“That was fun,” the Southerner's voice chuckled out, earning a grin from Sterling who also chuckled before she opened the glow baskets to bring some more light into the room while Stesk wasn't inside.
“Good to know I wasn't so obviously inexperienced,” Sterling said with some amusement and some pride, but this statement made Auri sit up on the edge of the bed and her brows furrowed with concern.
“Inexperienced? Do you mean...?”
“Oh, yeah... I've never been with a woman before,” Sterling admitted, suddenly feeling she got caught doing something wrong, wondering if maybe she should have mentioned that before.
“Why didn't you say anything? I wouldn't have rushed you into bed if I had known,” Auri said, concern and perhaps a little frustration in her tone as she stood from where she sat. Sterling winced a bit, but shook her head.
“It's ok, I promise I really wanted to do it. And it was wonderful,” Sterling tried to reassure the other woman, walking back across the room to Auri. “In fact, I'm so very tempted to do it all over again,” she teased, a hand daring to tease the other woman, earning a bit of a smile.
“Well... if you're sure you wanted to, I guess it's ok. You did pretty good for a beginner then,” she chuckled, verbally teasing Sterling now, taking the paler woman's hand away from herself. “For now though, I'm pretty hungry, how about you?” Then she leaned in and kissed Sterling's cheek, and then her neck. “Then maybe later... we could come back here?”
Sterling almost wanted to push Auri back down onto the bed and go for another round with her right then, but she too felt her stomach grumble for food, and decided it was best to go to the dining hall for something to eat. She nodded.
“Ok, let's get dressed, I think some of my stuff could fit you if you want to borrow anything.”
After that, the two women went to the dining hall together and shared a meal with one another. Over the next few days, they spent a lot of their time together. Sterling found out that Auri was a crafter, a vintner woman who moved to the Weyr to teach some of the Northern vintners how to cultivate things for Southern wines, but also with hope to become a dragon candidate despite her nearing aging out of candidacy age for dragons. It was during these few days that Sterling was reminded of a rule by Irena that she had forgotten still applied to her.
“I'm afraid I've... unintentionally broken a rule with you,” Sterling told Auri one day when the vintner woman met her in the bathhouse one early evening. Auri looked at Sterling in confusion and concern.
“What rule,” she asked, revealing to Sterling that the Southerner hadn't been aware either, making her feel bad for having forgotten.
“Wherlings aren't supposed to have sexual relations with others outside of Runs. I... forgot this was a rule for me still.” It was a lame excuse, but it was the truth, Sterling honestly had forgotten. She actually only had a few months left of Wherlinghood and so had stopped trying to remember all the rules.
“I'm sorry,” Auri said, making Sterling raise a brow at the dark haired woman questioningly. “I tempted you. I didn't know that was a rule for you either and I made you break it.” Sterling was quick to shake her head and wave her hand.
“No, I honestly don't care, I think it's a stupid rule at this point for me. I would have broken it knowingly, I just feel bad that I dragged you into my rule breaking, however unintentionally.” It was true, while Sterling tended to like to bend and break rules she could get away with from time to time, she hadn't liked dragging Auri into her rule breaking unknowingly. She didn't want to get the crafter woman in trouble.
“Well,” Auri began, pausing a moment. Sterling expected the woman to suggest they break up, or at least take a break until the end of her wherlinghood in several months. “I don't mind keeping sleeping together a secret as long as you don't.”
This surprised Sterling, but then caused a grin to come over her expression before she captured Auri in a heated kiss. “Then how about we enjoy ourselves in one of the private bathing rooms over there.”
And so Sterling and Auri kept up their formed relationship, though they were careful about it, trying not to be too affectionate in public with one another, though it was easier, since people tended to write them off as just gal pals. Behind closed doors though, or sometimes even in a hidden alcove of the lower caverns or other hiding places in not-so-private places, they were much more than just gal pals. They got away with this for a number of sevendays, all the way through the summer season and well into the autumn season. It seemed like they were going to get away with it entirely, but they got too complacent.
“What in Faranth's name is going on here,” Irena snapped harshly, making the two women jump in surprise and Sterling swear loudly as she pulled her own shirt back down. There she saw the bronzehandler Wherlingmaster's face in the doorway, looking non too pleased by what she just peeks in on. Sterling swore again under her breath at this. The worst part was that they hadn't even been in one of their... less than appropriate places this time, Sterling had just forgotten to make sure her door was fully closed and locked and Irena had obviously peeked in through the ajar door.
“Sterling, right when I thought you could be trusted. How long has this been going on?” The Wherlingmaster crossed her arms, standing in the doorway in a way that suggested neither woman was getting away from this. Sterling knew that, but that didn't mean she wouldn't try to play this down as much as possible.
“Not long,” she lied, standing in front of Auri almost as if to protect her. “Just a few days,” she continued to lie, standing firm and keeping Irena's gaze as she gave her false answer.
“Are you sure about that,” Irena questioned, looking at Auri, and Sterling nodded again. “Yes, I'm pretty sure I would know how long I've been having sex with someone,” she said bluntly, crossing her arms stubbornly as Irena's gaze fixed upon her strongly once again, obviously not pleased by Sterling's tone.
“And how about you? What do you have to say for yourself breaking a wherling's rule,” Irena posed to Auri, and Sterling interrupted quickly.
“She didn't know. I never mentioned the Wherling code of conduct to her, and she didn't know anything about wherhandlers or wherlings. It's my fault, I'm the one that broke a rule, she didn't know, if anything she's the victim and I'm the rule breaker.”
At that, Irena stared at the two of them, Auri nodding when Irena demanded if this was true. After another long hard look, and a frustrated sigh, Irena shook her head.
“Fine, you can go, but you, Sterling, have consequences to face for this.”
So Auri was off the hook, but Sterling was not. Her life once again greatly mirrored her early months of wherlinghood, being run ragged with chores once again, including the most tedious and the worst of the chores such as the latrines. She and Stesk were also exercised longer and harder, trained in guard duties more often than before. Auri wasn't allowed in the wherhandler tunnels for the remainder of Sterling's wherlinghood, and Sterling wasn't allowed any guests in the tunnels as well. They weren't allowed to see each other anywhere that wasn't painfully public.
For a while, they obeyed these rules, though that couldn't stop them from hugging and holding hands in those public spaces, as long as Irena wasn't staring them down. There was nothing in the rules against them being together emotionally, after all. However, they didn't keep obeying these rules for long, sneaking in trysts in a few of their hiding places when Sterling had the time and energy for it. It wasn't all the time they could do this, but it was every once in a while, and admittedly Sterling loved the excitement of their trysts and trying to keep from being caught again, once again making her actions worth it in her opinion.