Breath of Fresh Air

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His lungs were burning. Noah Harn coughed and staggered through a pile of copper and metal debris, unintentionally kicking pieces aside before sinking against a nearby wall. Only a few minutes ago, the brunette had been sneaking around an old space cruiser complex. It was rumored to be abandoned. But Noah had seen small cruisers flying in and out of the complex occasionally, ones that looked suspiciously like dragons, and since he lived right nearby, he'd decided to go and take a look.

Then the floor had fallen out from under him. Like Noah, the space cruiser complex was located in Upper Floaten - half of a city that was kept aloft with powerful thrusters and pipeline systems. But it hadn't had a remodeled base in years, and when Noah tried to walk on it, he'd fallen straight through and crashed into Lower Floaten without even a helmet or rebreathing system to protect him from the polluted air.

Now he was frantically dragging himself through the back alleyways, desperate to find clean oxygen. He pushed himself off the wall he'd been resting on and stumbled out onto a city street. "Does - does anyone know where I can get fresh air?" he called out. There were only a few people nearby, and unfortunately for Noah, they were farther away than he thought and couldn't hear him calling out. The nineteen-year-old's knees wobbled before his legs gave out and sent him crashing to the sidewalk. He coughed and gagged slightly, his vision blurring, and he tugged at his coat collar in the hopes of breathing easier. "P - please! Air!" he yells.

Noah couldn't believe how hoarse he sounded. He grimaced and tried to crawl towards the wobbly shapes that looked somewhat like people. He finally thought to use his shirt as a makeshift filter and yanked it up over his mouth and nose, but it was no match for the thick smog of Lower Floaten, and after a few minutes he collapsed on his side with his chest heaving. Everything was spinning. He curled up on the concrete and tried to lift his head to see where the nearest person was. But he wasn't getting enough air, and as he gave a few more harsh coughs, his eyes started to slip closed.
 

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Lily had already finished up her latest run of deliveries and dropped Infernus off at the outskirts of town where many dragons used for work spent their nights. She could have brought him through the city to the workshop where she and her friend Jasper lived, but there were already a couple small dragons that lived there and there was just more space at the stables. She liked to let him stretch out in more open spaces whenever she could.

It was on her walk back home that she saw him, a young boy, struggling for air. His clothes were dirty but clearly more expensive than anything that could be found locally, and the way he gasped made her feel as if he didn't belong. Most locals were used to the poor air quality enough to last at least a few minutes at a time without aid, and would never have been caught anywhere outside without at least a filter mask, if not an actual tank of compressed air or some sort of automated filter pump.

She could think of several people that would say she should just leave him, that anyone of his kind would leave her, too.

Knowing she had to move quickly from the way he collapsed, she broke into as much of a run as she could with the small tank she carried on her back, hurrying to his side. She made quick work of pulling off the oxygen mask attached to it and strapping it onto his face, just taking an extra, thin filter mask from the bag at her hip for herself. She would last a while with just that small protection, and the workshop wasn't far.

"Come on, up and at 'em," she muttered mostly to herself, pulling his arm over her shoulders to keep him from pulling away hard enough to disconnect his mask from her tank. "Just a little farther."

She didn’t give him much choice, but he was incoherent anyway so she didn’t think it mattered. With his arm held tight over her shoulder and one of hers around his back so he couldn’t drift away, she hauled him with her for the last block or two to her destination, his weight dragging her down and his feet barely cooperating.

"Jasper!" She called when she got to the workshop, kicking the door when she had no hands to knock with. "Come get the door, I dropped my key!"

It felt like ages before she heard his footsteps, the boy's weight growing heavier on her shoulders with each second, but Jasper finally opened the door in front of her and made an affronted noise at the sight. "Who the hell is that?"

"No idea," she said with a shake of her head, pushing at him with her shoulder to get him to move out of the way. "Help me get him inside, his lungs are weak."

Jasper made a clearly unhappy face, but finally rolled his eyes and helped her haul the boy in, closing the door behind them and taking his other arm to help bear his weight. Getting him up the stairs to actual living quarters would've been too difficult, so they shoo'd one of the small resident dragons off the workshop couch and dropped the boy onto it. The air inside was heavily filtered, as it was with all other buildings in the area, so Lily disconnected the mask finally to remove claustrophobia from the equation.

Jasper stood back as she snapped her fingers in front of the boy's face to see if he was conscious, arms crossed irritably over his chest. "I liked it better when the only strays you brought home were animals."




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Something was on his face. Noah's eyes fluttered halfway open as he gave a low groan, coughing a few times and wincing as he realized he now had a pounding headache. He couldn't see very well, but he could tell someone had put some kind of oxygen mask around his face, and he sucked in desperate gulps of air.

The next few minutes were a blur. Someone lifted his arm up and pulled him to his feet; he wasn't quite sure who. They said . . . something, he couldn't quite make it out. And although he did his best to follow after whoever it was, his feet didn't seem to listen to what he was telling them.

He had no second thoughts about trusting whoever was leading him somewhere. They'd given him air, after all, so surely they were kind in some manner. It took a few minutes before his pounding headache began to subside and his vision became clearer. Then he blinked and glanced around in earnest.

He was lying on a wooden table somewhere, where sunlight filtered through a few windows and a dragon skittered around nearby. A dragon? Had he fallen all the way to Lower Floaten? Two people were looking at him, one snapping fingers in front of his eyes, and the breathing mask was gone. Noah pushed himself into a sitting position and rubbed his head with a groan. "Mmpfh. Thank you for the assistance. How much does air cost down here?" he asked, reaching into his pocket.

Noah could certainly afford it. He was the son of Axle Harn, who was the head of Harn's Dragon Saddles - a very profitable company. He never had to pay for air in Upper Floaten, of course, but he imagined it was expensive here.
 

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Lily shifted back when the boy sat up, giving him space but with a hand hovering near him still in case he collapsed again. When he spoke she only raised an eyebrow, her expression a mix of confusion and amusement when she pulled her own mask down to dangle around her neck. Why was he trying to throw money at her? Was all of Upper Floaten like that?

"Don't worry about that," she said with a dismissive gesture. "Just take it easy-"

"No, no, let him pay," Jasper said behind her, waving a hand vaguely at the small tank still on her back. "Call it a rental fee for getting his germs on my tech."

"Jasper, shush!" She looked away long enough to swipe a hand at him for being a grouch, then turned back to the boy with a shake of her head. "Just sit still for a minute and get your bearings, okay? How are you feeling? Any spots in your vision?" He was inside breathing relatively clean air, so she was sure he would recover soon, but it was fine to give him a few minutes.

Jasper rolled his eyes behind her. "He'll be fine. I'm sure his personal doctor will see to his pretty little head later - Naga, get!"

He took a dirty rag from where it hung half-tucked into his belt and snapped it at the small, brown dragon that had wandered across the back of the couch and seemed intent on the boy's hair, which Jasper knew for a fact she would lick if not stopped. The rag earned him an offended little screech and a puff of smoke as she flapped out of reach and glided down to the floor nearby looking annoyed. A second dragon with red scales and spikes was busy creeping low along the floor to sniff more politely at the boy's shoes, interested but wary.

"Nobu, not right now," Lily sighed and reached over to gently scooch the red dragon away so he wouldn’t crowd the boy. "Jas, why don't you make yourself useful and get him some water?"

"You get him water." Jasper grouched, but wandered off to do as told, swinging the rag gently at Naga's horns as he passed. "Why can't you be more like your brother?"

"How'd you get so far into town without a mask?" Lily asked when he was gone, not wanting to press too hard but confused about how she'd found him. "Did you get jumped while you were walking?" Probably not, if he still had his wallet with him, but she couldn’t figure out how he'd gotten here or why his nice clothes are so dirty.

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Noah gave the pair a wry smile. Surely they needed the money if they were living in Lower Floaten? He rifled in his pockets a bit more, pulled out his card, and nodded. "I insist. Do you have a card reader nearby I can transfer the credits to you with? Otherwise I have a few paper bills. Whichever's easier."

He rubbed at his eyes again and took a few deeper, more relaxed breaths. "I'm much better now, thanks. I - " He jumped a little when Jasper snapped and he suddenly realized there was a dragon behind him. His eyes went wide in awe. If the dragon had stayed, he would've reached out to pet it. His entire family's company was founded on making saddles for dragons, but rarely had he ever gotten to see one in person. "Oh. No, it's okay, I - "

Then there was a second dragon sniffing at his shoes. In spite of himself, Noah's face lit up in a delighted smile. "Really, I don't mind. Um . . . Is it okay if I pet one?" he asked hopefully.

When Lily asked how he'd gotten so far into town without a mask, he blushed and cleared his throat, averting his gaze. "Ah . . . I might've . . . I might've thought I saw dragons at this old abandoned space cruiser site, and tried to get a closer look. And, um - fell through the floor." He pushed a hand through his hair, and then smiled sheepishly and held it out to shake. "I'm Noah Harn, by the way. Nice to meet you both." The pair might recognize his name from the saddles, depending if they used the brand or not.
 

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"Paper's fine!" Jasper called back from behind a wall as he walked away, and Lily only rolled her eyes.

"Just ignore him." She said with a little sigh, crouching down nearby instead of sitting since she’d been riding all day and wanted to stretch her legs some. "Hm? Oh, yeah, Nobu's friendly enough. You can let him smell you, and he'll touch your hand first if he wants." She glanced over at the other resident dragon and made a face. "Maybe don't touch Naga. She's not very careful with her teeth." Not a dragon for people not used to them.

When he went on to explain how he'd arrived, her eyes went very wide. "You fell? From way up there? And you still have all your limbs? You must be the luckiest man alive!" She reached out automatically to shake his hand, even as flabbergasted as she was. "It- It's nice to meet you, Noah. I'm Lily, and our grumpy technician is Jasper."

"Wait, wait, wait," Jasper was frowning as he came back into the room, having cleaned his hands while he was gone so the glass he handed over wasn't dirty. "Harn? As in Harn Dragon Saddles Harn? Well, damn, Lily, forget the chump change, we'll just ransom him."

"Jasper!"

"What? I’m kidding!" He glanced sidelong at where Naga was busy chewing at an itch on the top of one of her wings. "Mostly. . ."

She groaned and rolled her eyes at him, looking back at Noah again. "Please ignore him. He's an asshole, not a criminal. . . Is he right, though?" She smiled a bit sheepishly. "We don't really see Harn saddles down here much, so I didn't remember the name at first, but I've heard they're really nice!"
 
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The young man chuckled sheepishly. "Well, I did hit like five different pipes on the way down. It doesn't hurt yet but I'm definitely going to be feeling bruises in the morning." He pulled out a large paper bill and handed it to Lily without a second thought. "Let me know if air costs more than that. I have no idea how much it is."

He smiled when Lily described the dragons, and at once he stretched a hand out towards Nobu, clicking his tongue. "Here, Nobu. C'mere," he called softly. Then he blinked as his other hand was suddenly pulled into a shake, but he kept smiling. "Yeah, that's me. My father owns the company." He kept his hand towards Nobu, eyes focused mainly on the dragon.

Noah realized at once that Jasper was joking, and he laughed. "No need for ransom. I can pay a bit extra if the bill for the air wasn't enough." Then he blinked and glanced around the shop. "You don't see Harn saddles down here much? Really?" He examined the two dragons and nodded. ". . . Well, I guess these two are a bit small for saddles and all. Say! Speaking of saddles, do you know any dragon riders who could fly me back up to Upper Floaten?"
 

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Lily made a concerned face and was going to ask if he thought he should see a doctor when there was suddenly money in her hands. She hadn’t meant to take any, but like most people tended to just take whatever was being handed her on autopilot. After she had it she could only stare at it for a long moment, caught off guard. Did he really think five minutes of air cost so much?

Before she could give it back, Jasper snatched it from her hands and tucked it away into a pocket, which earned him an affronted gasp he paid little attention to. "Harn saddles are for people with the money to buy them, genius," he said idly as he stepped aside to shoo Naga off again. "Tell your pops to lower his prices."

Nobu took a moment to catch Noah's scent, then gave a happy grumble and pushed his head into the boy's hand. His scales were as tough as any dragons, and not soft to the touch, but he was at least smooth enough not to hurt anyone so long as they didn’t catch one of his spines in the wrong place.

"I would offer," Lily said with an apologetic shrug, "but Fern's all pooped and needs his rest, and I’ve got work first thing in the morning. I work with the Mail Corp, so if there's messages going up I could take you with me, but if there isn't it would have to wait until dinner time." If she was stranded somewhere, she wouldn’t want to wait that long, but she couldn't lose her job just to make someone wait less time.

Jasper raised an eyebrow, leaning against the wall nearby with his arms loosely crossed. "Your real problem is finding someone who won't take your money and then drop you off early." From the sky to the ground, was his point. "Lotta people around here would take one look at you and say 'Drop dead, rich boy'."

Lily sighed, running a hand back through her hair. "He could be nicer about it, but he's not wrong. People are . . . more bitter than you might expect, and it would take some time to find someone we know who's not done for the day. Flying in the dark isn’t very easy, and the sun's almost all the way down. Think you can hang in there until tomorrow?"
 
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"Are they really that expensive?" Noah asked in genuine shock. "I've never had a chance to really come visit Lower Floaten and do price comparisons." Then Nobu pushed his head into his hand, and he stifled a squeal and gently petted the dragon. "Wow. I never imagined a dragon would feel like this. No wonder riders use leather saddles. He's smooth, but . . ." He shook his head in awe and smiled. "What a cutie."

He listened quietly to the pair while petting Nobu, really only half listening. At least until Jasper mentioned someone dropping him off a dragon from halfway in the sky. He paled and glanced up, blinking. "They would?" he asked in shock. Then he thought of a few of his neighbors, and even some fellow businessmen, and he grimaced. ". . . No, they would. You're right."

Then his gaze traveled to Lily, and his face filled with relief. "Oh. I'm in no rush. I can just call Father on my communicator and let him know I'm coming back sometime tomorrow. Is Fern large enough for a saddle? He must be, if you're able to ride him."

He turned back to Nobu and gingerly scratched under the dragon's chin. "It's very nice of you both to let me stay the night. Where should I sleep?"
 

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"Well, of course we do," Lily said with a little laugh, smiling at the way Nobu pushed his body into Noah's shins and then flopped down on his back with his head on the boy's shoes, rumbling constantly for more pets. "Dragon scales are tough stuff - I'd be covered in welts all the time if I didn't have the right gear. Jas made mine for me, but I can tell you the ones you get down here are a heck of a lot cheaper."

At least, so Jasper had told her when he’d promised to make her saddle for her. It wasn’t like she'd been to Upper Floaten, after all. It wasn’t even that the craftsmanship was bad - Jasper had made hers really nice, she thought, and it had lasted her the past few years with not a whole lot of wear and tear, so long as she treated it right.

"Who said that?" Jasper said with a little guffaw when it was implied Noah was welcome to stay, an incredulous hand held up as if to ask who the boy thought he was talking to, but it melted into rolled eyes and a small, amused grin when Lily glared at him. "I’m kidding. You can have the couch upstairs. I'd offer to let you pay me for my bed, but Naga would eat your shoes while you slept."

"Why don't you go tinker with something, Mr. Comedian." She told him, and stood to shoo him off into the messier, parts-filled sections of the workshop. Most of it was kept organized and cleaned, for efficiency's sake, but he was in the middle of a project so a lot of pieces had stayed out.

When Jasper was sufficiently ushered away, she went back to Noah with a little smile and crouched down in front of him again to give Nobu's exposed belly a rub. "Fern's definitely bigger than these guys, but two or three people is about his max, so not too huge," she gave a little shrug, unsure why he'd asked about the saddle. Of course she had to have one - flying without one was dangerous and impractical. "Usually he's just carrying me and whatever parcels and letters need to go places, but he can take us both, no worries. I'll just have him fly me here after work, and drop him at the stables once you're home." Hopefully it wouldn’t be too dark, or Jasper would worry about her walking all that way.

She paused for a moment, curious, and took her hands back so he could have Nobu to himself, the friendly dragon relishing in all the affection. "Can your communicator really reach all that way?" It wasn’t that they didn’t have things like that in Lower Floaten, but they were definitely less long-range, unless they were provided by employers for long-distance flights and heavily insured.
 
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Noah only grinned at Jasper, stifling a laugh. He'd already decided that, although Jasper was rough around the edges, he seemed kind in his way and was a bit of a jokester. He waved when the man wandered off to go work on project, and then went back to petting Nobu.

He smiled when Lily described Feryn, but he couldn't bring himself to look away from Nobu. Who knew when the next time would be that he'd get a chance to pet a dragon? "Ah, I see." He'd asked about the saddle because he fully planned on getting Lily one as additional payment for bringing him home. If Harn saddles were as expensive as she and Jasper said, surely it would suffice as fare.

Then Noah pulled out one of the more high end communicators. "Oh, sure. It's only a few miles from here. It should work," he said. Then he turned it over and realized it had been smashed in the fall. ". . . or it would, if I hadn't landed on it." He glanced between the communicator and Jasper for a moment, thinking. "Say, Jasper! Have you got enough time to take on a repair job?" he asked hopefully, holding the communicator up.
 

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For someone so far from home, Noah seemed pretty relaxed. Maybe it was just because she had helped him, and Nobu was being cute, but the more jaded parts of her tried to tell her that rich people always thought they owned the ground they walked on. That was a rude assumption, though, and one she fought very hard against everyday conditioning to keep thinking, so she tossed it aside as best she could.

"Oh." She winced a little in sympathy when he pulled out the crushed communicator. "That looks bad. . ."

"Agh, god, you’re so needy!" Jasper's voice echoed back at them from behind a workbench where he'd crouched, and a moment later he popped back up above it to come walking back. "What is that?" He laughed when he saw it, taking it from Noah to pick at the cracks and dents. "What was it, I guess is a better question. The shell of it is pretty much toast, but if I can find some pieces to replace the ruined antennae, the guts might still work."

He shrugged, taking the ruined thing with him back to the workbench. "I’ll crack it open, see how bad the damage is."

Lily only smiled behind his back as he left. As much as he grouched and told her to be wary of every person she met, Jasper was always the one helping people. He would claim it was for a fee later, she was sure.

Nobu made a plaintiff chuff at Noah when his hands went away, turning to hold onto the boy's leg with his front paws and grumbling at him almost irritably.

"Nobu, be nice," Lily urged with a little laugh, reaching over to pick the dragon's claws up a bit so he would know not to squeeze and accidentally scratch Noah through his pant leg. "You're such an attention hog. How dare anyone not give you scritches every second."
 

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The young man shrugged. "It's . . . yeah. At least it was the communicator that got crushed and not my leg," he decided at last. He smiled sheepishly at Jasper when he was yelled at from across the room, and he delicately handed it to the man when he came forward to examine it. "It was a communicator," he explained. "I kind of landed on it."

He wasn't worried about staying one night away from home, though. He was fairly independent and liked to explore, and his father knew that.

As Jasper took the communicator away, he nodded and smiled. "Thanks, Jasper! I appreciate it!" It was a repair job, so he anticipated a fee afterwards, but the price didn't worry him.

Then he noticed the dragon plaintively grumbling from his lower leg. "Oh, the poor thing," he teased. "More spoiled that Lennetta's cat, are you?" He chuckled and glanced at Lily. "May I try picking him up? I just - I can't get over this dragon. Or Naga. They're just . . . here, in the room with you. It's amazing," he added happily. "Do a lot of people in Lower Floaten have dragons?"
 

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"Yeah, yeah," Jasper muttered, already eyeballing the new problem as he walked off and just tossing a dismissive wave over his shoulder. He settled almost immediately back at his work table with a magnifier in place and a set of smaller, more delicate tools to get the casing open and start peering at the wiring. Maybe it was still salvageable.

"Feel free to try," Lily said with a little shrug. "Careful of your back, he's not super heavy, but he is denser than he looks, especially if you’re used to cats and dogs. Just get him under the armpits and he'll go easily." She glanced over when Naga ran past to go and perch on Jasper's back while he worked bent over the table, and shook her head at the dragon. "I wouldn't try to handle Naga, though. Nobu likes pretty much everybody, but Naga kinda likes to chew on everybody. She doesn’t bite hard or anything, but it can be startling when you’re not used to dragons."

She laughed softly at his amazement, and finally shifted up to sit on the couch with him as Nobu was scooped up, happy as could be with being held like a baby. "Not everyone does. These guys are real handy for steady heat control when there's metal that needs working on, but they’re a handful. They eat a lot, and they break things, and they eat shoes if they're bored - and I mean eat them, no cute little teeth marks, just missing chunks of leather boots."

She shook her head at the thought, fondly enough, and removed her pack and oxygen tank finally to lean back against the couch and rest. "Mostly they're a little bit of a nuisance to people, like raccoons, or stray cats. But they don’t have any problems breathing down here, and they get stronger as they get bigger, so they’re good work animals if you have the time and persistence to train them for it. And if you're not too afraid of losing a few fingers here and there." She gave him a grin. "They're not usually mean tempered, but their personalities are just as widely varied as people are. Do you really not keep any, up top?"
 

FaithLeafCat

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Noah wasn't particularly worried about the weight, though he struggled a bit to heft Nobu up onto his lap. But once he did, he was delighted that the dragon was so darn cuddly, and he ran his hands down the creature's sides happily. "I'm glad your dragons are friendly. And heck, I don't blame Naga for being a bit snippy. I have a few neighbors who'd bite your fingers off faster than a dragon," he joked with a snicker.

He scratched between Nobu's horns and smiled wistfully. ". . . Wish I could have a dragon in Upper Floaten. But there are so many regulations around them. Too much red tape." His eyebrows raised, and he glanced up at Lily. "Say. Would you both mind if I came down once in a while to visit your dragons? Uh - I'll bring my own air next time," he promised with a grin.

He stifled a yawn, then, and rubbed his eyes. He was already starting to feel a bit of the bruising from falling multiple stories and bumping into pipes. "Also . . . got any ice I could sleep on? Or heat mats? I am going to be so sore tomorrow morning," he mumbled.
 

CanaryCry

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"Oh, she’s not mad," she said with a little shrug, "she just likes to chew things and doesn’t understand that people aren't meant to be chewed." She gestured over at where Jasper worked, where Naga was perched on his back with her paws on his shoulder and a lock of his hair in her mouth, like a grooming cat but much worse. "Case in point. She likes to chew hair."

Nobu was beyond pleased to have someone new to lavish him with affection, sitting pliantly in Noah's grip and pushing horns up into his hand, the tip of his tail slapping lightly against the boy's side. He gave a big, happy yawn and a low clicking, crackling sound in his throat at the pets, briefly showing off sharp fangs. Nobu was their good boy, who only chewed on things he was allowed to and only occasionally ran off with metal bits Jasper hadn't guarded closely enough. Naga was, in his affectionate terms, their little gremlin.

Lily paused, surprised by the notion that anyone from Upper Floaten would ever want to come back down, especially after nearly suffocating. "Um, I don’t . . . I guess I don’t see why not. I’m usually working 'til around now, and Jasper's always tinkering with things, but," She shrugged, a bit helplessly, "we're around. And Nobu sure likes you."

She winced, when he reminded her of his injuries, and got back to her feet despite being tired from the day. "Are you sure you don't need a doctor? I’m sure we have some cold packs around somewhere. . ." They didn’t have a lot of ice, but there were small packs of chemicals that, once cracked like a glowstick, would automatically get cold. They weren’t super comfortable for sleeping, but they would help.
 

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"Aww. I mean, as long as she didn't bite off my limbs or something, I don't think I'd mind that kind of chewing," Noah admitted, watching Naga for a brief minute before fussing over Nobu some more. He giggled when the dragon in his lap made a variety of little funny noises and showed him his teeth. "I still can't believe how adorable these guys are. Especially Nobu."

His face lit up when Lily invited him back again, albeit a bit hesitantly. "I'd love to visit again. This is the most exciting thing I've done since that time I jumped into a broken gear machine." Then he stifled a laugh and shook his head. "I don't need a doctor. I've gotten myself injured enough times that I've pretty much figured out when I need a doctor or not. He always says he's shocked I don't have more injuries on my face."

He shifted his weight a bit and grimaced. ". . . But yeah. I'd love an ice pack." He ran a hand slowly down Nobu's neck. "The dragons are welcome to wander into my room, if they want. I don't mind." Then he carefully stood up, hoisting Nobu into his arms like an infant. "Speaking of which - I don't want to be rude, but is it okay if I head to bed? I am exhausted."
 

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Nobu was content, allowing himself to be hauled about like a baby and waving his tail to and fro to show how happy he was with his new friend. It did not occur to him that his tail was covered in spikes, but they were mostly rounded off, not jagged, and no one had gotten hurt yet.

Lily stood when Noah did, watching his hands to be sure he didn’t put too much pressure on Nobu's wings - the last thing she wanted was for the happy dragon to scratch Noah on accident while trying to get away, but they were well out of harm's way. "Well, I suppose Nobu can stay with you a while. I’ll just come get him before I go to bed. They sleep with Jasper, and it’s good for them to have a routine." She glanced over at the engineer still working, then shifted a little closer to Noah and held her hand up to shield her mouth as if telling secrets. "Between you and me, they're the only thing keeping him from pulling constant all-nighters."

She laughed a little and waved him with her as she started to walk away, heading for the staircase that would take them up to the living quarters. "The apartments upstairs. You can come rest on the couch with Nobu and I’ll go dig out the cold packs and blankets."

The apartment was not large, but big enough for the two of them, with a living room that led into a kitchen with no walls in between, and three doors that led to the bedrooms and bathroom. It had two bedrooms and a full sized tub, despite the space not being as spacious as some would like, so Lily was happy enough with it. With all the projects Jasper was working on at all times that required the larger workshop beneath, any bigger and they would be stretching their budget, even for Lower Floaten.

"Just shout if he starts to bother you," she called as she went to check the hall closet for blankets. Their couch wasn’t the biggest or nicest, like most of their things, but it was long enough for Noah to lay out without scrunching up, and the cushions and upholstery were still in good condition, so it would have to be good enough.
 

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Noah grinned and followed Lily's gaze towards the tinkerer, chuckling a bit. "He looks like a hard worker. And I'm glad the dragons have a routine." Then he carried Nobu up the stairs with him, glancing down briefly as the wooden floorboards creaked a bit beneath their combined weight. But they seemed steady enough. So up he went, holding his new dragon friend close and cradling him.

"I doubt he'll bother me," Noah said cheerfully. "But uh, yeah - if you hear screaming, definitely come check on me. I doubt it'll be because of this little guy, though," he added, rubbing Nobu's forehead. He sat down on the couch with a soft groan. Then he carefully lay down, still holding the dragon loosely. "Thanks again for letting me stay the night. I appreciate it," he said with another yawn.

By the time Lily returned with cold packs, Noah was already out cold. One arm was curled loosely around Nobu's back where he'd been petting the dragon. The other hung limply off the side of the couch, and his head was lolled to one side. He was snoring lightly.
 

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Nobu was pliant as always when being carried, flopping down across Noah's torso and resting his chin on the boy's chest to stare into his eyes. The small dragon enjoyed his pets, and then as Noah drifted off was content to stay with his body heat for a while until someone came to retrieve him for bed.

Lily laughed a little as she dug for blankets, finding them easier than the cold packs. "I couldn’t just leave you outside." She said, a bit more sedately than before, and just finished looking when he was silent. It would have been beyond cruel, to send him back out into the twilight with no help.

When she came back and found him asleep, Lily had to try not to laugh. He must have been so tired. Instead of waking him, she left a note with instructions for the cold packs, in case he woke up when no one was around, took Nobu gently away, and covered him with a blanket. She was quiet going about the rest of her night, making dinner for herself and Jasper because she knew he would go without eating if she didn’t stop him. She warned him to be quiet, too, when she retrieved him to eat and go to bed, so as not to wake up Noah, and left a small light on for him in case he woke up in the night.

In the morning, there was no helping the noise. Naga and Nobu made lots of noise when they needed to be let out in the morning, to do their business outside and to go for a little flight before coming back, and Jasper could only be counted on to not be obnoxious for so long and made no attempts to be quiet when making breakfast. Lily would have chided him for it more, but she had to get ready for work bright and early as well and didn’t have time to slow down for the sake of quiet.

"Rise and shine, moneybags!" Jasper called from the kitchen. "Breakfast costs extra!"

Lily rolled her eyes from where she sat at the small table they used for eating at, and got up mid bite to go and let the dragons back in the window upon hearing their return. Breakfast was simple, just pancakes and some scrambled eggs for protein, but they could afford to share for a day.

"Jas, just let him rest. He's gonna be sore."