December 14, 2018 at 9:11 pm #12565
Alyce sits up and stretches. She feels a bit saddened that Al had not taken the opportunity to ravish her virginal body during the night. After all, he had had her at his complete mercy. Then she shakes her head; no, that only happens in her dreams. Al is not like that and she has, of course, not strictly speaking been a virgin for many years. Smiling at Al, she still considers what a pleasure it would have been and sighs a bit at the loss.
“Good morning to you, as well, Al. Thank you for cooking. Let me go wash up and I will be right back.” Putting words to actions, Alyce stands up and walks to the small pond, crouching down to splash cold water on her face. She is smiling again when she returns to the small fire, stopping to pet Alfie before grabbing a mug of coffee. “This is very good, Al, and the eggs smell great. As to what to do, well, my original plan was to take you on a week-long journey through the Cornish paradise that is my home. However, you need to be leaving tomorrow, which must cut that trek short. There is a small grotto only an hour or so away from here that I would like to show you.”
Alyce waves a hand at the vista around them. “As to the moor, I am sad that all you see is a flat expanse. The ground all about us actually changes elevation by several feet, but the vegetation and the horizon put up some sort of illusionary effect that makes it seem flat. The path through the moor is sometimes narrow and the ground to either side can be very tricky for the unwary. I would think that we can make the grotto, soak in the majesty of the area, then return to the vehicle in time to be at the manor before dark.”
205December 15, 2018 at 5:14 pm #12638
“Grotto it is, then,” said Al, tossing away half a cup of coffee and cracking open a beer.
He wasn’t normally an early riser, but did it really count as ‘rising’ if one hadn’t ever slept? Funny thing was, ever since that miserable freak had tried to claw its way into their world back on Magical Mystery Isle, Alyce’s presence was one of the only things that calmed him enough that he could sleep at all. But her presence next to him in a sleeping bag….well, that had had an opposite sort of effect.
No matter, it was a peaceful morning. And though bacon and eggs on a skillet were hardly going to earn him a Michelin star, he hadn’t cooked anything more complex than a frozen soyrito, or used a culinary implement more challenging than a microwave, in more than a few years. But he’d had nothing better to do.
And besides, he wanted to be nice. As nice as he could be, anyway.December 15, 2018 at 9:44 pm #12649
Alyce smiles at Al as she eats then cleans up after them. When finished, she pulls two Lucky Strikes from a pack and lights them, handing one to Al. She shoulders her pack and leads the way down the narrow trail, remaining quiet, mostly answering any questions Al may have. The vista around them would appear bleak and nearly endless to someone who does not appreciate the beauty of the Cornish moors, but it is full of life and bounty for those that do.
Both are experienced walkers and they reach the grotto in slightly less than an hour after setting out. A stream of water burbles among rocks, creating a place where a number of bright flowers can flourish. Alyce slips her pack off and dips a hand into the water. “Ah, this is nature at its best, eh Al?”
206December 17, 2018 at 1:37 pm #12773
“Yeah, it’s all right.” Al could think of a few ways to make nature even more its best. But of course that was one of the reasons he needed to get his ass back to the relative safety of Seattle.
“So in between all yer doctorin’ an’ fiddle playin’ an’ savin’ o’ the occasional lost soul, ya find time ta explore the moors? I begin ta think sometimes ya done cloned yerself, toots, so as ta git more done. ‘Ceptin’ o’ course that’s impossible seein’ as yer one of a kind.”December 17, 2018 at 2:25 pm #12775
Alyce laughs. “Sometimes I feel just that way, Al, like I need to be cloned. Everything requires a delicate balancing act and there are times when I just want to give it all up and move out here for good. Then a child is shot in London or elsewhere and my surgical skills are required, or you, Isaint, or the Old One pull me into some sort of scheme where I can help save more people. Or some AAA asks me to go on an expedition to recover some artifact that should not be in the hands of anyone else.” She shrugs. “Sometimes, I just do not know who I am anymore and that there is so little time for me. Walking the moors gives me a solace that would be hard to find elsewhere. You have no idea how much I could wish to share that.”
207December 19, 2018 at 7:54 pm #12999
Sometimes Al was cruelly glad that Alyce was blind. She was still functional in every conceivable way, but at least the more subtle nuances of his facial expressions were largely safe. And of course his synthetic eyes gave nothing away even to a sighted observer.
Moments like this broke his heart. Not so much because he wanted what he couldn’t have – he’d made his peace with that. And besides, it was not exactly the same as what she wished for. No, his heart broke, as always, because he couldn’t give her what she wanted. Not wouldn’t. Couldn’t. And it shamed him that he’d lived a life with nothing left to give when it needed giving.
But he kept his face neutral, giving away nothing of his thoughts. And instead of giving her the embrace he knew was right, he slapped her on the ass instead. “Fair enough, toots, fair enough. An’ right poetically rendered. Now do we swim in this thing, or is there more ta the tour?”
Between their last job, then Hawaii, and finally yesterday at the pond, he figured he’d spent about enough time in the water lately. But she’d brought him to a grotto, so he figured that was what he was supposed to do.December 19, 2018 at 11:49 pm #13002
Alyce jumps at the swat, even though her sensors had detected the movement even as he swung at her. She rounds on him and almost brings him into an embrace, but only almost. She intuitively feels that Al would not appreciate the gesture. Instead, she clears her throat and speaks. “No, Al, I would not swim here unless you have been inoculated against several very bad diseases and parasites.” She points off upstream. “The plants up that way are not very hospitable to people and some of their toxins has seeped into the stream. I just think that this is one of the most beautiful spots in Cornwall.”
“As it is, we should not tarry long here if we want to get back to the vehicle before dark.”
208December 20, 2018 at 6:52 pm #13046
“Well, then, tarry we shall not.”
It was a pleasant walk back. Al asked plenty of questions about Alyce’s daily life. Because he was interested. But he never queried about any of her entourage, and if any of them came up he shifted the topic as best he could.December 22, 2018 at 12:21 am #13125
Alyce walks just ahead of Al on the way back as she know he likes looking at the part of her that emphasizes. She answers his questions, determining early on that he is not really interested in her including stories about the people she lives with. Alyce thinks that is sad, because it is her relationships with those around her that have shaped her to be the woman she is. Still, getting Al interested in her is a step in the right direction and she does not wish to jeopardize that small progress.
Arriving at the vehicle with daylight to spare makes both of the travelers happy and little time is wasted in loading the gear in the back of the truck and setting off to the manor. Alyce sends messages ahead and some of the staff have gathered to greet the duo. Dinner is offered and Alyce looks at Al to see if he will accept the invitation.
209December 22, 2018 at 10:33 pm #13153
Pulling up to the big house, there were already hangers-on and servants gathered outside. Al wasn’t even sure how he’d make it down to the Snakehandler without running into some of them.
He figured he’d drop her off without getting out of the car, then make an excuse about getting back to the village for some things. Then apply all of his prodigious fieldcraft to sneak past her security and out to the plane in the dead of night. Hell, swim in from a few miles down the coastline, if he had to.
And then he saw how much she wanted him to stay.
“Sure, I could eat.”December 23, 2018 at 1:08 pm #13169
Alyce smiles broadly when Al indicates he will stay. Al is escorted to a guest room, where he is allowed to wash up before being escorted to the dining room, where he finds the table set for two. Alyce comes in soon after and the two share a private meal. During dinner, Alyce clears her throat. “I have had the Snake Handler refueled, so it is ready to go at any time, Al. Of course, you are welcome to stay the night here or back in the village if you do not want to fly out tonight.”
210December 25, 2018 at 8:04 am #13204
Al had dodged a lot of bullets in his day. But he’d never been as relieved about any of them has he had this one. He had thought for certain he’d stumbled right into some sort of hellacious meet-and-greet with Alyce’s menagerie of an artificial family. But instead it had just been some maidservants he’d not met and then just Alyce. And it was a humdinger of a dinner. No question she kept some talent in the kitchen. Maybe she’d taught them herself. He tried to be good by throwing all of us powers into chit-chat, but when she mentioned the plane being ready, he simply said, “Well that’s mighty considerate of ya. Yup, reckon I’ll fly out tonight. An’ I do appreciate yer hospitality.”December 26, 2018 at 1:48 am #13221
Alyce silently nods even as her heart breaks yet again. Not for the first time, she wonders why she keeps torturing herself in this way. The man claims to love her yet will not talk about himself so that she can help him. She mentally shrugs and walks him to the door of the manor when dinner is finished. She gets his coat, having already informed Stephanie that she wanted to see Al off by herself. She stands on the wide stairway, her sensors watching as the man leaves, then turns to enter her house alone.
Tears wet her pillow as she waits for the sound of the elevator that takes Al down to the small cove that harbors their aircraft. Finally, unable to resist longer, she walks to a pair of wide glass doors and steps onto a wide balcony overlooking the ocean. A breeze blows across her bare skin and causes her hair to flow back towards her room as she waits. All to soon, she hears the throttle of the seaplane as its pilot kicks the engines to life and pulls away from the cove. Even knowing that Al is probably not even looking, she raises a hand and waves as the plane taxis away and lifts into the night sky. She stands on the balcony, the light from her room showing her presence there, for some time, until she is certain that the aircraft has disappeared into the night.
Silently weeping, Alyce returns to her room, closing the glass doors behind her, and crawls into her large bed.
211December 26, 2018 at 7:07 am #13229
The prevailing winds made Al’s taxi vector eastward, but then he had to make a wide circle to head back northwest for his transpolar route to Seattle. It was on that turn that he saw the single light on the top floor of the house, and, raising his field glasses, the lone figure of Alyce waving him farewell. The gesture broke a wall and the full weight of his past actions and their consequences crashed on him like a brick tsunami. Every joint and sinew was aching. But the past couldn’t be changed.
Getting his head together, he was just about to waggle his wings in response when the figure retreated and the lights went black.
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