This was, originally, two posts: I really wanted to get up and ahead one in case an outbreak of RealLife (TM) prevented me from finishing this no later than Friday.
But, it just didn’t work. It was awful. So I moved a couple of things and smoothed the transition (but I bet y’all can still see where it is) and am posting it. Your win, my loss. Sorta.
He stood on the pebbles. He’d already changed into his water-clothes. There was a rare haze in the air, but Logres could still just make out the chalk cliffs of his home in the far distance. From having shared so much with Europa, he was getting a little better at paying attention to his surroundings. So, she should be right around…
Libby’s form shot up and out of the water right where he’d been looking, about fifty lengths out. She described a curve in the air as she came towards where he was. Accelerating on the way down.
Wait: was she expecting him to catch her?
Arms at her sides, she plummeted down face-first. A face with a very silly grin on it. He braced to catch her, not knowing what else to do.
With a sudden roar and whine, her brother, Curtis, had grabbed her feet. The nacelles on the metal wings on his back spat fire as he slowed them down. Right above his head, he released his sister into Logres’s arms. Curtis sketched a salute and vanished in another roar.
“Loggy! Mmmm!!!” She tried to kiss him; he tossed his head slightly.
“Stop that! And what did you think you two were doing!”
“Awww! Loggy doesn’t love me, anymore!” She wiped her face back and forth against his exposed chest, suddenly looking up. “Do you, a little?”
“As family and ally.” He moved to set her down.
“Dang! Anyway, to answer your question: combined-arms training!”
He considered that.
“Okay.” He pointed across the Channel. “May I impose upon you for help at the mid-way point?”
“Nope!” She said as she spun once in a circle and stopped quickly. Her chest did very interesting things. “Not an imposition at all, Loggy!”
“But…!” She pitched forward, raising her right index finger as she did. “I will have to charge you a fee!”
He sighed. This would not end well.
“And what would that be, cousin?”
She raised her finger to point high into the sky.
“No clue! I’ll figger’ it out, later! C’mon!”
She ran into the water, only glancing back once she was neck deep.
“Staying next to me with your head above the water, you must want to talk,” Logres said as he used what he knew now was called breaststroke, to keep his head out of the water.
“Yeah! Are you mad?” She circled around him, effortlessly knifing (he smiled at the thought) through the water.
“At you and Dutch?” He shook his head once. “As you had Georgie’s help, she obviously thought it was worth doing, so no.”
“However,” he looked into her eyes as she cut across his path, “it was not very nice. Rather you ask, next time.”
Libby stopped to tread water, moving backwards just enough to stay in front of him.
“That would mean you would be lying to your girl.” Her smile was gone. “I don’t think any of us want that.”
“Oh.” He’d not thought that all the way through. His fingertips tingled.
“We’re about there, Libby-cousin…” His face fell into the water as he lost control of his body.
She drew next to him, rolling him onto his back. Her left arm supported him while she made powerful kicks with her legs. Her right arm, though…!
She started by tracing lines and circles on his chest, but, laughing, steadily moved lower. Her hand was just sliding into his water-clothes when his back convulsed. He could move again.
“Would you please not do that!” He grabbed her hand just in time.
“Awww…! But cousin is so handsome!” While they paused, she wrapped her legs about him; the strength and skill of her left arm enough to keep them both afloat. Her lips were next to his ear. “I promise I’ll never tell!”
Pushing her away would just delay a resolution. Logres was surprised that he was wiser; undoubtedly a result of the cycles he had spent with Europa.
“Would you want your someday-beloved to betray you so easily?” He whispered back to her ear.
Her chest bounced against him as she laughed. She leaned back: smiling, but a hint of loss in her eyes.
“You’re a good man, Loggy, and Roppy’s a lucky girl!” She released him and dog-paddled northwest. Over the water, he just caught “…met you sooner…”
His home was just ahead.
On the sand under the white cliffs, he turned and waved to Libby. She leapt from the water, performing a back flip that landed her four lengths back and was gone.
Once his tunic was dry, he walked up the path to the top of the cliffs. With a glance at the land across the sea, he began to walk. Thinking about his time with Europa, the smile did not leave his face. Not even when he made out an unfamiliar form in the distance.
Another boy. Dark hair, as he had, but slicked back from his forehead. He had been staring out at the water, but turned and waited for Logres’s approach. Dark eyes and almost aquiline features. Rather than a tunic, he’d a shirt and trousers as Dutch wore, but these were black.
“I am Logres. I watch the border.”
“I am Sidney. I watch and listen.”
Logres had heard that before…
“Yes,” the youth said with a nod, “I am Europa’s counterpart. May I accompany you for a bit? We’ve much to discuss.”
They were north of… Wales, it was called… and still having their little chat. Logres had expressed surprise that they’d not met sooner. The boy’s smile never left his face and had never reached his eyes. There’d been no reason, Sidney told him. A thought occurred.
“Does… every land have, us? Well, people like us?” He’d asked.
“Oh, surely.” It was one of Sidney’s common replies. Logres was beginning to doubt its veracity. “To different degrees and skills, of course! Jimmy Jay, from across the western sea works with Curtis-cousin to listen to the sky, but doesn’t have the personal touch that, say, I do!”
Logres pondered that. Presently, they looked out the Hebrides.
“Shall we swim over there?”
“Rather we didn’t, old boy!” Sidney replied. He circled the topic back around again. “You really think she’ll try to come here?”
Logres was increasingly uncomfortable with the question after question concerning Europa. He’d always been close with Georgie and even distant Joey merited his fraternal affection, but for Sidney, he felt nothing at all.
“She said she would, so she will.” Sidney opened his mouth, but he kept on. “I could go back when I choose, but this was her wish. It will be many, many cycles before I compromise her desire.”
“Good.” Was his only reply.
“Good? How so?”
“I was concerned that you’d been turned, that is, working at her behest. It seems,” he laughed tonelessly, “that you really do love her! Extraordinary! We’d not considered that, until now!”
“We?” Logres asked.
“JJ, Shilo, and a few others. Nothing for you to be concerned about.”
Saying that made Logres concerned. Did those who watch and listen feel more for each other than their families? Wait… Europa loving him… accepting that he’d struck Flittermouse….
Was… there something wrong with these people?
“My, my look who’s here!” Sidney looked east over the North Sea. Given the warning and his new faculties awakened by Europa, he, for once, saw Georgie on her way in. So fast! For just a moment he could see her seeing them. She’d a look in her eyes….
Inland, up, around, and back. With another flare of her great, gray wings, she settled her feet onto his shoulders. Her balance was better: her wings were furled and her arms straight out.
“You are much improved, beloved-sister, Georgie.”
“Chirp!” She shuddered dangerously at his choice of words, just steadying herself in time.
Sidney watched the change on his face as Logres thought more of his sister than his lover. And Logres knew he wanted him to know that.
“A question, sister?”
“So long as it’s nothing stupid; big, fat, brother!”
Her toes dug into his shoulders while she kept her arms straight out.
“What became of the message I had you return to Europa?”
She didn’t hesitate.
“Tossed it to her from two lengths above the Wall; bad thermals, chirp!” She shook a little. “Your girl caught it and read it right then.”
“She… she had no reply?”
“She spoke to me. Shall I share with you?”
“Only if you so desire, Georgie.”
“’Thank you! I hope to be your sister, someday!’”
“What – chirp!” There was a gust of wind, momentarily unsteadying her. “What does that mean?”
“I… am not sure…” Logres reflected on Europa’s Gift….
“It means, family, that she wants to marry you, Logres.” Sidney declared.
“Ma – ” Logres began.
“ – rry?!” Georgie’s feet slipped off his shoulders and her butt landed with a thud onto his upper back. He was surprised at just how light she was. He put his hands onto the tops of her thighs to steady her, looking up as he did.
“Are you all right?”
Nothing from her blank, white eyes, but her blue lips danced. She reached down to caress his face.
“Make her my sister, brother!”
“Détente, indeed,” they heard Sidney say.