The 10th of Sil, Third Month of Summer
Another day of travel.
The days were blending together, but there have been some notable events recently. Bo and Elias announced that Finn would be escorted to a safer area due to the dangers of the mission. He would be escorted by Dinny, Raya, and Rudy.
There were a few surprises to that statement. Mel wondered if Elias wanted to join too, but he seemed to be hesitant talking about it with her. Rudy leaving so soon also surprised Mel, but maybe it wasn't too surprising after all he went through. She didn't blame him for wanting to seek safety. Malkiel, however, seemed weirdly defensive about it. He wasn't angry or hostile, but he spent a great deal of time trying to convince Rudy's mind. Nothing he said seemed to work. Hendrik eventually told Malkiel to cut it off, and he stormed off and left it along after that.
Other than that dramatic day, things have been more or less the same.
Mel had already found her natural rhythm traveling with her friends in Nye, but traveling with friends and strangers were a new frontier.
Well, they weren't really strangers anymore. Mel could hold a conversation with any of the mages and feel comfortable chatting and sitting with them, but she did notice that she tended to gravitate more towards Alistair, Elias, and Elise. Or maybe it was the other way around. Either way, she wanted to get to know the others more, so she found herself spending more time with the newer folks.
Hendrik always seemed to enjoy her company, although he seemed stiffer than usual lately. Mel figured it was because he was still getting used to Nye and the new way of life here. That, and things were... well, more serious in general. It sometimes didn't feel like it, but they were actively in danger every day. Hendrik seemed to be aware of that and was always on the alert, especially since he was keeping away any monsters that could attack them.
With Rudy now gone, it was like Malkiel needed to fill the empty companionship void he left behind. He seemed eager to take care of Hendrik's animals while he was busy keeping the monsters at bay, but Hendrik insisted that he stop asking and get some rest instead. Everyone understood that Hendrik didn't say this out of malicious intent; this was his way of telling Mal that he needed to rest. Well, everyone except Mal understood it that way, anyways.
That left the other newer mages.
Clanny seemed fun. She frequently made Mel giggle. Something about her clumsy yet bubbly personality made her fun. Jordan was also a funny guy that often made Mel laugh. He was witty and hilarious, and sometimes he and Elias would hold a seemingly dull conversation that still comes out to be humorous to an audience. Raj seemed a bit shy, but Alistair seemed to take a liking to him since she noticed they were often near each other. Not talking, but still near each other. Doctor Aradis - the other Mel - was also a nice, warm presence. She and Elise seemed to click fast. Predictable, since they were both doctors with a warm presence.
That left Bo and Robin.
"Robin, what do you think about Bo?" Mel asked with a dreamy sigh, watching the others ahead.
Hendrik usually led the group with Bo while they hiked, and Robin would walk towards the back of the pack to sniff out anyone that could sneak behind them. Sometimes it switched, but today, they were walking from behind. And for once, Mel decided to trail back and follow Robin. He was in his wolf form, but that didn't really bother her anymore. It was a little weird to ask love advice from a wolf, but stranger things have happened.
Robin huffed through his nose at the question. If wolves could shrug, he did the equivalent of that with a bob of his head.
"I don't know. He's a good friend, I guess," Robin said.
"What about more than a friend? Do you think he's available?" Mel asked bluntly. She liked that she could ask straightforward questions to Robin.
"I'm not interested in being in a relationship with Bo," Robin said plainly.
Mel giggled. "Not you, silly. I was talking about me. Or, well, you know." She twirled a strand of her hair with her finger. "Any other woman, man, or whoever. I'm just speaking in theoreticals, obviously."
"So. You," Robin said.
"Could be me." She grinned, glancing over at him. "Yeah. I'm talking about me."
"Mel," Robin said. "Bo's married to his job. Rescuing people is a huge responsibility."
"Okay, but you can't work forever, you know?" Mel huffed. "I'm sure he wants some free time from that, wouldn't you think? He's such a funny guy. Surely he wants to do other fun stuff, too."
"Mel, if you want to know his hopes and dreams, you should just ask him," Robin said. "But I'm positive he doesn't see you that way. You're another person he's rescuing. I don't think romance is even on his mind."
Mel scrunched up her nose, blowing air through her lips. Boooo. Robin could be such a downer sometimes.
But there was some truth to what he was saying. She thought back to when she tried to flirt with Bo many times before. The general conversations replayed in her head.
- It was their second night at the camp.
"Hiya, Bo!" Mel said cheerily as he was making dinner, sitting on the log next to him.
"Hey, Mel," Bo said with a small smile, stirring the pot.
She scooted over to him closer so she could smell the pot of soup. "Oooh, smells good. Whatcha making?"
"Just chicken stew," he said. "And don't worry. Sleepy was kept in the dark about this. No pet chickens were harmed in the making of this stew."
Mel giggled, deciding to not mention that she and the others didn't really eat any meat, but he would hear about it from someone else other than her.
"Funny!" she said with a smile. "Also, I was wondering... do you usually cook by yourself?"
"Not always," Bo said. "Sometimes Dr. Mel helps out or takes over the cooking. Raj will help sometimes too. The three of us take turns, but I like cooking, so I do it often."
Mel nodded, still sitting close to him, listening attentively. "Oh, okay. Well, if you want another helping hand, just let me know! I'd like to think I'm better with a helper, anyways. If you know what I mean."
"It's nice to have someone to help," Bo agreed. "Especially if you're making a really big meal. But stew's pretty simple. Throw everything in a pot and let it... stew."
Mel laughed. Again. "Hilarious," she said with a grin. "But really, if you need any help here, or with any chores. Well, you know where to find me. I think it'd be nice to hang out more, don't ya think?"
She patted his muscular shoulder.
Bo shrugged slightly and offered a small smile.
"I appreciate you wanting to help out," Bo said. "But we all help share the load here."
That was on the first night she truly sat down to truly get to talk and get to know him. Mel even upped her flirting for every day that passed, but Bo still didn't seem to understand her intentions.
"So, Bo," she said to him another day when it was just the two of them again. "Tell me about your tattoos! They are so cool!"
"Oh, they're just two dragons," Bo said. "Inspired by the lightning dragon and the fire dragon."
"Aw, that's kind of romantic. You know, since people say that love can feel like fire and ice?" Mel said with a casual voice, wondering if she had been too obvious.
"Well, it's more to do with their magic..."
Still, Mel didn't give up.
"Bo, I'm curious," Mel said to him another day. "You are so strong. And tall, and handsome! How did you get so strong?"
She was starting to feel a little desperate at this point. Clearly, he'd understand her intentions now, right?
"Lots of exercise and lucky genes I guess," Bo said.
Mel faltered. Did he really just brush off her excessive compliments? Surely he'd have an ounce of doubt in all this.
"Do you mind if I touch your biceps?" she asked, internally cringing at herself but still forcing a smile.
"Uh, I'd rather you not," Bo said with a small laugh.
Well. Mel wasn't going to push that.
Mel sighed in frustration, shaking her head to yank her mind back to the present with Robin.
"You know, you're probably right. I mean, Bo's so oblivious! Do you know how often I've dropped hints?" She continued on before he could answer her rhetorical question. "I've asked him to let me know if he'd like a helping hand in cooking. Or any chores, really. Like, I told him I'd like to help him specifically. I also complimented his tattoos. I told him it was romantic. He said it wasn't romance - it was magic!" She scoffed. "And I literally told him he looked handsome. He has big muscles. He's tall. How did he get those muscles, I ask? Oh, he said it was genes. Genes. I mean, I could have told him flat out, 'Hey, I have a crush on you. Whuddya think?' but I stupidly asked if I can touch his muscles instead. Okay, I know, that was stupid, but I didn't want to be so obvious, you know! It's not fun and it's kind of lame. I'm sure you can understand."
"...Yeah," Robin said flatly, clearly unable to relate.
"So, what do you think? Should I still play my cards?"
"He's not interested, obviously. I'd just drop it," Robin said.
Mel groaned. Loudly. "Ugh. So much time has passed, Robin. I'm going crazy. Why's it so hard to find a nice, funny guy? Bo's not interested, I guess. And Elias? I prefer him as a friend. I feel like Bo just checks all the boxes, you know?"
"Why don't you try talking to Jordan?" Robin suggested. "He seems interested."
That grabbed Mel's attention. She took a few brisk steps ahead so she can look back at him with a wide smile. "Wait, Jordan? He's interested? Really?"
Jordan... well, he was pretty funny. Mel enjoyed being around him. Now that she was thinking about it, he was a pretty great guy. Honestly, now it did seem obvious. Why had she given him little thought before? She had been so preoccupied trying to win Bo over, she hadn't tried really getting to know Jordan.
Robin rolled his eyes.
"For someone who professes to be socially aware, I'm surprised you haven't noticed," Robin said.
Mel scoffed and rolled her eyes, giggling. "Yeah, okay, Mister I'm-the-expert-of-social-awareness."
"I'm aware," Robin said. "I just don't care. Most of what isn't said I can smell."
"Ew," Mel said as she crinkled her nose, but then paused to reflect, looking back at him with a grin.
"Yeah. That's how I feel," Robin muttered.
"So. What does Jordan smell like?" she asked with piqued interest.
"Go sniff him yourself," Robin said.
Mel hummed. "What do I smell like?"
"Horny as hell," Robin answered.
Mel burst out laughing, playfully bending down to shove him. "Please. Never say that again. For all of our sanities."
"Sure," Robin said with a flick of his tail.
Mel's laugh subsided, but she continued on, still with a smile on her face. "You know, I think I will sniff out Jordan. Not literally. Just, ya know. Talking. Feeling him out, per your advice. Thanks, Robin. Everybody probably says you have that crazy canine sixth sense in detecting romance, am I right?"
Robin didn't respond. He merely looked at her with the most displeased wolven expression she ever saw.
"So does that mean you've got a good radar on yourself? Or is the werewolf population not too strong these days?" Mel prodded.
"There aren't many of us left," Robin answered, more solemn. "Most of my kind were murdered along with the mages."
Well. That was certainly a way to kill a conversation topic, but this was Robin, so Mel was determined to continue anyways. She was just about to suggest that he didn't have to be partnered with a werewolf, but it appeared that Robin beat her to it.
"Werewolves have romanced humans in the past," Robin said. "It's not as common, but it's entirely possible. It's just not often you find humans that don't have reservations about people who are equal parts human and wolf these days."
"Hmm, yeah, I can see that. But it seems that pretty much everyone in this group is accepting, so maybe you've just been meeting some mean people," Mel suggested.
"I'd have to meet someone I'm interested in first," Robin said. "Besides. Everyone here is far too young for me."
Mel shot him another grin. "Oh yeah? What's your type? Old and wrinkly?"
"I'm 43," Robin said flatly.
"What's that in werewolf years?" Mel said with a smirk.
"Same as your years," Robin said wearily.
Mel hummed, her smile widening again. "Hendrik's around the same age. I'm sure he'd definitely be interested. He thinks werewolves are so cool."
For the first time since Mel had met Robin, he laughed. A very wolven laugh. More of a howl, really.
"Hendrik and I find one another mutually obnoxious," Robin said. "And we merely tolerate each other. But you focus on your interests. I'll focus on mine."
Mel was pleased as is getting Robin to open up and laugh. Plus, she was able to drudge through his wisdom to gain new perspective on Jordan. This was a win.
"Fine with me," she chirped. "I'll talk to Jordan tonight."