa was included. As they finally made to leave-- Arlen was starting to look a little put out by their disappearance to talk to a stranger, and a male stranger at that-- somehow Jesmin wound up getting something called an email address from him, on behalf of both of them.
::See?:: Jesmin prodded her on their way back, silently as much because she was flying while Atisa was walking arm in arm with Arlen and arm in fiery arm Kateni-- his little flames tickled rather than burned!-- as out of a desire for privacy. The three of them were in human form, and as Jesmin didn't like towering over everybody-- and didn't have a human form, herself!-- she glided and looped along in the open airspace beside the walkway. ::That wasn't so bad, was it?::
::No,:: Atisa agreed with a reluctant smile. ::He might even talk to me again.::
::Of course he would! And guess what.::
::He's the first outsider signed up for a public flight in a year! Right here, on this station!::
Atisa knew about flights. They happened at the Ring of Fire, what with all the different kinds of dragons there were there, and though most Avyndal didn't chose their mates that way, some had adapted. A rather famous example was Shalomji, an Avyndal who went off-world and seemed to be leaving children behind him on every planet he visited. His name was well-known at the Ring of Fire, and not a few Avyndal would have been pleased to snare him for herself. Atisa was not really one of them, but she did admire how brave and adventurous he was.
::Good for him,:: Atisa replied with a smile, thinking she admired Cemitae for a little more than his bravery. ::He must be popular.::
::Oh, he is. Six girls after him, already!::
::You should sign up, 'Tis!:: Jesmin added.
Atisa snorted-- then took a minute to assure Kateni she was not snorting at his opinions on current shadowfang infestation combating techniques back on Pre'Mian, but rather at something Jesmin had told her privately. Then took another minute to tell Arlen she'd tell him what Jesmin said later, and it wasn't really important, anyway.
::Me?:: she finally answered her bond skeptically, ::Join in a chase for a dragon twice my size, who only met me once?::
::I have his email address; you could send him an email and meet him again. And they have size-changing things. And besides, he changes into a human, too, remember?::
Yes, she vaguely remembered that from their conversation. ::I don't know, Jes, I don't think it would do me any good. I mean, he has six girls to chase him, already!::
::And I bet none of them are as cute as you are,:: Jesmin teased.
::Jes, be serious!::
::I am being serious. Come on, I'll sign up with you, how's that? Keep you company, make sure you don't feel too stupid, because I can always be more stupid than you.:: She sent her a picture of herself with her eyes crossed and tongue hanging out comically. ::Go on, it's what dragons around here do for fun! Well, one of the things. You know you want to.::
::I bet you just want to,:: Atisa accused, though lightly. ::And you don't want to go alone.::
::Course I want to. But you do, too.::
::Arlen will throw a fit and won't let me. He'll say it's not natural, and we're supposed to find a partner not a fling.::
::So remind him about Shalomji,:: Jesmin retorted. ::Even wraiths are having "flings"-- look at Eshanath!::
Eshanath was the daughter of Pheodian, the leader of the Ring of Fire's bonded dragon, and was a wraith, though not actually a Dysiniu like Arlen. She'd certainly not stayed by her mates from her flights longer than necessary. And she was hardly alone; others were doing the same.
::I thought you wanted your storybook romance,:: Atisa said. ::How is chasing after a pretty Asandus storybook?:: Atisa was proud to have remembered the name of Cemitae's species.
::Well, there's the chance we'll fall madly in love and live happily ever after,:: Jesmin sniffed, ::but I expect, really, he'll just be practice, and fun, and I doubt I'll win him anyway. I'm going so you don't feel stupid, remember?::
This time Jesmin's image of Atisa gliding along gracefully while Jesmin got tangled up in her wings-- the way she hadn't since she was first learning how to fly-- made her giggle. Arlen smiled at her, probably thinking she was giggling at something he or Kateni said, and she grinned back before answering her bond. ::You're sweet, Jes. I'll think about it.::
::Well, think fast, before he decides he's popular enough and doesn't want any more women chasing after him!::
Well, really, what harm would there be? Certainly she wouldn't be the one he chose, with so many exotic dragons here to chose from, but it would be fun, playing chase with a boy, in a much more grown-up way than with the boys at home. And there would be Jesmin to keep her company and make her laugh. It would be a learning experience, at the very least!
::We'll at least send him-- what was it, an email? And maybe get together for dinner or one of those holo-things, and if he still seems nice, we'll sign up,:: she promised Jesmin, who let out a whoop and did a loop in the air.
And at Arlen's questioning look, Atisa just shrugged and smiled. She could tell him... later. Maybe.
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