“Come with me.”
Iskandar took her hand, smiling, and led her along the dark corridor toward the dancing blue lights. The temperature dropped around them, her skin prickling with the sudden change, and she held onto his hand tighter. He glanced back at her, squeezing her hand, and slowed his gate as they rounded a corner and stopped.
Before them stretched a large cavern, filled with the dancing lights and water as smooth as glass. The floor sloped straight down into the water, and Toni could see where it tapered off into a drop, the bottom of the cavern unfathomable, even with the glowing crystals that dotted the walls of the cavern above and below them. Iskandar turned to look at her, and she saw the crystal that hung from his ear was glowing faintly as well.
“This was my favorite place to come as a child.” He whispered. “I spent hours here, playing with my siblings… I wanted to share it with you.”
Toni looked back out over the tranquil pool, imagining a pod of Apatians all swimming and playing here together; diving down as far as they could before they blasted themselves back out of the water, powerful fins pumping to launch them toward the ceiling high above.
“It’s beautiful.” She whispered back.
“Not when compared to you, Antonia.” He smiled, releasing her hand and removing his shirt.
Toni floundered for a moment, quickly looking at the edge of the water, lapping softly at her boots, before his hand caught her chin and tilted her head back up.
“Would you do me the honor of joining me for a swim?”
She nodded absently, instantly thankful that she had taken Axel’s advice about wearing a bathing suit under her clothes when visiting Iskandar’s home planet. She followed Iskandar’s lead, pulling off her clothes and laying them carefully on a shelf built into the wall of the tunnel, tucking her boots away as well.
“Here, wear this.” Iskandar pulled a ReBreather down from a shelf, offering it to her. “The water here is very deep. You will need it.”
Toni took it, trying not to stare at the Admiral as he smiled at her. In the light from the crystals, his golden markings seemed to dance across his skin in molten trails, moving with each breath he took. The scar that ran along his shoulder was a thick chord of knotted tissue, tiny fissures running from the scar up toward his collarbone and neck.
“It is alright if you stare, Antonia.” He whispered. “I know the scars are hard to ignore.”
“No, I just…” She trailed off, shrugging. “I’d never seen them. They look painful.”
“Well, it was not the most pleasant thing I have ever experienced.” He teased, removing his eyepatch and setting it on his shirt. “But if you find it interesting, I can tell you about what happened.”
“No!” She squeaked, following him to the water’s edge. “No, Issy, you never have to talk about it, if you don’t want to. My curiosity isn’t that important.”
He gave her a soft, shy smile, leaning down to press a quick kiss to her cheek before he headed into the water, soft waves rippling out from him as his toes spread, the wide webbing keeping him afloat with lazy kicks, his tail swishing through the water as he turned and beckoned her to join him.
She was frozen on the edge of the water, captivated by the sight of him surrounded by the mirror-like water and the glittering lights. He was a rare creature she had managed to find in his natural habitat, enchantingly beautiful and painfully fleeting. She felt as though he would disappear if she put even a toe into the water, and was scared to do so, in case she broke some unspoken rule of who was allowed into the pool.
“Toni.” He called to her, and his voice echoed off the walls, causing the crystals to sing with an ethereal music. “Come.”
She took a few faltering steps forward, keeping her eyes trained on him, his hand extended and a smile spilling onto his lips. The water was cool against her skin, wrapping around her like silk, and soon she was swimming out to him, a smile of her own in evidence.
“Sorry… Caught up in the moment.”
He laughed, and the crystals sang louder. “Am I so unusual?”
“A little.” She teased, shifting to float on her back, staring up at the ceiling. “But I kinda like it.”
Song of the Day: Chemical by Kerli