(1310-07-26) Picnic at La Cascade
Summary: The one in which Gal gets much put upon by Fleur, his nephew and his niece. Just another lake monster, sea dragon, extravaganza of a picnic.
RL Date: Thu Jul 26, 1310
Related: Trouble in the Gardens of Eisheth
fleur gal 

Le Cascade

Taking a smaller path that splits from the main one, following it through the trees and down a small slope, and a person would find themselves in a large glade at the foot of a waterfall. Entering the glade is like stepping into another world; for no views of the city, or the sea that can be heard in the distance, are possible from here due to the trees that surround it. It's here that the river which has wound its way through the Eisandine fields, tumbles over a fifty foot cliff and into a pool at its base before continuing on its way. Over the centuries the rocks surrounding the pool have worn smooth, and the natural hollows and formations of which they comprise allow for sitting or bathing in the sparkling clear waters, or for stretching alongside the pool in the warmth of the Eisandine summers. Trees around the edge of the glade offer respite for those that prefer to seek shade when the sun is high, and one large flat rock that overhangs the pool is a popular spot from which to dive.

At some point in history, someone carved a small grotto into one of the rocks behind where the water cascades, and lovers will often place a devotion to Naamah here, asking her for blessings.

It's been a couple of days since Fleur and Gal had run across each other in the gardens of the Temple of Eisheth, and despite Fleur having said that she'd invite Gal and Ercole around to the Valais Townhouse in around a week or so, the days since then have have dragged. The hot weather and humidity within the port city has been almost unbearable, even with the coastal breezes that roll through it's streets, and with no immediate promise of it letting up, Fleur has taken matters in hand. A note had been sent to Gal inviting both him and Ercole, if Ercole were free, to join her and the children on a trip to La Cascade. The local beauty spot is located a hot and sticky thirty minute's coach ride through the countryside, but once there, the promise of the crystal cool waters of the waterfall and pool at it's foot, makes a tempting offer indeed.

So it is, that at ten o'clock in the morning, on Gal's next day off, a smart black carriage bearing the Valais coat of arms and containing Fleur and two excited children, sweeps into the Citadel to pick up one, or possibly two, more passengers. With it being early in the day, La Cascade when they arrive is still relatively quiet, and servants that had been sent ahead have claimed a cool spot beneath some trees for the party, and a sailcloth awning has already been erected for them. A table sits beneath it, set up for the picnic that's to follow, along with some chairs, a rug and two large hampers of the Valais' cook's finest picnicking fare.

Gal tried his best to convince Cole to come with him, but, alas, Cole's idea of a good day off with his boyfriend at a waterfall doesn't include having a passel of children and a sister-in-law underfoot. So, with his comrade-in-arms instead off to spend the day at the docks prowling for pussy without him, Gal, betrayed, tosses a salute farewell and steps to the carriage, dressed in his off-duties, along with a baldrick and blade in the off chance he should run across any trouble on the road, or, angels forbid, anyone were to harass Fleur or the children in the woods. Not that she's without her own guard to look after them, but Gal feels somewhat obliged to be prepared for any eventuality. "Hey," he offers up mildly to the sisterish one on climbing in, but is fortunately enough ambushed by his niblings soon after settling into the carriage, and they keep him busy pointing at thisngs out the window and chattering far too excitedly for the number of degrees it is outside until they arrive. He lurks rather near the window the whole journey, but no less has two rings of sweat marring the armpits of his tunic by the time he disembarks, gaping eagerly at the fresh air while he lifts first Bastien down from the carriage, then Giselle, setting them each on their feet after a playful heft toward the sky. Then, finally, he offers out his hand for Fleur to take in aid of her descent.

Fleur is grateful for the hand that's offered to her, and it's taken as, with the other she lifts her skirts for a graceful descent. Bastien and Giselle are already being scooped up by their nanny so that they can be stripped of their clothes and placed in something more suitable, and their squeals of excitement bring an easy smile to Fleur's face. "They've been excited about coming here ever since I mentioned it to them. I swear, I thought Bastien would never go to sleep last night." Such knowledge speaks much of her relationship with them. Feet now on solid ground, she reclaims her hand from Gal's and sweeps her fingers across he skirts, settling them neatly into place. A glance towards the children. "They'll quieten soon enough. I expect you're pretty pleased right now that Ercole's not here to hear this." A bump is given Gal with her shoulder, and she nods her thanks to the servants that comes across with glasses on a tray. "Lemonade." She smiles to Gal as she claims one for herself. "Mainly for the children, but also for me. I did ask for some ale and some wine to packed as well, should your preference be for that."

"I'll bet," Gal tips up a smile at the thought of the kittens too excited to go to bed. "Enh, his loss. Let him sweat it out in the city swelter by himself," he goes on, in re: Cole, about whose absence he's not at all bitter. "It's nicer out here already, with all this shade," he steps a little bit aside to give Fleur room to arrange her skirts in peace, then starts to fan out the neckline of his tunic to get some air flow down into its capacious hold. "And the kids are great, they're just being kids, y'know? Let them have it while it lasts, huh?" He snickers softly at her bump, and takes a glass of the lemonade in both hands, drinking it with a subtle hunch of his shoulders over the beverage. "Oh, it's— it's good. Thanks for inviting me out, by the way. I don't think I said," he murmurs.

"It was entirely a selfish invitation," Fleur confesses with a smile of her own. "But be warned. I'm going to twist your arm to give Bastien some swimming instruction." Warmth shines in her eyes as she runs a finger around the rim of her glass. She pulls a face. "He can be wriggly at the best of times, but he listens to instruction quite well, and he's already in awe of you as it is." The hand not holding her glass gets looped through Gal's arm. "I might sit a while on the rocks and dangle my feet in the water before swimming." She starts to walk with him. "How about you? Are you going to strip right off and just jump in? Our steward said there's a rock for diving from, and that it's at least twelve feet deep in the centre."

"Huh?" Gal asks, brows raised in something close to alarm as he registers Fleur's admission of the invitation being for selfish purposes. "Oh!" Swimming lessons for Bastien. OK. "Yeah, sure, I mean, I'm not… much a wonderful swimmer, really, but I can keep my head above water, at least," he shrugs up a shoulder, edging in awkwardly closer to her when she loops her arm through his, eyes drawn briefly to the finger dallying around the rim of her glass. "Heh-eh, no, I'll just… I can take off my boots and belt, and I can swim in the rest," he begs off getting anywhere in the vicinity of naked, "I'll just be… helping the kids, really. We'll stay where it's shallow," he promises.

Fleur twists her head so she can look up at Gal. "Thank you, Gal. It's things like this, taking days out of our routine and having you being around the children, that I really appreciate. It means so terribly much to both me and to them. Louis would have been so pleased too that they're getting to know you." There's a touch of wistfulness to her voice as she speaks of her husband, but she banishes all trace of it with the ferocity of another smile as they gain the shade beneath the awning. A tug on his arm as they come to a halt. "Cook said she'd made some of those honey cakes, so I hope that you like them. And somewhere in the hampers there should be goose and ham pie, along with cold turkey. The pie is one of my favourites, and hopefully she's remembered that I like apricots in syrup with it, and packed a jar of them." A quick grin. "You can take some of the leftovers back to the barracks with you to share with Cole." She defaults to the nickname that Gal himself uses for his friend, and releases her arm from Gal's so she can sink into a chair and set her glass down.

Gal's heart threatens to invert itself when he lifts his eyes to Fleur's countenance, about to try to choke out some relevant words to express his appreciation of the time spent together— and she makes mention of his brother, whose ghost he timely feels breathing at the back of his neck. His eyes find refuge elsewhere— look, his children— no— a squirrel in that tree is making a noise. That's better. His heartbeat is pounding in his ears while Fleur goes over the menu, and his arm is numb to her disembarking from it. "Hm? Oh— thanks, that'd be awesome," he renders up in that carelessly common slouch of a linguistic bent he's developed from amongst the barracks-dwellers. The small ones, then, yelling for him from the shallows with their minders, make him render up a smile to Fleur and drop to one knee— there to untie his boot and shuck it off before getting rid of the other one likewise. "I'd better get in there, huh? I'll make sure they get out and get some food before they wear themselves out too much," he promises.

"Oh no. You're not going over there without me." Fleur laughs, bending to slip her shoes from her feet. "It'll be relief to just sit and watch for a bit, and a relief also, to get out of these." That final word is given emphasis as with a lift of one leg and a hitch of her skirt to her knees, she finds the top of her stocking where it's tied with a ribbon at the crease of that joint. "I swear Gal, there cannot be anything worse than stockings in this heat. Except…" She glances his way, and grins. "… Maybe armor." She peels the stocking from her leg, her toes flexing and curling at the sudden freedom they're granted. The other is equally quickly despatched, and she pushes to her feet as she collects an apple from the food on the table and slips it into her pocket for later.

Oh, hello, there, skirts hitching up to the knees right in Gal's line of sight. He thanks whatever angels might be watching for the cool breeze that steals the momentary heat from his neck and ears, and, as to the tension in his chest, he clears his throat of it and stands in his knee-length pants and slightly less than knee-length tunic. "Armor's a bear— at least we only have to wear our bandeds on watch anymore. Last month we were still in cuirass and pauldrons and I thought I was going to die," he can easily make conversation on that topic, at least. Complaining is the soldier's sempiternal art, isn't it? He waits on the edge of the tented shade and holds out his hand to offer Fleur support down to the water's side, lest she trod upon something uneven or sharp in her bare feet. "But I'll be sure to let the guys know that stockings are terrible, too."

Fleur swats at Gal's arm. "And now you're poking fun at me." She's still smiling as she takes his hand, her fingers warm where they curl about the edge of his palm, and she keeps her skirts hitched to just above her ankles with the grip of her still free hand. "I remember when I was little, before I went to Mont Nuit, long summer days just like this when we'd head for a lake. Papa taught us all how to swim in those summers, and would throw us from his shoulders so we'd land with a splash." She talks easily and comfortably about her childhood as they walk, her toes curling into the damp earth and grass that reach down to the boulders 'round the edge of the pool. Both children are already playing in the shallows with a couple of the servants, and they call out to Fleur and Gal as they arrive. "Mama! Uncle Gal!" Splash. Splish-splash.

Gal was poking fun, yes, but she's smiling, and so— so is he, even though his eyes are cast down to watch the terrain before them all the more carefully. "From his shoulders?" he asks, edging into her reminiscences, "What, like this?" he asks, bending a knee into a sudden dip and gently pressing one shoulder to Fleur's hip in an effort to butt the middle portion of her weight sideways onto his shoulders and heft her into the air with the support of both of his arms, righting himself— a boy's playfulness emboldened by the broadness of shoulder his oncoming manhood has brought to him, as well as the fortitude he's built up with long drills and exercises with the city guard. "Hua!" he laughs.

Fleur squeals like a teen. "Gal!" She's laughing too, however, and her hands spread across his back as she finds herself suddenly upside down across his shoulder. "Gal! Don't you dare throw me in the water!" Hair that had been previously hanging loose to the small of her back, now hangs instead to the small of his, her flaxen curls in free fall as her children cheer their uncle on. "Maman's coming in the water with us!" Not that she's dressed or stripped for it. Her skirts billow where they flare from beneath where Gal's trapped them beneath her backside with the arm that holds her steady, though it does a decidedly decent length of her lower leg exposed; all the way from her knees to her toes. "Don't you DARE!" she warns again. Did she just dare him?

Gal knows how to win over a child's laughter— just manhandle the mother— gently. Fleur's laugh is infectious, and while he doesn't actually dare to throw her anywhere, he does pick his way gingerly into the water, just to mid-calf, and starts to sway, slightly, "Ready? One," sway, "Two," sway back, body tightening its musculature underneath Fleur for some upcoming effort, "Three!" he finishes the countdown to the squeals and excitement of the children, then, with a flex of his knees, dips down and lets Fleur's bodice slide over his shoulder to join the rest of her in being upright, gently handling her skirtage to hold it up just enough not to get the hem wet as he deposits her onto her feet in the water in front of him— very close in front of him, really— his arms around her, his body pressed close to hers, his face hovering near her face as he breathes with the exertion. Looking down into her eyes, he realizes that he didn't think this thing through, like, at all.

Fleur splutters with laughter as she's deposited back on her feet, and there's also laughter in her eyes as she worms her hands up between them so that she sink her fingers into Gal's hair and pull down his head. "Beast…" She's laughing still as she drops a kiss to the tip of his nose, then turns about in his arms to kick a foot and send water arcing in Bastien's direction. "Were you laughing at me, Bastien?" She bumps to the back, nudging Gal heavily with her hips. "S omeone needs a good soaking. Don't you think?" She gathers her already wet skirts more fully in her hand, and kicks more water her son's way, not terribly concerned whether she'll get soaked in return.

Gal's brows arc gently, his neck muscles melt into the touch of her hands, making him malleable to her encouragement as she draw his face toward hers— only to kiss him on the nose. Momently speechless, finally he laughs and returns the hip-budge, coaxing her out of his arms' reach and then nodding his assent, "He's in for it now," he avows, getting low and wading out through the water with his arms out menacingly to grab his brother's heir. "Muahahahahha!" he cackles, only to have Giselle toddle into his arms instead, all, "Me first! Throw me!" as she insists upon being picked up, and Gal certainly obliges the little girl, sending her flying upward in his arms, spraying droplets of crystal water from her toes.

The scene is picture perfect, except quite suddenly and unexpectedly — it's not. Fleur remains standing where she is as Gal wades forward, and has to swallow hard as she watches him play with the children. Water soaks her skirts, and her chest rises and falls as she remembers with little effort the need to breathe. Gal's so like his brother from behind with his mop of dark curly hair and broad shoulders, and her eyes bore into his back before she forces herself to move. "Watch out for Uncle Gal! He's the meanest lake monster in all of Terre d'Ange!"

Gal likewise just goes all out into the water, never minding at all that the water drenches the bottoms of his trousers, then his thighs, wicking up the fabric of his tunic and making it heave down on him from below, moving with a wet suction over the surface of the placid lake until the water is deep enough for him to lift little Giselle into a toss and see her safely down into the water, then lift her back up again before she can struggle with it too badly. It's a delicate balance of joy and terror, but Giselle comes out screaming in glee rather than in tears, so he's managed to hit the right side of it, if possibly just barely. "Me next, me!" Bastien is demanding a turn, gallumphing over and throwing himself on Uncle Gal's back, pushing him down to his chest in the water, now irredeemably soaked. "RAWR!" the sea-monster roars, twisting this way and that as he bucks up out of the water, swinging the children about, then flops back down into it with them.

"RAWR!" Fleur's voice joins with Gal's as she joins in on the piling upon of him. Mindful of her daughter, she plucks her from Gal's grips and holds her up and out so that her little fists can pummel down upon his shoulders and head. Oops. His face wasn't meant to be target! Nevertheless, Giselle's pudgy little hand finds Gal's cheek as he rises back up from the watery depths, and as Fleur pushes in closer, her tiny fingers find one of his ears. She pulls on it. "Die monster! Die!" Fleur's laughing again now, pressing her advantage since she claims the protection of her child. She hooks a foot behind one of Gal's and attempts to pull it from under him. Ahhh… the treachery.

Gal gawps, the whole fams on top of him now, and if he opens his mouth to issue any sort of retort his opened mouth is soon filled with a maw full of water when his leg's taken out from under him and everyone else piles him down to the bottom of the lake, his dark curls floating etherially below as his hands move to dunk Bastien along with him, then they both resurface vigorously and forcefully, laughing and coughing. Well, Bastien is laughing. Gal is mostly coughing, having been caught off-guard and gotten a snootful of the lakewater, his hair less flowy and beautiful now— more like plastered wetly across his face and ears.

Fleur is beating a retreat towards the rocks as they surface, with Giselle crowing triumph in her arms. "Bastien wet! Gal wet!" She looks like a golden cherub in her mother's arms, and Fleur takes a moment on reaching the rocks to turn and blow a kiss in Gal's direction before foisting her daughter back off on her maid. Giselle takes over the blowing of kisses as Fleur hoists herself on a sun-warmed rock. "I think the girls won!" A quick flick of her foot to send water in their direction before she sets about wringing the bottom of her gown. She's got off lightly in this little encounter, and she smiles as she watches Gal's horseplay with her son. "Pull his nose, Bastien! It'll make a funny noise!" She's full of great advice.

"The girls always get to win, Bastien," Gal whispers to the kid through the midst of his coughing, giving a little hint of advice to the kid in a view toward his living a life of chivalry and decency, bringing him in close for a little bit of surreptitious masculine guidance before he gets his nose yanked. "Oh, that's it!" he calls out, louder, "Waterfall time!" and he hefts up the boychild to go marching underneath the waterfall, since they're both already thoroughly soaked.

What did Gal whisper to Bastien? From her perch on the rocks, Fleur can't tell, so throws motherly wisdom out there. "Tell Uncle Gal that it's the job of a gentleman always to allow the ladies to win!" she calls over, flapping her wet skirts up and down between the span of two hands before settling them somewhere mid-thigh to dry. Off with the servants, Giselle is now burying her face in the first of what might be many, many honeycakes that'll be consumed in the course of the day, and relieved of all responsibility for now, Fleur allows herself a moment of respite. Hands are planted on the warm rock a few inches behind her backside, and eyes that track the course of Gal and Bastien as they head for the waterfall, slowly lid and close.

Gal lifts both of his brows in a 'what did I tell you?' type of look to the kid he's hauling off, but soon enough the both of them have disappeared under the downpour of water, evaporating from sight behind the disturbance for perhaps a worrying moment or several, to a maternal eye, before Bastien's running back out from behind the curtain of water on his own, arms spread victoriously, with Gal not far behind, letting him go on his own but keeping close quarters in case the kid needs help. Then, despite his soggy clothes, Gal is slopping forward into the water and starting to move his arms slowly, guiding Bastien to lower himself as well and start imitating him over there in the further shallows, where they can both still easily touch the bottom. Edging out further into the depths, closer to the shore where mother and daughter are already picnicking, Gal is ready with a hand to steady the kid as he guides him to kick his legs and move his arms without flailing.

Fleur's eyes crack open, and she's watching, though pretending not to. There had, of course, been that moment of anxiety when the pair had disappeared behind the water, and her teeth are still gripping her lower lip, and her brows are pulled low on her eyes when Bastien bursts back into view. "Is there anything back behind the waterfall?" She calls to them. "The cave of a bear, or the lair of a dragon?"

Gal eventually attains water too deep to stand, and sputters a little on his back below Bastien in an effort to keep the little one afloat and calm, "Kick, kick— OW, no, good, kick, keep kicking," despite getting kicked his own self on the way, keeping a hand up under Bastien's chest until he can put his feet down on the nearer side of the lake again, "Good job, man! Tell mama what we found, go on," he laughs, letting the boy ahead to dash up the rocks, "Dragon cave! Dragon cave with treasures in! But the dragon is gone to work and won't be home until night!" he reports excitedly while Gal sprawls in the water.

"DRAGONS!" Fleur plays up on her son's excitement, bending forward so that she can wrap her arms about him and haul him bodily from the water and up onto the rock beside her. "Maybe you should fetch your sword from the carriage so that you can protect Giselle and me should it return from its work." A swat to her son's behind sends him moving. "Oh." And afterthought is added. "Maybe you'd better get yourself something to eat too before going back! Giselle's already eaten half the honey cakes and started on yours, so you'd best be quick!" She teases her son in only the way that a mother can, and as he chugs off trailing half the lake in his wake, she slips herself from the rock and into the water. He's now the concern of the servants. Ribbons are pulled, buttons unbuttoned, and after a muttered complaint about how difficult it is to remove wet clothing, she tosses her overdress back on the rocks. With the relative freedom afforded by a the simple cotton chemise she's now wearing, she starts to wade in Gal's direction. "Are you out of your depth? Is it deep enough to swim? Don't move, I'm coming there too."

Gal watches the kids gets settled on the rocks with their sweets. Watches their mother disrobing on the shore, eyes lingering on her face and the line of her neck before he dunks his head back underwater, disappearing for a long moment before coming up pushing his hair back behind him for the sake of tidiness. "No, I'm fine, it's just… it's nice. The water," he thinks to specify, while she moves toward him in her billowing chemise. He executes a lay side-stroke, not really going anywhere, just keeping moving.

Fleur pushes on through the water, ducking her shoulders beneath the surface as she's finally able to swim. She swims well, and she rolls onto her back when she nears the spot where Gal floats. It's a bit of an 'Ophelia' moment; her arms spreading wide as her chemise billows in the water and her hair floats like weed about her head. (Get Thee to a nunnery!) Fingers splay as they move against the cool water, and her eyes lid as she filters the heat with her lashes from the overhead sun. "I'm glad you were able to come today. The kids adore their 'Unca Gal'." A small adjustment of her position is made with her legs and a drift of one had as she sculls her way closer to Gal and pokes at his shoulder with the toes of one foot. "Do you miss him? Louis? You can tell me honestly. Sometimes brothers just don't get along."

Gal leaves himself to drift to deeper waters, out past where his toes can touch bottom, arms outstretched and legs pointed straight down, he takes full advantage of the cool water, submerging his person to the jawline and floating there with a practiced lungful of air. Then Fleur finds his chilled sanctum and interjects, first with a toe, then with a question that makes him exhale unwarrantedly and dip below the surface before a sweep of his arms in a broad-expansive paddle brings him further up and he begins to tread water— both literally and metaphorically. "I miss him— a lot. Not like we always got along. He was always— you know. Perfect. Perfect son, perfect heir, with the perfect— wife, you know, and family? It was a lot, living in his shadow. I guess I kind of resented him. But I guess it turns out when the sun's the brightest, all you do is end up missing the shade."

"I think that that's the way with most brothers and sisters," Fleur admits quietly. "I mean, not that I really know since I left our home at six years old." She chews on her lip and manouevres herself around so the top of her head touches to the top of Gal's. Perhaps it's easier to talk when you can't see a person. She blinks up at the sky. "I suppose that when you only see your family a couple of times a year, you treasure those moments that you have with them more. Not that I didn't enjoy being fostered on the Mont, because I did. It's just, you know, a different way of growing up." The sound of the waterfall fills the gaps of silence between her words, and there's the sound of others around them as new arrivals pick their spot for the day and set up camp. Her voice softens further. "And yes. He was exactly that. Perfect. I knew it within moments of our meeting. But you're perfect too, you know. Just in different ways."

Gal balances himself further horizontal, using the back of Fleur's head as a sort of compass point and sprawling his limbs out along the surface of the water to mirror hers, then moving them slightly to make the both of them turn slowly in the still waters. Staring up at light filtering through the leaves, he hears out her own childhood experience, tries to see her family through her eyes. "If anything, you're probably the perfect one among them all," he surmises, mentally endeavoring his way through her siblings and thinking which of them might wish he had been groomed to perfection and grace on the Mont, or wish she had married the heir to a Comte. But he doesn't render any of those considerations out loud, only sort of looks for his counterpart, there in the shadow of Fleur's perfection. His eyes arc backward toward a glimpse of her hair. "Is't differently perfect a grammatical contradiction?" he half-jokes. "But that's you. A heart big enough for all the world's creatures and all their faults. You deserved him, you know. And you deserved him for much longer than you had him. I sometimes—" he breaks off, "I think about that, sometimes."

Fleur's quiet for a moment or two when Gal stop speaking. There's just the sound of her breathing that matches apace with his, the water, and the distant chatter of people. "Perhaps that's why it's so perfect. We didn't get the chance to mess it all up. I should show you my marque. The top third was paid for by Louis alone. He insisted. How pleased he was when the last of its lines were inked." She smiles as she recounts the details to Gal, and her left arm drifts outwards and upwards, fingers cooled by the lake water searching for his. "What will you do with yourself? I know that your father said you were ordered into the city guard, but you do seem to enjoy it. Will you stay in it and make it your life?"

Gal's breathing shallows slightly at the notion of seeing that marque so admired by his brother— then there are fingers at his fingers and his fingers fumble numbly at her fingers through the water. "You— I mean, if you want me to see it…" he swallows. "I dunno… I don't really think I have any big life plans, yet. I like it in the guard. I originally planned on staying a while just to sort of cheese off dad." It's not a proper career for a nobleman, especially if he stays away from making rank, and presumably Gal thought to flip his punishment around on his father by staying past his punishment's due date and just generally being a disgrace to the name. "But it helps I've got a lot of good friends there, now. Most of them don't even know I'm de Valais. I'm just Gal, and … it's nice. To just be that, for a while."

Fleur's fingers link loosely with Gal's, cooled by the kiss of the water. "Well I can understand that," she remarks. "The feeling of being anonymous. It's the same as growing up on the Mont. All the fosterlings are treated the same, and name and rank count for nothing." She's smiling as she speaks, the curve of her mouth warming her words as she stares at the hypnotic view of the leaves above as they rotate in the water. "You know," she says quietly, "If anything were to happen to Bastien and Giselle, it'll put you in line for your father's title. Perhaps it won't be your decision as to whether or not you'll remain in the guard. Your father might decide to pull you from it regardless in order to prepare you for that possibility."

Gal feels the creeping chill of the water rising through his diaphragm, stealing into his lungs, and he takes a deep, steeling breath, finally kicking his feet down away from the surface, righting himself and using the hand clasped in his hand to draw himself around, coming to tread water by Fleur's side, "If he pulls me from my training, there's not much to stop him. They'll kick me out of the barracks and I guess I'll find something else to go do. But nothing's happening to those kids, OK?" he states with the earnest enthusiasm of one who hopes that anything so firmly laid in declaration will stand proof to the ever-shifting whims of Fortune. "Not while I have anything to do about it."

"I'm just being realistic, Gal." Fleur takes her own deep breath as Gal moves to her side, her fingers tightening in his as she, too, rights herself in the water. Her chemise mushrooms about her and she steals the hand that's not linked with his, up from the water to slick hair from her face as her eyes cut to the shore where her children play. "Even now, two years on, I wonder how it is that a person can be here one day, then gone the next. I've felt that tragedy, Gal, so it's only natural to worry that it might happen again. There was something that I was going to ask of you today, however, but you've more or less answered it with what you've just said." She looks back to him, ducking her head in close to press a sisterly kiss to his cheek. "Shall we head back and get some food before my gannets eat it all?"

Gal closes his eyes, or else is looking down deeply into the water, icy clear as it is. He's certainly lacking in realism, almost in its entirety, with his fanciful notions of willing children into safety and ghosts at the back of his neck. But these things happen. Fleur knows it. Gal knows it, too, has only processed it less well, perhaps. She was going to ask him something, and he looks up again, lips poised to ask after the question when instead she ducks closer to kiss him, and in a fumble of motion he half-tips his head, either miseading her intent or her direction, and, with a last minute attitude change, only awkwardly brushes the sides of her lips with the side of his, otherwise accepting the kiss to the cheek like a good brother ought. Well, that was horrid. "Go on, I'll, um. I'm just going to stay in the water a little longer." And he turns and dives below the surface, tadpoling away and darting to the bottom to feel at the rocks down there.

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