part 10 of Threshold
One hand tracked along sun-warm skin, fingertips leaving beaded jewels that dried faster than he could shape them. He stood with his legs apart, feeling after a long time as if he were on equal terms with himself. His other hand matched trailing fingers stroke for leisurely stroke.
'Most solemn a face for so simple a task.'
Basch dropped into the water, flush searing the skin of his neck. His knees creaked as he submerged. He did not turn.
'I must apologise. I had thought myself alone.'
'You take care of yourself, now that you can. There is no need for apology.' Water rippled against his ribs. The unmistakable silhouette stretched towards him, claws scoring trails across the water's surface.
Basch flinched when she touched him, although she held the sharp edges arched away. It was a surprise, almost too sudden.
The beading water dried. He felt his own awkwardness. He could not look higher than her thigh, where she, also, stood with her legs apart.
Then Fran's touch turned tender before it retreated, and both aspects were more than he expected.
'Do let me know, Captain, when you have had your fill of solitude.'
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