Floating, Floating, Floating
Albel was very annoyed. Water as far as his eyes could see, and he was with the most annoying maggot that ever came across Elicoor. Why did he have to get stuck in the middle of all of this water with HIM of all people? Why was he so unlucky?
Across from him, Fayt was sitting in the makeshift raft wondering why Albel was so annoyed. He was usually so calm and collected in any situation, and Fayt had rarely seen him like this. Fayt knew where they had been dropped and how to get back. They had plenty of food and even water to drink, so why was Albel so aggravated? This situation was not nearly bad enough to make a calm person like Albel so mad, so why?
Albel looked up and saw Fayt's eyes on him for the twentieth time. "Why are you staring at me, maggot?" Albel asked. He had had enough.
"I am just thinking. I wonder how far away we are now. I can see it in the distance. See, that little thing there. Once we get there, we can get dry clothes, and finally warm up. Won't that be nice? I am getting a bit chilled."
"Weakling." Albel muttered under his breath. Despite his unpleasant attitude, he had to admit that he was also chilled to the bone. This water was too cold. In Airyglyph, people could cover up in blankets and such to stay warm. Here all he could do was huddle nearer to the maggot and hope to stay alive until they got to the speck. The current was moving them too slow for his tastes. He could not keep up his facade much longer. He was starting to shiver.
Night was setting in and the two of them floated on. Albel was still upset and refused to sleep. Fayt was getting worried.
"Albel, what's the matter? Why are you so tense? We'll be out of here soon, so just relax."
"It is too cold to sleep, maggot. That is why I am so upset. And I can't swim. If this contraption tips over, I am going to drown. It would be pathetic to be killed by a puddle."
Fayt could not help but laugh. "Well, I guess if it was a puddle, it would be pathetic, but the lake is way bigger than a puddle. You don't have to get so upset anyway. Here. Take this."
Fayt unlatched the life jacket he had attached to his armor and threw it at Albel. He helped him put it on, and tried to explain the purpose.
"Basically, the thing I just threw you is a life jacket, and when and if this 'contraption' tips over, it will keep you from drowning. So stop worrying. You'll stay alive till we reach the cabin, no problem. Go to sleep. I'll wake you if there are any problems, but you haven't slept in two days, so no complaining. Besides, we'll be closer when you wake up."
Albel nodded off about 3:00 in the morning, and woke up at 1:00 in the afternoon, totally refreshed. He had never slept that long in his life. Something about the sound of the waves made him want to relax, and he did not feel cold today because the sun was glaring down on them. However, he wished that it would go behind the clouds. He was starting to sweat, and his skin felt like it was on fire. Sunset was still hours away.
"Albel, here." Fayt gave Albel the towel that he had draped over his arms. "You are getting sunburnt, and I'll never hear the end of it when you realize it. Drape it like this if you don't want to get burnt. You'll be as red as a tomato by the time the sun goes down."
Fayt helped Albel position the towel so that he would be covered. It was hot under that towel, but he hated to think of what it would be like to catch fire in the sun.
"What are you going to do to keep from getting burned? Now you have no towel." Albel asked him, feigning indifference.
"I'm gonna get in the water and see if I can propel us any faster than the waves. I am getting tired of sitting here in the sun and roasting. Besides, the less weight you have on the raft, the faster it moves. One time, my family had a small boat, and it came untied from the dock. After less than a minute, it was already really far away. With no one on it, that thing moved faster than we could swim after it. We only caught up to it after it hit a pole and got stuck."
"What was the point of that story, maggot?"
"I don't know, to prove that my plan ought to work maybe? It doesn't matter. Hang on when I jump in or you'll get thrown over. The difference in weight will cause the raft to tilt." Fayt warned as he got ready for the cold water.
"Alright, here I go." When Fayt hit the water the raft tilted over and Albel was thrown out, just as Fayt had said. He started to go under and black out because of the frigid water and the lack of air. Just when he thought for sure he was going to die, Fayt's hand came out of the blackness and caught him.
"C'mon, Albel. Look at me. Don't pass out. I need you to stay conscious. Here you go."
He piled the sopping wet towel on Albel. "This ought to help you stay awake and keep you from getting burnt. You skin is too light. I'm surprised you are not burnt already."
Albel looked over at Fayt in the cold water. "How are you not freezing? I blacked out in two seconds."
"Well, I am used to it. Keep in mind I live here in the summers. I swim every day, freezing or not. Sometimes I can only manage an hour though. Then I start shivering and get out. The trick is to keep moving, and you'll stay warm. I'm gonna move so I can move the raft. I want dry clothes and lunch right about now."
"How far away are we?" Albel asked groggily. He hated to admit it, but he was having trouble staying conscious still. He would not show weakness. If that maggot could stay in the water, then he was definitely going to stay conscious on land. Besides, Fayt needed him.
Albel still sounded awful. Fayt realized that they needed to get home fast before he caught hypothermia. Swimming in the lake in January was a wholly stupid idea. He wondered why he even got in in the first place. He had had hypothermia once while swimming with one of his college buddies in February.
"Well, we will be there soon. See how the dot is getting bigger. You can just make out the dock from here. I hope to make it within the next few hours, hopefully before sunset."
Albel thought for a second. That sounded good. Maybe he would be able to keep it together for that long. The breeze that had just blown overhead was making it even harder to concentrate. It was so cold.
"Albel, are you alright?"
"Just get us outta here, will you maggot?"
They drifted in silence for a little while, and Albel slowly lost consciousness. He was becoming numb to the cold and the pain as they continued to drift. The sun slowly sank beyond the trees, and it got colder. Night was falling, and Albel was freezing. Fayt started to worry when he turned a sickly color of blue.
Fayt tipped the raft over and grabbed Albel before he could sink. Albel woke up with a start and cursed
"What did you do that for?"
"You were turning blue. Having had hypothermia before, I can definitively say that the only way to stop it in its tracks is to become even colder. You do not get hypothermia until you are out of the source of cold. In it, you have a chance of living till we get to shore, which is over there."
Fayt pointed and Albel saw how close it was. How long could that possibly take to reach? They were almost there.
A wave of dizziness hit Albel. "Can't you swim any faster?" he asked Fayt as he fought to stay conscious.
"Sure, if I let you go. Just hang on. We're almost home."
Five minutes later, they hit rocks at the bottom of the lake and were able to stand up. "There's a staircase over there that leads out of the water. Here, you go first. Just be careful. I have cut my had on that railing before."
That statement just reminded Albel that Fayt already knew where they were. He was not sure why, but he was annoyed by this.
They walked across the dock and up another flight of stairs till they got to a door. Fayt took a key out of his pocket and unlocked the door. Here we are. Home sweet home."
Albel walked in and relished the warmth. He did not feel better though. He decided that he needed warm clothes and a hot shower. He walked to a chest of drawers and opened the middle drawer. He found shirts. He quickly put one on. Next he opened the bottom drawer. Pants. Weren't there any skirts in this house, something that he would actually wear? He weighed the odds and thought it was a safe bet that the answer was no, so he settled for pants.
Fayt led the way upstairs and grabbed the phone. "Hey Mom, how fast can you be here to pick us up? Albel and I are stuck here with no car." "Okay." "Sure. See you when you get here." "Bye."
Okay, so we can eat lunch, and Mom will be here in an hour to pick us up with the car. Just make yourself comfortable while we wait. If you are tired, there are plenty of beds upstairs to sleep in."
"How tall is this house? We have already been up three flights of stairs."
"Relax. It is two floors and a basement. Go rest."
Albel marched upstairs and threw himself down on the bed. He laid down and stared at the ceiling for a while as he thought.
He wondered why he was so dependent on that little maggot anyway. He was an adult, being taken care of by a kid. This annoyed him to no end. He listened to Fayt hustle around downstairs making lunch for the two of them. He wondered why he and the maggot were so different-different as night and day-even thought they had the same general story. Both had lived through a tragedy and both had experienced the loss of their father and a sense of loneliness after that event. Both were dedicated to something, and both were well off financially. And yet they were so different. Albel could not understand it. What made this boy so resilient that he could act as though nothing were wrong a mere month after losing his father? Maybe because he still had his mother? Albel had no more time to ponder these questions, though.
"Lunch is ready." Fayt called loudly from the second floor kitchen. Albel realized that his balcony hung into the kitchen. This was a really nice house.
Albel made it downstairs in record time because he was hungry. He devoured the sandwich that Fayt had made and starting attacking the chips and dip. Finished with them, he moved on to the cookies.
"Dang, Albel, slow down. No need to rush. We still have 30 minutes till Mom gets here."
Fayt was totally annoyed. He was obviously not listening. Fine, if he wanted to eat so fast he threw up that was his business. Maybe it would teach him a lesson.
Fayt's mom arrived with the car 40 minutes later. She had run into some mild traffic along the way. By the time she got there, Albel was upstairs and lying down again. This time he was fast asleep. Fayt looked at him and smiled. Albel was really cute when he was sleeping.
Fayt and Ryoko sat down to discuss what to do about Albel. He was here now, with no way of getting back to his planet for at least 8 months. They could not simply dump him on the streets. After a little convincing, Ryoko managed to agree with Fayt that Albel would stay with them. It was not their way to abandon people who needed help.
A little after midnight, Albel woke up.
"Oh, hey, you're awake. I was just coming up to get you. We are going to go home tonight. We're leaving in 10 minutes, so get ready." Fayt informed him.
The drive back was rather uneventful. They arrived at 1:30 AM and both Fayt and Ryoko were about to fall asleep. "We're going to be as soon as we get in Albel." Ryoko explained to Albel. Fayt hurried ahead up the twisted driveway to unlock the door and ran to his room. He then proceeded to collapse on the bed.
"So sleepy…" Fayt murmured as he fell asleep. Albel was stunned. He didn't even stay awake long enough to say goodnight like he always did. He really must be tired.
Albel watched him sleep. That maggot was really cute when he slept. He looked even more innocent if that were possible. He wondered what in Fayt's personality made him want to take care of him. Anytime Albel had asked him, Fayt just pointed to this piece of jewelry around his neck. He knew it had to be important somehow. He stared at it. It was a pretty cross with amber in the center and a gold chain. The cross itself looked pewter. He said that he had received it as a gift and it was very special to him.
Albel wondered how he could find out about it without waking the maggot up. Before they parted ways, Cliff had shown him and Nel how to use a computer. He looked around.
"Bingo!" Oops, too loud. He had almost woken Fayt up. He grabbed the laptop and tried to find the power cord. Everyone always sat on the bed to use it, so he looked around. The only plug was behind the bed. He would have to reach over Fayt to get it.
He could see that the power cord was on the floor between the bed and the wall. This would be tricky. He couldn't touch Fayt or he might wake up, but how was he going to get it otherwise? Taking a chance, he reached over Fayt and got the cord. But as it was coming around, it hit Fayt in the head. He stirred, but never woke. Albel was amazed at his luck. Fayt was so tired he could probably bring a train through his bedroom without noticing. He dragged the power cord in the next room and plugged it in. He turned on the computer.
"Ugh, a password. There is no way I could guess this. I don't know him well enough."
Albel gave it up and spent the rest of the night watching TV. He would have to get back on schedule soon enough. Being alone while everyone else was sleeping was annoying.
As soon as Fayt woke up, Albel started questioning him. "Leingod, what is that thing? I tried to use your computer to find out, but you have a password, and I don't know it. I also want to know why you keep taking care of me. I'm not a child."
I keep taking care of you because that is the way I am. It is part of who I am and my religion. As for this, it is a cross, and it represents my religion. It lets people know in a non-flashy way what I believe. Is that what you wanted to know?"
Hmm. This was interesting. Maybe his religion was the reason Leingod was able to get over his father's death so easily. Hmm. Suddenly it all clicked into place and everything made sense.
"Ok then. How about breakfast?"
Fayt made waffles, bacon, toast, and grits. Albel was astounded at the amount of food. He was hungry, but not hungry enough to eat all that. "Mom, breakfast is ready!" Fayt yelled down the hall.
She appeared seconds later. "Awesome, I'm starved."
They went on like this for 8 months. Albel was finally used to life on Earth, and he was wondering whether he really had to go back at all. There was no excitement at home after all. What would he do if he went back there? He would just be bored out of his skull.
"Leingod, do I have to go back?"
Fayt looked at him. "Well, yeah. But you'll be able to come back here. We're going to create a two way portal and give you the key to the house, so it'll be like we are living right next door to each other. You can come back whenever you want, and I can come visit you whenever I want, which will probably be every day after school, or before, or whenever. Maybe we can have lunch together sometime. I don't know. But we won't lose touch."
"Alright." He could live with that. He would see Fayt every day. He was in love with Fayt, but it was clear that Fayt only wanted to be friends. "As long as I can see you." He said under his breath.
Oh, no, Fayt heard him. Think fast. Nothing. Ok, telling the truth was the next best thing. He knew this wasn't going to be easy.
"I said, 'As long as I can see you.' Look, I'm sure you don't feel the same way, but over the last 10 months and everything we have been through, I have fallen in love with you. I still want to see you. I want to love you, and I don't ever want to leave you. I love you."
"I love you too. Ever since the moment I met you. I don't know why, but for some reason I knew you were the one. Even when you were trying to kill me, and at the Bequerel Mine, I knew it. I wouldn't let them kill you because I couldn't bear the thought of losing you, even if you didn't feel the same."
Albel sat there and thought about that for a while. Why had Fayt never shown his affection, not once this entire time? He knew why. People like Albel that liked to fight a lot usually thought showing emotion was weak. It was a logical conclusion.
Fayt hugged him. "Alright, you know you don't have to leave. I was only pushing the option because I thought you were unhappy here and wanted to go back. If you want to stay, there is plenty of room. My mom would welcome you with open arms."
"And how are we supposed to explain that I am staying? Surely you don't intend to tell her the truth. Isn't this short of relationship highly looked down upon in your society?"
"Well, yeah. But not really. Everybody has their own opinion, and they mostly keep quiet about it. Occasionally some crazy person will try to murder people in our type of relationship, but I think that we could handle it. With you and I together, no crazy person would stand a chance."
Albel realized that Fayt was right. There was nothing in this world that could threaten him. He could live here forever, Fayt by his side, and be happy. He liked the sound of that.